Frequently Asked Questions
After filing the EZSkate patent on June 14th of 2005, I did a lot of work in forums discussing various aspects of the invention. A lot of useful ideas were created in these discussions. Plus, I got a much better understanding of what people are concerned about when taking a first look at EZSkate / EZBrake. Here's a collection of frequently asked questions:
Does EZSkate only work with EZBrake? And vice versa?No. Both features can be used independently. However, if you only want the EZBrake without the EZSkate stabilizer arm, you must have something alternative to trigger the brake. For instance, this can be a short lever strapped to your lower leg, or an appropriate extension of the cuff of the skate boot.
Does EZSkate hinder me from special moves such as Double Push?EZSkate allows all moves that are possible with any normal inline skate - except lateral twisting of the ankle. This is prohibited by the stabilizer arm. However, it is certainly possible to build the stabilizer in a way that it has some lateral elasticity. While beginners and average skaters will benefit from a firm lateral support, advanced skaters might want to have some more lateral flexibility. Note that flexibility in the forward/backward direction is in any case much better with EZSkates than with normal skate boots.
If EZSkate is combined with the EZBrake , you must further avoid to create a large backward angle betweeen your lower leg and the frame - while the wheels are on the ground - unless, of course, you want to brake! However, note that the exact backward angle that triggers the brake can quickly and easily be adjusted. So, if you skating style includes moves that involve some backward angles of the lower leg, you can set this trigger point accordingly.
Specifically looking at the Double Push: No, there is no reason why it should not work with EZSkates.
Is EZSkate safe?After many hundred kilometres of testing on all sorts of roads there was no single incident that had to do with the EZSkate stabilizer arm. Certainly, common engineering wisdom has to be used to minimize any risks associated with the stabilizer arm - like proper dimensioning, selecting materials that don't sliver, etc.
In fact, the EZBrake required some more attention and did make some problems. The main issue turned out to be gravel, leaves etc. slipping into the mechanism. This hinders the brake from fully returning into the "sleep" position and can lead to unexpected braking. As a consequence, a gravel protection device was added to the construction that at least protects the leading edge of the mechanisms:
There is one implicit safety feature that EZBrake shares with the heel brake. Assume some obstacle on the road catches the brake pad. Automatically, your body moves forward relative to the braking foot. That is, you lower leg moves forward to a more vertical position. Consequently, the brake pad is pulled back and can eventually override the obstacle. Brakes that are triggered by other methods than pushing a foot forward (like hand-activated brakes) will typically not have this safety feature.
It must clearly be stated that these experiences do not replace a full-blown industrial test series. Safety is a critical topic and must be taken serious by the manufacturer. As an inventor, I can only present my limited experience.
One argument I don't stress here is that it's initially a big gain in safety to have a powerful brake. Typically, a good portion of this advantage is quickly compensated by a - let's say - less restricted skating style - in particular downhill!
Does EZBrake mean I have only 4 wheels in a 5 wheel frame?It depends. In the current prototype, in fact one wheel is replaced by the brake. I.e., in either the left or right skate, you have 4 wheels in a 5 wheel frame, or 3 wheels in a 4 wheel frame. This is mainly done because a standard frame without modifications can be used. Actually, the brake would not need as much room as a wheel (80..100mm). So if you can afford to develop and manufacture a special frame, a say 50mm gap between the wheels would be enough to make room for the brake. See the bottom drawing:
I like the idea, but not the ugly stick. Can it be made shorter?Well... the purpose of the EZSkate "stick" (I call it "stabilizer") is to hold the wheels vertical - or, more precisely, parallel to you lower leg - even with soft and comfortable shoes. If the stabilizer is made shorter it gets proportionally more difficult to accomplish this. The knee strap has to be pulled tighter, the forces on the lower leg are greater, etc. So I don't recommend it. The other option would be to try to keep the lenght, but improve the design. I'm currently in contact with a design professional - might be that he finds some more beautiful solution.
If you only have the EZBrake the "stick" is only needed to trigger the brake. In this case, it can clearly be much shorter or can even be integrated into the skate boot.
Can an existing frame be retrofitted?Yes, the frame is unmodified. The skate boot is replaced by the EZSkate ground plate with the footholders, the center wheel is replaced by EZBrake. However, because frame models differ in exact dimensions, it is probably not possible to build one EZSkate / EZBrake that fits all frame models. So I think it will not really be the typical case that the end user retrofits a frame - but for a manufacturer, it means he does not need to develop and manufacture a new frame design.
Why don't you brake the wheels instead of using a brake pad?At first glance, it looks like the most elegant way to stop an inline skate by braking the wheels. It works perfectly for a bike, so why shouldn't it work for a skate? In fact, there are a couple of fundamental issues with this apporach.