As I have been hinting in several of my recent blog posts, there have been a few recent developments as far as both my skating and sewing lives go. Mostly in the form of new toys. Last year, my readers may recall, I did a large multi-part series analyzing my switch from Atlas to Roll Line skate plates (you can find the index of posts here). After much trial, tribulation, frustration, and triumph, I ended up quite happy with my figure skates (Harlick boot, Roll Line Giotto Plate, Roll Line Giotto wheels) and my loop skates (Harlick boot, Atlas figure plate, Roll Line Giotto wheels). I was also initially quite happy with my new dance plates, the Roll Line Dance:
|Dance skates last year…|
But after a year on these skates, I realized I really preferred the feel of my figure plates, which were a half size smaller. Sadly, the Roll Line Dance doesn’t come in half sizes, so when I got my much needed new dance boots at the start of this season, I decided I would use the Roll Line Ring plate (which I had got for figures but didn’t really like using for figures or loops) since it was essentially the same as the Dance plate, the only difference being the lack of a toe stop mount. At the time I had no need for a toe stop, so my dance skates ended up looking like this:
|Dance skates at the start of the season…|
I have been skating on these plates most of the year (after about a day I switched to the green urethane cushions – I found that with the shorter plate I needed a softer cushion than when I used the slightly too long plate – and eventually switched to the even softer medium rubber). Of course, just when I thought things were good and my skates were feeling very settled, events turned about such that I had need of a toe-stop mount on my dance skates. I tried using my older skates, but the worn out boot and too-long plate ended up making life more difficult than it needed to be. So after much hemming, hawing, and deliberation I made the decision that needed to be made and sold my old Dance plates so I could afford a plate to suit my current skating needs, the Roll Line Energy:
|Dance skates now!|
The one thing I will say about Roll Line – my options were extremely limited knowing that I needed a half-size plate with a toe stop mount with the main purpose being for a dance skate. As in, my only option was an Energy. Which has actually ended up being ok, because I really really like this plate. Even more than the Ring/Dance plate to be honest (heresy, I know!!!). I have been on this plate only a few weeks, but really it was instant love the first time I put them on. It was similar to my reaction to the Giotto plate after I had been using the Ring for figures – it just felt right. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right plate for everyone. But I do know it is the right plate for me.
|Roll Line Energy plate.|
At this point I pretty much have tested the gamut of Roll Line plates that are available in the US, at least as far as dance and figure skating go (I don’t skate freestyle, so I can’t comment on the Energy/Matrix comparison), and I have developed a few thoughts and opinions:
(1) Proper plate size the the most important thing. The front axel should be under the ball of the foot. The back axel should be under the center heel. A longer plate will offer the skater more room for error, but that also makes it take more effort to control because it will delay the response of the skate. A properly sized plate will offer the skater better results than differences between brands or styles. Switching from the too-long dance plate to the correct size took me a while to adjust, but ultimately resulted in better skating with less stress on my knees and joints because the skate did what I wanted when I wanted with less resistance.
(2) Rubber cushions for the win! I had been skating on urethane cushions for dance, but after too many complaints about me rocking off edges I switched to all rubber. On some of the harder dances I still need to work my edge continuity, but it is much easier for me to maintain an edge on rubber cushions than on the urethane, which tend to “pop back” into the non-compressed position more quickly, and throw me off my edge. I had already been using rubber on my figure skates, but I have been enjoying them on my dance skates lately as well. I have heard the arguments for urethane, I have skated urethane, but at the end of the day I just don’t think I will ever really like urethane. Yes, it lasts longer, but that is about the only positive thing I can say for it. At least as far as dance and figures go. For freestyle… well, I can see how urethane might be better suited to that sort of skating. But for me? Rubber cushions. The end.
|Medium rubber cushions for the win!|
(3) As far as a direct comparison of the Roll Line Energy vs. the Roll Line Dance or Roll Line Ring – I have already stated that I prefer the Energy. But most other people who have made the switch have preferred to go the other direction. Am I weird? Perhaps a bit, but there is definitely a difference in the feel of the plates. With the Energy I feel like I am on top of the skate, and like I can press into the edge and get a much quicker response. However, I have noticed that there is a greater probability of slipping when I am attempting a deep edge. I feel like I can get a quicker response on my one-foot turns, though that may just be because they have the same feel as my figure skates. I also feel like I can get a better stronger push off of the Energy plates than the Dance plates. I definitely feel higher off the floor (the angle of the kingpin does make this a slightly taller plate). When I was skating on the Dance/Ring plates instead of feeling like I was on top of the skate I felt like I was stuck between the wheels. It made for a very secure feeling on deep edges, but I also felt like it would get stuck on an edge and was perhaps not as quick to respond to sudden changes of edge. I also felt like sometimes when I tried to do a three-turn the skate would be stuck on an edge and not want to change the arc and flip to the back edge. It isn’t that these plates were difficult to skate on (indeed, I really rather liked them), but it is more that I find the Energy to be easier to use for my style of skating. I suppose one of the main reasons is that I appreciate that it feels like my figure skates, but really I just like that feeling that I am totally balanced over my skate. Last year I tried really hard to use the Ring plates for loops, but at the end of the day I just don’t enjoy feeling like I am stuck between the wheels. Personal preference, but there it is. If I am really objective about the different skates I might say that the Dance plate would be better for the International style of dance skating, and the Energy might be better for the American style. Not that you couldn’t use either plate for either style of skating, but the different feel might give a slight advantage to the different styles of skating.
(4) I had to borrow my sister’s skates while I was waiting to transition from the Ring to the Energy, so I can now say that I have skated on Roll Line, Atlas, and Snyder. The Energy plates actually have a very similar feel to the Snyder, but the Roll Line definitely has a more solid and secure feel. I think the Dance plate actually feels closer to the Atlas, though the Energy and and Dance feel more like each other than they do to the other brands of plate. In the end the best skate is really depends on the preference of the skater, but I will say that any of the Roll Line plates could be a great option.
(5) One of the nice things about the Roll Line plates is that they easily maintain value if you take care of them. I am totally satisfied with my skate set-up at this point, and I have been selling off the equipment I know I won’t have use for any longer. So though finding my ideal skate has been a bit of a long and expensive journey, getting good quality equipment has been a worthwhile investment – either because it has helped my skating improve, or because it maintained good resale value.
So, yeah, the journey of my skates. Longer than I had anticipated, but I finally really feel like they are my skates. It is something hard to describe, but there is this wonderful feeling of comfort and control when things just feel right. At this point I feel like I can finally stop analyzing and tinkering and just go skate.