Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Accessory review: PIC skates

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.


Laura said...

I was quite intrigued so I had to visit the PIC web site - it looks like fun. I still don't understand how wheels work like figure skates but seems pretty cool...

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Laura. Thanks for the comment. Honestly, I have no idea how they work or why. If you discover something, please let me know because I'm curious, too!

Ice Charades said...

I've had Pic Frames since 1995 and they are a lot of fun. Sometimes, the hardest part is finding a big enough, smooth surface to "skate" on.

In my experience, if you can do triples on the ice, you can do doubles in Pic frames. In my case, I could only do doubles on the ice and singles on the ground. Spins are really difficult, but some could do them. The best thing was watching one of the coaches (a former Russian competitor) do a double lutz in the Fairfax Ice Arena parking lot, the first day he tried them. Amazing!

What Nick Perna would say is the Pic Frames bring your bad habits into focus. Think of them as really, really, really dull skates, so you have to make sure your posture holds your edge and not the other way around.

I'm wondering when the day comes that Madonna, Janet Jackson or Justin Timberlake will discover these things and incorporate them into their concerts. I think it would be so cool to see skaters on stage.

Anyway, I hope Ice Girl enjoys them!

Ice Mom said...

Thanks for the comment, Ice Charades. Yep. I've noticed that the skates are a bit slower on the tennis court than regular skates on the ice rink. Ice Girl doesn't spin as well in the PIC skates, but she can spin and go through her program on the court, which is just fabulous.

I'm glad to hear that real skaters like you use them and enjoy them. It makes the $300 purchase easier to swallow!

tiredbusysk8mom said...

Ice Mom,
I am intrigued, as well. I was thinking about the cost. Here is a tip. As Ice Girl outgrows her boots, you could find some used skates for her PIC Frames. Some people will tell you not to use used boots, but we have been skating for years and in the beginner stage, used boots are fine. As you get to know people at your rink, ask about their outgrown boots. This is also a good way to get a pair of blades that are slightly used. Just ask the pro to look at the blades before you buy.

Ice Mom said...

Excellent advice about used boots! Thanks!

Diane Mars said...

Hi Ice Mom !

I just received mine from Harmony sports yesterday morning !

I decided to buy them 2 months ago, after searching for an "off ice skating" solution and I landed here through Google (yes, Google is my friend !)

Starting to break them (what a pain !) in my flat and my 1st try will be for this afternoon !

I'm an adult beginner skater (~+/- pre bronze level, lol), and I look forward to see how it will go for me and if I'll be as successful as Skate Girl when she tried them for the 1st time !

Anonymous said...

After stumbling upon this looking up figure skating costumes, I just had to visit the site. They look very intresting, and after reading a "review" from an everyday kind of person my mom is seriously considering it. I have a half size indoor basketball court in a building outside my house. So even if they dont work as well as figure skates, (Which I am fairly confident they will.) it wont be a huge set back, I will still skate in them.

Cut Grass said...

I have a few advanced figure skating tips with the PICs that I have learned over the last 12 years. I'll type just a few. If mount your frame so the first wheel is under the ball of your foot, you can spin centered on the wheel at approx 1/2 + the rotation you can get on ice. Depending on the size you have in relation to your skate, you most likely will see some frame when you look down at your toes. The problem is that the distance from the stopper to the first wheel remains constant weather you are a girl or ladies size boot. So that means for some smaller skaters this is not an option. For spinning best force is derived from stepping into your spin after a forward inside three vs. stepping into your spin circle from cross-overs. What happens is the skater will automatically drag her spinning stopper a bit as she finds her balance on the center of the first wheel; the spin take place perfectly centered on the first wheel. Laybacks, sitspins, flying camels - - all can look great! The toe-stop usually needs to be rotated each session on the main spinning leg so it drags nicely to help you find your "sweet" spot on the spin. When it is worn down there tends to be more bobbling and it is harder nail the spin. I have seen roller skaters on these and the other inline figure skates (Snow White, Tirax, etc) spin in a small circle but you can spin beautifully & like an ice skater. Also, don't be afraid to trim your stopper. The other inline skates have a superior stopper that really grabs for jumping. The PIC fails in this area. For example, if you are practicing flips, use a razor and trim a 1/2 flat surface in the stopper of your tapping foot. If you are working on your axel, I recommend doing the same on your take off foot. Then rotating it back for spinning. Axel's are especially hard on the PIC because so little surface areas of the round stopper is available to grab the surface and slipping is a real & dangerous problem. Some skaters just jump and skip coming off the toe. It's important to change your wheels for the surface you are using. If it's slick, use "sticky" wheels, if rough, use harder wheels. Rotate your wheels from front to back and turn them around on a regular basis or your edges will pull. If you notice you are skating slower, clean your wheel bearings; they get dirty and need to be cleaned every so often. Have a great skate!

Cut Grass said...

I wanted to clarify - -I meant I like to trim a small sliver off my stopper. I make a 1/2 inch flat section across the width on the spot of the stopper that will be tapping the ground (not 1/2 of the stopper!).

View Nathalie Biedermann of Switzerland skating at an historic train station - - a must see PIC demonstration!

Pan said...

Thanks for the great review on them! I am an adult who is an advanced amateur in figure skates. I have been inline skating for 10 years and I can do much. When i started to ice skate i thought oh i can do this, if i can inline skate i can ice skate... nope.. same fundamentals.. totally different feel, in fact very different, i really had to work more on pushing out,lacing up etc. so much was stressed. Now until i get better enough to go to freestyle sessions I am stuck with public sessions which end pretty early, (only an hour max 2) and i want to practice even more off the ice, especially with my stroking so i searched and searched and found Pic skates, but I am not too sure, until i read your review.

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Pan.

Thanks for the comment. Ice Girl still really loves her PIC skates, but she refuses to do an Axel in them. Falling with PIC skates is much different than falling on the ice. I recommend pads as well as wrist, elbow, and knee guards.

Best wishes for success!

Ice Mom

Pan said...

Thanks :) I am way ahead of you on the knee,pads, wrist and the such. Mostly on the ice because its a different surface for me. But with also being a fine artist and having had my drawing hand broken once( i found out the hard way that punching a wall in frustration, when hanging a piece HURTS..) i am not taking risks on either surface until especially concrete. But i until i am just as good on concrete Ill be wearing the safety gear especially cause i have fallen HARD on my tail bone once and i am still feeling it. i am going to get some jerrys shorts which I would also recommend for ice girl for the concrete.

When you say doing a axel on concrete is different than on ice is it because the pic on the PIC skates doesn't grab the ground as much and is more so making you skid? Also i am wondering, since i think i might of missed it in the review itself, did you guys buy the frame and attach them to a pair of boots she already had or did you guys buy the complete package from PIC boots and frames? Reason i am asking is, is there any difference in feel in the boots when compared to one with a ice blade? IE in regards to support, breaking in etc.?

Pan said...

Oh and I forgot to wish you and ice girl great luck in her quest for becoming a world class figure skater :)


Ice Mom said...

Hey, Pan.

I purchased the blade and wheels from the PIC people and put another pair of figure skating boots on top. You can take the assembly and boot to a reputable skate shop for them to mount the blade, too. That's what I'd recommend now.

Often skaters use their old boots or a used pair of boots on the PIC blade. This is what I would recommend for an easier time switching from ice to concrete.

Best wishes!

Ice Mom

! NAINA said...

Thanks Ice Mum. Your story is very similar to mine. I just bought new freestyle jackson figure skates but only able to skate about 3 hours a week on ice. I work and go to school fulltime, so, my free time hours don't coincide very well with the figure skating hours at my local rink, so, just like ice girl, I used to roller blade in the tenis court next to my house. I had planned to practise there a lot this spring and summer. But roller blades aren't like figure skates. They are too heavy and make you clunky. Besides they don't have picks. So, I did some research and found out about pic skates. I bought the blades, and bought another freestyle jackson boots, just like the one I use on ice. So, I now have too boots to break into simultaneously. What a pain. Anyway, I just finished installing the frame yesterday after buying a power screwdriver from HomeDepot only to find out that it couldn't really help me. I plan to use it when I rotate the wheels though, which will probably be after avery 4 hours. So, that should be fast. So, I can't wait to try on my new pic skates sometime this week when the ice in the tenis court melts.
I came online today to find out if I made the right choice by supplementing my figure skating with pic skating and I found assurance in your posting. Thanks a million.

Ice Mom said...

Hey, ! NAINA!

Be sure to wear butt pads and wrist, elbow, and knee guards. Concrete hurts way worse than ice.

Have fun!

Ice Mom

! NAINA said...

Thanks for the advice. I did try my new pic skates yesterday. They are wonderful. I was stunned by how fast the pic wears out. Anyway, I'm looking forward my pic skates this sring and winter.

Ice Mom said...

Hey, ! NAINA.

Glad you like the PIC skates. Yep, those toe picks wear down fast. That's why it's worth your time to rotate them, even though it's an unpleasant task.

Have fun!

Ice Mom