Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, August 25, 1998

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Tim Temple assesses the possibility of self-inflicted
injury before strapping on Rollerblade's new "Coyote"
in-line skates.


Pneumatic tires pump up
in-line skates for maneuvering
off the beaten track

By Burl Burlingame


WE'RE always perfectly happy to try out new products, but sometimes it's best to call in the professionals. That's the case with Rollerblade's new "Coyote" in-line skates. This is as close as you're going to get to strapping runaway bicycles to your feet, and we thought it politic to let someone with lots of protective padding test it.

Coyotes are available at Bike Factory for $499 a pair. "Price doesn't scare people," said owner Wally Parcels. "They either HAVE to have them, in which case price is no object, or they're not interested at all, in which case price doesn't matter."

As it turns out, Coyotes are right in the mid-range for specialty in-line skates. What you get for your money is like something out of "Tron," a high-tech armored boot with a Duralite aluminum chassis underneath that holds three 6-inch pneumatic tires. Each tire is inflated to 80 pounds pressure with a bicycle pump, and makes the Coyote able to skate off-road.

The thought of skating the trails braved only by mountain bikers is something that kept Rollerblade engineers busy for nearly three years. "These things have been 'virtually' skated for a while, but they're brand new as a real skate," said Parcels.

Tim Temple, president of The Wheel Thing, a company that teaches skating -- call 48-SKATE -- was contacted to try these out. "Ooooh," he said when he saw the Coyotes.

It turns out that Temple was working at Rollerblade a few years ago when the design concept was bruited about. "I saw the rough prototypes in 1996, but these are a bit different," he said, eyeing the Coyotes. "These tires are REALLY big. I think they'll be hard to maneuver.

"But they should be stable. You control skates and your balance by scissoring back and forth, which creates a longer base, which is more stable."

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
A well-padded Tim Temple takes the Coyotes
for a test ride.

The standard in-line wheel, which can be made out of a whole smorgasbord of materials, averages a couple of inches in diameter, but the Coyote tire is three times larger. "Dwarfed be these guys!" said Temple.

"The trick is going to be stopping. Rollerblade uses something called Active Brake Technology, or ABT, which they patented and fought in court to keep exclusive. Basically, as you point your toe, a gripper pivots against the wheels as the angle of your ankle shifts. They're using it here too, except it goes against two tires ... " -- he manipulated the skate, triggering the brake, and watched the gears mesh -- "Wow. My degree is in mechanical engineering, so I look at this and go, COOL!"

At Kakaako Waterfront Park, Temple slipped on protective gear like a medieval knight: helmet, elbow pads, gloves with hobnails on the palm, kneepads as big as sofa cushions with Teflon skid plates. Even though they were a size 10 and Temple is a 10-1/2, he reported there was still toe room.

A small crowd immediately formed. "I used to speed skate on ice, until I hurt my knee, but these look totally awesome," said Tammy Lee, a disc jockey.

"Pretty radical," said Scotty Scott, a sales manager. "I want to see how well he does on terrain -- a lot of people have problems on regular skates."

Temple made a few tentative moves. "It seems so high," he muttered. "And the front tire of the right skate needs more air. It's affecting the control."

Parcels pumped it up to 80 pounds, and Temple took off. "Amazing difference!" he said. "It really is easy to control now. You can feel the air in there -- bounce up and down on it." He hopped a fence and began sliding back and forth on a slight hill.

Going downhill on grass, the brakes slowed the skates but didn't stop them. Temple dropped to one knee to provide additional drag."Very strange, seeing someone skate that easily on grass," said Scott.

Unlike standard in-line skates, Coyotes are eerily quiet on asphalt and concrete. Stealth skates. But they're really made for rougher terrains. Although state and city parks departments have yet to make rules regarding hiking trails and Coyotes, spokespeople for both assume that trails open for mountain bikes will be the ones restricted to skaters.

Parcels stood by with the tire pump. "Might be a good idea to keep a pump handy, maybe in the car," he said. "Mountain bikers have to re-inflate after each circuit; these tires are similar.

"If you're going to a neighbor island, you can just throw these in a bag and take 'em with you."

What did Temple think after his ride?

"Hmmm," he said. "These could be a whole lot of fun for a whole lot of people. I might even have to get a pair myself."

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