Vanilla Skates Challenge Part 2: Choosing Our Vanilla Skates

In my last blog post, I outlined how I am going to test all of Vanilla Skates’ products by the end of summer 2015 – September 22nd. I will be testing in total over 40 different Vanilla products from skates to plates to wheels and bearings. So, today’s post is all about selecting which pair of Vanilla skates I want to start with first. To make this both fun and informative, I thought I would give an overview of all of their skates that I can select from and then tell you which pair me and my daughters will be trying out first and why. I’m really excited to get started. I just ordered our first set of Vanilla skates for me and my daughters today and I’m hoping to try them out this weekend!

What I will cover

Today, we are just going to hit all of Vanilla’s skate packages which includes the boot, plate, wheels and bearings – all put together and shipped in a nice Vanilla box. In my challenge, I’m going to cover not just the skates, but also the parts that make up the skate – each boot, plate and wheel separately, but for today, I will just cover the overall skate.

Why does our Vanilla Skate Challenge include every single wheel, boot and plate that Vanilla makes and not just the full put together skates?  Well, first because there are a lot more wheels to choose from with Vanilla, and wheels really are a hugely important part of a skate.  I’m also doing this challenge with each part in detail because some folks may decide to buy just a piece of a skate to replace an old part (ex: wheels). For those of you regular skaters out there, you already know this is a great way to save money as you just replace the part that is worn out and keep the rest of the skate that is still holding up.

Vanilla Skates – 11 total skate offerings

Seeing as the complete skates are the most fun and what most people will want reviewed, let’s start there.  This post is pretty long, so I built a quick jump set of links that will hop you down the page faster.

  1. Vanilla Junior Altitude Skates
  2. Vanilla Junior Denim Skates
  3. Vanilla Junior Smurf Skates
  4. Vanilla Junior Tuxedo Skates
  5. Vanilla 360 Skates
  6. The Difference Between Vanilla Pro & Vanilla Pro Plus Skates
  7. Vanilla Freestyle Pro / Pro Plus Skates
  8. Vanilla Blackout Pro / Pro Plus Skates
  9. Vanilla Diamond Pro / Pro Plus Skates
  10. Vanilla Carbon Inline Speed Skates
  11. Vanilla Empire Inline Speed Skates
  12. Vanilla Spyder Inline Speed Skates
  13. What Vanilla Skates We Decided to Choose First

Vanilla Junior Skates

The Vanilla Junior skates brand is very popular amongst the teenage and millennial skate crowd at the rink I frequent. These skates come in 4 different styles (5 if you include the old Grapeade – purple – that my distributor still has a few pairs of). Let’s go over each in detail:

Vanilla Altitude Skates
Vanilla Altitude Skates

As I told all of you in my last post, the Vanilla Altitude skates are the pair of skates I wish I could start out with for myself.  Unfortunately, I wear a men’s size 13 shoe, so these won’t fit me. All of the Vanilla Junior skates only go up to men’s size 11, so I am going to have my two daughters (Lily -13 and Violet – 11) try out all of these Junior skates.

The Vanilla Altitude skates are one of the new skates on the block. They are a slick black and gray boot with neon, alien green trim. I love the green. It’s very cool and different from the previous Vanilla line up. The green stitched trim on the boot is neat and the bright green Vanilla logo on the flap really stands out – including the wheel base and toe plugs.

These skates come with a Vanilla Gorilla nylon frame and double action aluminum trucks allowing you to cut corners more quickly. I personally am more of a fan of a metal plate as nylon can break on a big fellow like me if you get too crazy on the skates, but for a junior skate, this is usually just fine.  The skate wheels are 62mm Vanilla Backspin Altitude nylon-hubbed wheels with a 95A hardness. The wheels hardness is what you want to pay a lot of attention to as it helps to know the surface you will be skating on to determine the correct wheel type.  I talked all about skate wheels in this previous post.  95A is perfect for indoor skating on a semi-sticky surface like a traditional rink floor. It also has ABEC-7 bearings and alien green toe plugs.

Vanilla Denim Skates

 

Vanilla Denim Skates

The Vanilla Denim skates has a boot that looks a lot like a pair of jeans. The dark blueish/black parts on this skate give it a blue jeans kind of feel and just like the name says it is real denim. Much like the other Vanilla Junior skates, the Denim’s have a laces cover with a velcro flap to not only hide your laces, but also to give you that extra support.  The Denim’s are quite popular and very trendy – much like the rest of the Vanilla Junior product line.

Like the Altitude’s, they also come with 62mm Vanilla Backspin Denim nylon-hubbed skate wheels and ABEC-7 bearings.  They also have a Vanilla Gorilla nylon frame with double action trucks.  All of the Gorilla plates feature a five degree action to increase stability without sacrificing performance. All of these Junior skates also have cone-shaped cushions which claim to make the response phenomenal with quick movements. I’ve seen many kids at the rink (including my daughter) with these Junior skates and they seem to have very good handling and quick motion. Of course, that could be more because the skater is 13 versus my 40 year-old slower moving self. 🙂

Vanilla Smurf Skates
Vanilla Smurf Skates

The Vanilla Junior Smurf skates are my second favorite Vanilla Junior skates after the new Altitude. Again, I think I like the bright, blue color on the lace cover. It really pops. The blue areas on this boot look almost like a foil. These boots are super easy to see on the skate floor and they just look more stylish than a lot of other skates.

Like the Altitude’s and the Denim’s, these come with 62mm Vanilla Backspin Smurf nylon-hubbed skate wheels and ABEC-7 bearings.  They also have the Vanilla Gorilla nylon frame and the aluminum double-action trucks. Like the other Vanilla Juniors, it also has a matching toe plug – this one in blue.

There are not as many kids at our rink with these skates, and I’m not really sure why as I think they certainly stand out more than the Tuxedo skate (which is for some reason much more popular).

 

Vanilla Tuxedo SkatesVanilla Tuxedo Skates

The Vanilla Tuxedo skates are the classic style of the junior product line. The Tuxedo’s stark black and white contrast make this skate stand out quite nicely. The black lace cover with white, silver and black Vanilla logos make this a pretty stylish boot all around.

Again, like the rest of the Vanilla Junior skates, these come with 62mm Vanilla Backspin Tuxedo nylon-hubbed skate wheels and ABEC-7 bearings.  They also have the same Vanilla Gorilla nylon frame and double action trucks.

This is my daughter Lily’s current Vanilla quad skate. She loves these skates. I have had to replace a truck on one of these skates as the top portion of the truck broke once when she fell down. While the truck is aluminum, the piece that connects to the plate is made of plastic.  This is fine, but I think a good fall or too much weight could cause it to snap.  I’m excited to try and test all of these skates to see just what they can take. I certainly have had my share of equipment failures in the past, and I plan to put all of these skates (including the Juniors) through the test to see just what they can take.

 

Vanilla 360 SkatesVanilla 360 Skates

Finally, on to the first pair of skates that will actually fit me – the new Vanilla 360 skates! These are brand new (late 2014), and I’ve only seen one skater at my rink wearing them (he also just so happens to be a member of Team Vanilla’s AM Jam Team). These are pretty awesome looking skates. Of course, I can’t do what a Vanilla Jam Team member can do in them, but they still look pretty awesome and I am excited to take them for a spin.

These were designed by legendary jam skater Tony Zane. If you’ve never heard of Tony Zane or seen videos of him jam skating, then you are in for a real treat. This guy rips up the floor jam skating, and he is one of Team Vanilla’s original jam skaters. You can check out this video of him grinding it out in the new 360 skates he inspired and designed below.

The Vanilla 360 comes with a brand-new, very comfortable jam boot. It’s supposed to be one of Vanilla’s most comfortable boots ever made.  It has a microfiber lining on the inside and denim on the outside. They come with the Vanilla Gorilla lightweight plates, like most of Vanilla’s other skate packages. This skate also comes with a variety of wheel options – 18 to be exact – in either a nylon-hub or an aluminum-hub wheel.

I really like these skates. The boot is very different from some of Vanilla’s previous creations.  I like the black and white color with a hint of red.  The placement of the lace cover seems a bit odd and the flap is very small compared to Vanilla’s other skates. The lower lace cover should give your ankles more freedom allowing you to make quick dance movements easier.  I’ve also heard that these skates run a bit small, so you may want to go up a size.  I’m a big size 12 or a small 13, so I’ll be going with a 13 at some point.  I’ll let you know how they feel and just how small / big they run.

The Difference between Vanilla Pro Skates vs. Vanilla Pro Plus Skates

Roller Skate Wheel Hub Cores

The 3 different kinds of roller skate wheel hub cores.

The next 3 types of skates come in 2 different versions – Pro and Pro Plus. So, what is the difference? The only real difference between Vanilla Pro skates and Vanilla Pro Plus skates are the wheels. And more specifically, the hub of the wheel. On the Pro skates, you get a nylon-hubbed wheel. On the Pro Plus skates, you get an aluminum-hubbed wheel. What’s the hub? It’s the middle part of the wheel that surrounds where the bearing goes – see the photo to the right for illustration.

Which is better?  It depends on a number of factors including the type of skater you are, what you are doing with the skate and which type you prefer. I have an entire post about how to choose the right wheel here.

In short, nylon cores are almost always lighter than aluminum cores. They are also less expensive, which makes them perfect for the beginner because you aren’t out a lot of money early on.

The nylon core has more give, so it’s less efficient than the aluminum core. It also has more traction because of that extra give. The aluminum core makes the wheel stiffer and therefore rolls longer because it has a better transfer of your energy against the surface you are skating on – less give.

Don’t think that aluminum = more money = better wheels. Even a lot of experienced skaters like nylon-hubbed core wheels. It really is a preference for most skaters. So, if you’re new to all of this, start with a nylon-hubbed wheel and then work your way towards buying an aluminum core wheel to try it out – or better yet – get a friend to let you try their aluminum-hubbed wheels to see if you like them. Swapping wheels with a friend is a great, cheap way to try all of the various types and there are a lot of them!

Vanilla Freestyle Pro Plus Skates

Vanilla Freestyle Pro & Pro Plus Skates

The Vanilla Freestyle Pro & Pro Plus skates look like a really nice jam skate at an affordable price. Vanilla combines a comfortable boot with either nylon-hubbed (Pro) or aluminum-hubbed (Pro Plus) Backspin wheels. As stated above, the wheel hub material is the only difference in the Pro & Pro Plus skates.

The Vanilla Freestyle boot is all about comfort and looking good.  It is made of a leather that is upgraded and more scuff resistant meaning the boots should last and look better longer.  The toe box also has soft, padded glove leather.  It has a soft and breathable Shearling padded lining on the heel and tongue (in English – it has extra padding on the tongue and heel). The lace cover is stitched and also uses velcro to attach to the boot.

The Freestyle boots feature a D-width in both the heel and the toe which is considered a standard width for men and a wide width for women.  Like the rest of Vanilla’s skates, it features the Gorilla nylon plates which have a micro-adjustable lock nut washer and 8mm axels.  You also get to pick your truck color which allows you to mix-and-match your trucks and wheels color for that perfect match.  It also has a toe plug to make sure you can do all of your dance moves without a toe stop getting in the way. Of course, if you ever needed a toe stop, you can easily replace the toe stop for a plug.

 

Vanilla Blackout Pro Plus SkatesVanilla Blackout Pro & Pro Plus Skates

The Vanilla Blackout Pro & Pro Plus skates are perfect for roller derby and speed skating.  This entire boot is made out of Italian leather giving it a stronger, higher quality look. The leather is tough on the outside and the toe is reinforced.

The Vanilla Brass Knuckle Blackout boot features a slightly lower lace cover than some of Vanilla’s other boots. This gives the skater the ability to move more. I love the stitched white circles on the lace cover flap. It adds a bit of extra style.  Also, these skates come in ladies’ sizes (as most derby boots do), so men have to go up one size to get the best fit.

As with the rest of the Vanilla skates, it features the Vanilla Gorilla lightweight nylon plate with aluminum trucks in a variety of colors. You can mix-and-match the truck and wheel colors. The Backspin wheels come either with nylon-hub or aluminum-hub and each wheel color comes in a different wheel hardness to allow you to find the perfect wheels for your skating surface. It also sports a toe stop because these skates are made with roller derby and speed skating in mind.  Of course, you can always swap out the toe stop for a toe plug if you wanted to jam skate in these bad boys.

These skates look really comfortable. I like the style of the overall boot. The Italian leather is a nice upgrade as well. As with all of the Vanilla Pro and Pro Plus skate packages, I really love that you get to change the truck colors.  This allows for ultimate style possibilities.  You can either have your trucks and wheels match (like in the photo above), or you could go with complimentary colors (ex: purple wheels and yellow trucks or red trucks and green wheels).

Vanilla Diamond Pro Plus Skates

Vanilla Diamond Pro & Pro Plus Skates

As you can see from the photo to the right, the Vanilla Diamond Pro & Pro Plus skates are certainly called Diamond for a reason! These skates feature diamond patterns printed on to the lace cover which really make these skates stand out from the crowd.

The boots come with a B-width in the heel, which is considered narrow in shoes for men. This is to keep your heel locked in place. The toe area then comes in a D-width to give your footsies some breathing room.  These skates are in men’s sizes so ladies go down a size for the best fit. This boot is Vanilla’s top-of-the-line quad boot and is thus priced higher because of it. The difference in width between the heel and toes, plus the Italian leather and the special diamond design make this Vanilla’s most sought after skates.

Like the rest of the Pro & Pro Plus skates, these Vanilla skates come with the Vanilla Gorilla nylon places and your choice of color for the aluminum trucks. You also have the ability to choose whichever wheel color and hardness you prefer. The mix-and-match of the truck color and wheel color/hardness allow you to pick just the right style to go along with the type of surface you are skating on.

 

Vanilla Carbon Inline Speed SkatesVanilla Carbon Inline Speed Skates

The Vanilla Carbon inline speed skates are some of the most popular inline speed skates at my rink today.  These are perfect skates for those just getting started in inline speed skating. It’s the inline skates my daughter Violet got started on a few years ago, and she loves them.  The Vanilla Carbons come in two different styles – a 3-wheel variety for men’s sizes 1-5 and a 4-wheel variety for men’s sizes 6-13.

These stylish inline speed skates have Vanilla Reaction ABEC-9 bearings. They also sport a half fiber glass and half carbon fiber heat-moldable boot.

What does heat-moldable mean?  It means that you can put this boot in your oven to loosen it up and then take the boot out of the oven and place your foot inside of it.  Then, you can mold the boot around your foot and ankle.  Then, as it cools, it molds around your foot.  This provides a more snug fit.  All of Vanilla’s inline speed skates are built using this technology.  The Vanilla Carbons also comes with 85A high quality urethane wheels that are perfect for both indoor and outdoor skating. They are extremely light skates, too.

 

Vanilla Empire Inline Speed SkatesVanilla Empire Inline Speed Skates

The Vanilla Empire inline speed skates come in a stylish green, black and white outfit.  This skate comes with a 4-wheel variety in men’s sizes 5-13.  Like the Vanilla Carbon, the Vanilla Empire also comes with a heat-moldable, carbon fiber boot.  This allows you to heat up the boot and make it custom fit to your foot.  Instructions are included with the skates to show you how to perform this task.

The Vanilla Empires also come with 100mm – 85A high quality urethane wheels that are perfect for both indoor and outdoor skating. They are extremely light skates, too, and come with a 7000 Series aluminum frame.  Lastly, they have Vanilla’s Reaction ABEC-9 bearings.

I’ve never seen these skates up close and personal.  My daughter has a pair of Vanilla Carbon skates, and I have a pair of Vanilla Spyders.  I’ll be interested to try these out to see how they are different from the Carbon and Spyder.  So far, the main difference I can see between the Empire and Spyder are the bearing type, boot color / weight and the size of the wheels.  Once I own the Empire, I will do a comparison post between all 3 for you all.

 

Vanilla Spyder Inline Speed SkatesVanilla Spyder Inline Speed Skates

The Vanilla Spyder inline speed skates is the top of the line inline speed skate from Vanilla.  I own a pair of these skates, and I have to admit that they are really tough for me to skate in.  Now, granted, I am 40 years old and have been a quad skater my whole life.  I’ve never even as much as owned a pair of cheap rollerblades.  So, it’s no surprise that I have had my struggles with these skates.

With that said, they are really amazing skates.  They are super fast.  A couple of hard pushes in these skates, and I can circle the large rink floor at our skating rink multiple times.  So, if you are looking for a super fast inline skate, this is a good choice.  I’ll do a full review of the Vanilla Spyder skates next as I already own them. I just need to get some more practice time in them before I can write a solid review of them.

The Vanilla Spyder inline skates feature the same type of heat-moldable boot as the Carbon and Empire. They have a 7000 series aluminum frame that holds 4-110mm wheels – the tallest Vanilla inline wheels. The wheels are 85A, meaning they are plenty soft enough for outdoor skating but strong enough for indoor skating, too, if you are on a tight track. These skates also come with the extra special Vanilla Reaction Racing Spec bearings.

 

What Vanilla Skates We Decided to Choose First

So, what skates did we finally decide to choose for our first pair of skates in the Vanilla Skate Challenge?

Vanilla Denim Skates

Lily’s Choice: Vanilla Junior Denim

Lily’s Choice: 

My eldest daughter, Lily, decided to go with the Vanilla Junior Denim skates. She already has a pair of the Vanilla Junior Tuxedo and the Vanilla Junior Grapeade skates.  I think she likes the lower-key style of the Denim. They are very similar to the Tuxedo except that they have a blue jean denim instead of the classic black & white style.

Lily is a really graceful skater.  She loves to listen to her music while she is skating laps and she has gotten really good at skating backwards and turning forwards / backwards, too.  If I really press her, I can actually get her to do a 2-footed spin with 2 revolutions.

 

Vanilla Altitude Skates

Violet’s Choice: Vanilla Altitude

Violet’s Choice:

My youngest daughter, Violet, has decided to go with my favorite Vanilla Junior skates for her next pair – the Vanilla Altitudes.  These are her first pair of quad skates since she was about 7 years old.  She has been a hard core inline and rollerblade skater for the last 4+ years, so it will be interesting to see her in a pair of quads again.

She is my avid speed skater. She takes weekly inline speed skate classes and she often places in the top 3-4 in races – both in speed practice, as well as, during session.  Like Lily, she also can skate backwards and do spins. The crazy thing is she can spin in her Vanilla Carbon inline skates. Usually about 2-3 revolutions which is pretty impressive. I can’t wait to see what she can do in some real jam skates!

 

Vanilla 360 Skates

My Choice: Vanilla 360 Plus

My Choice:

Finally, it comes down to my choice.  Even though I am planning to test all of the Vanilla skates over the next few months, this was a harder choice than I thought it would be initially.  I wanted to make sure that the first pair of skates I would test were really exciting to me.

I thought about the Diamond Walker or the Blackout or the Freestyle, but in the end, it was the new Vanilla 360 that I wanted to try out first.  Part of the reason I was so excited about them is that they are a brand new boot.  I wanted to see just how well they felt and moved.

I went with a size 13 boot with purple aluminum trucks and yellow aluminum-hubbed Synergy (yellow) wheels.  I’ve never owned aluminum-hubbed wheels before, so I’m excited to try out the difference between those and nylon-hubbed wheels.

I know I’ll never be a professional (or even amateur) jam skater like Tony Zane or the rest of Team Vanilla, but I certainly can dream and own the same skates that many of them are skating in today.  Who knows?  Maybe these new skates will inspire me to learn a few new moves. If I do, I’ll be sure to share them with you!

 

What Do You Think?

What do you think about me and my daughters’ choice of Vanilla skates? What do you think of the overall Vanilla Skates Challenge? I’d love to hear from you.  Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.  Until the next time.

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