My blog has been pretty quiet lately, that’s because I’ve been working on the one project for a couple of months now and boy am I glad it’s finished. When visiting Adelaide I went to a skate park with Disco Stew and he got me really interested in ramp skating, I’ve been getting into it a bit at my local park on my derby skates which are pretty good for most things, but they lack some certain elements to pull off the beast moves (or at least attempt them)! I decided to build another set of custom skates and began researching what makes a good ramp skate, at that stage all I knew was that I needed something with a block under the plate and between the wheels to skate the coping on. When I began researching there was very little information available on aggressive quad skating. Every image or video of an aggressive skate I found didn’t clearly show what a grind block looked like or how it was mounted, so I only had a mental image of Disco’s custom blocks and my interpretation of his instructions. Interestingly, since completing these skates I have noticed much more information becoming available on the topic mainly as Chicks in Bowls gains popularity across the world and people begin experimenting with skates. That said, I was going pretty blind during my design, the best resource I found was a french forum of aggressive quads skaters, however I couldn’t translate the writing so was collecting photos here and there whilst trying to form an image in my mind of what these shoes would look like as aggressive ramp skate. I have learned a lot from making this skate and my aim is to outline my thought process along the way and then discuss what worked and what didn’t.
What makes a good aggressive skate?
My vert skating experience is quite limited, but from what I can currently pull of and the research I’ve done, I think the below elements are important for aggressive quad skates.
Strength – having a solid and secure skate to eliminate any dodgy wobbles.
Wide wheel base – for increased stability when landing airs.
Grind/stall block/sliders – to lock onto coping allowing for a variety of stall and grind tricks.
Axel clearance – distance between wheels for space for grind block/sliders.
Recessed kingpin – trucks sit lower than the kingpin to give clearance for front side grinds and coping tricks.
These are things I wanted in my skates, so I began thinking about how to achieve them. I looked at the Sure Grip plates made to take wide trucks and grind block and while convenient decided not to go with them as the kingpins were still exposed under the truck. Instead I looked into the option of using a skateboard truck! Sounds pretty strange hey? But this opened up an exciting new world of options as a skate board truck is quite different from a roller skate truck. Firstly they are much wider, which ticked one box, they also have recessed kingpins, which I was looking for to complete coping tricks. I discovered Penny board styled trucks, which are much smaller than a regular truck, so settled on a set of those.
So this is when my thought process went a bit loopy. Disco has used similar trucks on his skates before, by modifying a roller skate plate to bed the skate board trucks, however I was concerned about weight adding up as the skate board trucks well already quite heavy and I didn’t want to increase that with a roller skate plate. I did some more researching and found that some of the french skaters were mounting skateboard trucks directly to the bottom of inline skate boots. I figured, why can’t I do the same with a pair of sneakers!? It would reduce weight considerably. This turned out to not be the best idea, for reasons I will go into later. I moved forward with this idea of mounting the skate board trucks right under the boot, but decided I’d need something to ensure they were straight and just keep them together for the mount. Plastic is very light and can be quite strong so I designed what is essentially a plate and cut to size.
I then cut the usual metal plate to go inside the sole and mounted it on the shoes just to see how it would all fit and whether the idea was going according to plan.
At this stage I also had to cut some spacers for my wheels. I am using Bones artistic figure skate wheels, which are very hard and small, meaning the axle was sticking out beyond the wheel. A 5mm length of small tubing corrected that.
The skates now have a way to roll and something to hold them together, next I started to think more about the grind blocks or sliders. I had already resolved to build two sliders that go on either side of the plastic plate rather than a block that goes in the middle. I felt that would create a more stable and balanced platform for performing stalls as my weight would be distributed evenly on each side rather than having a pivot point in the center. Some sliders are flat, others are curved and I’ve seen some that are cut like a ‘V’ to really lock onto the coping. A subtle curve seemed best for my own skating – I don’t feel comfortable having a totally flat slider as they would be most difficult to balance on. A ‘V’ would be much more restricting as it is very deep and forces your foot down onto the coping and would then require you to lift it out, taking away the ability to roll out. The curve seemed the best of both worlds, where it provides a good lock on shape, but can still be easily rolled in and out of. I measured the truck height and axle distance, sketched some different ideas and settled on this shape. I would later cut a curve out.
I knew I needed to create a bed for the sliders to lay, so modified my plastic plate to suit.
My concern was now how to actually mount these to the shoe, how could I tighten a nut onto the slider and what would stop them bending inwards?
By drilling a large hole through the side of the slider I could access two bolt holes that run down through the slider and tighten the bolt inside the hole.
To prevent the sliders bending inwards, I placed a small plastic block between the two sliders and screwed them together.
It was at this point the frailty of the plastic became apparent; as I screwed the block into place it snapped the plastic! I built another plate, but this would later become a problem.
Once I had the sliders cut to shape and holes for the bolts drilled I began the tedious process of lining everything up and mounting it. I had issues getting the holes to match up, but got there in the end. Once it was all mounted I screwed the sliders into the plastic block for extra strength.
And here are the finished skates! More images at end of post.
The result of these skates is very pleasing. I’ve experimented with ideas and learned a lot, I’ve even gotten a skate in on them and have some areas where I could improve. The first stall I did on a coping snapped the plastic plates under the sole of the shoe. So my smart idea about reducing weight by not using a roller skate plates turned out to be not that smart. The skates are definitely not very strong! They sag in the middle, which has taken a lot of getting used to, they aren’t going to give out on me when I’m skating, but I’d feel more comfortable with some actual support. For my next build I will modify a roller skate plate to take skateboard trucks.
Not only will this give me the strength I’m missing, it will also allow me to mount a jam plug or toe stop. After my first skate on these, I’m definitely missing having the toe stop, I skate a lot without them so I hardly rely on them, but they are a much needed extra layer of protection when it comes to ramps skating. Currently if I over lean on my toe trucks I eat concrete pretty quickly!
I will also be spending some more time thinking about slider design. I’d like to mount them more securely and neatly as well as reducing their size/weight while maintaining a strong support. I’ve seen sliders that run right from one wheel to another with bars going up to the boot to mount.
Overall I am very happy with my new skates and look forward to practicing more tricks, the sliders have massively improved my ability to stall on copings.