PC-Vane's leg savers
Leg savers that could roll you to a new personal best
By Francisco Ramirez
PC-Vane wheels are designed in Europe and manufactured in Asia as part of a joint venture between a German and a Taiwanese company. The design calls for the use of a space-age elastomer in the urethane and an innovative new hub. The hub flexes slightly under pressure, which allows it to absorb road vibration, thus making it easier on the legs.
The company's blue Booster wheels appeared midway through last year's outdoor racing season. By then, most skaters had already chosen wheels for the season. So they were not widely used.
I found the roll on these wheels to be excellent, as good as the Star Grips, which in my experience are the best rolling outdoor wheel on the U.S. market. When you coast on these wheels on flat ground, you feel very little loss of forward momentum.
These wheels provide excellent grip on a dry surface, allowing skaters to negotiate tight turns with ease and confidence. Even going full-throttle, I never felt myself slipping on a turn.
On wet pavement, they are a different story. The narrow Boosters (20mm) don't grip that well. I used the narrow wheels in last year's New York 100K and noticed that skaters on other wheels had an easier time handling the wet road. However, the wider 22mm Boosters do better. I used them in last year's a2a, which was wet in the earlier going, and found that they provided better grip. However, even at 22mm, the Boosters would not be my first choice for wet pavement. (At this point, my top pick for rain wheels are the Hyper Stripes and green Matters. MPC is reportedly coming out with its new Storm Surge rain wheel this spring. But I have yet to have an opportunity to test it.)
"I love the way the Boosters look on my skates."
The PC-Vanes last as long as other quality outdoor wheels. I skated on the same set in four events last year: the Saint Paul Last Man Out Race, the Saint Paul Marathon, the 10K Classic (Atlanta), and the New York 100K. After the 100K, I retired them from competition, although they still had many training miles left in them. Skaters can expect the wheels to last for at least two marathons. Some skaters will find they last longer. But as for me, I would be inclined to change them after two marathons because I always like the mental edge I get from the knowledge that I am rolling on fresh urethane.
At $14.50 (USD), these wheels were expensive last year. But based on their performance, I thought they were worth it. Fortunately, the company is cutting the price this year in an effort to lure U.S. skaters to try them. The price will be $9 each until May 1 and $11.99 thereafter.
There are three things about these wheels that make them fast: great roll, superior grip and the shock-absorbing hub. These hubs really do seem to reduce road vibration, thereby taking some of the strain off of your legs in long-distance races. In time trials, I cut 30 seconds from my usual 10K time with the Boosters. I switched back and forth between the Boosters and the Star Grips, and the results were always the same: I was about a half minute faster on the PC-Vanes. Based on that, I would have to rank the Boosters as among the fastest 100mm wheels in the world.
However, that doesn't mean they are the best racing wheel out there. I found that the wheel's elasticity, aside from dampening road vibration, robs it of some of its top-end speed. (This is especially true of the 20mm Boosters, less so for the 22mm model.) And that's not what you want if you expect to be in the field sprint at the end of a race. For that, you need a harder, better-sprinting wheel.
I love the way the Boosters look on my skates. The cool blue color gives them an "out of this world" look.
Overall, the hub is great, one that has the potential to revolutionize the market for inline speed wheels. It's great to see a company rolling out new ideas in a market that at times seems stagnant. The Booster's easy-riding hub may make it the top choice for fitness skaters.
The company rates the blue Boosters at 86A. My durometer rated them at 85A. But they feel more like 84A under your feet. They are very comfortable to roll on.
The PC-Vane Boosters are great wheels. They look good and feel even better. Their ride is so smooth, it will spoil you. Because they reduce leg fatigue, the Boosters are a great choice for skaters hoping to notch a personal best. But the added comfort robs the wheel of some of its top-end speed. As a result, they might not be the best choice for top pros looking for the best possible results in field sprints. On the other hand, they might be just the ticket for breakaway artists who expect to beat the pack to the line.
Note: The 22mm Booster may be a better choice for heavier (180 lb. and up) skaters. The 20mm version may flex too much under their weight.