USD Aeon release is nigh (some people were fortunate to get them early) and a huge number of people are hyped for them. Almost as large group claim that Aeons are step backwards, made to rip-off rollerbladers and that they could have been done better. I think second group simply failed to understand logic behind the skate, from design and economy point of view, so I wanted to share my thoughts on the problem.
Let’s start with busting the myth that causes the most controversy:
If we get rid of UFS it would hurt rollerblading and would prevent us from riding our favourite frames and customizing the skates!!!
First of all, UFS isn’t going anywhere. Aeon is only one boot model with two frame variants, don’t panic. And even if Powerslide would decide to make more of such skates, do you honestly think that Valo or Sunshine would suddenly put their time and money in to R&D of their own models based around one-piece boot idea?
Get real – nothing truly new came from Razors, Remz or Valo in years. All they do is swapping plastic colors and skins on their skates. They’ll stick to UFS because they don’t have money to turn whole concept of aggressive skate upside down.
K2 won’t make such risk, either. Their aggressive skates barely pop up on rollerbladers radar, so going fully one piece doesn’t make much more sense for them. Adapt don’t do “plastic” skates so at best (worst?) they would simply make one piece soulframe for existing boot, still leaving a choice. Seba? They’ve failed to be “savior of rollerblading” many people hoped for (it was easy to predict, really) and they occupy fringes of aggressive skating market, so I doubt they would release something non-UFS for it any time soon. As for Rollerblade, we should consider ourselves lucky if they won’t just kill their aggressive range in the upcoming years…
Out of all “core” companies only Powerslide does have the money and interest to risk such bold move nowadays. They also have a wide range of popular products, like USD Carbons, USD VII, Xsjados (I also see more and more people on Sways), so even if Aeon experiment will fail, they won’t be out of the game.
It’s another thing about customization and frame option. I think we should look at Aeons as a whole – not “a boot I want to ride”, “a frame I want to ride” but a “skate I want to ride”.
You are supposed to get them because of these frames and how they work with the boot, not in spite of them. It doesn’t make much sense to have UFS, changeable the frames on these boots, because it would remove all key advantages of the design!!!
As for customization – slapping differently coloured frame under your boot is a very basic one, and there are hundreds of more creative things you can do to make you setup unique. From the practical side of things – I often wonder if people who detach stock Fluids just to put Featherlites on new skates are even able to tell the difference between these two frames, other than that one of them is being made by a more popular brand/company.
What’s the point of Aeons then? First of all, to make money, of course, because this isn’t a charity fair, this is business. I realize that and have no problems in buying products that bring something new to the table, if company actually invested time and money in to some research, someone put a though in to a finished product. On the other hand, I have trouble understanding people who get hyped for skates based around 20+ years old boots made by companies that ride on their brand image and nothing else. I’m not a loyal customer or a fan of particular brand/team image. Give me something fresh, experimental, exciting and I’d take it over usual, ordinary stuff from the guys that “all people like”, any day.
If we have that sorted out, let’s talk about the design. Non-UFS, one-piece construction means that:
Skates are low, in fact much lower than a “traditional” skate equipped with a frame of the same wheel spacing and groove would be. If you would make such frames in UFS, that would mean second wheel would be directly below UFS bolt, adding almost 1cm to the height. Best we could get designed around UFS are Bake, Level 3 and GC BIG frames and all of them have 1mm clearances in all key areas – and all of them were made to be as low as, and have best groove space possible, given 72mm wheel size. As you can see on example of Symmetrics frames, a flat 60mm isn’t giving you much more groove space in case of UFS.
Another part of the equation are wheel wells – hypothetically, even if by some miracle UFS frame with such groove split would be possible, it still wouldn’t be as low as frame of Aeons, without wheel wells. And making a frame that wouldn’t fit 99% of skates on the market wouldn’t be a good idea, don’t you think?
Skates are lighter, because they do not need additional UFS hardware and engineers could minimalize material usage in areas where it isn’t really needed. Think of Razors SL – it is similar concept. If a soleplate on its own is a thick layer of plastic, does boot really need a bottom of its own? No, it doesn’t.
Skate should give you better energy transfer – there is a lot of bending and torsion around the UFS bolt, simply because we apply significant forces on connection area while skating. Adapt also realized that and they’ve tried to fix at least one part of the problem, making soulplate and boot connection more rigid and secure with sixmount system. Any kind of flex under your feet actually slows you down, and integrated frames can help to distribute forces more evenly, thus, giving more solid feel and more responsive skates.
Skate have a groove that makes flat setup much more accessible – this is of course high point of Aeons, they simply have a groove that would not be possible in UFS without making the frames extraordinary tall.
Of course, all of this is pretty common knowledge, but some people still aren’t convinced by these arguments. So they speak things like:
Yeah, but they could make soulplate and the frame in to one piece, with boot being separate, at least?
Of course they could. But it’s wise they didn’t, because there are really only two options to do it:
1) They could make boot with a solid base that would make it UFS compatible, selling soulframe as a separate product.
This would remove most advantages of current design – skate would be heavier, higher (no wheel wells in underside of the boot, as they are placed where UFS bolts would need to be) and also require to have separate soulplate without a frame as an alternative. Only benefit left would be a groove size when using soulframe. So what would be the point of making Aeons, then? Just keep making UFS Thrones and make a soulframe for those…
2) They could go for a baseless design like in Razors SL (not sure if Sunshine holds the patent?) to keep height and weight of the skate low, similar to current solution.
But that would mean Powerslide would need to make:
-soulplate and frame combo for those who wants to use Aeons with all advantages of a new design.
-UFS-compatible soulplate for those who wants to use boot only Aeons with different frames.
Without the second product, splitting Aeon shellsoulframe in to a separate shell and soulframe do not make much sense. It would simply ramp up the cost of a complete skate, because two different moulds would be needed, along with more manual labour to assembly it. Cost of one-piece mould is lower for both the company and end customer. For those who would already own Aeons and change soulframe in the future, it would save them only a little amount of money, compared to current shellsoulframe.
Separate soulframe in both cases is also bad idea, because in current form, it wouldn’t be compatible with UFS mount and would require a screws placed on the side of the frame, just like in the old, non-UFS Salomon ST models. So, that would also make potential solid-base Aeons heavier and limit soulframe compatibility with other boots.
Carbon skates are out of the question then (not only because you don’t want to drill holes in them but also because they have a bit curved bottom shape), and how many hardboots with flat bottom that could be made to fit soulframes, are on the market? Let’s see… Razors Genesys, RB Solo and maybe Remz or USD VII would work too. Not very much options, right? It certainly wouldn’t justify the cost of making such separate soulframes, at all. If someone wants to do such mod, just use a hacksaw or dremel and cut these Aeon shells in half.
So… making shell and soulframe separate isn’t bringing any true benefits to end customer and makes skates more complicated and expensive. In worst case it removes most benefits of current design, making whole deal with soulplate and frame being one piece a worthless affair.
Ok then, so they could make only soulplates replaceable, don’t they?
I imagine Salomon widebody style (also think of RB Solo) soulplates could work – but it would make skate heavier and more expensive (again, another moulds needed and more manual labour). I think that it potentially could compromise structural integrity of a footbed, because boot would need to be a little thinner where souls would be placed, if they would want to keep current royale tricks angle. But with right approach, yeah – it could work. Too bad Sunshine is holding patents on bs plates. There is always possibility to bolt-on UHMW plates on to the souls if you wear them too fast, and your frame is still in good condition, isn’t it?
I don’t remember when was the last time a skate sparked such controversy. People go crazy about new K2s while they are same old design released for years, only a bit refined. They try to defend non-replaceable souls on them, saying that usually you are done with the boot by the time you are done with soulplates. Next thing I see, the same people attack Aeon, a skate that actually does have a good reason to have some of its parts non-replaceable. They focus only on that aspect and fail to see a purpose of certain choices that were made during design process.
I’m 100% sure k2 will skate very similar to an old pair I can get on eBay today. Aeons have potential to be like nothing before them. Guess which skates I’m more eager to try.