A Better Road Wheel?
MPC has emerged in the last two years as one of the top — if not the top — maker of wheels for outdoor track skating.
This year, the U.S. wheel maker hopes to extend its success to road skating — and it's off to a fast start.
MPC VT 100mm wheel
Skating on MPC's new VT 100mm wheels, veteran racer Diego Rosero destroyed a world-class field at the Pre Worlds marathon two weeks ago in Cartagena, Colombia.
The 26-year-old Colombian finished nearly three minutes ahead of second place Joey Mantia, the reigning world marathon champion, and third-place Massimiliano Presti, the reigning World Inline Cup champion.
"We always knew we had a superior track wheel," said MPC spokesman Paul DiJulio. "But Cartagena showed that this wheel can win against anyone."
The Big Bounce
What makes MPC wheels different is their dual-density construction. They have an inner layer of a proprietary urethane that is similar to the stuff of Super Balls.
The company says the bouncy inner urethane gives the wheels more rebound, thus making them faster. (Wheels with higher rebound meet with less surface resistance.)
The higher rebound also allows for the use of a harder outer urethane. (Rosero's wheels in Cartagena were durometer 88A. Typically, outdoor racers use 84-85A wheels.)
The harder outer layer makes the wheels more durable and longer lasting than most wheels, DiJulio says. And that's a good thing, considering their high price: the new 100mm VT ("Variable Traction") wheel has a manufactured list price of $16. The street price is expected to be a dollar or two less. But even at $15 a hub, a set of eight costs $120, which is nearly double the price of a set of Hyper Stripes.
"We are going after the skater who wants a superior wheel and is willing to pay extra because he knows it will last two or three times longer," DiJulio said.
No 'Johnny Come Lately'
MPC has been making wheels for inline skates since the early 1990s when it came out with its Roller Edge line.
After the inline fad cooled, the company pulled back. It continued to make wheels but not under its own name.
But in 2002, company president John Roderick decided he wanted to get back into the speed market. He hired Dr. Albert Chang and together they developed the dual-density wheel.
In 2004, the company tested the new wheel at the World Championships in Italy. Luca Presti, on the original MPC 84mm Blacktrack wheel, was the surprise winner in the 300 meters.
The next year, the company found itself having to play catch up. While most racers had switched to 100mm wheels, it hadn't developed one yet.
Nonetheless, the Korean team, skating on 84mm Blacktracks, did surprisingly well at the 2005 World Championships, finishing fifth overall and collecting 10 medals, including two golds.
Then came the 2006 Championships and the introduction of MPC's new 100mm wheels. MPC dominated the track events. "We won virtually every single sprint race for senior men," DiJulio said.
Onward to the World Cup
This spring, MPC hopes to establish its road credentials in the World Inline Cup, which starts April 8 in Korea.
It will be equipping the Rollerblade World, Athleticum and several regional teams with its 100mm VTs, 110mm VTs (due out in March), possibly a new 105mm wheel, and its new rain wheel, the Storm Surge, DiJulio said.
The competition among wheel makers will be furious this year.
The team favored to win the cup is Bont-Hyper, which will be skating on Hyper 100mm, 104mm and 110mm wheels. Hyper was the wheel sponsor for last year's top World Cup team: Salomon-MMCmicro (which has morphed this year into the Bont-Hyper team).
Powerslide, another top-ranked team, will be skating on Matter wheels, which wheel designer Neal Piper continues to tweak in his laboratory and which were used last year by Mantia to win four gold medals at Worlds.
DiJulio says that MPC is ready for the challenge.
Copyright © 2007 by Robert Burnson
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