125's: We have a choice!
So finally we have a decent choice. The 125's that are available to the public now are Bont Red Magic and of course Matter One20Five and G13. (It seems that the Code White 125 are not available yet, and that MPC and Arma are still testing their wheel. They have been seen in races, but not available to the public.)
Sk8skool has a lengthy test procedure. It's not just "skate on them and see how they feel". We test indoor, on track and on road. We test on smooth, medium and rough asphalt, uphill an downhill. We motorpace testing behind a motorbike, we do top speed sprints, accelerations, long distances, and take times in all of those locations and types. We also skate alone, and in groups so as to get the best possible overview of how a wheel is in all situations. All of this has to be done on fresh legs, otherwise it means nothing. So this whole process can take up to 10 days.
The raw stats. of the X-Firm Red Magic Hardcore we tested:
125.7mm, 224g, MPC urethane, Aluminium 7 spoke core 82.4mm in diameter, 24mm wide, rounded profile
As a reference, the original Matter One20Five's are:
125.2mm, 180g, Matter urethane, plastic hollow core 88mm (external diameter) 83mm (internal diameter), 22.5mm wide, pointed profile,
"So, are they any good?" ... is the question I've been asked many many times, on email, on Instagram, on FB comments, on FB messages, in real-life, in fact every time I put these wheels on, someone asks me about them... The answer is yes. They are very good.
So to the details.... Well, they are heavy, 40g per wheel, 120g per skate and a whopping 240g per set. But you don't feel this when you first skate on them, all you feel is "WOW, they roll and roll and roll". Or as I said to Kim at triaging last week, there should be a safety warning on these wheels; "Warning: These do not stop rolling". (Ok, there was a tail wind, and smooth asphalt, but they rolled.)
So, why so heavy? Well, the Alu core is heavier than plastic of course, and the wheel is slightly wider, so a little extra urethane. This extra weight is one of the factors that make them roll so much, however, on ROAD in a straight line, I did find it very hard work to accelerate repeatedly, and to skate in head-wind, and to sprint at top speed. I think you have to be a very big strong power skater to get the most out of these wheels. (Gary Heckman has no problem. You might.)
Some reports have suggested that the extra weight is because the core is 7mm smaller than Matter's, and thus there is a lot more urethane. Not true. On the outside it appears that there is this difference. But if you cut a wheel in half, you will see that the urethane depth of the Bont is exactly the same as the Matter... 21mm. So there is SOME extra urethane, but only a little, mainly due to the extra width.
During motorpacing I hit one of my fastest speeds in a long time, 61km/h. But we did gradual build ups to that speed over 1500m. So this wheel would be great for a race that is mostly constant speed, and where you are going to just follow a big pack, sheltered from the wind, and reasonably constant speed.
The next thing you notice is "WOW, they are so stiff and stable, I feel safe on these wheels", "Sure-footed", and "Cool, this is how my 110's feel". These wheels are very controllable. On Track it is considered that 125's will not work... well, I've always believed that they will. If they work indoor, and they work on road, then they will work on track when the wheel quality is good enough. I was, nevertheless, sceptical when I went to track training today, especially with the wheels being so heavy and hard to accelerate. Track is all about accelerating out for corners. However, it is also about stability and GRIP. These wheels were awesome on track. (I was on a 200m banked asphalt track.) They felt just like 110's but with more roll. I could step confidently, I could accelerate, I trusted the wheel, and when I leaned over in the corner the wheel gave me speed. I am SO impressed with this wheel.
So why do they accelerate well in a corner, and not so well in a straight line? Well, extra "rotating weight" is sometimes an issue, and other times not. When skating in a straight line, your skate goes through a strange movement, it rotates on all 6 axis, and this extra rotating weight is then difficult to move in different directions because of the increased gyroscopic effect of the weight. This is not the case when accelerating in a corner, the skate stays somewhat in the same plane when making crossovers, not nearly as much "plane shift" as straight line technique. To understand this read here - half way down the article.
Also, the profile of the wheel sis the same at all of your favourite 110 wheels, so it feels familiar and responds well on track in the corners, it feels good to lean on the outside edge on road, and is less "fidgety" than other wheels.
Powerslide announced in April that their new wheels have a wider profile (more domed, less pointy). Imo that is also a good move. Of course it's personal choice, but to me the original shape that we have been using for years has the most grip, the most roll, and more durability. (BTW, yes, there was a lot of testing done in the 90's with different profiles, thinner wheels, wider wheels and different shapes. That's how we came to the shape that we know and love.)
Speaking of durability, I've skated a lot on the Bont's now, 7 training sessions of all types, and one session on a banked track that is commonly know to ware wheels down.... we say it's like "sandpaper". However, the wheels have held up very well, almost no ware. Still has the seam. So it seems that they will last a long time, even though I am 92kg... which is good, because these cost €220 which is pretty expensive. The Matter are also €220 and yes it's pretty expensive too.
Btw, you shouldn't be worried by the weird noise that your bearing make when you shake your skates, it's just Alu hubs, it's impossible to get the engineering tolerances "just so" without risking a terribly frustrating "interference fit" and consequently needing a bearing press to get them in and out. So they made it "loose" so you get weird noises, is not a problem. Also, sometimes your bearings fall out of the wheels in your bag if they are not on your skates. Don't panic... "Keep Calm and roll on".
Overall, I really like these wheels, they are very good. Not perfect, but very good.
Pro's: Very good roll, fast, very stable, very stiff, good grip, last long.
Con's: Heavy, difficult to accelerate repeatedly in a straight line, expensive.
All this testing and rumours about the next manufacturer makes me wonder what is coming next. Surely MPC's own wheel "Big Black Magic" is worth a look? We already know that the wheel is almost ready, it's been seen in races being tested. It's going to have a plastic PU composite core, similar to the 110 Black Magic wheels, but of course larger. I've been talking with MPC and we will be testing and reviewing the wheel in the coming weeks. Watch this space.
Leave your own comments, experiences and questions in the comments box below.
Do YOU like 'em?
p.s.... it seems like Arma are joining the BIG party.