Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I broke down and finally bought PIC frames and wheels and another pair of boots so Ice Girl can practice figure skating on the tennis courts two blocks away.
Before I get into my review, the two biggest things to consider: cost upfront and cost long-term. These puppies aren't cheap. But ice time isn't cheap, either. *sigh* That's why I popped for these.
Are they really like figure skates? Pretty much. The PIC skates you see above have a new boot that is the same as the ones she currently skates in. The PIC skates weigh a bit more than Ice Girl's figure skates. One Jackson Classique skate weighs 2 lbs, 2 oz. Her boot and PIC frame (as you see in the photo on the left) weigh about 3 lbs. They're a little heavier than figure skates, but they feel very similar, except for the wheels. When Ice Girl first used the PICs on Monday, the first thing she said was that the wheels were weird, as compared to the ice. They're a bit bouncy, like wheels should be. Her feet hurt a bit, too, but those were new boots she had on, so that's something that would happen with any new figure skate. I made her wear knee, elbow, and wrist pads, too. Initially they felt funny on her knees, but we all know that tennis courts have a harder surface than ice rinks. I don't actually care how funny those pads feel, Ice Girl, you put them on, kid, and you like them.
Can PICs really do all that figure skating stuff? When I cruised the PIC folks' website for the past, oh, two months, I kept staring at those people in the photo gallery. Wouldn't it be great, especially since Ice Girl is still early in her training and ice crazy, to send her up to the park with those? Well, it is great. They work fine in the basement, too, but our basement is a bit small. After skating on the PICs for maybe half an hour, Ice Girl could perform all the tricks she could on the ice, with the exception of a hockey stop.
What about the transition from PICs to ice figure skates? This is the one that had me really worried. When Ice Girl puts on plain ol' inline skates, she nearly falls on her face. Skating on the ice is even worse after an hour of plain ol' inlines. It's like she's never been on ice before. Yesterday afternoon, it rained, so Ice Girl couldn't go to the tennis courts. I threw her and the Zuca in the van. We drove to the Figure Skating Club's ice time so she could walk on. No problems. No problems! I tell you, I expected her to have to re-learn how to skate, but the transition from PICs to figure skates was seamless. Geez, I was relieved.
On the road. Initially, when I bought the skates, I thought I'd have Ice Girl just use them on smooth surfaces (tennis court, basement, school cafeteria), but that lasted, oh, maybe five minutes. The wheels are pretty tough and they survived the skate from the van to the tennis court. Replacing the wheels, which I'll have to do eventually, will set me back $32 plus shipping, so about $40. Not so bad.
Accessories. The PIC skate company sells a DVD for coaches. It's O.K., not fabulous; I probably wouldn't buy it again. The skaters are marvelous, but there's not much instruction given, just people performing various tricks. I understand why there's no instruction: these are skates for figure skaters who receive instruction. If you don't know how to do a jump or spin on figure skates, skip it on PIC skates.
They also sell a carrier for the skates, which I bought. (Geez, I bought the whole store.) The carrier is like a pair of blade covers for the wheels and the two covers attach with a removable piece of belting. The skater can sling the skates over her shoulder, one skate in front, one in back. The blade covers also act kind of like hard guards, but I don't think they'll last long if a skater wears them on the wheels. That's for getting from the house to the car, I think.
I bought the pink book about jumping and spinning on inline skates. The text is O.K., but the drawings are awful and distract from the writing. I haven't read very much of it and Ice Girl hasn't read any of it. I don't skate, but Ice Girl does. She did just fine without the book.
Assembly. I received the frames from Harmony Sports (the PIC skate people) and the boots from a different company. Harmony Sports' delivery was very fast; the other company lagged a week behind in their shipping. The instructions that come with the PIC skates are simplistic, but I managed to mount the boots successfully after a bit of cursing. The toughest part is aligning the frame from toe to heel on the boot. The diagram shows the toe pick at 1 1/8" from the boot toe. Geez. Measuring that was difficult. Once I installed one frame properly, I measured the spot on that frame and boot and drew it on the bottom of the other boot. Installing the second frame was much easier. The screws aren't steel, but I wish they were. It's kind of tough to get the screws in the frame without dropping them on the way. I have a magnetic screwdriver, but that didn't work with those screws. Set aside 30-45 minutes to install the frames. If you do it in less time, don't tell me because I'll want to throttle you.
Wear and tear on the toe pick. This is what you'll see in the second photo. That's the wear on the pick part of the skate from six hours of skating in the basement and at the tennis courts. The toe pick can be turned, but you have to use a screwdriver to do it. I love Ice Girl, but that kid strips screws. It's going to be a job for Ice Mom and Ice Dad to turn the picks, maybe once a week. I can live with that. Replacement picks run $1.95 from the PIC skate people, plus shipping. I just put in an order for 10. Those should get Ice Girl through the summer, I think.
**update** Turning that rubber toe pick is a pain in the rear. You need a screw driver and the two allen wrenches that come with the PIC skates to accomplish this feat. That toe pick is really jammed in the frame, so it helps to loosen or remove the first wheel when you rotate or replace these puppies. Allow 15-20 minutes and 5-7 curse words to complete the toe pick rotation.
Cost. Oooh. This isn't pretty. Ice Girl skates in starter skates, so the boots came with the blade. The new figure skates set me back about $150. The PIC frames and wheels set me back $147, including shipping. That's about $300. I knew this would be the cost and I did it anyway. Summer's coming and the hockey rink melts the ice in one rink and shuts down the big sheet for two weeks. Ice Girl is going to be spending a lot of hours up at the park, skating her heart out while Ice Mom and Ice Dad are at work. Ice time at the rink costs $10/hour. The tennis courts are free. I'll have those puppies paid for before school lets out for the summer.
Overall review: 4 out of 4 stars. It's not a perfect system. PIC skates are a bit different from figure skates and assembly is a pain, but Ice Girl loves them and refuses to take them off when she comes home from the park (it's O.K. as long as she doesn't attempt stairs). The amount of practice and enjoyment that Ice Girl is getting/will get from those skates is worth the $300 investment. Oh, and I bet I can unload the used assembly pretty easily once Ice Girl jumps up a boot size. That reduces my overall investment, too. Would I buy them again? Yep. In a heartbeat.