So, you read Upgrading Your Skates and now we've got you curious. Let's get started by talking about replacing your plates.  Have a seat, you've got some reading to do!

Why You Might Upgrade Your Plate

1. Your current set broke.
2. Your freshie plates are begging you to pull the plug; they're bendy, twisty, and have a mind of their own between bouts of unconsciousness.
3. You're giving your existing plates orders and they're talking back instead of doing as they're told.
4. All your friends are doing it.

Like skates, plates come in different shapes, materials, angles, actions, weights, and it can all start to sound like a PhD candidate lecture on astrophysics. So, we're going to focus on the critical elements: materials, kingpin angles, the difference between the wheelbase and the plate length, the kind of mount you might want, and trucks. 

Materials

It all boils down to nylon versus alloy. Nylon plates are found on most beginner models. They're light, inexpensive, but also tend to flex and move, delaying the response between your orders and the skate's compliance. Nylon plates are great for juniors and make a great replacement when your funds aren't as PHAT as you need them to be.

Alloy plates, like aluminum or magnesium, are more rigid than nylon so they're more responsive.

Aluminum plates are either diecast (heavier) or extruded (lighter); magnesium is the lightest alloy. 

Kingpin Angle

Most plates have a kingpin angled at 10 degrees or 45 degrees. There are variations, but for the most part, these are the most common.

A 10-degree pin places your weight directly above the kingpin and the cushions of your skate creating the feeling of stability. Because of the reduced angle, is also takes more energy get your wheels to turn and has a larger turning radius. This should not be confused with the notion that this set up is for beginners. Remember, it's the skill you bring to the equipment, not the other way around.

A 45-degree pin places your weight more over the pivot pin. It's more horizontal to the floor, compared to a 10-degree plate and is considered more responsive. Less energy required for some serious responsiveness and tighter turning, smaller turning radius. Again, that doesn't mean that you will become more amazing because your plate acts faster; it's a matter of controlling the action.

At Neon, we have found that skaters who need to add mobility to their game have benefited from the responsiveness of a 45-degree plate and skaters with excellent agility and quick feet have benefited from the resistance the 10-degree kingpin offers.

Wheelbase and Plate Length

Plate length: the length of the plate as a whole.

Wheelbase: the distance between the front and rear axles.

This can get super complex: two different plates can be the same length, but have different wheelbases, it's all about how the manufacturers space out the kingpins and angle them. In order to figure out what to give you, we might ask you where you want your wheels. Typically, the front truck will fall under the balls of your feet and the rear wheels will be centered under your heels. 

Why does this matter to you?  Well, the relationship between the length of your boot's sole, the plate length and the wheel base is a delicate balance. Every manufacturer has different ratios.  If you upgrade just your plates, you need to be sure that the plate you choose doesn't compromise your desired wheelbase, especially if you're mixing manufacturers.  Also know that if you upgrade just your boot, you may actually be choosing something that your old plate doesn't fit. How can that be?  Your foot is still the same size?! Well, consider two very popular skate manufacturers, Riedell and Bont.  The below illustration attempts to show the same size foot in the different boot designs. There is a significant difference in the sole length and therefore the plate allowance.  Bonts require a plate with a shorter plate length but larger wheelbase.  45-degree plates can often be made shorter because the kingpins are closer together at the plate.

The various mounts (see next paragraph) will play with this general set-up, so it's important to know where you want your wheels so that we can figure out what size you need.

Mount

We can do a whole post on the standard versus short forward mount, which we probably will, but if you know you want one or the other, this is important to know to get the right size.

The standard mount is what your skate likely came with. Front wheels under the ball of your foot, back wheels centered under your heel. The short forward mount has a shorter wheel base, where the back wheels are pulled forward, that will yield a tighter turning radius and can be up to three sizes smaller than your boot. For such a mount to work, it is recommended you use a 45-degree kingpin angled plate because it will allow you to turn over on your edge further and with less effort than with a traditional 10-degree kingpin.

Truck Systems

Single action is when there is just one cushion between the chassis and the truck. So, rather unsurprisingly, a double action plate has two! There is a cushion on each side of the truck.

Many skaters will then customize what hardness the of the cushions; some super exacting skaters may elect to have different hardnesses on each side of the truck, though we've heard many people say it's the cushion on the bottom that makes all the difference.

Some plates also offer a truck with an adjustable length pivot pin.  When the pivot pin fits exactly into the pivot cup, it reduces friction and allows for smoother turning.  Imagine your hip bone in its socket, if it was pushing too hard on the cartilage, it would hinder movement and wear it down faster.  If your hip bone were slightly too short causing space in its socket, it wouldn't rotate as expected and it might slam against the socket.  That's the theory behind the adjustable pivot pin.

Then, there's the Arius plate, the truckless wonder! The plate lacks a traditional kingpin. A butterfly cushion is wedged onto the minimal truck, which flexes against a tab where the kingpin would be. Because of this unique design, the Arius is lighter, though it does take some considerable fussing to get it all put together. The bonus is that once it's together, you don't need to skate around with a tool fine-tuning everything. The intention behind the Arius design was to give skaters the agility of the 45-degree plate with the stability of a 10-degree.

Now What?

We recommend by starting to get to know a little bit more about the plates you are replacing so you know what you're working with in terms of boot length, plate length, wheel base and kingpin angle. Next decide what you want to improve with the upgrade.  Talk to fellow skaters about what they like about their plates and try to ask those that have a similar skating style to your own.  If you have the patience, check out the manufacturer's documentation to get all the measurements.  If you don't have the patience, call Neon and we can help you figure out the math involved with matching boots to plates, we love that stuff.  If you have questions about anything we haven't covered, ask us!

Some Plates Neon Carries

This is just a selection of Plates that Neon carries but we are able to order most Powerdyne, Sure-Grip, Pilot, Bont and Crazy plates.

 Plate Material Kingpin Angle Mount
Powerdyne Thrust Nylon 15 Standard
Powerdyne Rival Extruded Aluminum 15 Standard
Sure-Grip Avenger Magnesium 45 Standard/Short-Fwd
Pilot Falcon Extruded Aluminum 16

Standard

Powerdyne Reactor Pro Extruded Aluminum 10 Standard
Powerdyne Arius Extruded Aluminum 45 Standard/Short-Fwd

 

Join us next week when we discuss in part 3 the art of upgrading your boot.

Don't forget you can add any questions you have as comments and we'll address them in a final wrap up post.