One of the coolest things – or perhaps it’s the only cool thing – about waiting 20 years to replace my Rollerblades is that I have a dramatic sense of just how far the technology has evolved. Whether it’s lighter material construction, enhanced comfort, improved durability, or high performance features, the skate industry is just one notch behind cycling when it comes to the speed and scope of advancement.
Accordingly, the “one boot serves all” days I knew back in the 1990s are gone forever – and instead of using the same pair of skates for every conceivable activity, there’s a large degree of specialization based on your specific needs as a skater. It makes sense, really; our shoes and bikes are built for specific uses, so why not skates? And if I want to rack up a lot of miles by skating long and fast, I want a boot that’s built in a manner suitable to the task.
|Pushing max HR in Pebble Beach|
That’s exactly what I have in Rollerblade’s Tempest 100 skate, which is designed for the fitness skater who wants an intense cardio challenge that will also strengthen his legs and improve his overall skate technique. It’s perfect for a long tour along the coastline, or for cruising on paved bike paths or quiet neighborhood streets. Performance features are built into the boot as well as the wheel set to maximize your ability while maintaining comfort very nicely during a long skate.
|Rollerblade Tempest 100|
When talking about inline skates, it’s usually easiest to start with the wheels. On the Tempest 100, Rollerblade does something it’s been experimenting with for the last couple of years: having variable wheel heights in sequence from front to back. Sometimes the middle two wheels are smaller; in this case, it’s only the second wheel from the front that has a 10mm shorter diameter – 90mm instead of 100mm for the others.
Here’s the deal with skate wheels: as a general rule, larger wheels help you roll faster and more efficiently, but smaller ones start more easily and have improved maneuverability. If you put smaller wheels in the middle of the skate, it also places the foot slightly lower to the ground, which provides a more stable platform (think of minimalist running shoes). With only the second wheel lower, the foot is angled slightly downward – and while I hate this in running shoes, it’s a nice comfort feature of inline skates.
|Second wheel from front is smaller|
The primary downside of having irregular sizes is that when it’s time to replace the wheels, you can’t just buy a single 100mm 8-pack – you also need to buy some 90mm wheels to replace the original setup. However, the factory wheels on the Tempest have a durometer rating of 84A, which is among the hardest Rollerblade offers, so it might take you several hundred miles before you grind these down enough to require replacement.
Inside each wheel are Rollerblade’s top of the line SG9 bearings which provide the fastest and smoothest ride possible. Bearings allow the wheel to rotate free and smooth, so higher quality bearings improve your ability to reach higher speeds with less effort, and create a longer roll with each push-off.
|Fiberglass boot above aluminum frame|
The wheels are held in place by an extruded aluminum frame with aircraft-quality strength, creating very effective transfer of energy between the boot and the wheels. One feature I particularly like is that the frame is laterally adjustable, so you can move the whole thing slightly medial (as I do) or lateral based on your individual biomechanics for maximal efficiency.
|Fiberglass material in rear foot area|
Above the wheel set, the boot is shaped by a fiberglass material that is super lightweight but highly stiff and durable. This is one of the advantages of the Tempest line over the next-step down Crossfires: thanks to the lightweight fiberglass, the 6-lb, 7-oz Tempest skates weigh roughly one pound less than Crossfires of the same size, without any performance tradeoff. As any distance runner knows, less weight means less fatigue over long miles.
There are several other design features in the Tempest boot to optimize efficiency over a long skate as well. The overall shape is narrower than most others in the Rollerblade lineup, which decreases lateral foot movement inside the boot and enhances power transfer to the wheels. Energy is also conserved with the asymmetric lacing system, which shifts the weakest (open) section of the upper to the side of the foot, leaving a solid piece of leather directly over the medial midfoot area that experiences the most tension during push-off, thus limiting excess stretching of the boot.
A Velcro power strap over the top of the midfoot helps to keep the midfoot area even more secure, and the ratchet cuff buckle at the top of the cuff can be adjusted to your comfort as well.
On the inside of the boot, Rollerblade uses a lining material called Precision 5-Star Fit, along with memory foam that gradually adapts to your foot shape for a customized fit. (Before you ask: yes, I appreciate the irony that any sort of foam and cushioning is normally anathema for my feet - but with skates, it makes a big difference. I don’t think I’m eager to try a five-fingered skate anytime soon.) Comfort is further enhanced by small front vents built into the toe bumper area to provide some ventilation and keep your foot a bit cooler while moving forward.
Cuff height of the Tempest is lower than Rollerblade’s standard boot height. This will initially make them feel unstable if you’re used to standard boots, but will eventually serve to strengthen your ankles and lower leg musculature – and that’s something a minimalist runner loves. Range of motion is further enhanced by a v-cut notch at the top of the cuff, and a dynamic construction where the entire cuff shifts slightly forward like a pair of ski boots.
Oh, one more thing: in case you’re wondering how to stop these things, the Tempest 100 does come with a brake, which you can install on either heel. It’s definitely a must-have if you’re moving across intersections or weaving through pedestrians at the Wharf, and for fitness skating it’s kind of a no-brainer to attach it. For urban skating, maybe not so much – which is where I’ll continue the Rollerblade series in another month or so. Until then, we’ll wrap up our overview of the Tempest by discussing who would benefit from it the most.
|Small front vents for cooling|
From top to bottom, the Tempest is built for speed, and most suitable for long aerobic workouts without a whole lot of variation in skate technique or terrain. And because the low profile and increased range of motion cause some initial instability, the Tempest may not be the best choice for a newbie skater.
However, there’s a well-known bike-shopping rule of thumb that says you should buy the highest-performance bike you can afford, and with dedicated riding your skills will eventually become suitable for the bike. I think there’s an element of that axiom in purchasing inline skates as well – and on that note, the Tempest would be a great choice for someone with basic skating experience who is looking to further develop his overall strength and skill through a consistent workout regimen. It’s got a wonderful combination of high comfort and high performance that will allow you to perform workouts of any length, intensity, and eventually skill level – in other words, it will allow you to skate to your heart’s (and legs’) content.
The Rollerblade Tempest 100 retails for $329 from Amazon.com as well as other online vendors.
|Photo from Rollerblade website|
*Product provided by Rollerblade
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at email@example.com.
Get updates as soon as they're posted! Click here to subscribe to Running and Rambling.
Check out the Running Life book for a collection of our most popular columns.