Buyers Guide - 3 Wheel Skates
Three wheeled skates, tri-blades, 3x3 rollerblades... however you label them, they're threatening to revolutionise the inline skating industry. But are they worth the hype? Are they really going to miraculously change your skating forever? Let us be your guide:
Three wheels have been pushed hard since 2014 by the Powerslide brand who have the biggest range of styles. The benefits of three wheels are now starting to be realised by the end user. Three wheeled skates have been released previously but in different contexts such as for off-road skating or for small junior skates but this is the first time that companies have marketed three wheel skates as having engineering qualities which are beneficial to regular skating.
Why Three Wheels?
In engineering terms; three wheels fit around the shape of your foot better than four. That second-wheel-from-the-front has always been a problem for the designers of skates because this is the wheel which comes closest to the ball of the foot (and the font mounting bolt in many cases). Three wheeled rollerblades allow the middle wheel to sit right in the arch area of the foot (with the two other wheels either end) effectively moving the wheel away from the lowest part of the foot and allowing the overall ride height of the skate to be lower.
Once you've achieved a lower ride-height on the skates then you can fit bigger wheels to the skate effectively making it faster (actually, they just keep their speed better than a smaller wheel meaning you can maintain a high speed for longer when skating in a straight line... but that's kindaaa the same thing).
Claims made that a 3 wheeled skate gives the skater better maneuverability (because there is a more central pivot point) aren't completely unfounded but could cause some debate between different skaters.
What type of skating are 3 wheel skates best for?..
Leisure - If you skate recreationally, ie in the park or the seafront, then it's definitely worth looking into some three wheelers. The speed difference is dramatic when comparing a large 3-wheel skate to a regular, say, 80mm 4 wheeled skate.
City / Urban skating - Yes, you should try this. Not only does the bigger wheel on a 3x3 skate keep it's speed better but it literally rolls over cracks and bumps in the road better. Less tripping over paving slabs on the morning commute.
Marathon and speed - Yes, yes and yes. The proof is in the pudding. Bart Swings SMASHED the marathon world record on 3x 125mm skates in 2015 plus the top 50 riders in the Berlin Marathon in the same year were using 3x3 wheels.
Aggressive / Tricks - Nope, don't do this!
Slalom / Freestyle - Three wheeled skates are revolutionary for 'Speed Slalom', especially if you rocker the middle wheel down (ie making it a few millimetres lower than the outer wheels). For regular 'freestyle slalom' (cone tricks) opinions will be split, but we predict that most hardcore freestyle slalom skaters will prefer to continue riding a regular 4 wheel set-up because of the extra control a smaller wheel offers when doing intricate floor-tricks... especially now with the introduction of the new Trinity Mount which is especially effective at lowering a 4 wheeled skate (more on that down the page).
Hockey - Again, opinions will be split but Powerslide are releasing a whole range of 3-wheel Hockey skates in 2017. Time will tell.
Powerslide have been responsible for the boom and deserve a big high five for their efforts. Seba also have some great models available and we'll see Rollerblade enter the market in 2017 with their 3x3 Metroblade. K2 will have a 3 wheel frame available in 2017 but it will be largely aimed at just the marathon and speed market.
Which size wheels should I choose?
Generally there are three different options for wheel size: 100mm, 110mm and 125mm. Most brands are pushing the 110mm as their standard. It's a great medium, but we found that it does feel a little higher and longer than a normal 4 wheeled 80mm set-up so if you want to try and retain a similar feeling, ride height and maneuverability to your 80mm 4x4 freestyle skates then you may want to consider a 100mm 3x3 set-up. Frame length is also a factor. We found that a 100mm 3x3 skate worked well with a short 231mm frame if you want to imitate the feeling of a regular freestyle skate (80mm 4x4 that is). If you are into bigger strides, speed, stability and skating out in the open then a frame which is a little longer will be just perfect. Don't get too tied down looking at frame lengths though, most of the time your choice will be limited depending on the model of skate you buy so unless you want to spend over 500 big-ones on a custom set-up you might be best settling for what you're given! For the 125mm wheel skates are these are probably best suited to speed obsessives and seasoned skaters looking for their next kick. The huge size of the wheels can make them feel a little clumsy, high and less responsive if you are skating anywhere but a wide open space but if you are willing to make the sacrifice then you will certainly get a reward in the form of speed and adrenaline.
Most skates with removable frames/chassis use a 2 point mounting system. One bolt at the front and one bolt at the back, 165mm apart. Trinity mount however is the revolutionary new mounting system developed by Powerslide in Germany. It has two mounting bolts at the front and one at the heel and features on some of Powerslide's three wheel skate models. It gives a more stable ride, better energy transfer and allows the skate to ride even lower to the floor. While the Trinity mount is most effective on a 4 wheeled skate (you can really get the skate much lower) it is also beneficial on a 3x3 rollerblade. When we compared a regular two-bolt mount to the trinity mount on a 3x3 wheel skate we found that the Trinity mount skate rode around 5mm lower to the ground. While this isn't a massively noticeable difference in real-world terms this will make some difference to the skate geeks out there. You can expect to pay more for a Trinity mount model.
As we move forward you'll notice more and more wheel skates appear on LocoSkates. We're sure to see more exciting models released in the near future.
See the three wheel skates in action with Asha's beginners skating guide. You can view LocoSkates' whole range on our 3 wheel skates page now.