Skate Maps


Inline secrets from the world's top skaters and coaches

This week's tip:

Choosing a Frame for Your Skates
What to look for in a racing frame

By Peter Doucet
Dec. 12, 2008

Frames may not be as pretty as boots ... or as talked about as wheels ... but they are one of the most important components of your skate setup.

This was brought home to me last summer while I was training for the World Championships in France. I switched to a stiff frame with a lower center of gravity (Cado Motus’ Pro Hilo 110) and suddenly cut my 200-meter flying lap time by as much as 17 seconds.

The truth is, if you don't have the right frame, it doesn't matter how good your boots are ... or how fast your wheels spin ... you won't skate your best.

Optimal frame length for roll and control

Selecting the right racing frame involves several variables, including maximum wheel size, deck height and frame length.

A longer frame, theoretically, should be faster than a shorter frame, since you have more contact with the surface. But in reality, that's not always true. If the frame is too long, say 30 inches or more, you'll have a hard time looping your leg back and under ... unless you happen to be a giant. On the other hand, if your frame is too short, say the length of your foot, you won't have much track or road to push against.

The trick is to select a frame that is longer than your foot but not so long that it messes with your stride.

Optimal stiffness and feel

Stiffness and feel are attributes of frames that are difficult to explain and quantify. Some skaters like extremely stiff and responsive frames; others prefer more flexibility for a certain feel and comfort on roads or corners. The Cado Motus frames I used in France were light and offered an even stiffness along their entire length. The improvement in performance was unmistakable. For me, a light frame with a uniform stiffness works best.

Optimal frame height that's easier on the shins

Skaters generally agree that lower frames cause less stress on shins. The reason is that when your feet are closer to the ground, it's easier to maintain your balance and stability. But most elite skaters (especially the men) now prefer 110mm wheels, which further elevate the foot from the ground.

With a hi-low frame that positions 100mm wheels under the ball of the foot, you get the best of both worlds: the fast roll of 110 mm wheels and the lower deck height of the smaller wheel.

I used a hi-lo Cado Modus frame in the marathon at the World Speed Skating Championships in Gijon, Spain. The race course was wet and rough and featured 25 U-turns. The marathon was my best ever at the World Championships — and my shins didn't "lock up" as they have in other marathons.

Optimal frame weight

As in all performance sports, weight is a drag on speed. And for a skater, that means you want a frame that is as light as possible, without compromising frame strength. There are a host of alloys for skate frames on the market that will do the trick, many borrowing bike frame technology. But a frame that's approximately 200g is a good target weight. Anything heavier will slow you down.

Frame aesthetics

Appearances may not be everything, but if the frame performs great and looks great as well, so much the better.

If you can afford it, experiment with different frames. You'll be surprised at how much they affect your performance.


Peter Doucet skatingPeter Doucet is a veteran speed skater and the webmaster of Speed Skate World. A resident of Mississauga, Ontario, he has represented Canada in seven World Championships and at the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil. He founded the Toronto International Inline Race Weekend and the RSO Speed Points Series. He is also a coach of the Toronto Inline Skating Club. His hobbies include writing and performing music, cycling, watching movies, going out with friends, and cooking.



Related reading:

Skate Tip of the Week Archive
Beginners Guide to Outdoor Racing
Beginners Guide to Inline Skating




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