In this very first Vanilla Skates Challenge review, I will be covering a pair of skates that I have had for over a year now but have only worn a few times – the Vanilla Spyder inline speed skates. First, please note that I am a born quad skater. I have been a quad skater my whole life, so my review of inline skates is going to be a little slanted – especially when it comes to overall boot comfort. The story of why I even bought a pair of inline skates of course has to do with my daughters.
Why I Currently Own a Pair of Vanilla Spyder Speed Skates
The story of how I came to own a pair of Vanilla Spyder inlines started with my youngest daughter, Violet. She was 8 years old and she was tired of skating on “boring quads”. She hated it so much that she had tossed the cheap Academy skates that I had bought her to the side and demanded that she be able to rent a pair of the cheap rink rollerblades. She did this for several months until I got tired of shelling out the extra $3 for rollerblades every session.
To save on the $3 / session charge, I bought her a pair of Roller Derby Aerio Q-60 rollerblades. This sufficed until the other kids at the rink continuously beat her in their aggressive inline speed skates during the races. About 6 months after the rollerblade purchase, we upgraded her to a pair of Vanilla Carbon inline speed skates. That’s when I purchased my Vanilla Spyders. I thought I would join her and buy a pair of inlines for myself.
Vanilla Spyder Review: The First of Many Reviews
The Vanilla Spyder is my very first review of any of Vanilla Skates products. In this review, and all of the future ones, I plan to try to cover the exact same statistics and grades. That way, you can easily compare between the various types of skates according to me. First, there are a couple of things to keep in note:
- I am not an inline skater: I am a quad skater of 30+ years, and therefore, I will do my best here to give an impartial review. However, I will be asking other inline speed skaters (and we have a lot of them at my home rink) what they think of these and the other inline skates I will review. In fact, I am giving these skates to one of the regulars at my rink to see what he thinks of them. I’ll be sure to update this review in the future with his thoughts soon.
- Skates have an intended purpose: If you use a skate for something other than it’s intended purpose, then you are going to get different results. More on that to come below.
- These grades are my own except where otherwise noted. I will call out comments and other thoughts I get from skaters in a special font so you know what comes from me and what comes from someone I know (my daughters, other regular skaters, etc.).
- Remember that I am one person and one opinion. Certain folks will love a particular brand while others will hate it. I know several people who love Vanilla’s skates and I know a good group of folks who think they are all flash (look good) but are pretty bad overall skates – mainly because of boot discomfort. However, that’s why there are different brands in the first place. If we all liked the same thing, how boring would that be? My plan is to actually try all of these skates and then leave my thoughts in these reviews.
- Finally, if you own these skates, please leave a comment below and help others out in the community who may stumble upon this article in the future. I’m going to try to put a lot of effort in on these reviews, and in my experience the comments can make an article that much more useful.
Let’s get started!
Manufacturer: Vanilla Skates (VNLA)
Intended Purpose: Aggressive inline speed skating. Rink racing, speed skating competition (beginner)
All grades below are based on the overall purpose of this skate. The purpose of a skate can dramatically effect the grades of a skate – for example a skate made for aggressive inline speed skating will make a very poor jam skate. While you can certainly attempt to jam skate in a Vanilla Spyder, I would not recommend it. However, if you do have Tony Zane skills in a pair of inlines, shoot me a link to the video and I will post it! 🙂
- Boot Options: Vanilla ultra light-weight, carbon fiber, heat moldable boot in sizes 5-13
- Plate Options: 7000 Series aluminum frames with a 4x110mm setup (4-110mm wheels) with laser cut windowing
- Wheel Options: 110mm High Rebound 85A indoor / outdoor wheels
- Bearing Options: Vanilla Reaction Racing Spec bearings
My Vanilla Spyder Parts List:
Here I breakdown the skates I purchased including all of the wheels, plates, boots, bearings, laces, toe stops/plugs, bolts and screws that make up this skate. Think of it like a grocery list for skate parts.
- 2 x Vanilla ultra light-weight, carbon fiber, heat moldable boot in sizes 5-13 with a special tightening lace cover with clip and a toe velcro strap to tighten the boot at the top of the boot.
- 2 x 7000 Series aluminum frames with a 4x110mm setup (4-110mm wheels) with laser cut windowing
- 8 x 110mm High Rebound 85A indoor / outdoor wheels
- 16 x Vanilla Reaction Racing Spec bearings
- 2 x Standard black shoelaces
- 8 x Wheel lock screws (attach wheels to plate)
- 4 x Plate screws (attach plate to boot)
My Vanilla Spyder’s Technical Specs*:
- Boot Size: 13
- Total Weight: 6 lbs.
- Total Height (from ground to top of boot)*: 10-3/8″
- Total Length (from back wheel to front wheel)*: 17-1/2″
- Total Width (from left side of boot right side of boot)*: 4-1/2″
- * Size of boots and plates plays a factor in most technical specs. No Duh Moment: If you wear a size 13, your boots and plates are going to be bigger and weigh more than a size 6.
- Boot Material: Carbon fiber
- Boot Manufacturer: Vanilla Skates
- Boot Comfort: D
- Boot Support: D
- Boot Flexibility: C
- Boot Style / Look: A
- # of Boot Tongue Lace Slits? 1
- Lace Cover: Yes
- Overall Boot Grade: C
- Boot Notes:
- Ups: Like most things Vanilla, this boot is stylish. I like the lace cover and how it has a lock crank to tighten the lace cover snug to your foot. All of the Vanilla inline skates have this feature. It also covers most of the laces nicely. I also like the extra velcro flap down by the toes which give it a snug fit and it has a lace slit which keeps the tongue from moving around on you. The inside of the boot on the sides are comfortable. The boot does have a heat-moldable boot, so you can put it in the oven and then sculpt it to better form fit it to your foot. This is supposed to make it more comfortable.
- Downs: Unfortunately, for me, the boot overall is just not comfortable. It’s not bad. It’s because I am a quad skater, and the pressure of the plate on the bottom of my foot is very pronounced and even quite painful after a bit of skating. It also does not give much support, but that is to be expected with an aggressive inline skate like this one. All aggressive inline skates have very low ankled boots to give the speed skater the ability for maximum flexibility. If you are an adult and brand new to inline speed skates, then get ready to really have to work on your ankle strength in these puppies (or any aggressive inline skate for that matter). They will make you work! Seriously, though, if you are brand new to inline speed skating, you may want to start with some rollerblades first and then work your way up to inlines like this pair. Most of the kids I know, however, will love these skates. Most of the inline skaters at the rink I know sport Luigino stating that they don’t like Vanilla stating that the boot is flashy but not very durable.
- Plate Material: Aluminum
- Plate Manufacturer: Vanilla
- Plate Width: 1-1/4″
- Plate Length: 13-3/4″
- Overall Plate Grade: B
- Plate Notes:
- Ups: Overall, it’s a good inline speed plate. It is rather long with 4 wheels, but it is sturdy and provides the stability that you would expect. It’s all metal and solid. I accidentally dropped it when I was taking the skate apart once and one of my pet ferrets jumped about a foot from the loud clang it made. The plate easily attaches to the boot via 2 plate pins and the wheels are extremely easy to change out. I can change out all 4 wheels in about 2-3 minutes. In fact, the skates come with a t-wrench made just for changing the wheels and detaching the boots from the plate. The design is solid and the plate is very light-weight.
- Downs: None that I can see. For me, I hate how much the plate of inline skates feel like they are digging into your foot, but that is really just because I am a quad skater at heart. Overall, I think this is a nice plate.
- Wheel Material: Urethane
- Wheel Manufacturer: Vanilla
- Wheel Diameter: 110mm
- Wheel Hardness (Durometer reading): 85A
- Best Use/Surfaces for Wheels: These are soft wheels on the durometer scale, so they are considered a hybrid wheel that can be used either indoors or outdoors. These wheels will give you more grip and control.
- Overall Wheel Grade: B
- Wheel Notes:
- Ups: The wheels are really large. This is great for inline speed skating as a larger wheel usually means more overall speed – if you are good enough to control it and build up and maintain your speed. The wheels look really slick and this skate is amazingly fast. I could tell the difference in just how little I had to push to get down the floor. One good push had me easily doing a lap around our local rink floor. There is very little surface area with these wheels meaning you get even more speed on these skates. Less surface area = less drag = faster overall wheels. Taller wheels also maintain speed better than shorter wheels. If you are into the best tips around wheels, you should check out my previous post on what makes for a great wheel.
- Downs: The wheels are so tall that I felt like I was 7 feet tall (I’m actually 6′ tall). This made me feel very awkward on the floor. The tall wheels are what you want if you are in it for speed, but it does cut down on your ability to just easily rink skate. I was so uncomfortable wearing these skates that I often took them off after just 30-40 minutes of skating. They just aren’t for me.
- Bearing Manufacturer: Vanilla
- Bearing Grade: High performance Swiss racing bearings
- Clean Bearing Roll Test**: Attempt 1: 70 seconds, Attempt 2: 72 seconds, Attempt 3: 68 seconds = 70 seconds on average
- Overall Bearing Grade: B
**We spin the brand new wheels 3 times and see how many seconds it rolls, then average it out. Not super scientific, but better than most sites will give you.
- Bearing Notes:
- Ups: The bearings in these skates are smooth like butter. They just roll and roll and roll with such little effort. With them being Swiss bearings, they will last forever and can put up with a lot of pounding even if you decide to go rough roading with them outside. Most high-performance bearings are overkill, but I could really tell the difference in just how smooth these bearings felt. I really liked them.
- Downs: I’m sure the wheel has a lot more to do with my perception of just how fast the skate feels rather than the bearings. I’ll discuss that in a future post. No real down sides. Swiss are nice and durable, so you can’t complain with durability especially when we are talking about the intended purpose being rough and tough speed skating. However, the type of bearing isn’t going to impact your speed that much (unless they are dirty). Overall, a good solid bearing that should last longer because they are Swiss over standard ABEC.
- Ease of skate to take apart / put back together: B
- How many people said “Nice Skates!” or noticed me by talking to me the first time I wore them to the rink: C
- Do they smell? How easy do they stink? They really don’t stink too bad. A lot of Vanilla skates (like the Juniors) really do smell bad after a few times wearing them. Nothing some good Dr. Sholls foot powder / Odor Eaters can’t fix. These didn’t seem to have the same issue.
- How easy are they for a new skater? F
- I am a above average quad skater and I do well on a high ankled inline, but these low-cut inlines are just not my thing. If you are an aggressive inline skater, then these skates may be for you.
- How good are they for an experienced skater? C
- As I stated, most of the experienced inline speed skaters that I know don’t skate Vanilla. I do know a few. Most of the smaller kids just starting in speed will sport Vanilla. The more advanced speed team members who have been on the team for a couple of years are racing in Luigino.
- Overall Smile Grade: C
So, how did it score overall? Here is a quick summary:
- Boot Grade: C
- Plate Grade: B
- Wheel Grade: B
- Bearing Grade: B
- Smile Grade: C
Overall Grade: C
My 2¢ (Justification for my Overall Grade)
Even though I am not an inline speed skater, I can see why a beginning inline speed skater would like these skates. If you are a quad skater, my suggestion is to start with a pair of roller blades and then work your way up to a pair of aggressive inline skates. If it were me, I would not buy these skates again, but that is mainly because at my age I am now all about comfort. The boot is just not comfortable enough for me and that really does weigh heavily in my grades.
If you have a teenager, they likely will love these skates. At just under $400, these are a really cheap middle of the road inline speed skate. I know many skaters at my rink who easily pay $400 just for the boots on an aggressive inline skate. It’s very common as you get more and more serious about your sport. There are several folks at my rink that have spent $700-$1000 on their inline skates, so at just under $400, this is a great skate to get a teenager who wants to fit in with the rest of the group started in speed skating. Then, if they really, really like it, then you can decide if you want to transition them to a more expensive pair down the road.
Overall, the Vanilla Spyder is not a bad inline speed skate. It has a great boot style, but is just not comfortable enough for me. The bearings, plates and wheels are pretty good. As I stated before, most of the advanced inline skaters (folks with years of experience on inlines) are not sporting Vanilla Spyders. You will see most of them wearing Luigino. However, you also will pay quite a bit more for a more improved brand. This is a great skate to get folks interested in inline speed skating started. It’s easy to take apart and put back together and you’ll certainly enjoy being one of the fastest skaters at your rink. It really is easy to lap quad skaters in these skates – if you can stay upright. 🙂
In the near future, I will share comments from advanced inline skaters about what they think about these skates.
This is my very first skates review. Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think. If you own a pair of these skates, I would love for you to tell the rest of us what you think of the skates below.
Next up, we will be reviewing our very first pair of quad roller skates – the Vanilla 360 Jam Skates.