Quad skates. In-line skates. For 20 years -- since the invention of Rollerblades -- skaters have sworn by one or the other. But while no one was looking, quads and in-lines got together and created a third breed: The quad-line, with fast in-line wheels in a quad configuration. Is it a racy new hybrid that will revolutionize skating or a failed mishmash destined for the ash heap of history? Here's how it compares against its in-line and quad "parents."
Stable and fast
Supreme High Cut: Features a vinyl boot with four 100-millimeter in-line wheels arranged in a rectangular format via big skateboard axels.
Likes: Fast, stable and great fun. With a wheelbase and width-spacing of 6 1/2 inches each, and standing tall at 4 1/2 inches high, Quadlines are faster but less maneuverable than traditional quad skates, and slower but more stable and ankle-friendly than the sleeker in-lines, which require more balance. As an average skater, I got up to speed quickly and felt confident and comfortable enough to skate happily for hours. Can include a rear or front brake, or both.
Dislikes: Wide and heavy (10 pounds per pair in size 9), they're not as nimble as traditional quads and make crossover cornering near-impossible.
Price: $249 (on sale $199); optional rear brake $19.99.
Skorpion Quadline Urban: A strap-on, lower-slung version of the Quadline without a boot. Wearing your own shoes, step into what looks like a mini dune buggy, with the same 100-millimeter wheels but a longer (8 1/2 -inch), wider (6 3/4 -inch) wheelbase and four-wheel suspension. Four pounds each.
Likes: Quadline speed with sports-car handling. Very smooth, stable and comfortable due to the suspension, which compresses and banks through a turn, and the lower center of gravity of the foot platform, which nests between the wheels an inch lower (3 1/2 inches high) than a standard Quadline. Includes effective dual rubber brakes on the right rear foot, and ski binding-type ratchet straps over the forefoot and instep. It's very convenient as a commuter skate, given that you wear your own shoes. Adjustable foot plates can fit a wide range of shoe sizes.
Dislikes: Despite cranking down the straps as much as possible, my feet would slide slightly within my tennis shoes, causing blisters after my initial one-hour skate.
Rollerblade Crossfire 8.0: Fire-breathing in-line skate for experienced skaters with one 90-millimeter and three 100-millimeter wheels and convenient lace-free fit system.
Likes: Raw speed. The quad skates seem like clunky little cars compared with this sleek, motorcycle-like land rocket, which leans and whips over pavement with effortless power. The big wheels (4 inches high) tower over those of normal in-lines and provide speed-skate velocity. The unique closure system has no laces; instead, you simply pull a cord at the heel area. Four pounds each.
Dislikes: The extra-long (12-inch) wheelbase, as long as a speed skate, can be tough to maneuver for average skaters.
Riedell Zone: Traditional quad skate with short, wide wheels and suede leather boot.
Likes: Stable, fun and nimble. Great for fitness and skate dancing. After testing the Quadline models, the 4.14-pound (single skate weight) Zones (size 9) seemed like a pair of slippers: tiny, light, super-maneuverable, remarkably comfy, ground-hugging, safe. The compact wheelbase (6 7/8 inches) and wheel width spacing (4 inches) give it a significantly smaller footprint and better handling than the rest, while the wide wheels (1 1/8 -inches) and low profile (3 1/8 inches off the ground in the forefoot area) give it stability. Includes toe brake.
Dislikes: The slowest of all the skates.
Irvine-based Roy M. Wallack is the co-author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100."