The two most important choices for Creating your perfect setup, are picking a boot, and picking a frame. In this article we discuss everything there is to know about frames.
Inline skates emerged as off season ice hockey gear. the boots already existed, but the frames needed to be developed. this happened for the first time successfully in the early 80s.
For a very long period all frames were about the same. non removable, 4 wheels with a wheelbase similar to the foot length. this still is the golden standard for anybody that does not know what frame to get.
This article is divided in a couple of parts:
3 or 4 wheels
Frame material and manufacturing
Scroll down to read it all
The short anwser: If you are unsure about this, take 4 wheels.
Since about 2015 the market has been flooded with fancy 3 wheeled skates that look really fast, but do not be fooled by marketing. We like skaters to be as comfortable and secure one can be on their skates. The 3 wheeled skates usually stand allot taller and thus make every technique (like braking techniques) allot harder. You might win some small amount of speed with 3 big wheels, but the lack of confidence you will have on them will ironically maybe even make you go slower in the end because you will be more risk averse.
4 wheels also will give you better feeling with the road. The more points of contact you have the better the ride is when the road is kind of bumpy.
There are a few different ways to attach an inline skate frame to a boot.
We can boil it down to 4 different methods:
- The original mount
- The 165mm/195mm mount
- The UFS (universal frame system) mount
- The Trinity mount
The history of inline skating is in ice skating. The first boots for inline skating were ice hockey skates. They way the ice frames were mounted is still used untill today. The original Rollerblade and Roces brand skates used it, but the current day Powerslide Zoom, Them 80s and Impala Lightspeed skates are also mounted like that. Most of these frames are rivited on however. That means you can not unscrew it and change frames without some heavy modifications.
If you want to learn how to take off and mount a frame like this, then check out our tutorial.
165mm and 195mm mount
These two standards are named after the distance between there two mounting bolts. 165mm is the most used mounting for freestyle skates and 195mm mount can be found solely in speed skates. This standard also emerged out of Ice skating and was first used in an Inline skate by Roces in the mid 90s.
A key aspect of this mount is that there is a height difference. the front of the skate sits lower than the back of the skate. That means that any frame for it needs to have a raised heel and can not be flat, like an UFS mounted frame.
There is no set width for the frame within this standard.
The position of the mounting bolts is a limiting factor in the design of frames, because there is a bolt right where the wheel wants to be, not all wheel configurations are possible without making a frame higher.
Also because the mounting bolts are in the center of the boot it is a weak connection by nature. Especially on cheap 165mm mounted skates (like FRx) you can tell this because the frame can wobble from side to side. More expensive 165mm mounted skates (like FR1, FR2, FR3) will have a metal plate at the bottom to strengthen the connection
UFS (Universal Frame System)
This is the first real agreed on standard where industrie leaders got together, discussed it and rolled it out all together in 2001 within the aggressive skating market. Before 2001 each aggressive skate made up their own type mounting, often using their own interpretation of the original mount.
UFS mounted skates are often lower to the ground. This is because they have a smaller mounting block then 165mm mounted skates.
Originally only small wheels (60mm and smaller) frames were made for the UFS standard. Salomon and rollerblade made the first big wheel frames 10-15 years ago, and now the UFS frame market is exploding with options. You can buy wheel sizes up to 125mm and skate anything between 2 and 5 wheels on your UFS skates.
The trinity mount began in 2016 to get around the height limitations of 165mm mount. It takes original mount again as inspiration and mounts the frame on the outside of the wheels instead of the center of the boot. Building it like that makes it possible to make it lower to the ground.
An added benefit of this is that mounting it on the outside of the wheels makes it stronger. It takes away the need of a metal base plate so the boots will be cheaper to make like this.
No mounting at all
There are of course skates that you can not take the frame off at all. Most of these will be cheap skates and should be avoided for adults at all cost.
There is one revolutionary unibody design right now however that is very good and it is the USD Aeon. It comes in an aggressive form with 60mm wheels and a freestyle form with 80mm wheels.
The short answer: for freestyle skating with big feet take a 273 mm wheelbase (normal for 90mm wheels), for freestyle skating with small feet take a 243 mm wheelbase (normal for 80mm wheels).
If you are aggressive skating then the same wheelbase is applied but the wheels are smaller
You want your wheel base (the length of your frame) to be in proportion to your foot. If you have a relative short wheel base, then you are more manoeuvrable, you accelerate faster and will prefer intermediate speeds.
If you have relative a long wheel base, then ase you are more stable and less manoeuvrable. you will accelerate slower but once you get high speeds it will be easier to maintain them.
The modern day inline skate emerged in the 80s/90s. Back then it was normal for frames to vary in length in relation to shoe sizing. This is how it should be ofcourse. Modern day skates often come with one size frame for all shoe sizes however. That is why allot of people are now upgrading and changing their frames, something that was impossible back in the days of the first skates because those frames used the original mount with rivets instead of screws.
Frame length is also called wheel base. It refers to the same thing and is measured from the center of the front axle to the center of the last axle.
Some frames use the labeling S, M, L which then correlates to a certain wheel base. On our webshop we rewrote all the sizing to the actual mm length of a frame to make it more clear and easier to compare.
A short, maneuverable frame frame is easier to accelerate with, and easier to go up on hills, or skate against the wind with. But if you go really fast, with the wind in your back, for really long, it is more exhausting. just like a low gear in a car or a bike would do.
A long, flat frame has more torque, like a high gear in a car or bike. It is easier to maintain high speeds with but harder to accelerate with.
Short wheel base advantages:
- Heel and toe rolls
- Maneuverability, BUT you can fix this with a rocker in a long wheelbase as well.
Long wheel base:
- Skate torque, accelerate vs speed.
- With a rocker you can have stability of the length, and the manoeuvrability for recreational speeds.
Frame material and manufacturing
The short answer is: Use metal frames for freestyle skating, plastic frame for aggressive skating and kids skates.
What is a skate frame, it is the bottom part of the skate. It is what is holding the wheels and the core function is to transfer energie from what your foot is doing to those wheels.
To do its job properly, it needs to be stiff so that none of the movements you are making with your foot are lost when the frame translates those movements to the wheels.
So if you are moving your foot 1 mm , the frame should also move your wheels 1 mm.
If the frame is wobbly, you would be able to move your foot, without moving your wheels. A good frame is responsive and does what you tell it too. A bad frame is a frame that absorbs a lot of energy and control. This will make that steering and general control get a lag to it. You can think of it like sitting in a car and having the steering wheel loose. This is not the car that you want, and a frame like that is also not the frame you want.
Another thing a bad frame does is absorbing your energy. If your push off, your power will be in the bending of the frame, instead of in the forward motion.
Weight of the user
The amount of stiffness is also in the weight and strength of the user. If you put on more force on the frame by your weight and/or power, then you need a stiffer frame. That is why kids are ok with plastic frames but most adults are better off with a metal frame to skate with.
Types of frame material
- UHMW, very slippery plastic made for grinding.
- Generic plastic aggressive frames are just fine.
- 7000 and 6000 aluminum. 6000 is cheaper and more flexie. 7000 is more expensive to make and more stiff.
- Carbon very expensive and fragile.
Plastic is light, so it is best for a child.
Metal is heavier. The little bit of added weight is not that bad for an adult and the benefits of the strength outweigh the weight.
Carbon is the lightest
Manufacturer metal frames
There is a big difference in the performance by the way it is fabricated. There are 4 types of manufacturing used on inline skate frames.
- Casting / moulding
- Exctrusion + CNC
- CNC machining
Some techniqes are cheap to do and also create bad products, like Foulding. And some technniques are harder to produce, but make great products, like CNC machining.
Folding is when one sheet of metal is moulded in a U shape and used as a frame. It is cheap to make. there is hardly any material loss, but it is not so strong.
You can recognize a folded frame because of the rounded off edges at the corner where the frame goes from vertical to horizontal.
Moulding is when you have the outside of the shape in a negative, like a casket. You pour in the material, let it cool off, and then you have the product. Downside: Frames that are moulded can be brittle and the thread can be pulled out easily with these.
You can recognize a moulded frame by spotting marks of usually 2-5mm in diameter on the inside of the frame. There are marks left behind by the pusher pins for pushing out the product out of the mould.
A mould usually has different parts. It can have 2 to even 5 parts. The edges where these different parts touch are notably marked with mould lines.
Excursion is done in the same way pasta is made. Imagine a big block of aluminum being heat up so that it gets reshapable like klay. This then gets pushed out of a small hole. This then creates a long bar of metal. The shape of the metal bar can be determined by the shape of the hole it is pushed out of. Then the long bar gets cut in to pieces in the length of a frame, and the rest of the material is grinded away with a CNC machine. Most frames that come on a 200 euro plus skate are build like this. There is not a lot of material loss with this technique.
You can recognize an extruded frame if it works as a profile. So a clear straight shape comes up when you look at it from the front.
Also you can see cute lines from the tool that was used to cnc the rest of the shape.
There is also complete CNC machining. This is done from one solid block of material. So you grab one big block, take a big grinder and take away all the material. Like how a stone statue is made. This is very expensive because it uses a lot of material and takes a long time but it is also very very strong.
You can recognize CNC machining by the product having lots of tool lines. It has the possibility to create very complicated shapes, but for example the Wizard frames that are made like this are very simple in design. A CNC machined product does not have mould lines or pusher pin marks.
Manufacturing aggressive frames
Metal doesn’t slide as good and predictable on all surfaces as plastic does. That is why all the aggressive metal frames come with the options of having plastic add-ons. These can be plastic H-blocks and/or plastic sliders.
That way you have the stiffness of the metal frame and the grind predictability from the plastic.
This topic is for aggressive skaters that like grinding on their skates. For this you need some space between your middle wheels called a groove.
I remember one time grinding a long rail, and suddenly slipping out of the “lock” I had on the rail and falling because of this. Let's talk on how you can prevent this from happening!
There are grinds done on the side of your foot, where the edge/ledge/curb/coping/rail you are grinding is right beside the frame and right under your sole. We will not be talking about those right now.
The types of grinds done on a groove are frontsides, backsides, royales, full torques, unity's and savannah grinds.
Back in the day, when aggressive skating was invented in the early 90s, all skates had no grove, the frame was a straight line. The grove was created as soon as people started grinding because it got shaped by the wear and tear that frames undertake when grinding. To do this grinding first thing that needed to be done was putting smaller wheels in the recreational skates of the time. The small wheels opened up some space between them to grind on.
Frames where very weak at first, so a solution to strengthen it was putting a grind plate on the frame, the grind plates had the first groves.
It was a few years after the first grind was done when the first frames came out that had an integrated groove.
Split is the distance between the center two wheels. It is a pretty important metric because the wider wheels are apart, the less wheel bite one has.
Aggressive skates are almost always mounted with the UFS mounting standard. This means that for all skates and all sizes the frame uses 2 bolts to put the frame on the boot. The distance between the bolts is 165mm for all skates. Because the way the UFS mount works, the split of the groove is the same for all sizes of a specific frame. It is impossible to put the wheels further apart because then the wheel would rub the mounting bolts.
A skate that got around this is the USD Aeon model. This skate has a unibody design which means that the frame is one piece with the boot and it thus has no mounting holes.
Another way around is, is to make the frame taller/higher. This is generally not something that aggressive skaters want. Recently there has been a resurgence of high-low setup frames. This means that the outside wheels are bigger than the inside wheels. Making the inside wheels smaller is a way to put them more to the outside without having them rub the mounting bolts. A good example of this are the Oysi frames
Some people however say that having the split too wide takes away from the natural feeling of riding flat. Everything is a personal preference and you will only know once you ride or grind a skate yourself.
Grinding angle / wheel bite
The most annoying thing when you skate is when your wheel hits the top of the curb and makes you fall.
There are a couple of things that can be done to prevent this.
The easiest solution against wheel bite is putting smaller wheels in. You can even go so far as putting smaller wheels in the middle that are so small that they do not even roll. These are called grindwheels.
Some frames have really thick frame walls. This protects the wheels more and makes grinding easier.
Some frames have a frame spacer that can be taken out, and put back in upside down. These are called rocker frame spacers. By flipping the rocker frame spacer upside down the height of the axle changes and the wheels are thus more protected by the frame. An example of a frame like this is the Kizer Slimline
The part of the wheel that actually creates the wheels bite is the side of the wheel. Wheels that stick out to the side les thus create less wheel bit. That is why the wheel profile matters and pointy/speed profile wheels are easier to grind with.
Frame Height / Soulplate width
Most grinds are done with the foot at an angle tilted sideways. The same way a skier would do if he would make a sharp turn. When you tilt side ways, you want there to be a point that the wheels lift off the ground and you are touching just on the wall of your frame and the side of your boot/soulplate. This is super annoying when rolling around and making a sharp turn, but benefition in grinding.
There is a relationship between the frame height, frame width and soulplate width that you can consider. Here is an example.
Example 1. A Roces 5th element has a wider soulplate then a roces M12. That makes it that to flex your foot sideways, you will need to lean deeper in the M12, but it also means that the wheels are then lifted more from the ground as well which makes that you have less wheel bite.
If you grind a rail, and then slip out of the groove, like said in the beginning of this topic, then a reason for this can be the radius of the groove.
In the 2005-2010 era of aggressive skating it was fashion to have frames with a bigger and bigger radius of the groove. This was called a freestyle aggressive inline skate frame.
With a super big groove like that it is very hard to keep the lock in the groove that you want. That is why the industry has thus moved away from grooves like that.
It is possible to convert inline skates to ice skates by changing the frames! One can imagine that regular ice skates would be alot better, right? WRONG!!
Inline skate boots developed a unique stiffness yet unmatched in ice skating hardware today. There are 2 reasons. The beating that an aggressive inline skate takes and the steep angle an inline skate is in during breaking or sliding.
once you go extreme on Ice Skates this stiffness can be very useful. You can ask anybody that does red bull crashed ice about why their standard hockey skates are not up for the challenge anymore,
So, even though these two sports are basically the same thing, the difference is in the grip with the ground. Most inline skaters will not even know that to slide on ice, you just have to keep your boot as straight as possible due to the square profile of the blade
The sport of freestyle ice skating and aggressive ice skating is slowly emerging. This means that ice skating hardware is about to change radically
A freestyle ice skate is different from a hockey ice skate because of its stiffness. An aggressive ice skate can be defined for having a soulplate to do grinds on.
So, If you want to go to the ice skate rink in style to do some tricks, then make sure you get some inline skate boots to do so.
If you do not know what blade will fit on your inline skate boots, then don't hesitate to send us a picture of them, so that we can help you pick the right one.
There are a few different solutions to make it happen.
You can take out your inline skate wheels, and mount a blade back in the place where the wheels were.
It is also possible to switch the entire frame for an ice blade. There are convertible solutions for all mounting standards.
Be sure to put your blades in some grease after ice skating. If you ever want your gear sharpened then we have the tools for that at our skateshop in Amsterdam.