Three wheeled skates – a wrap-up.

Note: this post is a combination of previous three, every one of them about three wheeled skates. I’ve removed two latest posts because I’ve felt some info in them was no longer relevant. Here are all my thoughts about three-wheeled skates combined in to one post that should make more sense… First, original post stays on the blog because it was shared a lot and I don’t want to left people with dead links.

If you closely follow current trends in rollerblading, you’ve most likely noticed that from some time Powerslide brand strongly bets their money on three-wheeled skates, and in many different disciplines, too: from fitness and freeskating to speedskating. This particular trend is absent only in aggressive skating, for obvious reasons. Powerslide even created new logotype, which is a nod to original Rollerblade logo, but with three wheels instead of four, more dynamic and modern. Coupled with rather bold marketing campaign it for sure does feel like they are shouting „Here comes a new era in inline skating!”, or something along these lines.

Their flagship model is a speedskate called Double X 3 Wheeler, but there are also offerings aimed at people who look for equipment dedicated to fitness, freeskating and even speed slalom, in form of complete skates, framesets, or frames alone. You can choose two flavours of your ride: 3x110mm or 3x125mm.

Before I get to the point of this article, I feel obligated to remind you, that three wheeled skates are nothing truly new. Of course, 125mm wheels are novelty, but frameset dedicated for 3×100 and 3×110 setups were present on the market (with some periods of disappearance) for a long time. Powerslide themselves made Venom Double X frames for 100mm wheels few years back – frames were strong enough for adults, but were aimed at children who practice speedskating. Shorter wheelbase and lower weight simply works better with their anatomy than even 4x90mm setups. There also was a fitness skate called Phuzion Open Air, that was made before „3x” idea was expanded on to other skates. Speedskating frame companies like FOX and dMb also made their own 3x110mm frames for quite some time.

There are many more examples, but it’s pointless to list them all here. What matters is that idea gained enough momentum and we will most likely see much more three wheeled skates, made by various manufacturers, on people feet in the upcoming years.

Maybe while reading this, you’ve asked yourself a question:

Why Powerslide, out of sudden, decided that „3x” skates are future not only in speedskating, but also in fitness and freeskating? Why other brands that didn’t had such products in their portfolio, now make those also?

From my perspective, it’s pretty much obvious that for some time, rollerblading market was rather stagnant in one of key branches – fitness skates. Nothing truly new, exciting or revolutionary hit the market for years. All that was released, were new versions of old softboots with frames that could fit anything between 4x80mm wheels and 4x100mm wheels, and honestly, some of them were worse than what came before due to philosophy of cost-cutting. For example, two-piece, riveted on frames in skates with 100mm wheels were something unheard of few years back, but in 2015 we have examples of such abominations.

On the freeskating side of things, most popular models are still bearing a resemblance to their granddad, Tecnica Twister, and when you look closely, they haven’t evolved much from custom setups put together by freeskaters in France at the beginning of this century.

It’s not surprising that companies look for something to revitalize the market and wow the masses again. Powerslide went three-wheeled skates route, and in my opinion, it wasn’t a bad choice.

Latter part of this article is focused on Supercruiser frames that were taken off Vi Fothon, because that’s what I’ve came in to possession first when trying three wheeled skates. I’m sure my experiences of skating them can be extrapolated to other 3x frames to some degree and be useful to anyone who is looking to get such setup.

Before you’ll read further, do yourself a favor and watch this video:

If you are already after watching it, maybe you want to learn more about skates with one wheel less?

I’ve bought my frameset second-hand, for cheap. It’s basically a previous version of frames that are currently sold in Megacruiser framesets – the only difference is a fact that Supercuiser frame does have a longer front bridge, to allow 195mm mounting. Because of this, you can’t use them with 125mm wheels – not without mods, at least. Remove 195mm mounting with a hacksaw and you have a frame that is almost identical to new version.

Frames are 255mm in length, and they are quite high for 3x100mm setup – but on the other hand, they are (probably) lowest possible frames for specification: 255mm length, 3x125mm wheels, 165mm mounting. For now I do not plan to mod my pair to fit 125mm wheels, at least not until decent ones of this size become more widely available and less expensive.

At first I’ve used these frames with my „frankenskates”, a hybrid of doop baseplate and Xsjado parts. Reason was simple – that was my only pair of boots with raised heel, all other skates I owned back then were UFS and thus, were unfit to work with these Supercruiser frames.


It turned out, I got myself in to worst case scenario. It isn’t about how these skates fit – Xsjado/doop skeleton helds foot in place very firmly, especially in ankle area. Problem is how flexible such setup is with such tall frame. Of course, skates weren’t bending so much that I should be worried about hurting my ankles, but support wasn’t really adequate to what I’ve got under my feet. Below are height comparison with 76mm frame skate (Xsjado), 80mm (red themed Fusions) and 84mm (yellow themed Fusion):

xsjadoredyellow

I’m sure that Powerslide R&D guys realized the same and tried to make newest versions of doop Swift skates a bit more supportive by using buckles in place of Velcro straps (there’s even micrometric buckle in place of toe strap). That for sure makes whole boot a bit more stiff, but I would be really surprised if difference between Swifts and my customs was huge. I look at such skates as „fitness+” ones, that are more durable than regular ones and more adequate for urban skating, but nothing more. I really felt there was wasted potential here, especially at higher speed and with stronger pushes, when boot bent just far too much for my taste.

If quickly became obvious to me, that I need a harboot to gain full benefits of this frame. At first I went for Roces Veni boot, because it is basically an ultra-cheap rec skate that shares the shell with Roces X35 freeskates. This boot is also used in Vidi and Vici fitness skates, and thus, it does have shell shape adapted to fit frames with both 165mm and 195mm mounting spacing. That means you won’t be able to use it with 3x125mm Megacruiser setup, there won’t be enough space for the front wheel. Also, mounting points are placed in such position relatively to the boot, that you can’t centre the frame properly under it. I could use 195mm mounting with good results, but with Megacruiser frameset there’s no such option and frame would be placed too far to the front. It would most likely be the same with shorter, 110mm max frames.

DSC_0273
Veni boot gave me a good fit and enough support and was huge improvement over Xsjadoop one. But after a while a problem emerged – the plastic started to „give in” to the metal frame, and whole connection started to be unreliable and flexy. I don’t know if it was my fault of overtightening the screws, or if it happened because of forces that are applied on the boot during skating – but it doesn’t really matter. This setup was compromised and I couldn’t skate it like that – it was risky and took away the fun. I recommend to avoid Veni boot if you want to put together a tall-frame custom. I don’t know if X35 skate shares similar problems, but if Roces is using the same plastic on both shells (and most likely it is the case) I would be cautious with them, too.

IMG_20151006_220851IMG_20151006_220908
I hit a bargain on used Imperial shells in decent condition and put a new setup together. Imperial boot is by far the hardest skate I own right now, without a doubt, so there’s plenty of support. Frame and boot connection is solid thanks to metal plates of X-Slot. Powerslide is selling complete Imperial Megacruiser sets, and it’s easy to see why – boot and frame work together very good. I use superb USD Phoenix liner and I’m quite happy with this setup, even if they could be a bit wider in ankle area.

imperials

Wiser from experience with three different boots, I can say your best bet is to get a hard plastic boot with metal plates for a frame mount (or carbon slalom skate, they are also stiff enough). I think, because of increased height, forces that work on frame and boot connection are stronger than in case of 4x80mm frame, for example. Metal plates in boot give you confidence that this area won’t fail and provide better energy transfer, and thus more fun from skating. Some skates might require slight modifications to use Megacruiser set, but I think all most popular models should take 3x110mm frames without any. Generally speaking, if you have a boot with v-type 165mm frame mounting, chances are you are good to go.

My experience of skating these frames? It is great fun, and even during the time when I’ve used my first, most flexible setup, I’ve enjoyed it. Period of adaptation to such tall skates was surprisingly short and I’ve felt confident on them in no time. I’ve even played a game of Frisbee with those on and forgot what I’ve got under my feet. I think frame length of 255mm helped here, because I’m used to it – my trusted setup of 4x84mm wheels is the same. Comparing the two, there are many differences, though.

Obviously, these frames aren’t made of magic, and won’t make you ten times faster on your blades. Skates are a bit harder to control, not only because of distance from the ground, but also because of one contact point less and losing some grip with it. It’s really noticeable when rear and front wheel wear down from skating a bit – on sharp turns they can lose their grip, especially if you are skating on really smooth surface. Of course, wheels play a huge role here – I’m using PS Infinity wheels, which are budget ones. But there are many models of 110mm wheels with superior grip to choose from.

While skating on flat ground, 3x110mm setup isn’t much faster than 4x84mm one – maximum velocity is similar, but to be honest how fast you are going depends more on you than on your skates (if you have decent ones, that is). But bigger wheels for sure help in maintaining the speed for longer periods of time and make skating at high speeds less tiring. Downside is, acceleration is worse and 3x110mm is less forgiving on uphill. But to sum it up, I’m skating through city faster, because higher speeds consume less energy and larger wheels give me a better roll on surfaces where 4x80mm and 4x84mm clearly struggle.

Jumps are possible but it’s clear these frames weren’t made for them. Especially if you want to do really long and high jumps, you’d be better off with more traditional setup, because height plays a huge role here. Chances are you are not Dustin Weberski or some Canadian mushroom wizard that can jump on those without a sweat.

I’ve always thought (not literally always, but after experimenting with various setups) that frame length of around 255-260mm gives best compromise between stability and agility in urban skating, and it applies to Supercuiser frame too. They feel stable during pushes but don’t give „on rails” sensation that is common with 4x90mm to 4×110 setups.

Here in Cracow we have a long slope that is rather steep and you can go really fast on it. You don’t even have to push, and you are at the bottom in no time. Skating downhill on those frames was faster than on other setups I regularly use, also when I was on flat ground already, wheels rolled for longer. But I got a „shimmy” effect in one skate and had to tense the muscles in that leg to counter it. It was uncomfortable sensation and I wouldn’t take this setup on extreme downhill, mind you.

Supercuiser/Megasruiser frames are quite simple and low-tech, but they are quite ok. There is one minor flaw here, with male part of axles – it’s really easy to damage them, they are quite fragile. Other owners of these frames I know, have the same problem. I hope PS fixes it eventually.

Because frames are pressed, not extruded and CNC machined, they are made with less precision. First and rear wheel can be put easily and I even have to press frame walls together to tighten the axle properly, but middle wheel is really hard to put in. It’s nothing compared to Level 2 frames where I’ve used actual hammer to put middle wheels in, but still, a bit annoying.

If option to go with 125mm wheels doesn’t interest you, and you want shorter frames, right now you can choose from these 3x110mm ones:

-Powerslide Pleasure Tools, 243mm length (like 4x80mm freeskate frame!)

-Seba 310, 247mm length

-Flying Eagle Supersonic, 251mm length

It’s almost like three companies agreed that each one of them will make a frame that is 4mm longer than what came out before, haha!

They are all made in extruded aluminium, so they should be more durable in the longer run than pressed frame, but alloy quality plays huge role here, too. More frames are about to come, and lately Powerslide made more expensive Triple X Megacruiser that is used on shiny Megacruiser Pro skate. Fila is planning to launch their own „speedslalom” skate on 3×110 setup next year.

It’s worth to note, that in most cases, a pair of good 3×110 frames will cost you about the same, or even more, than a full Megacruiser frameset with wheels and bearings included. One can’t deny great value here, and the fact it’s right now the cheapest way to put together a three-wheeled setup.

To sum it up, my experiences with 3x setup are generally positive. Skating on these frames is pleasant and a bit different, and while I’m sure they won’t change anybody’s view on skating, it’s worth trying the thing. Especially if you are looking for skates that are both fast and manoeuvrable, that are fit for urban skating but for long distance cruising as well, it’s worth investing in frameset at least. Many skaters say it’s just another fad, a marketing play to increase sales. I’m not a fool to think whole buzz around three wheeled setups is for nothing and money are not at the stake – Powerslide wants to be ahead of competition and that’s what every company out there should be after, because it’s what brings progress. It doesn’t change the fact idea is worth trying at least. 3x skates already earned their place among my favourite setups and I think I’ll still skate them years from now on.

Go, get them and have fun!

P.S. It’s worth to check out Thias’ blog, author did a short review on Powerslide Pleasure Tools frames:

Thias’ Blog 3x110mm FSK Frames review

Even though he doesn’t post much content nowadays, it’s worth visiting his blog from time to time – it was huge help for me when I got in to skate modding and I’ve learned quite a few useful things from here. It does seem his general impressions of skating 3x110mm setup are close to mine, even though he uses shorter frames.

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Three-wheeled skates – what’s the deal about? | Że co, przepraszam?!
  2. Vit Adamek

    Hi, thanks for great article. I just like to make you aware that Aliexpress.com sells a lot of interesting high quality frames for very little money. I have already got two great 3 wheel frames from them which are CNC machined. One was bit longer and quite low 110mm setup ment for speedskates my friend is using on old Salomon Deflectors 2 with UFS mount thus attached with spacer at the front mount and the other one is not unlike Powerslide Pleasure Tool I use now on 2002 Salomon Deflector skates with front spacer as well. Really cheap and great quality frames. The one I use now is here
    http://s.aliexpress.com/6feaYj2E and you can see a photo of this setup here – https://www.dropbox.com/s/vn2inujpvsa8am9/IMAG0125.jpg?dl=0 – by the way this photo shows two variants of how can you mount these frames, the frame on the right is more centered. My friends setup photo is here – https://www.dropbox.com/s/f9z5vrbqqylpt6m/IMG-20160909-WA0000.jpg?dl=0

    Take care, Vit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s