Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Buyer's Guide to Skates: Riedell R3

Let's start by saying that you really do not want to go for the cheapest option when it comes to skates. Those forty dollar skates you can find at sporting goods stores just aren't the same animal that you need to skate decently at all. Cheaper skates tend not to have moving trucks, and you need moving trucks if you want to turn. Or they have plastic trucks, not sturdy enough.

If you've been shopping around for skates, you may have picked up that skates break down into several component parts: boots, plates, cushions, bearings, wheels, and toe stops. Advanced skaters build their skates with their choice of components, but nevermind that for now. Go to a skating rink and have yourself properly fitted, first of all, and most likely you will be offered a few skate "packages" that come with their own particular configuration of components in the box, ready to wear.

riedell r3 skates

A very decent entry-level skate package is the Riedell R3, which comes with:

platePowerDyne Thrust nylon
cushionsPowerDyne red
bearingsKwik ABEC-5
wheelsRadar Cayman
toestopsPowerDyne Midi Gripper

Let's unpack that a little bit:

R3 boot
The R3 boot is vinyl, which means that it doesn't need to be broken in but isn't as durable as leather. That said, it should last a beginner for a season or two. This boot doesn't lace all the way down as the higher-end skates do, but the toe box is nicely wide and comfortable. Notice, though, the extreme lacing on my skates. I have short, wide feet. Like they're practically square. You can do a lot with lacing to get your skates to fit comfortably.

PowerDyne Thrust nylon plate
This is a fine, inexpensive plate that's very lightweight and easy to skate on.

PowerDyne red (85A) cushions
Cushions aren't something that you have to think about now or in the near future; but just so you know, they can be changed if you want harder or softer cushions and eventually will need to be replaced.

Kwik ABEC-5 bearings
These are decent bearings that will do for now.

Bearings and wheels can be upgraded through Riedell pretty much at will for most of their skate packages, but not for the R3s because they're made in China; additional bearings and wheels will have to be purchased separately, if you want them...

Radar Cayman wheels
...and you definitely want to start with changing out those Cayman wheels as soon as you can; they're noticeably lower quality than the other Radar wheels. If you want me to just tell you what wheels to get, I'd say get Radar Flat-Outs or Atom Stingers if you're a brand-new skater. If you're already steady on your feet, try Radar Tuners or Atom G-Rods. If you don't want to take my word for this, The Buyer's Guide To Wheels is coming soon...

Power Dyne Midi Gripper toe stop
Because I can never leave well enough alone, I never did like this little wedge toe stop. The reason I don’t is because when you do turn stops, the wedge turns bit by bit and eventually loosens and falls off. Just saying, this is something you can upgrade sooner than later.

(I like the Sure-Grip Web Stop, which is a huge round toe stop.)

The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the R3 comes nicely under a hundred dollars; if you're a good shopper, you may pay even less than that. But I will say it's more than likely that you will almost immediately want to change out the wheels (~$60) and the toe stop (~$20) on this skate, so you may as well include that as part of the price of this skate package.

Note: The Riedell Diablo is basically the same skate as the R3 in red, but with slightly better wheels, slightly better PowerDyne round toe stops, and a MSRP of $149. So if you don’t change out the wheels and toe stops, the price is comparable to what you’re going to spend on the R3; but I would change them, so that cancels that.