Every few years the skating world sees another braking project come through. Here’s one of two I received in my inbox recently.
Comments specific to the Flexbrake
I like how both skates get to stay on the ground with all wheels touching, and I’m sure that will make it easier for beginners and inspire confidence.
I’m sceptical of the no flat spotting claim as in the first few seconds of video it looks like at least one wheel stops rotating and skids. Perhaps this is because it’s the rear wheel, and braking with this system would probably shift weight towards the toe wheels if skates are next to each other. In this case the rear wheel might not flat spot very much, but what if the skater uses an effective scissor and gets a lot of weight onto the front skate?
I’m not so keen on the crouching to pull on brakes/leashes. I’ve done something similar with a heelbrake on my speed skates in the past, and it worked, but was extra fuss. I don’t bother with heel brakes nowadays.
General comments on brake systems
Generally, I have a problem with these sorts of systems. The problem with any kind of useful braking on inline skates is that it’s difficult, and I’m not sure that these systems will solve this meaningfully because they don’t appear to address the primary problem of balance on skates.
To brake effectively on inline skates, you need either very good one foot balance, such as with the T-stop, or a very good scissor to give fore-aft stability, which is also a form of balancing. There are of course more advanced stops that rely on more complex and sometimes dynamic balance, but those are probably beyond the scope of this discussion.
The scissor gives stability in the way a bicycle does, and unless you have that fore-aft length, you can’t brake with any real stopping power. Once you can scissor, stopping with a heel brake is easy. You need to learn to scissor anyway, because otherwise you’ll never progress beyond being a beginner skater. Therefore these sorts of braking systems don’t seem to be useful to me beyond a few hours of beginner skating. Perhaps that makes them worthwhile though?
The T-stop doesn’t have such fore-aft stability as the heelbrake stop, and that is why it is also a much less powerful stop, sometimes known as a T-slow. On the other hand, it’s an essential stop to learn, because it’s the first real test of your one foot balance, and should be learnt competently on both feet.
To take things one step further, I feel that heelbrakes and other stopping systems like those we’ve seen over the years will quickly become crutches, preventing skaters from progressing through the range of skills they should. I’ve seen repeatedly through my years of teaching skating that those who rely on the heelbrake for too long don’t tend progress as quickly or as far as those who’re willing to remove their brake. I suspect I’m no different, and part of this learning comes from the extra pressure put on your balance and stopping ability when you no longer have a heelbrake to rely on.
On the other hand, I would never want to damage attempts at innovation. Sooner or later someone will come up with a good idea, and innovation and new technology is almost always a good thing.
Here’s the other brake project, the Gravity Master.