In this article, I will be comparing 3 wheel inline skates vs 4 wheel inline skates.
For those trying inline for the first time whether as a complete beginner to skating or transitioning from quads to inline skates. You are probably trying to decide on whether to go for 4 wheel inline skates or triskates (3 wheels).
4 wheel inline skates are very common among inline skaters. Even kids pick up inline skating at such a young age and go on to become advanced inline skaters. You will find that most inline skaters start off on 4 wheels and then transition to 3 wheels. My first few wobbly strides were on 4 wheeled inline skates. After having spent some time breaking into these, I then graduated to 3 wheels.
To add to this, I have coached my fair share of new skaters. So, I can offer plenty of insight into both kinds of skates as well as give you some idea of which options will be best for you. This will help you pick out a pair that will suit the type of skating you plan to do.
In this post, I am going to compare the speeds of different inline skates. Keep in mind that I am referring to regular inline skates and not racing skates. Racing skates are also available with 3 and 4 wheels, but they are another topic entirely.
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At A Glance
However, these skates are not suitable for everyone. If you are a beginner, you will find 3 wheel inline skates quite difficult to skate on. This is why you will always find newbies getting their start on 4 wheel inline skates.
While 4 wheel inline skates may not have flash, they do provide stability and ease. This makes them better suited to beginners. If you want to find out which of these skates are the right fit for you, just keep reading:
A Brief History of Inline Skates
It is thought that inline skating, an evolution of ice skating, originated in Northern Europe or Scandinavia in the 17th century. However, the first documented use of inline skates was in London in 1760.
The design of inline skates was patented in 1819. They continued to be the most popular option until 1863, when the first quad skates were introduced. The first use of inline skates with 3 wheels was in France. This invention was known as the Petitbled.
The evolution of inline skates has taken place over centuries, with designers testing out different types of wheels, materials, and styles. For the most part, though, the 4 wheel design persisted, with the 3 wheel design not finding much success.
It can be argued that the design of the 4 wheel inline skate was perfected in 1993. Two years later, the 3 wheel design had also gone through an overhaul, increasing in popularity among speed and competitive skaters.
Here is an in-depth comparison of 3 wheel and 4 wheel inline skates to discover how these two designs really differ:
Positioning of the Wheels
Although most people don’t realize it, the positioning of the wheels on inline skates can have an impact on the overall performance of the skates. Just by looking at 3 and 4 wheel skates, you can determine that they are positioned differently. Let’s take a closer look at this.
From a design point of view, 3 wheel skates fit your foot better than 4 wheel skates do. This is because with 4 wheel skates, the second wheel from the front sits under the ball of the foot. In doing so, this pushes the ride height higher. To compensate for this, 4 wheel skates need to have smaller wheels.
With 3 wheel skates, this isn’t an issue. Here, the middle wheel sits under your arch and is situated well away from the lowest point of your foot. As such, this allows the skates to sit lower and manufacturers can use larger wheels.
So, why does wheel size matter? Let me explain in the section below…
Wheel Size and Speed
Larger wheels move faster than smaller ones because they have a larger diameter. This means that a larger wheel can cover more distance than a smaller wheel within the same time frame. Therefore, larger wheels are considered to be the speedier option.
As mentioned above, 3 wheel skates have more room along the plate. As such, they are able to fit larger wheels under the boot. While most 4 wheel skates have wheels that are around 70mm – 80mm, 3 wheel skates will have much larger options.
Take the Rollerblade Macroblade model, for instance. Each wheel is 125mm! This means that it can cover more distance than your average 4 wheel skate. In turn, these skates can go very fast.
When it comes to speed, 3 wheel skates will win out almost every time. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that 4 wheel skates are slow or clunky. For example, the Roller Derby Aerio 4 wheel skates have larger wheels to help add some speed. At the same time, it is unlikely that 4 wheel skates will match up to most 3 wheel skates.
Winner: 3 wheel skates
There is no denying that stability is quite important when it comes to skating. However, this is especially significant for beginner skaters. After all, you’re still trying to figure out your balance on inline skates while trying to glide forward. A pair of skates that optimizes balance can make all the difference at this point.
3 wheel skates, on the other hand, aren’t really built for balance. While they do have a lower rider height, the larger wheels require larger frames. These frames automatically add height to the boot, compromising your stability.
As discussed already, 4 wheel skates have smaller wheels, which results in smaller frames. Therefore, you are lower to the ground, allowing you to reduce your overall center of gravity. This makes it much easier for you to maintain your balance. Not to mention, you can also spread your weight over 4 wheels instead of 3 wheels.
This is best exemplified by the Rollerblade Zetrablade inline skates. The 70mm wheels allow the entire inline skate to sit lower, allowing you to maintain stability without making as much of an effort.
Now, stability isn’t impossible with 3 wheel roller skates. As you can see with the K2 Trio 100 inline skates, 3 wheel skates tend to have smaller wheels. This allows for a better compromise between speed and balance and ensures the best of both worlds.
Nevertheless, if you are a beginner skater, then 4 wheel inline skates are the way to go. Only when you have become confident on these and learned the necessary skills should you consider moving onto inline skates with 3 wheels.
Winner: 4 wheel skates
Of course, skating involves a lot more than just gliding in a straight line. You also have to take turns, move in a circle, and be able to change directions in quick, short bursts. This is known as maneuverability. So, do 3 wheels or 4 wheels do better in this area?
Well, 3 wheel skates do have an advantage here. This is because with the design, a great deal of care has been taken to ensure that the wheels don’t extend too far from the base. This makes it easier for you to turn in a tight circle as well. Not to mention, the larger wheels on a shorter frame help in this case too.
Due to this, you will find that the Epic Skates Engage is one of the best skates when it comes to maneuvering. The wheels on this skate are a whopping 125mm. At the same time, the frame is lower, ensuring that you can turn in a circle without making as much of an effort.
Most 4 wheel skates are fairly maneuverable – after all, you can still turn and take corners on them. However, the action won’t be as tight, particularly if you are trying to move in a circle. Due to this, 3 wheel skates are better in this regard.
Winner: 3 wheel skates
What if you are trying to be cost-efficient? Does the design of the inline skates impact how much they cost? If so, which is the cheaper option for you?
It should be noted that you can find 3 wheel and 4 wheel skates at almost every price point. Thus, some brands and models will be much cheaper or more expensive than others, depending on their specifications and design.
Nevertheless, on average, 3 wheel inline skates will be slightly more expensive than 4 wheel ones. At the very least, you aren’t really going to find a “budget” option for 3 wheels. This is because larger wheels cost more, as you can imagine. Therefore, you will automatically be paying more for these skates.
As mentioned, 4 wheel inline skates will go up in price when you consider more professional designs, complete with high-end frames, bearings, and more.
Winner: 4 wheel skates
3 Wheel Inline Skates vs 4 Wheel Inline Skates: The Winner
I am hesitant to declare a winner in this particular comparison. Yes, as an experienced inline skater I almost exclusively use 3 wheel skates. Also, if you ask other inline skaters, they would admit that it should be your goal to eventually get to a point where you are comfortable with 3 wheel skates.
This is because 3 wheel skates are unparalleled in terms of both speed as well as maneuverability. Therefore, if you want to optimize your skating, then these are the skates that will work best in this regard.
Despite this, they don’t win the title across the board. At the end of the day, you will be hard-pressed to find a pair of skates that are more reliable than 4 wheeled ones. What they lack in speed and maneuverability, they make up for in balance and stability.
This is why I would recommend a particular type of inline skates for a specific kind of skater. For instance, if you are only just starting out with inline skating or graduating from quad skates, I would recommend that you get started with the 4 wheel inline skates.
These have the advantage of a lower center of gravity, allowing you to stay closer to the ground when you are strapped in. This way, you can keep your balance without having to make as much of an effort. Furthermore, this design also ensures that your body weight is distributed over 4 low wheels instead of 3 high ones.
Having this benefit means that you can focus on teaching yourself how to glide and turn without feeling like you are going to fall over. In this way, the skates can help you to feel more confident, as well.
Once you are sure of your ability to keep on your feet, then I suggest that you consider 3 wheel inline skates. This is because they give you the opportunity to elevate your performance. The reason for this is that the 3 wheel design lets you use larger wheels, without requiring overextension.
This translates to greater speed and maneuverability. At the same time, it does mean that you have to be careful about how you balance. If you know your way around skates, this won’t be as much of an issue for you.
Once you have graduated to the 3 wheel design, you will be able to get more out of your skates in terms of both speed and how easily and smoothly you move and turn.
Have you decided which one of these skates is best-suited to your abilities and requirements? If so, your next step will involve finding the best skates to take care of the job. To find the best variety at the best possible prices, make sure to check out Amazon. You can go through various brands and models across every price range.
When you are equipped with the perfect pair of skates that meet all your needs, only the sky’s the limit. You will be able to skate whenever and wherever you like, without any problem.
Check out our top picks on the best inline skates for beginners.