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Bont Had Planned 105 mm Skates for 2005

But International Size Limit Halted Company's Plans

By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson

The skate maker Bont had hoped to liven things up this year by introducing 105 mm racing skates.

But at the last minute, it found it had to change its plans when the International Roller Sports Federation unexpectedly prohibited wheels larger than 100 mm.

"We had planned to bring out 105 mm wheels, but that was canned, thanks to FIRS," said Alexander Bont in a post on the company's forum. (Here's the Bont thread)

Bont coach Bill Begg went so far as to say that the "production of 105 mm skates and wheels" had been the company's planned focus for 2005.

Since the rule change, Bont has shifted its focus to 100 mm skates. It plans to begin production of 100 mm wheels soon; it released its Sniper frame for four 100 mm wheels last year.

Rule Making Power

The thread on the Bont site illustrates the havoc that governing bodies, like FIRS, can unleash on manufacturers by making sudden changes in the rules.

Bont and other skate makers were busily working on 100 mm-plus skate equipment when word of the size limit arrived in December.

Bont appears to be the only company that was working on 105 mm skates. But other company's were working on other 100 mm-plus Big Wheels.

Arco was developing a frame for four 104 mm wheels; Tru-Rev was developing a 110 mm hybrid frame; and Mogema was working on a frame for four 110 mm wheels.

Chilling Effect

But the size limit seems to have put a halt to most 100 mm-plus development.

The size limit will not apply to the World Inline Cup (which says it has its own rulebook) or non-sanctioned events, such as the 87-mile Athens to Atlanta Road Skate.

But it will apply to the world, continental and national championships, and that appears to be enough to discourage a whole scale revolt against the rule.

"We could not force our team to use the 105 mm product in WIC events, then for national, continental and world championships, change back to 100," explained Bont's Bill Begg. "So like most others, we will be in the 100 mm market place."


FIRS officials have yet to publically explain their decision to set a size limit.

Before November, there was no limit. Nor did there appear to be any discussion about setting a size limit.

But obviously, someone wanted it because when the federation's speed skating committee (the Committee of the Course) met in November, it created the new rule.

The Planet has asked several of the committee members to explain the new rule. But all have either been unable to do so or have not replied to requests for comment.

The size limit may reflect a desire by the federation to slow the rising cost of inline racing.

The appearance of larger and larger skates, and the success of the skaters using them, has caused more than a few speed skaters to complain about the growing cost of upgrading their equipment.

On the other hand, the pressure may have come from skate makers. Although some are clearly unhappy with the size limit, others may have pushed for it as a way to curb development costs.

Developing new frames and wheels is expensive. And if the development is too fast, the skate makers may have a hard time recouping their investments before it is time to retool for the next bigger thing.

(posted on March 14, 2005)


Related Reading:

Here's the Bont thread

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