All you need to know about Fusion 84 and more

About:

This text is a compilation of my older review and all my experiences and thoughts about Fusion 84 skates I had during year and half of skating them. I decided to write such text to gather all things that could prove useful for owners of these skates, in one place. Review was revised, because A LOT has changed in freeskating market during initial version, I also wrote something about useful, possible mods and troubleshooting. My thoughts about 2011 model transfer almost directly to 2012 and 2013 ones, as only thing that changed is slightly different cuff (I cut mine to be the same as new ones).

So here it is, you can say – biggest guide to Fusion 84 skates ever.

Review:

Shell:

Initial impression after un-boxing is great. Skates look great in black with slight touch of red, and much more solid than for example, RB Twister 80 or Seba FR1. In my mind, they look like equipment taken directly from latest Batman movies.

First thing experienced skaters will notice is UFS frame mount instead of v-type with raised heel. This solution is still rare among typical freeskates (do not mistake with powerblading setups!) and provides strong, reliable connection between frame and boot. But UFS also means you can forget about any adjustment of frame position, and if you really must to move it few mm to the side, there will be a lot of drilling and cutting required. I’ve met people who needed mod like that due to problems with ankle pronation, but when you go for skates with aggressive boot you should be ready there might be problems.

Even though the boot itself is taken from aggressive skate, it doesn’t feel that way. First of all, frame is attached directly to boot sole, without soulplate in-between. Thanks to it, balance is very low, I’ve compared stock Fusion 84 height and Powerslide Metro with slightly used 80mm wheels, and foot is lower in Rollerblades in spite of bigger wheels! Absence of Solo souls makes boot very light and slim.

Rollerblade decided to cut costs and used rivets instead of screws to attach cuffs. I like this solution, as these rivets are strong and haven’t failed me, and I have less screws to keep eye on. But you must realize, that when rivet will break, you’ll need to replace it with screw anyway. It’s worth to mention Rollerblade used screws to attach cuff in Fusion GM skates.

Shell is shaped more like aggressive skate than a freeskate and it is obvious why. It’s slimmer in cuff area, as it doesn’t have high internal cuff (aggressive skaters, think about Remz internal cuff – most freeskates out there have very similar construction in this area), and is shaped, along with riveted cuff to fit nicely around ankles. Heel is pushed backward more than in most skates. Plastic used to make skates is top quality, and after all these months it didn’t go floppy (but yes, it softened up a bit). Even when Fusions are brand new, lace holes aren’t just for show, as shell material is elastic enough to allow tight lacing. At the same time, skates aren’t too soft and provide good amount of support.

Above: gore skates. I skated them like that for a while, you should see people faces haha! That’s acrylic paint so it was easy to remove with water and a sponge when I got bored with the looks.

I love fact these skates have high lacing, with six pairs of lacing holes. Thanks to it, it’s possible to lace the shell higher than ankle, to get most secure fit. You can also decide to use only few holes, if you want more flex. When you have right size of Fusions and lace them through all the holes, tightly, instep buckle is only for show. I get rid of buckle, as I realized I do not need it, and put it on my ex-gf  Fusion 84 LE that came without it (well, she wasn’t my ex then. Because, hell, right now I wouldn’t be so generous with these buckles!).

Cuff in 2011 version had “wings” that overlapped, and created more stiff feeling. Since 2012 version, these wings are gone, and cuff is more open. I’ve cut mine to be just like it and to try how it feels. And there is difference, skates bend towards easier, but at the same time feel more flexible around ankle. I am very slim person, and this change actually allowed me to tighten cuff more efficiently around my stick leg, but I do know some people who prefer older cuffs. I think Rollerblade make a mistake by changing the cuffs, they should simply make scissor markings on wings, like Seba and Fila did in their freeskates, and allow people to adjust forward flex and support that way.

Inside the shell you’ll find shock absorber, that is 1,7mm thick in its thickest area. This piece of rubber is so long, it reaches half of the sole length. It’s completely even with shell shaped to fit it, and footbed is flat thanks to it. I think only Razors Genesys and old Salomon FSK and ST models can rival Solo/Fusions in terms of shock-absorption.

Shell do have vent holes, but these aren’t really useful. Stock liner allow humidity to be efficiently expelled outside of it, but shell limits this potential. After few hours of skating, shell is wet inside – this is not a sweat, but a condensation. But as this boot was designed for aggressive skating first and foremost, it’s understandable they did go for stronger shell structure instead of lots of vent holes (like in Twister 80 freeskate for example).

Skates do have small soulplates, but do not fool yourself – these aren’t intended for grinding. Occasional makio or stall on polished marble ledge is max I would recommend, as souls are very narrow and aluminium frame slides rather bad. If you want to powerblade with this boot, get Solos with PB frames instead of Fusions. Yes, you can mod Fusions in to a aggressive skates or powerblades, but you’ll need to drill holes to attach negatives, and you’ll lost warranty that way. Not to mention, Solos have better liners. So I recommend going straight for them instead.

Liner:

After my experiences with Fusion liners, and countless negative opinions I’ve heard about these from my friends, I must say that liners are worst part of the skates. It’s true I upsized (but I’m still in the same shell as size I should choose!) but initial impression with one size bigger was that these skates are very tight. And liner was comfortable for a few sessions but then foam compressed radically, making too much room inside. Really, break-in period is fast and extreme in these liners.

What is worse, these liners simply suck with this shell. They are comfortable in other skates, I’ve tried it, but the way foam is shaped simply does not work with Solo shell. Many people experience problems with ankles on the insides, because foam under them is too hard and thin, and shell rubs through it. It eats your skin like crazy and can render you unable to skate for a week.

Don’t get me wrong – these liners are made of quality materials, are excellent at expelling moisture, and get dry VERY quickly. But at the same time they are possibly worst liners for this shell. There is also another problem, after Rollerblade changed the cuffs, wings no longer hold liner tongue in place, and it simply shifts to the sides. Liner also do not have any means of lacing, which basically became standard feature by now.

Yeah, there are many people who skate these liners just fine… but percentage of people who had problems with them is too high. Keep that in mind if you want to buy Fusions. If you’ll experience any pressure against your ankles when trying skates on, be sure it will only get worse with time.

Above: my setup is pretty light… buckle is now gone.

Frames:

Thing I like the most in these skates! For quite a while Fusion 84 were the only freeskates that came with 255mm frame (now there are more options). I never liked short, 243mm frames that much, and was curious about how longer frame will perform during freeskating (my first, Fila rec skates had 264mm frame and I liked stability it provided – missed it in Metros with 243mm frames).

This length is in my opinion optimal for city skating. It’s close to most aggressive frames in medium size length, which gives greater stability than 243mm wheel base. With flat setup turn ability is good enough for me, but people with smaller feet or ones used to shorter frames, won’t like it much. Longer wheel base gives more stable and efficient push, which allow to skate faster, at least in my case. Skates are less likely to wobble when going fast or downhills. If frame isn’t “agile” enough for you, and you don’t want to change frames for some reason, you can increase turn ability using Hi-Lo, front rocker, or banana rocker wheel setups.
Fusion frames are made of great quality aluminium, and have pretty thick walls. There are no inner structural bridges, but as a whole, construction is stiff enough. Finish quality is good, and there are no sharp edges. Definitely, Fusion frames are one of best freeskating frames available.

But I must warn you! Skate sizes larger than EU44 come with 273mm frame, that takes up to 90mm wheels. While some people may like it, most probably won’t. Frame that long turns too bad, and it takes really advanced skater to handle it in the city, and use its full potential. If you fall in this size range and want Fusions with 255mm wheel base, ask skateshop to change the frames, most good shops will do it free of charge.

Unfortunately Rollerblade no longer make 243mm frames for Fusions. Last Fusions that had them were X5 which aren’t made since 2010. While these can be find online, buying basic Solo model and Kizer Advance frame will produce setup that will skate very similar, have better liner, and will provide more trick options.

Above: explanation why grinding with aluminium frames is horrible idea

Hardware:

Axles are made of strong metal, and are quality ones. I use the same set of axles since I got skates, and never had any problems with them. Hole for allen key is very deep and you won’t round it. These are one-piece speedskating style axles screwed directly in to the frames.

Other screws are also good quality. Buckles use only two (straps are riveted). One of UFS screws on my pair came loose frequently, so I replaced it. No more problems. Frame spacers are ok, and they work with included bearings well.

Wheels:

Active 84mm/84A wheels have better urethane than wheels found on Fusion X3 or Twister 80, but don’t fool yourself. They are mediocre wheels made for fitness skating, and Rollerblade evidently used them in Fusions to cut the cost. They have good grip, and “speed” elliptical profile, which in conjunction with 84mm size, makes them relatively fast. Cores look too fragile for large gaps. To sum it up, these aren’t kind of wheels you want to replace immediately, but after you’ll use them up, you won’t have urge to buy them again. Skates are designed for 84mm wheels, but 80mm do work pretty well with them and speed loss isn’t too significant.

Buckle:

Buckles are strong enough for freeskating and are necessary I f you don’t like lacing skates tightly. Too bad Rollerblade haven’t put buckle protectors on Fusions. If you want to convert these skates to powerblades, or aggressive ones, remember that one missed trick on a ledge can potentially destroy these buckles easily. It’s just a matter of time, buckle lever will tear out sooner or later. But for pure freeskating applications, these buckles are adequate and work well.

Above: buckle on Scooby’s setup haven’t lasted even fifteen minutes!

Velcro strap:

This element is strong and efficient enough to tighten cuff, especially new one. It provide better flex than buckle and is clearly intended with aggressive tricks in mind. Some people do not like it, and put buckle on the skates. Like every strap, this one will eventually too start to rip. If you put your pants on cuffs, it will last longer. I haven’t any major problems with velcros in my skates, apart from small rippings, but nothing that can’t be fixed with needle and a thread.

It’s true that Fusions with straps are pretty flexible, but you can always put buckle on, and then you’ll get much stiffer setup. Too bad that strap is riveted to the cuff – it makes replacing it more tricky.

Fit:

Avoid Fusions, at least in stock setup, if your ankles are placed low, and if you have low instep. Skates will cause you large dose of pain, for reasons I explained in part about the liner.

To bypass this issue its best to change the liner. As I said before, Solo shell have heel pushed more backwards than most skates, but do not worry, liners that don’t fit very well when brand new can be used. Just lace and buckle your skates tightly for over a dozen of sessions, and liner will eventually change its shape, stretch and fit inside the shell nicely. Ideal liners for these skates are Blank ones, and it’s a shame Rollerblade haven’t made Fusion edition with these.

Shape of the shell gives strong and secure fit, and my feet do not move in any direction when I lace skates tightly.

Personally I use Sifika Chicago liners I got from a pair of Powerslide Metro freeskates. They are fairly basic liner, but work well with this shell, and I can have my skates on for many hours without feeling any discomfort or pain.

Above: my skates with Sifika Chicago liners

Bearings:

One of worse elements in this skate. SG9 bearings are closed on both sides with metal covers that are non-removable (at least not easily – and if you’ll remove them, you won’t be able to put them back). Mine caught dust quickly and became noisy. Nothing special, really. There are many better bearings on the market.

Laces:

Simple, round profile laces. Replace them with better ones as soon as you get the skates.

To sum it up:

Fusions aren’t skates for everyone, and they have their share of problems, but are strong, durable and proven skates. Too bad Rollerblade treats Fusion line like a second priority compared to Solos, as Solo models came with better liners, straps, and buckles, not to mention buckle protectors. If you want to ride this boot as a freeskate or powerblade, and you can spend more money, I recommend getting custom based on one of Solo versions instead. But if you are freeskater looking for good blades, and by some miracle your anatomy is compatible with this infernal stock liner, Fusion 84/GMs are purchase you won’t regret. Just don’t expect that they’ll perform well in freestyle cone slalom ;)

Pros:

+anatomical shape of the shell and good, secure fit
+huge shock absorber
+liner made of good materials (if it doesn’t give you any pain…)
+good quality frames
+trustworthy hardware
+UFS, and possibility to convert your skates in to a powerblades or aggressive ones
+not bad wheels, for a stock ones

Cons:

-unprotected buckles prone to damage when you want to do something out of your aggressive tricks vocabulary
-placeholder laces
-bearings
-stock liner that cause pain to many users and is noticeably worse than its Solo counterparts
-awkward frame sizing jump!

Modifications you can do to your Fusions:

1)      Fixing liner problem

Most obvious solution to a liner problem is to replace it. But if you don’t want to, don’t have money to do it, or live in forsaken land where getting different liner is impossible, there are other solutions that may, or may not work.

a)      Sanding down shell edge

This procedure is similar to the one people did en masse with their Salomon FSKs, described here:
http://www.londonskaters.com/review-salomon-fsk-crossmax-3-2004-modifications.htm

Just sand down edge of the shell to make it more flat, you can also cut it a little, but not too much. This mod will void warranty.

b)      Lifting your heel with additional insole, or rubber/yoga mat pad under whole liner

This works for some people, but you must experiment with thickness. Ankles placed higher won’t rub against shell anymore. For some people 3mm lift is enough, other need even 7mm thick pad to see any difference. It depends on your anatomy obviously. This mod won’t void warranty.

c)       Removing hard foam material from liner
It require you to cut side of the liner and cut out unwanted material in area under your ankles. If your feet are in pain, and you can’t get any other liner, you got nothing to lose… I know a person that did this mod and problems with fit were gone. You can also try to glue in thicker, softer foam in place of removed one, to make liner more like Solo one. May or may not void warranty depending on skateshop policy (if your shells will crack or something and they will reject your warranty because of modified liner, just find someone who has roughly the same size of Fusions and put their liners in – voila!).

d)      Heat-molding the shell
Idea of this mod is to make shell wider around ankles. I recommend this only as a last resort option. You can do it in number of ways, I recommend going to good ski-shop where they have machines to stretch ski boots shells – turns out these work with rollerblades too! If you do it yourself, use heat gun to heat up only problematic area and try to reshape it with heat gloves on. Hair dryer works too, but takes much more time. DO NOT use oven, as you risk deforming whole shell. This mod is most difficult one and you risk damage to structural integrity, and you’ll lose warranty for sure, so do it at your own risk, and be very careful!

2)      Making aggressive skates out of your Fusions:
All you need for this mod are Solo soulplates. They come with necessary hardware. You may want to put buckle protector on. If you want to use inside plates, you’ll need to drill four holes on each skate, for a hardware, and you’ll most likely lost warranty.

I recommend this mod to people who bought Fusions, and decided they are more interested in aggressive. It’s more practical to do it than to buy new aggressive skate. Just buy souls, frameset, and you have great skates for ledge or skatepark session. Keep your freeskate frameset for cruising around!

Above: Pair of aggressive skates made out of Rollerblade Fusion X3

3)      Making powerblading skates out of your Fusions
There are many ways to do it. Most simple one, but also most expensive, is to buy Solo soulplates and powerblading frameset. But this will probably cost you so much, it will be more rational to get one of budget priced powerblading setups instead.

Above: my experiments with chopping board! :)

Other way is to buy soulplates, eight Seba FR-A grindplate axles, and hunt for oldschool Senate or 50/50 grindplates. Using these axles you will be able to attach grindplates to protect your Fusion frames!

Most hardcore option is to do it all yourself. You’ll need these FR-A axles, but if you can’t get hand on them, you can use ones used to attach the brake instead (but they won’t work so well). You’ll need access to UHMW or Teflon material, of about 5-6mm thickness. With basic tools (saw, and dril) you can make grindwalls for frames, but also a soulplate. I made chopping board mod to test this idea. It works, but material was too soft unfortunately. This may feel like 90’s, but if you’ll do it nice and clean, it will work as good as Solos with Kizer Arrows!

Above: FSK/Powerblading setup by Maciej Jerominek

4)      Put buckle on
If you want more support from your skates, replace strap with a buckle. You’ll need to cut or drill out Velcro strap rivets. Buy hardware along with buckles.

5)      Put buckle protector on
Simple mod, you’ll need Solo buckle protector and a drill. Buckle protector can drastically improve buckle longevity!

Above: Tomasz Loba’s Fusion X5 LE with Salomon buckles, Salomon Liners, and buckle protectors.

6)      Make new style cuff in pre-2012 Fusions and Solos
Mod for those who want to have more forward movement and flex. You can easily cut the plastic with sharp pair of scissors or knife. Just be sure to use sand paper to finish any rough edges that could rip the strap.

7)      Open shell
That’s simple idea, use sharp knife to cut out lacing holes, and a drill or a heated nail to make new lacing holes. You can add metal fittings for looks. This mod creates more softboot feel, may improve comfort for people with very high instep, and is basically necessary to fit Trust Catalyst liner in Solo shell.

Above: Open shell mod done by Maciej Jerominek

8)      Flex channels
Some skaters cut shell right to front vent holes, to make lacing more efficient. Don’t do it unless you have very slim feet, that move to the sides in skate.

Above: Skates with flex channels cut to allow better fit on slim feet. All credit to Rollerblade TRS.

9)      Different cuffs

Rollerblade cuffs have the same hole spacing as large number of cuffs on the market. You can replace your Fusion/Solo cuffs with higher Razors ones, or with lower Remz ones. Old style TRS cuffs work too, and David Sizemore use them on his Solos. Just make sure to try them on before purchase, as cuff sizing is not consistent, and some sizes may not work well with particular cuffs.

So that’s about it. Hope you’ll find this article useful! Fusion are really great skates, and good starting point for anyone who just get in to skating, but do not know which activity he will prefer. You can keep them as a freeskates, convert to powerblades, aggressive skates, or even downhill ones, if you’ll get hands on Salomon UFS 320mm frame. Really, it’s hard to find other skate that gives so much freedom of choice!

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9 comments

  1. szabandrei

    Hello! very good review! just one thing… to me has happend exactly the same thing that you warn in this review about the tongue that is shifting on one side… the problem for me is that my medial malleolus bone is extremely affected by the boot, since 2 weeks i haven’t gone out in the streets beacuse of the infllamation and pain of that bone… i just used them for 3 weeks and the pain was unbearable. I think the problem is the tongue that doesn’t stand centered in position so the hard-boot make pressure directly on the bone without the space that makes the tongue between the boot and the bone. Any sugestion? Sorry for my english. Thanks in advance!

    • kmhciura

      Take liners to shoemaker or tailor, ask him to make holes for lacing in upper part of the liner. Sew on loop of fabric on to the tounge so you can lece throught it. If you’ll lace upper part of the liner it should prevent tounge from shifting. You can also try to sew on pieces of Velcro, like what Adapt did to lock tounge of their skates in place (check their website http://www.adaptbrand.com/ and look at the photos of skates to get general idea).

  2. Fabio Stoppa

    firstly sorry for my english; it is very bad…i have fusion 84 i love them but i hate their liners….There is too space and the feet are moving too…you have bought the “Sifika Chicago liner”…the question is: these liners are good or no? there are other liners wich in your opinion are better? I would a linner that “blocks my feet”…now i’m using a mtro2012’s liner but the neck is too low….

    • kmhciura

      I’ve used Sifika Chicago from Metro and it worked for me. Now I use Salomon STi liner from Salomon Vinny Minton Pro Model. Works great.

  3. Norbert

    Thx for the article. Do you know of any way to remove inside ankle pressure in Rollerblade twister 80 2014? I was trying biggest size 47 and the length is ok but either the shell is too narrow or the liner does not suit my feet well. Maybe heat molding would be a good solution…? I like the design of twister. Or maybe I should try some other skates anyway?

    • Norbert

      In my case, extending by 10 mm to front and by 5mm to bottom the inside ankle pocket of the boot with a professional linisher removed ankle pressure point in my rollerblade fusion 2014 gm. :D

  4. jmorstein

    Thank you for the write up. I just bought the 2014 GM before reading your post and after about 10 hours of riding I experiencing extreme pain in my left ankle just like you talked about. It seems to be originating right at the top of the lacing just above by ankle. My question is, do you still recommend the Blank liners for the 2014 model? What about those Chicagos? Any other liners I should check out? Unfortunately I don’t have a skate shop near me here in Baltimore and am forced to order everything. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you!

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