Posts Tagged ‘Gear’

NZ Skater Stumps the Chump

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

A couple months back, I received a note from Susie, who lives and skates in New Zealand. I love answering questions from all over the world but she definitely won my heart when she confided as an aside, “I milk cows and like to skate as a way to vent, and I just plain enjoy it.”

I was able to offer generic advice up front, but once Susie placed her (first) order, she took off rolling on her own exploration to finally get the right skates to meet her own needs and skeletal configuration.

Susie Clicks “Ask Liz”

AskLiz linkHi Liz, I need some advice.  I have very narrow feet with long toes, and after a while of skating, my left foot tends to move so that I land on the inside sole. Yes, I will take up your advice for the “tilted skate” item but I want to go for larger wheels. I am looking at the K2 Celena 90, RB Activa 90 and RB Tempest 90—the last two because of their lacing and lateral adjustment options.  Which is best? Bear in mind I have narrow feet and want a larger wheel but am trying to keep that foot flat in the boot.

Hi Susie, After reading about the features of all three skates, here are my thoughts:

  • K2 Celena is comparable to the Rollerblade Activa in the areas of cuff support, bearings, frames and wheels. I have long big toes and bunions: one pair of K2s I was given were too narrow for my wide forefoot — a good indicator for you!
  • (Just noticed a higher-performance K2 on sale for $98, though the frame is probably too long for your tastes)
  • The Rollerblade Activa has cuff support like the Celena (I have more to say about that below) with the added benefit of lateral frame adjustment, which I think you’ll need because you said you pronate with the left foot.
  • The Rollerblade Tempest has a slightly lower cuff, something that promotes balance and ankle strength, though it MAY feel a little awkward at first. Lower cuff gives you a longer, stronger stride. You also get the lateral frame adjustment, but your foot may be too narrow for this skate.

I recommend you order the Rollerblade Tempest 90 from Inline Warehouse. This company has an excellent shipping and return policy. You should immediately replace the stock insoles with SuperFeet or get some custom-fit sports insoles to prop up that pronating foot. You will also want to adjust the left skate’s frame toward the inside of your sole. I pronate with my right foot when I’m tired, even after the above remedies, but it doesn’t prevent me from continuing on to complete a great workout.

Also, consider ordering the K2s in the same shipment from ILW, knowing you will be returning one pair and getting your money back. Just a thought — but it will help you compare the width of both brands.

Keep milking those cows and skating!  😉

Rollerblade Tempest 90: Fair Fit, Sluggish Bearings

A few weeks later, Susie wrote to me again.

I asked you some time back about the choice between the Tempest 90 and the Activa 90 for narrow feet and you suggested the Tempest.  Well I have them but am a little disappointed in the speed (or lack of).  They have SG9 bearings and the Inline Warehouse people suggested that maybe they aren’t good enough for them but I should persevere as they may need a good run in to loosen them up a bit.  I know they are slow to get to a good speed but once there should glide well. But I couldn’t seem to get them to that speed so I tried them going down a hill, just gliding, and my girlfriend beat me on her RB 78m wheels. To say the least I was a tad put out, as I did want to beat her. That’s why I got them in the first place.

What do you think? Should I just keep using them in the hope of “breaking them in,” or opt for new bearings?  Inline people suggested Swiss Bones.

Not what I was hoping to read! So I replied, “Well, Susie, at least the narrow foot issue was resolved! This dragging feeling is not good, and I’d be terribly disappointed too.”

After giving her a few pointers on checking each bearing on each wheel to try and identify if one bad bearing was the source of her slow rolling, I suggested she write back to Inline Warehouse for next steps. In her next reply she was trying hard to remain optimistic, saying, Thanks for the advice. I’ll have a little play with them to maybe narrow the wheel problem down a bit.  On a bright note, I have ankles that turn out and after I adjusted one of the boots to see what that would do, it has improved markedly, so we are getting there.  Fingers crossed the bearings improve.

Rollerblade Activa 90: The Final Answer

Below is the most recent email I received from Susie. She has been so diligent in pursuing the skating experience of her dreams, and so forthcoming in our emails that I asked for her permission to print this latest note as a sort public service message to all of my readers.

Hi Liz, You may remember I sent you an email a few weeks ago asking your advice regarding the above skates and ankles that turn badly but at the same time wanting the speed as well. In the end I chose the Tempest 90 and boy, was that a mistake.  The speed wasn’t there at first and I feel that with these skates there is definitely a breaking in time. But worse, my ankles turned to water and even the lateral adjustment wasn’t enough to counter them–although it did help to improve my stance.  When I got tired, there just wasn’t the support I needed, even though I had my ankles strapped, bought the SuperFeet inserts and EzeeFit booties as well. Things were looking grim.

THEN as a last resort I got the Activa 90’s and wow! Instantly I could tell the difference.  I still strap one ankle (push-off leg). I don’t fall out of them anymore or skate on the insides.

I had no idea a higher cuff could make such a difference. I found out the hard way that for me this is essential.  I haven’t had to use the lateral adjustment on these skates, but I do like to have the option if I need it. Best of all, I can now beat my mate in gliding, so now she has to skate to keep up with me if I’m going downhill.

Just a note for those out there who don’t have a skate shop or knowledge about which is best for them: I wanted to skate outside on roads which aren’t the best for smoothness, and to go at a good speed. But with ankles like mine, all the speed in the world won’t cut it if the discomfort is so bad you have to stop skating and walk…So get the higher cuffs with the option of lateral adjustment: that’s my 10c worth of advice.

Thanks Liz, for your advice. I love your website and whenever I get over to America I’ll look you up.

Rollerblade Spark Pro Review

Sunday, June 20th, 2010


I really like my new skates, the women’s model of the Rollerblade Spark Pro.

A box arrived mid winter when the days were short, the pavement wet and the season’s snow skiing  was at is best. By May, I’d barely gotten the chance to try them out with a decent pair of replacement insoles. (Customizing the foot bed is a standard with me; I get the feeling skate manufacturers expect users to toss away their wimpy stock insoles.)

By the second week of June, I felt sure enough of their performance and comfort to take them to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard where I was signed up to help run a skate tour with Zephyr Adventures.

We  guides do a fair bit of skating to check an area’s bike routes and back roads before our customers arrive. I was originally skeptical about the odd-looking asymmetrical lacing on the Spark Pros, known as the Total Wrap system. But no matter what socks I wore, thick or thin, they were consistently comfortable. I was so impressed that I never once used EZeefit ankle booties with them, normally an indispensable comfort aid in all my sports foot wear. After two 25+ mile days that week, I have to say that these are the most comfortably-fitting skates I have ever owned  in my 18 years of inlining.

The key to the Total Wrap system, I believe, is its off-center design. Starting from the toes, the lace channel curves away from the big toe knuckle (my bunion!) and then arcs back to front and center at the top. By starting with generously loose laces, evenly tugging the ends results in a uniformly snug and comfy grip across the entire foot, regardless of sock thickness.

With ABEC 7 bearings and 84mm wheels, the Spark Pro could easily deliver years of fun trail and urban skating, from speeding along on the flats to bombing or carving the rolling hills such as the ones we found on the east coast islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The standard heel brake felt smooth and secure for speed control on the steep, narrow downhills and stopping at street intersections.

As I had hoped when choosing this model from Rollerblade’s 2010 catalog early in the year, I can enthusiastically recommend this skate to any woman who loves to roll for fun and fitness.