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Thoughts on Buying First Inline Speed Skate Boots and Frames

roadskater's picture
When I was about to be fitted for my first set of speedskates, I wondered if I would be able to skate in low-cut boots too, but I tried someone's (Dan Burger's, in fact; thanks, Dan) and it turned out to be fine. I got Verducci V-Tek boots that were "semi-custom," meaning the ankle area was custom and the front of the boots stock, or so they said. For awhile I used some Mogema R-1s but ultimately decided they were not as good as mia Verducci (for me) and I went back to the V-Teks. The Mogemas ultimately broke down at the mounting slot, which seemed a poor design to me. The V-Teks ultimately broke down too, but I loved them so much and was so income challenged that I use epoxy and USPS Tyvek envelope scraps to build up some support layers, and various other tools to freshen or replace threads (including installing what's called a T-nut to completely replace the original mounts in at least one spot). What does this have to do with your question?

Recently, I bought some speed boots on eBay, and the auction ended on a Friday afternoon/evening so I think I was pretty lucky that I'm not much of a happy hour type and I got a great deal on some barely used Powerslide C4 boots. I've skated only short distances in them so far (<10 miles each time), but they do seem as or more stable and as or more comfortable than the V-Teks. I talked to Richard Nett during the process of deciding what to do, and he was very helpful and not at all pressuring in our conversation. Had I not found this amazing sub-$90 deal on boots, I might have ended up purchasing something via Richard. I hope someone with money will read this and give him some business, as he is very knowledgeable and sharing of that wisdom as well.

About buying speedskates on eBay, I actually bought two additional pairs of V-Teks in hopes of finding replacements for my venerable Verduccis. I figure that, in general, you won't lose but a dollar or two plus actual shipping cost on a resale if you buy something and try it and it won't work for you. In both my boot deals, I broke even or spent under $5-10 for the opportunity to try out some almost new boots. They were even nice boots, but both pair were too small (and not necessarily listed properly). I think eBay has been a great way to try out speed boots as long as you are willing to relist them if they don't fit. It's fun to try different boots, and it can make a huge difference, especially it seems to me when going to something better. Suddenly you feel that what you thought was all bad technique was partly bad technique and partly a bad boot for your situation.

I'd add that if there is any problem with the new boots, it will likely be in the Achilles heel area, as the C4 is slightly higher there, perhaps, than the V-Tek? Or maybe it is just newer. Well, definitely, it is much newer.

Regarding Bont, we have lots of Bontwearers on here and they are mostly a happy lot. Especially clairem is ecstatic when last we heard about her Bont Semi-Race.

I am of the opinion that unless you have a really unusual foot, you might as well try a stock boot first, then go from there. Doing that makes the eBay thing easier, too. But I would look for speedskating boots that are heat moldable, as these puppies are hard like a stock car bumper wrapped around your ankles with a little bit of neoprene between.

Regarding frames, I think a good value place is 3x100+84, but 4x100 or even 4x110 might be good if you're average or taller height. If there's a way to try out 5x84, 5x90, 4x90 or others, that'd be worthwhile. But to start with speed boots 5x80 or 5x84 might be a bit less tough for learning and those frames will be a lot less expensive if purchased used than 4x100 or greater.

Those are some ideas to begin with. I wouldn't be afraid of a low boot if you have been skating a few years. You'll learn the skills if you skate!

Skateylove all,
roadskater

Comments

eebee's picture

First time speedboots: 50-50 chance

In my sketchy memory, most skaters I've encontered who wear speed boots did not get it right the first time. So I agree with what Blake says about Ebay being the most economical way to try a pair out.

My first pair of speed boots was a disaster. I spent over $400 and three hours in the store, with the sales clerk's undivided attention, and suffered nothing but ankle-bone bruises for my next stubborn 2 years. The brand was Riedell, and they were low cut with the 'V' shape pointing down the back of the heel. I'm sure my technique left a lot to be desired, but because there was no cuff holding the whole boot onto my relatively narrow feet, the hard boot would slap side-to-side, hammering my ankle bones. My ankle bones were the sole protrusions holding the boot to my foot! 

I noticed others wearing, say, the Verducci brand (with the non-dipping ankle cuff) were not having the same problems I was. They had other - what I considered more minor - problems than excruciating bone-bruises, such as blisters. Tsk, snort, eye roll.

So I snagged me a second-hand pair of the old-style Verducci boots from an Atlanta skater friend (word gets around at group skates!), and noticed better stability right away. They're not at all rec boots, although the cuff doesn't dip in the back like many speed boots. I don't notice any constraints in my skating stroke, and I never get blisters or bone bruises. Having narrower feet doesn't work for me in any speed boot I have tried that has the V-dip shaped heel in the back. However, everybody has different feet, and an all-round horizontal ankle-cuff might give somebody else blisters.

But as Blake says, buying and re-auctioning might be the most economical, and least frustrating way to go.

Powerslide R4

Almost 4 Years ago I purchased my first speed skates. After looking around and asking many questions I bought a complete set of Powerslide R4s. I found them to be extremely narrow and had many problems with them. Finally after a whole season of issues and many re-heatings I got them to fit somewhat comfortably. I would agree with Blake about the 5 x 84 frame. Only draw back is when it comes to bearings most come in sets of 8 or 16 and it does become a pain looking for 20 bearings. I figure I will use my Powerslides this season and start looking at buying new boots next year. Ken
roadskater's picture

5x80mm vs 5x84mm for first speedskating frames?

Starting from kensun's reply I've done some more thinking so let me extend and amend a bit here. Thanks for mentioning it again kensun.

It occurs to me that 5x84mm is a longer frame, usually 13.5", relative to the common 12.8" 5x80mm frame. What this means is that the 5x84mm will be:

  • more stable on fast downhills
  • harder to carve, turn or underpush/doublepush
  • more likely to accentuate toe pushing (not usually good)
  • a bit faster for the same effort
  • a bit nicer on rough surfaces for the same frame structure
  • slightly more expensive as a used item, but probably can be had free or close if you ask around among enough skaters

These are my thoughts now. As a "throwaway" option, it might be cool to pick up a 5x80 frame when one is moving from short wheel-base rec skates to speed skates just to get started. Maybe use that a month or two if skating a lot, then go to a higher or longer (or both) frame. In general, however, if you have newer rec skates with 84 mm, 90 mm, 100 mm or larger wheels, go with a speed frame with wheels as big as what you're used to if you have had good success.

One thing I have noticed with my own skating is that I really like a longer frame for long and mostly straight courses, especially with something like Silver Hill in Atlanta or any very fast downhill without turns. I feel a little more wobble on my 3x84+100mm setup than I did on my 5x84mm setup, and it's about like the 5x80mm setup but a bit higher so maybe a bit less stable in feel.

I wonder how the 4x100mm feel compared to 3x84+100mm on fast downhills. Anyone listening with experience with that?

The biggest adjustment is the boot, though, and that just takes practice, pain (usually), heat molding, and necessary changes in technique which will be reinforced by negative feedback (pain) while learning. But if you have pretty good technique already, the pain may be minimal or nonexistent. The biggest things to work on in that regard are heel pushing and working on what we always mention here...being able to balance on one foot. In general, you should be skating on one foot at a time when actively working (not coasting or standing or doing some drill exercise).

Most of all, remember that new boots and frames will not usually initially produce a huge gain in speed or distance for most, even though that's what we tend to think and that's why we spend money. Keep your eyes on the prize and the long term gains are there, but in general, keeping expectations down is probably helpful to avoid a letdown.

Buying skate stuff is great fun, and opening up a box of brand spanking new boots made for your feet is a big wow, but many are disappointed with that experience so I recommend:

  • ask people if you can try their boots...at least try them on if not skate in them...ask people with feet that are similar to yours
  • ask people what their experience has been with different wheel sizes...especially people your weight and height
  • ask people who got custom boots what customer service was like, and was it pro skaters doing customer service, or normal humans?
  • ask normal people not pro skaters what kind of boots to buy. pro skaters get different customer service, you know, and the skates may say X on them but be custom boots by Y.
  • consider buying a great used pair on ebay where you'll pay a dollar or a few more than some other bidder who may still want them a week or two later if they didn't work out for you.
  • watch carefully and patiently for good prices and for used equipment
  • listen when a ton of people speak well about a seller like Richard Nett of NettRacing.com
  • just my opinion but yes the heel and ankle should be snug, but the toes should be free and comfortable so you can put most of the weight on your heels then some on the balls of the feet without stressing the toes when you have to lean forward for any reason (not sure if this makes sense to all)

OK so those are some more thoughts on moving from, say, some nice K2 or RB or Salomon rec skates to your first speed kit.

If it all sounds scary, well, it really isn't. We'd just like to help you avoid some pitfalls, mostly high expectations and expenditures. And having said that, I really am very glad I joined Empire Skate Club and Empire Speed Club and went to New York to be fitted by Doug Fessenden for my Verduccis. But now I'm skating as well on barely used stock Powerslide C4s. More later, I bet!

 

"V" backed boots

It's so interesting to me that you brought up the backs of boots. I've had to cut the backs of boots lower, so that as like you said, I would NOT get blisters. Here's a good case in point that not even the best made boots are going to be good for every skater. A design or last matching a particular skater is key.

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