Tag Archives: wheels

Race Report: Chicagoland Inline Marathon 2015

This report is a bit stale at this point.  As I mentioned previously, this was my first and only race this year because of everything that had been going on in life and in my family.  Training was decidedly on the back burner, and I had only skated a handful of times before this race.  The delay in this report is also a result of the craziness of life.

Going into this race, I was aiming for a time less than 1:45:00, but would have been happy with anything under 2 hours.  As usually, this course is difficult because of the hills, and the road conditions are typically an unknown.  This year didn’t disappoint when it came to conditions.  It wasn’t terribly hot, but it was humid.  Earlier in the day it threatened rain, so we had a bit of a breeze and the clouds kept it from getting too hot too early.  The sun did come out later in the race, and the temperatures noticeably increased.  The road conditions were only slightly worse than last year, with the already rough roads seeing some expected degradation, particularly on the long hills on Central Avenue.  The pace was noticeably slower in the pack than prior years too, likely because of the conditions.  And we had to watch out for strange hazards, like misplaced cones:

cones

Off the start, the pack formed quickly.  The advanced group for this race is usually made of experienced skaters and elite masters that drop down to the advanced group because the difficulty of the course.  Off the start, we had the usual sprint to Central to thin out the pack.  By the time we got to the stop light at Huntington, we were moving around 20 mph and had a good group working together of about 30 skaters.  this group stuck together for a good part of the first pack, but those not able to manage the hills started to drop off on Central and on Huntington.  I lost the pack in the same place I have lost them in previous years.  The pace wasn’t terrifically fast, but it was consistent.  Even losing the pack about 6 miles in, I still finished the first lap in about 30 minutes.  I connected with another guy on my team, Tom, and a skater from Iowa, Brad.  The three of us skated most of the rest of the race together.  Tom has been skating for a long time, and he can pull up hills like no one I have skated with.  Brad is a great skater, and definitely took his turn in the lead.  I managed to stay with them until the last couple of miles of the race.  We also picked a nice smooth line down the s-curve hill that is always a lot of fun as a downhill.  For example:

s-curve

I skated this race on a new set of Matter G13s.  I had to see what everyone was raving about.  I also used a fresh set, like just out of the wrapper maybe 15 miles total skating, of ILQ9 Pro bearings.  I have a good history with these bearings.  They come pre-lubricated with a gel style lubricant.  After skating this race, I can say that they require breaking in as they didn’t feel like they rolled as freely as my set that has been cleaned and re-lubricated.  That is totally subjective, though.  I also skated this race on softer wheels, F1s, to be exact.  That is Matter’s footprint system for wheel hardness or durometer.  It measures the size of the footprint patch made by the wheel under load.  This is probably the hardness equivalent of 86a in other wheels.  I went or something softer because of this typically rough course.  They roll well, but they didn’t feel meaningfully different than the 87a WRW Truths I skated last year.  The Truths are cheaper, and as long as that continues to be the case, I will probably continue to race on those in the future once I wear out this set of G13s.  I did notice that my top speeds were lower, but my averages were consistent with prior skating performance.  I can’t tell if this is due to differences in the wheels, though.  This set up is supposed to be lighter than with the Truths, but I couldn’t tell specifically.  The G13s are good wheels, but, for the money, I will probably stick with the Truths.  After all, WRW is a smaller company that makes a good product, and I am only racing myself.  If tenths and hundredths of a second mattered in a time trial or lap race, then maybe $25 per wheel would be worth.  However, for the weekend warrior, it probably isn’t.

My official finish time was 1:38:45.56.  This was far from a personal best, even on this course.  Overall, it wasn’t a bad finish.  I can’t complain as I basically came off the couch to this finish, without any meaningful training for almost a month in advance, and maybe 2 skate sessions in July prior to this race.  The fact is, I need to get back to training, for reasons that really have nothing to do with racing or skating.  I look forward to that happening soon.  In the mean time, the video of my race follows.  Watch out for cones, though.

Advertisements

Race Report: 2014 Chicagoland Inline Marathon

This year, the Chicagoland Inline Marathon took place on July 20, 2014.  The weather is usually a source of concern for this race because, as one friend and fellow racer of mine put it, its like racing on the surface of the sun.  It is usually brutally hot and terribly humid, but that is what you get when you schedule a race in the Chicago area in July, basically the dog days of summer.  This year, though, the race start for the Advanced division at 8 AM, the weather was reasonably pleasant.  The temperature was in the mid 60’s and the humidity was around 70%.  The Elite group had a little tougher time weather wise, but it never got much more humid.  Generally, pleasant conditions for skating, all things considered.

The race started shortly after 8 AM, and the group came off of the line typically quick, with the speed of the lead pack jumping quickly up to 20 MPH.  As the group thinned to the 20 of us, or so that could hold that pace.  The pace stayed in that range, and for the first half of the race, we were averaging 18+ mph even over the hills.  Last year, I got dropped after the the hills on Central, headed up Huntington toward Lakewood.  This year, I managed to stick with the lead pack through the entire first lap, and through the long outbound stretch on Central to the turn around about 12 miles in to the race.  For this race, it is the longest I have managed to stick with the lead pack.

Like previous years, we lost half of the pack on the hills on the return on Central.  This group got together and hung together for the rest of the race.  The lead pack put some good distance on them in the half of a lap or so after we got away.  However, it wasn’t too much longer before I lost the lead pack.  At the turn around, I got shuffled to the back of the pack.  When we came around the corner back onto Central, I had the opportunity to jump up the line, but, mentally, I wasn’t there, and miss the opportunity.  The guy in front of me lapped the line, and I got stuck in the accordion effect of the sprint back toward the hills on Central.  I couldn’t get my legs under me and sprint after the pack to stay in the draft.

I lost the pack after 12 miles, and then skated the remainder of the entirely alone.  I tried to pick up a skater or two on the way, but wasn’t able to find anyone to skate with.  Another skater was on my tail, but not closing fast enough to allow us to work together.  I think we both may have done better if we managed to connect and work together.  Regardless, after seeing one of my team mates with a bit of a lead, I was hoping to catch him.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t close the gap and I spent the rest of the race in no-man’s land, skating solo in the wind, fighting for every minute I could manage.  I finished the race in something of a disappointing 1:35:20, 5th in my division and 16th overall in the wave, as I hoped to finish around 90 minutes.  However, I do think this is one of my highest overall finishes at this race, which does give me some hope that the work I have been doing on technique and fitness are helping.  This time was better than last year, but not better than the year before, which was a personal best at this course, if memory serves.  The advanced division race results can be found here.  The rest of the results by category can be found here.

This race is challenging.  While the road conditions get a lot of complaints, that isn’t what really makes this race hard:  it’s the hills.  To race Chicagoland, you have to be ready for hills, intervals, and hot weather.  Without that combination, you won’t last.  The road conditions are just another layer that will separate those who are comfortable skating on any surface from those who aren’t.  I will keep attending this race because I like the challenge.  I wasn’t prepared mentally, and could have used a little better physical preparation, but I learned a lot (like how my form on hills falls apart when I get tired, leaving me with heel blisters to remember the experience).  My hips were pretty sore after the race, too, which also gives me confidence that my work on technique is helping as the kind of soreness and fatigue I came away from the race with is a good indication that my technique wasn’t as bad as my feet would have me believe.  That said, the goal for next year is to hang with the lead pack through the entire race.  I have a better idea of how to train now, generally, and will be adjusting my off season work to accommodate a lot more base cardio, something I missed this last winter.  Mixed with a strong helping of weight lifting, a little bit of ice skating, and a mix of other things that I will probably discuss more at length come October, I am hoping for a stronger finish next year.  Overall, I can’t complain much about this race.  I did better than last year and placed higher, overall, than I have at this race.  My time wasn’t spectacular, but given the other gains, I can’t say that this race was a total loss.  I know now what I need to work on, and if I am not learning something in this sport, I am doing something very wrong.

From a gear perspective, I have been messing with my frame placement, and I think it was a little off on both skates, but more so on my left skate. That is where the biggest blister was after the race.  I skated some earlier this week and noticed the placement issue.  I moved the frames in a couple of millimeters, and they feel dialed in at the moment.  I am going to stick with this placement for the near future, probably through the end of the season.  While cleaning my bearings before the race, it became apparent that my Adam’s Swiss bearings were dead after not being properly clean after getting wet during the Apostle Island race.  It was a stupid mistake that forced me to replace the bearings with ILQ9 Pro bearings.  I like the ILQ bearings from TwinCam generally.  They are a good product, but I wish I had more break in time on them.  They roll very smoothly, and I couldn’t complain about the team price.  It is also what a lot of the guys that skate in Minnesota run, too.  The WRW Truth wheels seem to be doing reasonably well, but they are wearing more quickly than I anticipated.  I will have to see how they fair over the next two races to provide a better review.  Any experience I had at Chicagoland this year will be colored by a lot of other gear changes that contributed to my struggles in this race.

The next race is the Minnesota Half Marathon on August 2. I don’t feel ready for this race, but I didn’t feel ready for Apostle Island this year or the Minnesota Half last year.  My goal is ambitious, though I don’t know if I am capable.  Last year, I accomplished my goal of staying with the lead pack.  This year, I am shooting for a top 10 finish in the open division.

My race video follows.  I am switching to DashWare to create the gauges, but building custom gauges in that program takes some time.  I hope to have that program in the mix for the NorthShore in September.  Beyond that, I used Lightworks to do all of the editing, rather than having to create the titles with an image editor and importing them into the video.  The new version of Lightworks is great.  If you need an NLE video editor, check it out.  As for the video, judge for yourself:

 


Race Report: Apostle Island Inline Marathon

I wasn’t planning on attending the Apostle Island Inline Marathon, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance.  My wife and I decided to make the trip to Ashland, Wisconsin, around mid-morning, and tried to set plans in motion to leave at the end of the work day the day before the race.  I hurriedly prepared gear and registered for the race while my wife found a hotel for us to stay at on Friday night.  The race was scheduled for the morning of June 14, 2014.  For those that are not familiar with this race, it takes place on Madeline Island which is off the cost of Wisconsin in Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin.  You get to the race by taking a ferry from Bayfield to the Island.  Once on the Island, it is a short walk to the start/finish line and the event location.  This area of the North woods of Wisconsin is beautiful, and we happened to be driving through a national forest on the shore of Lake Superior just in time to see the Honey Moon.  It was a fun, though impromptu, road trip to be sure.  We got to our hotel in Ashland, Wisconsin, late Friday night, and, after reviewing the schedules, determined we needed to be up early Saturday morning in order to make it from Ashland to Bayfield (a roughly 30 minute drive) and catch the ferry to the island.

Packet pick up is typically held on Fridays at the Amory in Ashland, and it stays open pretty late.  However, we didn’t arrive in Ashland soon enough, and opted for race-day packet pick up.  It wasn’t hard, and everything was very organized.  We got on the ferry and made it over to the Island with about 30 minutes prior to the start of the first race wave.  I signed up for the recreation/fitness wave because most of the guys I usually race with in the Advanced divisions signed up for that wave.  It was cold, probably high 40s for the temperature, and it felt like it was going to rain prior to the start of the race.  By the time I was dressed and took about a mile or so skate to warm up, I was ready for the race.  We lined up by division in our different waves, and the race organizers started the event promptly at 8:30 AM, with each consecutive wave leaving about 30 to 60 seconds behind each other.  The rec/fit men lined up behind the pro women.

The race is a three lap circuit around the island that is just short of 9 miles per lap.  The weather was mostly dry, a little cool, and I was worried it would rain during the race after looking at the weather.  We did get a little bit of rain, but only enough to wet the pavement.  It wasn’t hard or steady, and it didn’t seem to change the course conditions.  I chose to race on my 110mm World Record Wheel Truths that are 87a hardness.  This is stiffer wheel, and I was hoping to get good roll.  They rolled very well, with good grip, even in the wet conditions.  It wasn’t wet enough to get a good feel for how they would work in a steady rain, but they stuck during the race, and that is all I cared about.

We got the call for the start of our wave, and, as the gun went off, a group of about 1o of us came off the line and took the first tenth of a mile to figure out how the line would start.  One or two guys got out front, and as the line formed going up the first hill after the first left hand turn, we caught up and formed up in the line.  The pace started pretty quick and stayed there.  We eventually caught up with the chase pack for the pro women’s group and, at some point, the advanced skaters from the 50+ group.  There wasn’t anything really exciting that occurred during the race.  There weren’t any real attacks, but the faster skaters did pick up the pace when they reached the front and pulled the pace line.  The action didn’t heat up, really until the last lap.  There was a lot of anticipation in the pace line on that lap.  The pace didn’t start to pick up until about 4 miles in when people from the back of the line started to move up.  Those of us in the front of the pace line kept pace, and the attacks built until we were 6 miles into the lap.  At that point, the line broke up and everyone was skating for the finish, hoping to gap the group and lead a flyer to the finish line.  We finished as a pretty solid group, all within about a minute of each other.  It made for an interesting pack sprint in the last half mile.  Unfortunately, my helmet camera died and I didn’t get video of the pack sprint.  My wife did get finish line video, though.  What makes the finish on this course hard is the 90 degree right hand final turn.  It is narrow and sharp, and only leaves a couple hundred meters to the finish.  Once we got through that corner, which everyone seemed to take wide when I cut right at the curb, it was a full sprint to the finish.

My goal for this race was to hang on to the lead pack in my division.  I didn’t train for this race, had only done one interval skate, and was coming off of a training week that included a heavy lift and a tempo skate.  Even with 2 days off before the race, I didn’t feel 100%.  Also, sleep the night before was a bit elusive thanks to a fitful toddler that couldn’t seem to get comfortable.  So, with little or no preparation, I signed up for this race, and just hoped to finish, ideally with the lead pack in the wave.  I couldn’t be happier with the result.  I ended up pulling the line a couple of times and finishing with the pack in the pack sprint.  I used a lot of what I learned at the Joey Mantia Clinic the week before, and the changes in technique helped to insure I had the energy to finish with the group.  I plan on doing a lot more technique training, too, in hopes of increasing my average pace and have solid finishes in the rest of the races this year.  My finish time was 1:25:08, a new personal best marathon by nearly 7 minutes.  I also managed to win my division and finished in the top 10 or so of my wave.  It was a great race.

I can’t extol the virtues of this race enough.  The course is amazingly smooth.  I don’t think there is another Midwest race that has tarmac in such good condition.  This meant the pace was fast the whole race since we weren’t fatigued from rough road.  The weather was not as great as it could have been, but it was far from terrible.  The race was well organized and in an spectacular location that is only rivaled by the NorthShore for its scenery.  While the race can be a little hard to get to, it is a must for any skater that wants to skate a full or half marathon.  I had spent a couple of years trying to make it to this race, and now I never want to miss another one.  My helmet camera video follows.  Check it out:


New Video and the Taper Week

Last weekend, we got some really hot weather.  I guess it would be out of character for this part of the country, but I haven’t lived here long enough to credibly make that statement.  Temperatures last Saturday were in the high-80’s and the humidity was particularly high.  I helped a friend move, but still wanted to get a skate in.  Usually we do 20+ mile skates on Saturdays.  everyone else went earlier in the day, and based on the heat, I opted to get in a 10 mile skate Saturday evening.  It was still hot, but not unbearable.  Sunday, though, it was a little bit nicer, so I took advantage of the cooler temps to get another 10 miles in before starting my taper week before the Northshore Inline Marathon this coming weekend.  It was still a little more humid than I would have liked, but there wasn’t much wind.  At this point, I was still skating on my training set-up, with my now well worn Bont G4 Mint Green 85a wheels and Bont ABEC 7 bearings that desperately need servicing.  My average pace has been steadily creeping up.  I haven’t worked on this as much as I should be, and this will be a focus as I move into the off-season and contemplate a training plan for next year.  This outing ended with a pretty good 15.7 mile per hour average over 10 miles.  There is a new gauge that tracks this just above the date and time stamp at the bottom of the gauge cluster.  I shot video of this trip as a gear test for the race this weekend.  The video follows:

Training during a taper week always feels like a no-no.  However, I feel like you have to do something to keep moving or lose all of the progress that has been made since the start of the season.  It is an odd feeling to be sure, because, at this point, I should be in the best shape of the season.  I think my race times this year have been somewhat contradictory to that point, as Chicagoland was quite a bit slower than Roller-Dome, and the pace I managed at the Minnesota Half was beyond what I hoped to do after Chicagoland.  Regardless, in the vein of thinking it is good to keep moving, even during a rest week, I skated last night.  It was a quick 8 miles, partly to break in the cleaned bearings and get back on race wheels.  The Adam’s Swiss I have been using still do very well when clean and lubricated with Bones Speed Cream and Gun Oil, and don’t seem to be showing their age as much as I expect.  I am considering going back to Twin Cam ILQ bearings in my next switch, though, and lubricating them with Twin Cam T-Gel because I am very familiar with how durable those bearings are and they are very consistent in capability.  The average pace for the skate yesterday was only 15 miles per hour, but I wasn’t looking to push the pace more than necessary to make sure I am recovered for the race on Saturday.  I don’t know whether I will work out tonight, but if I do, it will be some light cycling just to keep the blood flowing in my legs.  Either way, I am looking forward to the race this weekend.  I should have video and a race report next week.


Race Report: 2013 Minnesota Half Marathon

This post could also be titled “How the Chicagoland Marathon should have gone.”

I came at this race only two weeks after the Chicagoland Inline Marathon with only five training sessions.  I was hoping to get more miles in on skates, on my bike, or some dry land work, but life gets in the way.  I had a lot of apprehension about the race because of the limited training and limited preparation time.  Coming out of Chicagoland, I was disappointed by a time I was hoping would be better.  I couldn’t figure out if I didn’t train enough, if there was a diet problem, or if I just wasn’t in the shape I was in last year.  These feelings compounded a bit going into the Minnesota Half Marathon.  This race tends to feel like the late season litmus test going into the last 6 weeks before the Northshore Inline Marathon in September.  Last year, I finished the Minnesota Half far better than I could have expected, setting a new personal best for a half marathon distance at just over 43 minutes.

I had one goal going into this race:  to stay with the main pack.  I didn’t want to get dropped from the pack at all if possible.  Last year, they left me at mile 9.  This year, my goal was to finish with the pack, but going in I would have been happy to last longer than 9 miles, and make it past the last turn-around point on the course.

I was nervous at the start, and on the video you can see me rocking back and forth.  We didn’t have any problem getting into St. Paul to stay with my sister-in-law this year.  The weather was great, and the trip is now only an hour since we live in Rochester, Minnesota.  This basically makes this race a local race for me.  My wife and sister-in-law decided to run the 5k at the event this year, so I was out the door at 6:30 to head to the race for a 7:34 AM start time.  I got there, found parking, paid for parking, and by the time I got to the location of gear drop-off, it was just after 7 AM.  I got ready, dropped off my bag, but didn’t have time to warm up because they called the skaters to the line for the start.  I was nervous because of my lack of training, my goals, and my result at the Chicagoland Marathon.  One of the odd things about sport performance is the degree to which the mental component matters.  I knew what I had to do, and once the countdown for the start of the race hit 0, it was all business.

I skated the race on the same gear I skated the Chicagoland, and this race included the same wheels and bearings from last year’s race.  Everything worked out very well, and even though there are now considerably more miles on my 2012 Bont Black Ops 87a 110mm wheels, they are wearing well, continue to roll well, and are very smooth over rougher surfaces for such a hard wheel.  My new boots and frames did excellently as well in the conditions.  My new boots (2012 Bont Zs) are starting to break in very well, and get more comfortable every time I skate them.

The first part of the race was similar to last year.  The front starters and fast skaters took off and set a fast pace.  We were cruising at around 20 miles per hour headed to the first turn-around point.  I stuck with some of my teammates, and the first trouble in the race really didn’t spring up until we caught the slower duathlon skaters.  We had to maneuver through a small group of slower skaters, and the slower skaters basically covered the course from about a half mile in to the first turn-around point at around 2 miles into the race.  Once through the turn-around, there weren’t any obstacles in front of the main pack.  The dynamics of the pack were similar to last year, in that they were all over the place and the front of the line wasn’t calling hazards.  There weren’t any major surges in the pace except for on the hills, which are mild and short by comparison to the hills on the Chicagoland course.  The pack cruised along, swapping positions with skaters coming up on one side or the other of the line.  We hit the big hills and I just hung on for dear life, working hard to close any gaps that opened in front of me.  I kept checking my Garmin to see what my heart rate was doing.  It is interesting to watch the video now to also see where I was with my heart rate.  It wasn’t as elevated as last year, so I am in better physical condition, at least so it seems.

As we got to mile 9, and were coming up to the last turn-around on the course, I got nervous again because I started to gap the line at the same point as last year.  I could feel my heart pounding in my ears, and decided to push through and stick with the pack as long as I could.  We made the turn around, and with one of my race goals down, I was going to ride it out and see how long it lasted.  However, we turned the corner and the pace of the group slowed.  Not remarkably, but enough for me to catch my breath and recover a bit.  As we headed into the hilly section on the return, there was a skater in front of the one of my team mates that kept letting other skaters in the line.  My team mate decided he didn’t want to let this go on, so he jumped out of the line.  I didn’t want to get left behind, so I went with him.  What was supposed to be a tactical move up in the line turned into a short flyer.  Next thing I know, we are out in front with a gap on the line as we crest over the hill.  My team mate moved into the draft behind me and we started down the hill.  He warned me that the line would likely come flying by us on the down hill.  At that point, I was too spent to care, and just coasted the hill.  The pack caught up, but the surge didn’t happen until we were headed back up the next hill.  Thankfully, the down hill coast was enough for me to recover from the sprint.  As the line went by, I managed to stay with the front 15 or so skaters.

The pace picked up from there.  We crossed the 12.5 mile mark and the line disintegrated into an extended field sprint.  The guys at the front of the line stayed together, but farther back, it was every man for himself.  I really pushed the pace all the way to the finish, and my speed was considerably higher than what I usually skate.  My heart rate was through the roof, but I made it to the finish.  Officially, I finished with a time of 40:49.88, finishing first overall in the open masters division (age 30-39).

20130803 MN Half Award Picture w Medal

Much like last year, this was a great race, and anyone who is on the fence about whether to attend should take the plunge.  It may only be a half marathon, but it is certainly one of the great races of the year that I have attended.  I am looking forward to next year, and hope to be in the front of the open pack at the finish.  The one thing I would change about this race is the way the duathlon starts.  The slower duathlon skaters are a danger to the faster open group skaters, and this was blatantly apparent this year as we had to dodge several of them during the first 2 miles of the race.  I think this could be fixed with better instructions to the duathlon skaters about staying to the right of the road way .  That notwithstanding, this was a great race generally, and a good race for me personally.  The video of my race follows:


Atom One X-Flex 87a Review

Last year, I picked up a set of Atom One IQ X-Flex wheels from the Luigino Outlet.  I try to shop the outlets as often as possible to save money.  For most of us who are hobbyist sportsmen or sportswomen, we are always struggling to keep up with the curve of technology while still getting the most our out of our limited dollar.  When I raced motocross, the penny pinch was much worse.  We would calculate upgrades, and build our bikes to last as long as possible between repairs and upgrades.  The same rules applied when we switched to go-carts.  Now, chest deep in Inline Speed Skating, the same rules apply.  With top boots in the $1,500 range, and top end wheels running $26 per wheel, a full set of world class custom skates can run close to $2,000.  While inexpensive to get into the sport, compared to cycling where a set of wheels can cost as much as high end skates, the tough part about skates are the components that need to be regularly replaced, or have specific uses based on conditions.  Wheels are a terrific example.  Conditions have a direct effect on wheel choice.  Harder wheels are better on smoother surfaces.  Rain requires wheels that grip in wet conditions, which can be a rare characteristic of urethane wheels.  Wheels, though, are rarely on sale, and when they are, they are usually much older models that have been succeeded by much better technology.

I previously discussed the trouble I had with the Atom One IQ X-Flex wheels.  The 8 that I purchased all had significant hub failure, where each of the hubs developed splits or cracks such that they were no longer safe to use.  When I contacted Nistevo, the parent company that operates Atom Wheels, they were reticent to help resolve the problem because the purchase originally came from the outlet, which has an as-is warranty policy.  After several email exchanges the manufacturer agreed to replace the defective wheels with the current generation wheels that were one step below the wheels I purchased on close-out: Atom One X-Flex wheels in 87a.

I planned on saving these wheels to use as my racing wheels for the 2012 racing series.  However, I got in on the Bont Black Ops wheel deal when I signed up for NROC.  As a result, I pitched the Bong G3 wheels, and moved the Atom One wheels into the position of my everyday wheels.  I have used them with my Bionic Swiss bearings, also from Luigino, and my older ILQ9 Classic bearings.  The wheels are consistent regardless of which bearing is used.

Out of the package, these are great looking wheels.  The X-Flex hub means the hubs are different than the regular Atom Reflex hub.  The pictures that follow are good examples.  The black hub wheels are the Atom One X-Flex wheels, the white hub wheels are Atom One IQ Reflex wheels (I have a couple spares in case I need them).

You can see the difference in the hubs on these wheels.  The Reflex core has become the staple of the Atom IQ wheels.  Apparently, the IQ flex band mixed with the x-flex core makes the feel too soft, even at a higher durometer.  I wouldn’t have thought this was an issue, and I didn’t notice this as a problem with my X-Flex IQ wheels.  However, at that time, I wasn’t pushing hard enough to be able to feel the difference.  Now, though, I think I am in a position where I push harder, with better form, and can feel more of how the wheels react in different situations.

Generally, these wheels are hard.  At 87a, that is to be expected.  You can feel the hardness from the durometer on rougher roads.  They don’t feel as hard as the Bont G3 wheels, which is odd because those wheels are 84a durometer.  The hub is what plays a part here.   The rebound isn’t very strong on these wheels, again, I think, due to the hardness, but the hubs make the difference.  The slimmer X-Flex hubs really flex well, and make the harder wheel more responsive than would be expected with a stiffer hub.  As a result, the hardness of the wheel and the flex in the hub make them a solid wheel for smoother conditions.  This is a great place to start on a wheel.

Another big benefit from these wheels is the roll.  They roll as well as the IQ X-Flex version.  This is great for keeping momentum while skating.  You don’t feel like you have to fight the gear for speed.  When you are skating with great form, increased roll helps the skates work for your push, so that you can save energy in a long race.  These wheels do very well with roll.  However, they don’t roll as well in rougher conditions.  In fact, the wheels start to feel dead in rougher road conditions.  I think this is due to a lack of rebound.

Generally, I haven’t really thought about the benefit of rebound.  Softer urethane has good rebound in theory, while harder urethane shouldn’t rebound as well.  However, the Bont G3 wheels have terrible rebound, partly due to a hard hub.  This is odd since they are softer wheels than the Atom One wheels that are the subject of this review.  The urethane in these wheels feels true to form, in that it lacks rebound.  This probably helps with roll, but makes the wheels feel dead on a rough surface.  The flex in the hub, while providing great snap, doesn’t totally compensate for the lack of rebound in the wheels.

Grip is the other concern with these wheels.  They seem to grip well on their normal profile, especially after the exterior coating comes off.  However, I find they slip at the end of the push, particularly in a deep squat at speed.  They also have a hard time holding very tight corners at speed.  To a degree, this is to be expected with a wheel this hard.  They do grip better than the Bont G3 wheel for the most part, but the slip at the end of the push sacrifices power and speed.  A lot of the slipping may be driven by the surface, though.  It seems to occur in different situations more often, like on rougher surfaces, or older tarmac.  Similarly, if my weight is too far forward, I find the rear wheels snake a bit in the push.  Otherwise, the grip is consistent on most surfaces, and hasn’t given me reason to be concerned.

The wear on these wheels are terrific.  I have at least 200 miles on these wheels, and they haven’t lost much more than millimeter of surface.  They don’t need to be rotated very often, which means more skating and less up-keep, which is great for the fun of the sport because it means more time skating.

Bottom Line:  These are great wheels if you like harder wheels.  They are acceptable on rougher surfaces, but this is the only serious draw back to these wheels.  As a training wheel, these are perfect for most road conditions.  They roll very well wear very well.  If you can find these wheels on a close-out, pick up a set.  I am going to keep my eye out for more in the future.  However, these are an older technology wheel.  Atom has released the Matrix line, which is the updated road wheel from Atom.  The regular Matrix is, from what I understand, very similar to this wheel.  The Matrix IQ is an updated Atom One IQ that is supposed to have new technology in the flex band.  Atom is no longer incorporating the X-Flex hub into the IQ wheels.  If you want to stay competitive, you need a banded wheel.  However, these are great wheels for general skating and racing on a budget.


Updates before London

I am headed to London for the London Inline Marathon on May 20.  My wife and I are taking our vacation in London this year, and it just happens to coincide with the Marathon.  I skated with most of my race gear last Sunday, so I think I am ready to go.  I am hopeful that I will be able to skate a couple of times while we are there prior to the race, otherwise, all the walking should keep me in shape.  I went out for a Team Rainbo practice last weekend, and though it was wet, had a great practice.  The Atom One x-flex wheels really make all the difference in the world, but more on that in a later post as I will have a full review of the Atom One x-flex and Bont Black Ops wheels coming soon.

I also have been having some trouble with my video converters.  WinX HD Video Converter has been giving me some problems, so I am using my back up software, Any Video Converter.  I haven’t used it yet to process video from my camera, but I am still messing with the settings.  I will update the tutorial on overlay videos if necessary.  I recently took some video of one of my other training routes.  It was a tough skate on the way back.  The first half was great because I had a 20+ mph wind at my back.  When I turned around and headed back towards home, everything changed.  You can hear it in the video.  Be warned that it gets loud.  The video follows.  This was one of my last skates on my Bont G3 wheels.  I am happy to see those wheels go.  I will hopefully have race video and pictures when I get back from vacation.