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My Bont Jet Adventure (Inline Skating Speedskating Boots, Skate Brakes, Stopping, Frame Placement)

I have had my Bont Jet skates for a couple of months now. It’s time to say a few words about them...

First off, a little bit about my skating background and my goals for my new skates. I have been a recreational inline skater for ~15 years and my trusty skates for the last 12 years have been Rollerblade Spiritblades. I decided to get new skates in order to go much longer distances (thus getting more exercise!), hopefully well into 20-30 mile range several times a week.

My journey did not lead directly to the Bont Jet.

I first got the itch for a new pair when I saw that REI had Rollerblade Marathon Carbon skates on sale. (At this point I had done no research on speed skates!) I ordered a pair and had them for about a month, at which point I decided that they were not for me! I had a constant pain in my right ankle and the skates were pretty heavy. (The bigger wheels were great though.) Thankfully, REI has the best return policy of any retailer I know: If you’re unsatisfied with a product, they will take it back - no matter how long you have had it.

Then I dove into researching speed skates online. The greatest asset was the fantastic skating community. I sent out a plea for help and A LOT of people answered. Thank you, everyone!

Soon my sights were set on the Bont Semi-Race skates. They seemed to be a great beginner skate with the higher ankle cuff and the 3-point boot (lower deck height). I also have skinny feet and several people told me that Bonts run narrower than most other brands. Many people let me know about their positive experiences with the Semi-Race, especially Claire (Thanks again, Claire!). I measured my feet to be 250-252mm, which is soundly in the size 7 range. The Semi-Race size 7’s arrived, I tried them on, and they were too small! Yet during that process, I also decided that I was going to actually prefer a lower ankle cuff. Enter the Bont Jet (size 7.5!).

So far I am really enjoying the Jets. I haven’t gotten out on them as much as I’d like. Three reasons: 1. It’s been rainy here lately, 2. I’ve been having issues with blistering, 3. I needed to get a brake. I can’t do anything about the rain (it’s actually very welcome right now), but I finally have #2 and #3 under control!

These skates (as with all Bonts and many other brands) are heat moldable. I think I have molded them a total of four times at this point. The most recent time was because I had to compensate for my new Ezee Fit ankle booties (http://ezeefitsports.com), which will help with blistering. I have yet to go out for any distance with this new set-up, but I highly anticipate a great improvement in a pain-free skating experience!

Getting the brake was an interesting adventure (but I’ll spare the details since this is turning into a thesis!). I ended up getting the Bont brake which attaches nicely to the Bont S-frame (aluminum only at this point). The brake material, on the other hand, is horrible at this point. I wore down the brake pad in ONE outing. Bont is working on it as fast as they can. In the meantime, I am currently using a Gatorback brake pad, thanks to Mark’s donation (thanks Mark!) and my dad’s innovation. The Gatorback pad is skinnier than the Bont, so my dad cut out a piece of the worthless Bont pad and wedged it in next to the Gatorback.

Whew, anyone still reading? I guess it wasn’t really much of a review. Maybe it might help someone else who is looking for new skates to hear out my thought process.

See you on the trails...

Comments

roadskater's picture

Thanks for the Bont Jet Info

Thanks for the review (sure it was a review) but don't worry about it being too long or in depth. Maybe the story of getting a brake can be a separate article if you feel like it. This is an important topic we need to keep up to date on, and there will be people considering moving from either rec or indoor speed who might want to know about this. I went without a brake on speed skates for a long time, and I think my decision was made for me in Philadelphia one day as has been recounted here before...

I got used to the brake quickly and in crossovers and while it sometimes is a bit of a drag with a brand new brake pad (if I really push straight to the side then lift my toe before my heel it will sometimes touch the pavement), it is a better way to stop, in general, than just burning up wheels...and it is a lot cheaper to stop using a $4 brake pad than a $60 set of wheels. Also, I find that braking with a T-Stop (dragging the wheels sideways) can put pressure on your knees. I used an alternating left/right T-Stop to reduce that effect and to even the wear on wheels, but it still was not as good at stopping, wore out wheels quickly, was hard to keep doing on a long hill and put pressure on my knees.

 

MikeB's picture

tell me more about 'brake or not to brake'

This is good stuff Elise. + Blake's brave brake (say that 5 times fast) insight is very helpful. What can you share about the decision process of 'to brake or not to brake?'
roadskater's picture

To Brake or Not to Brake

Well if I understood, the arguments are similar to head gear ones. Some think it's cool to have skates with no brake, and I agree that's pretty cool. I like my hair blowing in the breeze too but I don't have to skate to get that feeling. I can get a Fiat Spider 2000 1979 DOHC 2 litre with Weber carb and rusted floorboards for that...but a hair dryer or box fan is cheaper. Some say crossovers are harder with a brake on. Yep, if you do them wrong, maybe. I can see where indoors a brake would put a serious style cramp on, especially in a pace line indoors. And if you left a big black mark on the rink, well you might be in there gently scrubbing or some such. But I think for outdoor situations where turns are generally not that tight and if they are you might not be XOing anyway, having the brake back there is no problem. Some say the brake is a bummer if you're behind the person in a paceline outdoors. I've felt that bummer myself once at least on the SCT (Silver Comet) with eebee, coming back late one evenight, and just at that point where I shouldn't have thought "we're back," but I did anyway, I got to close and my front wheel spun on her brake and it was tumbletime. As I recall it was not such a bad fall but better no falls at all. The main thing is you just have to watch for a brake when you get behind someone in a paceline. Some say the brake is heavy but I never notice this. I notice a lot of other things, but can't recall once thinking that brake is heavy. Hope I don't start now. The brake IS a bummer when it comes to changing wheels. We still haven't designed a great one yet. HOWEVER, once you remember you have a brake on and stop using wheels to brake, you'll preserve the profile of your wheels much longer and wear them more evenly on both sides most likely, unless you are an amazingly even wheel-brakeer on the left and right. It is a HUGE savings of money and time overall to wear out a brake pad instead of wheels, unless you bought the wheels already and want to burn through them for some reason. There are sometimes alignment issues with some brake and frame combinations, but in general, a flat frame surface and flat brake surface work well together. I think my K2 speed frames were convex on the sides and that caused some unwanted rub/alignment issues. I resisted even when reasonable people were using a brake. It was less macho and more not wanting to hassle with more hardware. In the long run I've found less wheel rotation (in the "swapping" sense) required so less overall work with the brake. One cool thing is that if you use the brake on some really long downhill and those particular muscles start to cry, you can always go back to wheel-braking (t-stop drag) and use those particular muscles, changing legs left and right. On some very long downhills like we saw in Randolph near the Zoo, this turned out to be mentally useful at least, if not physically. I don't think I did any wheel burn, but it was good to know I still had that trick in the bag. Once I could see the rest of the road, I let it fly, and I think that's where I hit something that flew up and hit eebee on the arm? Anyway, those are most of my thoughts on the brake. I've almost tripped because of it maybe a couple of times, but so far, have not. You spend very little time braking once you've been skating awhile, but that's some of the most important time in your braking life. ALSO and this is not to be underestimated: I think wearing a brake even if you never use it sends out a signal to the biking and law enforcement and event coordinator communities that you are safety conscious...even if you can brake better with a wheel-burn. (Oh and if you use the wheel-burn t-stop, make sure those wheels are rotating still or you'll have a flat-spotting problem too). If you can get a GatorBrake, I say go for it. After that, I say an old Miller. After that, check for something from your manufacturer. Some K2 units have add-on brake assemblies (plastic I think, but that's better than nothing in this case I'd think). Sometimes, just making some noise with the brake lets someone know you're with them (if you're not feeling like talking), and again, that's cheaper with a brake pad. Those are my biased views once more. Hope it helps. Others?
skart's picture

Brake is Great, just don't overdo it!

I think that if you are skating a course that you are unfamiliar with or you know that there are places that definitely require stopping - definitely wear a brake. However, I find myself relying on a brake too much if I have one on. Basically, if I know a course and am confident in my ability to stop efficiently if/when needed without a brake, I might not wear one. This forces me to use other stopping methods which leads to better agility on skates overall and having a variety of stopping techniques in my bag of tricks.

I hope this makes sense :-)

 

roadskater's picture

Yes a Brake, Like Money, Changes Everything

Yes, skart, this is a good point. I think my time without a brake was very valuable, and in most races, were I fast enough to be anywhere busy, I'd really consider leaving it off that day. Most race courses marathon and under are made for those who don't use a brake I think, and particularly at short distances (10K and under, which is by the way a long distance for a rink race) I think the courses are even more careful since some competitors are from the indoor world. "Unsubstantiated opinion that is, young skatewalker roadskater," I hear Skyoda say.

Not having a brake does teach many skills that you retain when you get the brake back on, I agree. I think for those with a brake, it's good to try to remember that those who don't have a brake are likely to be annoyed with it there keeping them from getting even closer to your frame.

And whatever you do, at A2A or any race no matter how long, and even at T2T probably,
DON'T BRAKE IN THE PACK! RAISE YOUR HAND ON THE SIDE YOU PLAN TO EXIT AND YELL SOMETHING LIKE "I'M COMING...OUT, I WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW, I WANT TO LET IT SHOW"
Just the first three words of that will probably be fine. Some will be understanding but you may not get skateylove from all in a pack if they smell rubber. They don't mind if you get dropped and have to spank it to rejoin, but most will really mind it if you make them the head of a new worm when it should be easy time on the downs to take a drink and hunker in the wind.
eebee's picture

Backwards Powerslide!

I look forward to witnessing your dazzling array of stopping methods, Skart! Personally I like the backwards powerslide for added drama. Very snazzy, and perfect on slightly damp pavement.

Seriously, good point about increasing one's speed-control repertoire.

Last week I had to slow down on one of my 30mph blind curves for a couple of mountain bikers crossing the road, who must not have realized they were on a road. I couldn't have done that without my heel brake. I think though for rails-to-trails type terrain it'd be ok to go brakeless.

MikeB's picture

brakeless stopping tricks?

Skart if you don't mind "braking" the magician's code of ethics - would you elaborate on your stopping techniques?  I'd be interested and would take notes for sure.  Thanks.

skart's picture

I am still working...

... on mastering the backwards powerslide :-)

roadskater's picture

Ask Eddy

I don't think we have you on the Eddy list yet, but if you ask Eddy about this, you'll get quite a demonstration. This is a good trick for when you're a bit tired and zoning out. He can show you lots because he lived in the San Francisco area (Berkeley CA) so long. He has videos of him skating across and braking down the sides of some amazing structures and natural formations as well. The workshop seems like a lot of money at $260, and if you don't have it, it's infinite, but this is quite simply the very best way to be exposed to and to focus on a ton of new techniques that fit together. Everyone should get the chance to do at least one Eddy workshop, and then most will likely want to come back again. I wish I had the money to offer scholarships and money back guarantees! It really is that great. If you can find a way to do it, by all means do. And the Greensboro workshop is one of the smallest workshops he still does as it's not that far from home for him. It is a great way to get personal enthusiastic attention to your skating.
eebee's picture

Brake Thoughts

Some of my brake thoughts: I have seen several flatland-proficient skaters come apart trying to T-stop down a hill. T-stopping won't slow you down as fast as leaning hard with all your weight on your heel brake. I might be wrong about this but I don't think a skater is able to lean as hard on those dragging t-stop wheels as on to a heel brake. When you're t-stopping you need most of your weight on your still forward-facing coasting leg so you don't go off in the direction of the t-stopping wheels (i.e. off to the left!). When you're using a heel brake, it's usually on your predominant foot (mostly the right), and you're using the bulk of your body weight and leverage to stop yourself, and not just the pavement friction. Even though beginning heel-brakers need to learn how to coast on their left leg while learning to scissor their right leg forward, after a while they're confident they can lean even more heavily on that braking foot without veering off into the woods. Another point in favor of the heel-brake is that the skater's knee is bent the way nature intended, rather than placing enormous stress onto the knee joint as it tries not to break sideways during a t-stop. A skater may have quads & hams of steel, but to me a hard t-stop is always going to try to make that knee bend the wrong way.
roadskater's picture

Yeah, What She Said, Knee Bends the Right Way

That's a good explanation of what I meant about the pressure on the knee, and it doesn't get better on one of those long, serpentine downhills in Piedmont areas, or amid a bunch of skaters, like in a city skate in Philly, DC, Atlanta or NYC. Ideally, skating should be relatively easy on the knees (if you don't fall on them, that is!). I burned a lot of brake in Mt. Airy at Bikefest, but at least it wasn't a lot of tendon. I'm sure some can do it, but I'm just as sure I'm glad I had a brake. No pressure intended on anyone else...just opinions.

Boot Additions/Frame Placement

In my case, when I first made the "leap" from rec skates, I erred in boot fit and added ankle protection instead of correcting the real problem. Frame placement is very critical in speed boots, and it was the real problem. I used a similar product to the one that you mentioned; I used "donuts", duct tape, and heat molding, too. None of this worked but only masked the real problem, frame placement. Hopefully you're using thin, good wicking socks that don't move around on your feet. These are not rec skates. Adding any product to a boot adds inefficiency, making the speed boot more rec-like. While pain is not acceptable, adding to boots should be a last resort, in my opinion, when a lot of correction can take place by adjusting frames and heat molding. I realize that moving frames may not seem like a logical correction to fit, but it really adjusts where you put pressure on your feet.

My advice would be to have a veteran speed skater follow you. Find out if you pronate, fall to the inside, or suppinate, fall to the outside. The frames get moved in, if you pronate, and out, if you supinate. You are apt to pronate, 95% of the world does. I happen to supinate. Moving frames in 1/8" movements is more than enough. The problem is, if you don't find a "sweet-spot" before you incur pain, it's very difficult to do. The painful area becomes overly sensitized, making it difficult to tell what's going on. Get a veteran speed skater to help you ASAP through the process. I've had Millers, Mogemas, several pairs of different Powerslides, and now Bont Semi-Race skates. 90% of fit issues I've solved with frame placement. The rest I attribute to heat molding and the correct socks. This of course assumes reasonable technique which will also alter where your feet rub or feel pressure.

Anyway, just my thoughts. You'll find your way, and I'm sure there are other opinions on the subject. If you ever have an opportunity to talk to Glenn Koshi on the subject, do so. As for the Eddy clinic, since it's mostly drills on technique, make sure you are comfortable. Consider wearing your old rec skates, so you can hang in there, and learn the technique. You'll be learning so much is such a short period of time. Best wishes . . .

roadskater's picture

Yes Frame Placement, Yes Bring All Your Skates

Good points, or great points, I mean. Frame placement is extremely important. For me, I find I can figure this out by really paying attention to how it feels standing still on my skates. This is just me. I haven't heard anyone else say it. But if I can stand still, without the wheels moving, and pay attention to whether one or both feet are caving in or out, and move the frames until I feel really solid, this spot works well for me. I start from the basic "centered in the back, between the big toe and first toe in the front." When I've skated in this setup and it feels good, I try to make a dot with a Sharpie or some such to mark the spots. [As I was typing, Craig Ferguson just said, "You know, one of us is going to have to go to bed. I think it should be you first."] It's really good to grab one of your experts nearby to look this over in person, and do bring your comfy skates even if you think it's all good with the low boots. It's always good to have a backup kit, and the workshop is a lot of time on skates. You can take breaks, but probably won't want to! Thanks for the words, clairem, and I hope the skating is going well. I'm assuming you are still in the southern locale? Hope it's going great wherever!

Southern Girl/Yankee Ties/Frame Placement

Yes, Blake, I'm a Southern girl doing a reverse commute, you could say.  Everytime I can get a cheap flight, I go north.  My folks aren't in the best of health.

 Anyway, I've skated very little, so far this year, but that has to change.  Just one special trip out the door helps to get things going.  There's a lot of new pavement here to explore, so I had a nice skate yesterday. 

Back to frame placement, I was able to do it myself just as you are suggesting, but not the first time.  The idea of a balanced and normal stance combined with new techique had me fishing all over the place creating all sorts of new problems or should I say "hot spots."  Side to side placement is key.  I need expert help in realizing that.  That's when I found out that I was a supinator, sounds like terminator!!!

With the higher and bigger frames, I found that in front to back placement, I'm better off with the frame slightly back, exposing less toe and more heel wheel.  This is because I keep my feet very low to the ground throughout my stride.  I have found that this placement keeps me from catching my front wheel just before the set down.

Skate Well . . .

roadskater's picture

Good Tips on Frame Placement, Side-to-Side, Fore-Aft

Oh yes, again, good catch. I have not played much with front to back frame placement, but did think about it briefly along the way and felt that slightly back might be better for longer frames and also for anyone who tends to put too much weight forward or toe push...most at one point or another? That might help keep the weight back and thus help get more push along the leg through the heel wheels for power.

Yes it's always good to ask those who often draft you if it looks like you're bending in or out at the ankles. Once a year, it's probably worth moving the frames about to test for better balance and power, and...

  • WHEN YOU FIND THE SWEET SPOT STOP AND MARK YOUR FRAME PLACEMENT!

...before you do anything (including skating) that might make the frame move from that sweet spot.

I sometimes had a problem with the front of the frame moving (an issue with washers most likely, don't recall), so I made a dot on the front of the boots so I could look down from above while in a tuck, for example, to check that alignment throughout the day.

If you notice a sudden loss of pressure in the cabin...oops...sudden lack of power or balance in your stroke, trust me...

  • your frame may have moved (did you fall recently, swap frames, loosen a boot bolt for another reason, have to struggle with your bake assembly or brake pad replacement?)
  • your frame may have bent (did you fall recently? check for odd or uneven wheel wear...more toe wear on one side or than usual)
  • your boot mount (the carbon or other material holding the boot frame mounting holes may have weakened or even cracked (ouch is likely in the next few hours, and perhaps for months to come)

When you find boots you love, especially stock ones, get an email search going on eBay for a backup pair (at a steal price). Test as many different boots as you can and when you can't, at least look at how they're made inside and out so you can start to see what brands are alike/different.

Also, it's a good point that bigger wheeled frames (especially those that put you higher off the ground) may change placement needs, and probably make frame placement even more important since they likely put more torque on your ankle.

Those are my thought on this for now! Thanks for bringing this up.

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