Maybe you’re looking to buy your first-ever pair of beginner skates for rollerblading. Or you’re hunting around for the best components so you can build your skates from the ground up. Without good frames to mount your inline skate wheels onto, you won’t like your skates/skating very much. In this inline skate frame buying guide, you’ll learn what you need to know before you shell out for any frame.
You’ll learn why frame flex, height, and frame length matter. You’ll also learn different kinds of frame materials and what makes each material a good/bad choice. In the end, you’ll be able to choose a new skate or a replacement inline frame that suits your skating style.
Here’s what you should keep in mind when buying inline skate frames.
- Consider Boot/Frame Compatibility
- Different Frames Work for Different Skating Styles
- 5 Inline Skate Frame Types to Know
- 1. Urban Skate Frames (They Focus on Maneuverability)
- 2. Aggressive Skate Frame Type
- 3. Speed Skate Frames (for Inline Speed Racing/Distance)
- 4. Slalom Skate Frame (Designed for Precision Skating)
- 5. Downhill Inline Frames
- Frame Flexibility/Torque: The Stiffer the Frame, the Better
- Inline Skate Frame Length
- Frame Height/Deck Height
- Frame Material and Weight
- What About Frame Price?
- Final Thoughts
Consider Boot/Frame Compatibility
When buying replacement inline skate frames, consider whether the mounting slots on the frames will line up with the mounting points on your boots. There are different types of mounts including the following:
- 2-point/2pt mounts
- 3-point or 3pt mounts
- UFS mounts
- Trinity mounts
2-Point Mounts (Most Common Mount Type)
By the way, PT stands for point. A 2pt chassis features two mounting points. These frames link to your boot at these two points. This is the most common mount type, and you find it mostly on recreational inline skates, speed skates, fitness skates, and off-road skates. 2pt mounts aren’t found on aggressive skates, though.
The distance between the two mounting points on your boot determines what kind of 2-point mount frames you should choose. Some boots measure 165mm, 180mm, or 195mm between the mounting points. But 165mm (f0r rec skates) and 195mm (for speed skates) mounting points tend to be more common on inline boots.
3-Point Mounts (for Bont Skates)
Three-point mounts have three mounting points. This frame mounting system works exclusively with Bont inline boots. One huge advantage of a 3-point mounting system is that it boosts the stiffness of the frame. And a stiffer frame translates into increased power transfer. This frame design also focuses on lowering the frame profile for more stability.
The Trinity mount is a pretty recent invention and is proprietary to Powerslide just like 3-point mounts are proprietary to Bont Skates. Well, these are 3-point mounts, but they’re only compatible with Powerslide inline boots. This mounting system was designed to give skaters a lower center of gravity and enhanced power transmission.
Universal Frame Mounts/UFS Mounts (Exclusively for Aggressive Inline Skates)
Universal Frame Mounts work exclusively with aggressive inline skates. The reason they call it universal is that this mounting system works for all kinds of aggressive inline skates regardless of who makes them.
Unline 2-point mounts where the mounting plate height at the front is different than the plate height at the rear. The mounting plate of this frame type has the same height at all points on the frame.
Different Frames Work for Different Skating Styles
The inline skate frame type you need to for your rollerblade depends on your skating style. If you’re into street/freestyle/freeride, you’ll want to choose a different frame than someone who mostly skates aggro. And a recreational skater needs different frames than a speed skater.
5 Inline Skate Frame Types to Know
- Urban Skating frames
- Aggressive inline skating frames
- Speed skate frames
- Freestyle slalom frames
- Downhill frames
1. Urban Skate Frames (They Focus on Maneuverability)
When doing your stunts out on the streets and jumping all kinds of obstacles while dodging cars and people, you need urban skates. Also called street or freestyle inline skates, these skates use the shortest frame that’ll fit their wheel configuration.
Short frames enable you to make fast, sharp turns and stops when you need to, and that’s super important when bobbing and weaving in and out of urban traffic.
When it comes to maneuvering around tight spaces in congested cities, you need really responsive skates. You need skates with urban-style frames. These frames also tend to last long because they’re constructed using heavier materials compared to most other types of inline skates.
2. Aggressive Skate Frame Type
This frame type consists of a double-walled soleplate designed to take tons of abuse. The soleplate sits on the frame and lets you do hard jumps, grind down legal and not-so-legal obstacles, and perform all kinds of aggressive tricks.
This frame typically features a groove-like area on the bottom that lets you lock into rails, ledges, and whatnot. These frames don’t allow large wheels because you don’t need big wheels for aggressive skating at parks and streets.
This frame looks starkly different than any other frame type out there. The lower edge comes down further than in any other kind of frame, covering a substantial portion of the wheels. Also, this solid frame comes with what’s called the H-block (mentioned above) so you can grind down all kinds of obstacles.
Some aggressive frames have a flat rocker while others are described as anti-rocker and others as freestyle. Frames with a flat rocker use wheels in the same size, say 4x76mm or 4 x 80mm.
Frames with an anti-rockered setup have you use two smaller wheels in the middle and two larger ones at the ends. The smaller wheels help guide your grinds and keep you safe.
Aggressive frames with a freestyle rocker have four relatively large wheels, two on each frame. With this type of aggressive inline frame, you get a large grinding area in the middle, between the wheels.
Note: This frame type doesn’t come with a braking system.
3. Speed Skate Frames (for Inline Speed Racing/Distance)
This kind of frame is typically in speed skates. The frame is usually constructed from extremely stiff and light aluminum, the kind of aluminum used to make planes.
Compared to most, this one is longer. Speed skates typically have 4x110m wheel configurations. Sometimes they use five wheels, but 3x125mm wheel configurations aren’t rare. These frames accommodate really large wheels with a super narrow contact patch for minimal rolling resistance.
Obviously, more wheels with a larger diameter necessitate a longer frame. What you get out of this frame is speed and stability. That’s what you need to win races. This is also the kind of frame found on most long-distance skates. These frames aren’t usually rockered — the wheels are all one size.
4. Slalom Skate Frame (Designed for Precision Skating)
If you’re like doing all kinds of twisty stuff or artistic inline skate dancing, you need a slalom frame. A slalom inline frame is usually made out of high-quality aluminum (lightweight but super-strong aluminum).
Since agility and maneuverability are critical to freestyle slalom skating, these rollerblades use relatively short frames. Because navigating cones at slalom competitions requires a great turning ability at speed.
Slalom frames have a maximum wheel size of 80mm. Like aggressive skates and speed skate frames, slalom frames are typically not compatible with brakes.
When precision at speed is the key area of focus, go for this frame type. And when things get turny and twisty, grab a pair of slalom inline frames.
5. Downhill Inline Frames
When going downhill at breakneck speed, you need frames that keep you low and stable. That’s why downhill inline frames are long and have you standing pretty close to the ground.
And when flying downhill, flex is your enemy. Speed wobbles are the last little surprise you want. That’s why DH rollerblades normally have super-stiff frames. These frames tend to be heavier than most because they’re sturdier than most.
Frame Flexibility/Torque: The Stiffer the Frame, the Better
Flex is one of the aspects skaters talk most about. I’ve heard rollerbladers say, “My frames flex too much and I hate it.” Or, “I regret picking up those skates because their frames flex way too much and I’ve crashed several times.”
You want frames that are sturdy enough/stiff enough, solid frames that will support your weight without flexing too much. You need lots of stiffness because the stiffer the frame, the better its ability to convert each stride into raw power. Put differently, more stiffness translates into more power transfer.
But what’s wrong if your inline skates flex? I answer that under the two subsections that follow.
For normal-weight new skaters who don’t obsess too much about massive jumps and speeds, flex isn’t much of an issue. But if you’re quite heavy, frames that flex too much might not work well for your large frame.
Too Much Flex Tends to Cause Speed Wobbles
If a frame torques too much when you bombing down some hill, you’ll experience frightening speed wobbles. And if your balance and control could use some work, you might end up spilling and breaking a bone or two.
Less Stiff Frames Tend to Cause Unwanted Sliding
Many rollerbladers have also noted that frames that are not stiff enough tend to cause too much sliding. Upon changing to a stiffer frame, many skaters have noticed they had fewer slides and speed wobbles at speed.
A frame that torques too much sets your wheels at a certain angle, the kind of angle wheels assume when you initiate a slide. But who wants to break into a sudden slide when rolling down the trail or road at 5,000 mph?
If you’re buying recreational skates and aren’t interested in speed and performance, plastic frames or low-quality aluminum frames that flex a bit are viable options. But if you race or are planning on skating super duper long distances, go for the stiffest inline frames you can afford.
Inline Skate Frame Length
One key factor that determines the overall performance of your inline skates is the length of the frame. Some rollerblade frames are pretty short, others are considerably long, while others are somewhere in between long and short.
Generally, the longer the inline skate frame, the more stable the ride all other things remaining the same. Also, the longer the frame, the faster the skate will be all other considerations remaining constant.
So, if you’re a downhill rollerblade, you’d be better off with a really long frame. Typically, downhill inline skates have super long frames and usually 5 wheels for maximum stability during high-speed down rolls.
The same goes for long-distance frames and speed skates. These skates focus on speed and performance, and longer frames are the norm.
But if your skating style requires maneuverability more than it does speed, choose a relatively shorter frame. A shorter frame translates into a shorter wheelbase. And a shorter wheelbase typically results in increased agility and maneuverability.
If your rollerblading style entails lots of tricks or making tons of quick, twisty movements, you’d be better off with a shorter frame. That’s why freestyle slalom skates and aggressive inline skates have shorter frames compared to speed and marathon skates.
Frame Height/Deck Height
Here, you’re more interested in how far off the ground the frame sits rather than how tall it is from the top to the bottom. Logically, the taller the wheels, the higher the frame sits above the ground and vice versa.
When shopping for rollerblade frames, be sure to check the maximum wheel size the frame is designed to accommodate. The first frame I had stated the max wheel size to be 90mm, but it came with 80mm wheels (4x80mm).
Once my skating skills evolved from the beginner to the intermediate level, I swapped out the 80m wheels for 90mm inline skate wheels. What happened? The performance of my skates (speed) increased, but I was now taller and less stable!
If you’re a beginner inline skater, it’s best to choose frames that sit as low to the ground as possible. For most, frames built to fit 80mm wheels are the real deal. Lower frames keep your center of gravity low, and the lower the CoG, the more stable the ride.
Frame Material and Weight
Inline skate frames are made out of different kinds of materials. These materials include plastic, aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber. Let’s take a closer look at each of these 4 inline skate frame materials.
Plastic Inline Skate Frames (Cheapest, Usually Found on Beginner Skates)
Many beginner inline skates come with plastic frames. Plastic frames are sufficiently sturdy and will usually support your weight without any issues. But plastic frames aren’t the most supportive frames you can find. Nor are they the most long-lasting options.
The downside of plastic rollerblade frames is that they tend to be heavy. Not that you’ll notice that as a beginner rollerblader.
Don’t be Taken in
And, don’t let smooth-talking marketers online confuse you. Instead of being upfront and saying that theirs is a plastic frame, they tend to use fancy-sounding names. Someone I skate with bought skates with “Monocoque frames.”
But wait, what’s monocoque? Turned out they were cheap plastic frames that didn’t provide enough stiffness.
Aluminum Inline Skate Frames (Lighter and Stronger Than Plastic)
Aluminum inline skate frames are the most common frames on skates. Aluminum alloy frames are light and sturdy, but the cheapest ones tend to flex too much for comfort. More on frame flex below). In most cases, aluminum frames are pricier than plastic frames, and they’re generally better as far as quality. Another area aluminum alloy frames trump plastic frames is longevity. You can generally expect aluminum frames to outlast nylon frames.
Titanium Frames (Stronger Than Aluminum)
You can also choose titanium frames for your rollerblades. But who wants titanium inline skate frames when we all know that titanium is much heavier than aluminum? Even though titanium is way heavier than aluminum, you need less of it to build a frame of the same strength.
In other words, if two rollerblade frames weigh the same, you can expect the titanium one to be stronger and sturdier than the aluminum one. Because of these characteristics, titanium is used a lot when building jet engines.
Carbon Fiber Rollerblade Frames (Lightest)
Carbon fiber inline skate frames are also pretty common. Carbon frames are extremely strong and sturdy, yet they’re also very light. Not surprisingly, carbon frames are the most options you can find.
But carbon inline skate frames have become pretty much the holy grail for many competitive/racing and speed skaters due to their superior performance.
What About Frame Price?
When it comes to inline frames, you generally get what you pay for. The reason many entry-level/recreational inline skates are dirt-cheap is that the frame is usually not great. It’s rarely stiff enough for any kind of serious or performance skating.
Have you ever wondered why the Wizard frames are so damn expensive? It’s because they’re good-quality inline frames that last a long time even with constant abuse. They’re also extremely stiff and don’t flex at all when you’re traveling at high speeds.
That said, you should get decent frames for anywhere between $50-$100.
When shopping for new frames for your custom inline skate or for replacement upgrades, there are a few things to keep in mind. Think of the frame’s length, height, weight, material, flexibility, and mounting system it’s compatible with.
Your skating style plus weight should also be a major deciding factor. If you’re into speed skating or a tall, heavy skater, choose the stiffest metal frames in your range. But if you’re light-ish or are looking to skate recreationally rather than competitively, you can use plastic or plastic frames that flex a little.