Thread: 3 wheels or 4?
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Old October 26th, 2007, 04:22 PM   #22
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Italy
Posts: 35

Hi everybody,
sorry to come late in the discussion.
I take the opportunity to post some old and new information, trying to investigate various different key feature of 3-wheel and 4-wheel skates.
Hoping that it helps.

Wheel baselength
Three wheel figure skates have a baselength (front wheel axle to back wheel axle) close to that of artistic quad plates. Inlines are just a bit longer (say 15-20 mm) than quads, when comparing baselengths of plates for the same boot / foot size.

Let figures speak by themselves.
I wear boots EU 41 or 270-275mm (EDEA and Risport)
I wear quads #16 = 160mm.
My old inlines (Risport) baselength is 175mm.
My Snow Whites, labelled #16 by the producer, are 173mm.
I see that the same boots could even accept Snow Whites #17: 182mm.
I cannot tell about Custom Inlines or Triax. The Customs: I only argue by photos that they seem to have an overall design very close to Snows'.
Snyder Triax (still produced?) appear too to be in the same length range.

In practice the increase in length (versus quads) is only slightly apparent.
The reason: quad wheels are hard and let you feel the whole baselength. Inline wheels are softer: moving the weight "at one end" makes a more sensible effect, as if the skate "ends earlier" than its true length. This is compensated by the additional wheel base.

In conclusion: a 3-wheel skate feels only a bit longer than a quad.
If you are a quad skater, 3-wheels inlines are the natural choice.
The spread of lengths among 3-wheeled frames from different producers is negligible.
This fact is evident from the observation that the back wheel axle stays - for all the models - almost below the boot heel edge.

Four wheel inlines, i.e. PIC Skates, have the rear wheel extending well behind the heel, giving the true extra baselength of an ice figure blade. The ones accustomed to ice skating may desire to have inlines with the same additional stable zone behind the heel.
This is obtained a the expense of having a bulkier skate. Every wheeled skate has a real dimension greater than the wheel base. There is an half wheel-diameter (35mm) of idle length behind the "touching point" on the ground. The rear length may become obtrusive for a 4-wheel skate, particularly for small feet, but this is only a personal thought, not sustained by real testing.

If comfortable baselength AND weight are both key concerns, get a 3-wheels frame of the maximum allowable dimension, so to fully match the boot sole.

Ligthness is one of the primary concerns for quad skaters and plate producers. Strangely enough exact data on weight are not easily disclosed.
Ice skaters pay less attention to that, since blades are always light, but when switching to inlines - sensibly heavier - the issue should be carefully considered.

Let figures speak again.
I weighted each frame alone with axles included, but w/o toe stop, wheels and bearing.
The Snow White #16, with the new lighter toe stop block, is 257 grams
The old Risport, same lenght, is 293 grams
About the Pro Skate - the ones that Silvia Marangoni used at Worlds - I asked and kindly obtained by the producer the weight of the frame closest in length to the others (168mm). The frame was set as the others - w axles, w/o toe stop, w/o wheels and bearings - and weighted 291 grams.
PICs? I dunno. Certainly not lighter. The PIC-toe-stop should be lighter than a screw stop, but one must add 95-100 grams for the fourth wheel + bearings + axle, and the extra weight of the longer frame.
Custom Inlines V1 and V2? Don't know. Please add figures if you have!
So for lightness Snow Whites win over the others.

In any case the spread of values among different products stays within 50 grams.
Boots can more easily contribute in building a light skate, if needed. A "low end" boot weights at least 150 grams more than a good quality one!

Never heard of an inline frame that broke or bent under heavy use. So we can assume that all models are solid and rigid enough.

PICs, Custom Inlines and Snow Whites are rockered. The others are not.
Here again I cannot tell very much about PICs, because I dont'have them.
The Customs are the only ones to have a fine adjustment mechanism for rocker.

The (fixed) rockering of Snow Whites is tangible and - I believe - correctly tuned for the habits of ice skaters and maybe also of non-ice skaters. A bit more of rockering could be desirable for figures, a bit less for freeskating. A different wheel selection, if necessary, may contribute to adjust the skates behaviour to special needs.

Flat frames are difficult in steering and in keeping edges. They require vigorous skating, at least. For such reasons I believe that a bit of rockering is always welcomed, regardless of the habits and style of the skater.
Flat frames (say Triax and Pro Skate) can be rockered using the wheel configurations 68mm + 72mm + 72mm, or 72mm + 76mm + 76mm. In both cases the rocker is fixed to 2mm, very close to that pre-built on Snow Whites.

Stable positions
I've heard elsewere in the past the discussion about 3-wheel skates having only two stable positions (only center & rear wheels touching the ground, or only front & central), while PICs have the advantage of three positions.
I really miss the matter. It seems a simplified argument not very much corresponding to reality.
When the skater weight is applied on a three wheel skate, ALL the wheels can touch the ground simultaneously. If not so, this means that the skater is very lean, so softer wheels needs to be applied.
In real use there is always a weight shift towards the heel (when going forward) or the toe (when going backward). These two positions are more often used.
If correct wheels and rockering exist, the "central weight" position is stable for 3-wheeled skates too, as well as any other intermediate distribution of weights. There isn't any sudden change of skate behaviour between the two extreme positions, but on the contrary a smooth transition occours.

Choice of sizes
The PIC Skates are produced in 6 different sizes, but 4 of them have the same wheelbase. (only the smallest of the 6 sizes is shorter and the largest is longer)
The Snow Whites come in 9 truly different sizes, scaled by about 9mm wheelbase length each other.
The Custom Inlines V2 have 3 adult sizes, scaled 15mm each other.
The Pro Skates have 7 sizes scaled by 6mm wheelbase length each other.

At the moment:
Custom Inlines V2, basic setup w. wheels and toe stops, goes near 300 US$ (430 AU$)
Snow Whites, incl. their best wheels and toe stops, stays at 230 US$
PIC Skates, complete with the same parts, are 360 US$
Pro Skates, w. wheels and toe stop: If I remember correctly they should be around 345 US$

Well, I admit I am a little biased towards Snow Whites. But I also believe that quality / price ratio comes out to be the best one, and that many other features are aligned with the other models.
tguido56 is offline   Reply With Quote