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Speed Skating Forum Most of the discussions in this forum will be about inline speed skating but discussions about ice speed skating and quad roller speed skating are also welcome.

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Old June 25th, 2019, 08:16 PM   #1
gopherfan
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Default 125 mm race wheels?

I'm a new convert to 125mm wheels and have been asking skaters what is the best road race wheel? Does anyone here have any head to head experience? Here is what I've been told:

#1) Bont Firm: Best roll which is attributed to the aluminum hub. The urethane is MPC. Firm is preferred due to the stiff hub. The wheel is noticeably heavier, but the roll is noticeably better. After SOTU Inline Marathon, three of us did a calibrated hand weight test compared to a Boom Magic. All three of us could feel the difference in a one wheel comparison. This is also the most expensive wheel. MPC urethane grips in wet conditions. The hub is VERY tight to the point that I've heard of ceramic bearings getting destroyed when applying force.

-- Matter G13. Some serious skaters are on this wheel. Sounds like the same characteristics as the smaller versions: great roll and horrible when wet. I've read comments that the newest hub is prone to break. I think the hub I've seen is a different, more solid hub so I'm not really sure what's going on with the hub.

--MPC Black Magic and Atom Boom Magic are the same hub and MPC urethane in different colors. I raced in a mix of 4 XF Black Magic and 2 XXF Boom Magic and was happy at both Apostle (smooth pavement) and SOTU (rougher). I'd like to try 4 XXF, but I'd also be worried about wet pavement. For reference, on 110mm I typically go harder as I feel they roll better. I believe the Apostle start to finish winner was on Black Magic.

--TLTF There are top finishers on this wheel as well. I've heard it is a great wheel, but hard to find.

--MPC Junk wheels. It has a smaller hub than Black Magic and therefore is a little heavier. I asked Fran (distributor and skater) last year about the difference and he said they are both great wheels that provide options for personal preference. If you register for NYC 100K, you can get them at half price while Black Magic are offered at 25% off. I have not seen 125mm Junk wheels at the races this year - I've seen all others mentioned here. I bought a couple sets largely due to price, but I don't get them until the NYC 100K.

If $$ didn't matter, I'd race on Bont Firm tomorrow. Even at the cost, I'd buy them because of superior roll, but the hub scares me off at this point. Asphalt Beach's Steve Larios said you really need to know what you're doing to get the bearings in and out, but even his expertise made it sound challenging. For 110s, I preferred G13 as long as it was dry. I'd try G13, but the evolving hub designs scare me off. G13 also requires an alternate wheel if you aren't sure of dry conditions. TLTF falls under "not enough information". At this point, I'll stick with MPC Black Magic unless I hear differently or get a financial windfall. I'd actually like someone to convince me to try Bont, but I don't want to screw up my bearings.

Lastly, SOTU was won on 110s. Second was on 2x125, 2x110 (yeah, who knew). It's not all about wheel size, but I am a born skeptic who is going all in with 125s this year.
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Old June 25th, 2019, 08:47 PM   #2
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I actually bought two sets (at a good price) of the Bont Red Magic wheels last year, but have never used them. I've only been skating for fun, so I just haven't gotten around to mounting the 125 frames on my boots. But, I actually pulled them out this past weekend, mounted the new frames, and was planning to put the wheels on in the next day or so. What's the issue with the Bont wheels from a bearing install standpoint? Is there a special procedure you have to do?

In terms of the wheels, I think it boils down to the same three players that have been dominating the outdoor scene, at least in the US. For me, I always stick to Matter, but would be perfectly happy racing on MPC or Bont. I bought the Bont wheels because they were available and I got a good deal on them. For 110s, the Matters don't do that great in the rain, but it depends on the pavement. I actually got caught in the rain last week (first time in years when just skating for fun), and the Matters I had on were as slick as ice on the trail pavement. But, once I got on a "road surface," they were fine. So, maybe some of it has to do with pavement. I saw Hernan skate on 125 matter wheels at Apostle several years ago (2015) in the rain and he said he didn't have a problem. Everyone is different when it comes to equipment and what works and what doesn't.

*Also, I think the 125s are deceiving. You can throw them on and break all kinds of personal bests solo. I used 125s for six months or so a couple years back and instantly broke all of my personal records at the local trail. But, I tried racing in them and didn't do well at all. I do think they are faster, but I think the transition period when it comes to racing well in them is longer than what it may seem if you only go by your impressions during practice.
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Old July 3rd, 2019, 04:34 PM   #3
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I had a chance to install bearings in the Bont Red Magic wheels last night. Haven't skated on them yet; hoping to do that today. But, this was the first time I had seen a Red Magic up close. I agree with everything that was said. The wheels seem to weigh a lot. The aluminum hub is seriously impressive. I'm amazed that it's feasible from a cost perspective to build wheels like that. Of the six wheels that I put bearings in, three of the wheels were a piece of cake. The bearings slipped in with a normal amount of pressure (as you would find on a typical wheel/hub). On the other three, a lot more effort was required. I could only get the bearings to go about half way in and then I had to use my body weight, pressing the bearing against a flat surface (concrete floor) to force it the rest of the way in. Even that didn't completely do the trick. I had to take a bearing tool wrench and push/wiggle the bearing, which finally helped push it down far enough. I would say I spent at least 30 minutes or so on those three wheels. I did damage the shield of a bearing in the process and decided to remove it and put a new one in. On the bright side, I was able to remove the bearing from the wheel once it had been fully seated. Again, it took a lot of effort, but it did come out. I'm not sure if I would have the same success after the bearings had been in there for a while (and skated on). But, I was able to remove one last night.

All in all, putting bearings in took a lot more effort than a traditional wheel. Not sure it was something that would turn me off from buying these wheels, but it's not something I would want to deal with 30 minutes or an hour before a race. I'm not the strongest person in the world, but it took a lot of force to get the bearings in and get them out...and, this is isn't something you would want to mess with if you only had a short amount of time. Again, the quality is super impressive. The hub is massive and it's pretty amazing to see a piece of aluminum that substantial in a skating wheel.
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Old July 3rd, 2019, 07:31 PM   #4
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I'm not at all surprised you had trouble installing some bearings.

Bont's 'new' hubs are different from original hubs.

Early hubs were designed with bearing cavity having slightly larger inside diameter so bearings just dropped in and slid a bit. Also, early hubs had the bearing seats slightly closer together so that standard bearing spacers wouldn't pinch bearings, resulting in wheels 'slapping' back and forth when skating.

To make bearing installation easier in the new hubs you may consider putting your bearings into a deep-freezer for a day (or regular freezer if that's all you have access to) to shrink them and leaving wheels in strong sunlight to warm them. Then, at time of pressing coat the bearing outer surface with light oil. DO NOT press heavily on the bearing's inner race when installing as this is a good way to permanently damage the bearing.
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Old July 3rd, 2019, 07:47 PM   #5
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about "cost"... my thoughts

molded hubs have a lot of imbedded NRE (non-recurring expense) such as mold tooling, plastics tailoring and testing. These large costs are spread out over a long period of time, each wheel sold carrying a small amount of that burden. Also... molded hubs also have the added risk of molding process variables and/or plastic resin compounding issues causing bad hubs. Sellers need to 'price in' the risk to them of getting mold-lots of bad hubs.

The Bont aluminum hub, being machined using modern processes, can be made in relatively low quantities and be surprisingly cost competitive because it does not need to carry the large NRE and risk of molded wheels..
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Old July 3rd, 2019, 07:49 PM   #6
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I have set of 'early' wheels that I bought to use as rain wheels.
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Old July 3rd, 2019, 08:10 PM   #7
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Thanks for the feedback. It's rare that I get set of wheels where all the hubs have the same tightness. Some either seem too tight or a little too loose. Guessing the margin of error is just so slim that it's impossible (or not cost effective) to be 100% precise. As you upgrade to hubs like the aluminum ones, that margin of error starts to have a bigger impact because it's a much tougher chore to get the bearings in and out. Or, it could be the bearings (being different in size).

I don't always think Bont's quality control is the greatest. I will say that I have a lot of respect for Bont. I think they choose great people to represent their brand (in the USA) and I think they have great people selling and distributing their products. And, I think over the years, they have provided stock boots that are about as good as you can get, especially in the 200 to 500 range, and I think they have come out some good products. But, I recently helped a friend mount his Bont boots and frames. Maybe I'm spoiled by custom boots costing a lot more, but I just felt that there were some minor blemishes here and there (glue spots on the boot as an example). The laces were entirely too long, which doesn't seem like a huge deal, but it's kind of a big deal if you're trying to tuck away the additional length. I think their mounting bolts strip easily and some even come stripped. The wrench that was included with the skates didn't fit the axles or the mounting bolts. In addition, the mounting bolts are tricky because rather than screwing into a "block," they screw into a nut that is in a slot. Not a big deal, but sometimes it's difficult to get the bolt and nut to tighten properly (or maybe it's just me). Again, I think very highly of Bont (or I have in the past), but I just found some issues as I was helping him out. I'm surprised they don't work through some of these things (with the pro skaters they represent) and make changes to the product (or maybe they do). The wheels look great, but the hub is kind of pain to work with. I'm not convinced it's a deal breaker, but it could be a headache if you didn't what you were doing and didn't have the right tool on hand. If someone at Asphalt Beach is saying "it's hard" (who has a lot of experience), I think most people probably experience something similar. Not a big deal, but I think they could maybe do a little more to work through quality control and design.
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Old July 3rd, 2019, 08:39 PM   #8
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I've gotta run off on an errand right now... but I'd like to come back to a lot of the points you've made. There are a lot of design trade-offs made that you seem to consider as negatives when I see them as smart and/or good value.

I'm waiting right now for feedback from wife before setting off on errand and so I'll comment on manufacturing tolerances. Nothing... NOTHING! can be made 100% perfect... ever. Plastic hubs can be more forgiving when installing bearings because plastic yields much more easily than aluminum. The hub bearing seat I.D. (inside diameter) will always vary a bit +/- from design nominal. Bearing O.D. (outside diameter) will also vary a bit +/- from design nominal. Cheap bearings may vary more. Plastic hubs can accommodate this a bit more gracefully. An aluminum hub ID will not yield easily to an oversized bearing, sometimes resulting in a light press-fit. As I see it... Bont is trying to tweak its hub to meet up with the 'class' of bearings used by the folks most likely to buy such a high end wheel.
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Old July 3rd, 2019, 08:42 PM   #9
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I've got some thoughts about how to best utilize big heavy wheels. The physics are interesting. I can explain why they are 'sluggish'. Only some of the reason is weight.
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Old July 5th, 2019, 04:04 AM   #10
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Default My 125 1cent opinion.

125 wheels.

After testing almost every Outdoor 125 wheel available my preference is the Matter G13. My other options are the MPC black Magic or Atom Boom Magic work great. The Bont Aluminum hub wasn't worth the hype as getting the right spacers was a hassle. Yes the Matter cost more but you will find they last twice as long also. The TLTF I was disappointed. I have old sets of matter that have out lasted the other brands X 2. Just my opinion.
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Old July 5th, 2019, 06:38 AM   #11
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Even ABEC1 bearings have a diameter variation of at most .01mm, which is much smaller than the tolerance to which the hubs can be machined (without great expense).

Though now it makes me wonder what the factory does with bearings that fail quality control because they're a little to big or too small? Throw them in the scrap bin, or market them to non-industrial users who aren't going to notice a bit of variation...

One could improvise a bearing press by sticking an M8 or 5/16 bolt through a thick washer, the wheel, a loose bearing, and a second washer. Put a nut on the end and tighten to pull the bearing into the wheel. Getting the first bearing back out sounds like it would be a pain, though. Perhaps Bont could make more money by selling them with bearings pre-installed...

Strangely, I prefer the Bont slot nuts to usual mounting block, though it takes some getting used to, it's handy to keep the frame in the same spot and shift the bolt if you have wheel clearance issues.
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Old July 5th, 2019, 03:38 PM   #12
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I didn't read through all of the posts here, but I'll give my $.02. I converted to 125mm for 2 years and went back to 4x110mm for both indoor and outdoor. My ankles thanked me for it and I was able to sustain a better pace for longer.

That said, my experience with 125mm wheels was:

You won't find 125mm Junk wheels, because they're not made. IMO, the 110mm XXF Junk Road Reapers are the best wheels on the market right now.

MPC Black Magic: I have used both XF and XXF and find that the XXF worked better for me at my weight (185 pounds). They had nicer roll and both had decent damp surface grip.

Atom Boom Magic: I have used the XXF version and they had similar roll to the Black Magic, but not as much grip in damp conditions.

Bont Red Magic Hardcore (aluminum hubs): I didn't like these at all. Heavy and seemed to be slower than any other wheel that I tried. Definitely not worth the ridiculous asking price.

Matter G13: I can't remember offhand which hardness I used, because I used them once and sold them. The profile was too thin for me.

Matter One20Five (blue hubs): These were good wheels for training (IMO) and to me, didn't compare to the MPC or Atom wheels.
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Old July 6th, 2019, 02:58 AM   #13
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I know this post is getting somewhat off topic, but hey, there isn't a lot of feedback on this forum (unfortunately) these days. I had a chance to skate on the Bont Red Magic wheels on Wednesday and here is my take on the wheels and 125 in general. Keep in mind, this is the first time I have skated on 125 mm wheels in at least 2 years. On Wednesday, I skated about 16 miles, so a decent distance to form an initial impression. I agree with everything that has been said. I don't know if it's just me, and not being familiar with 125 mm wheels, but I did think the "set-up" felt heavy. I hate to use the word sluggish, but that's kind of what it felt like (skating on the Red Magic wheels). On the positive side of things, I thought the roll was excellent. I also thought the grip was great. I really felt like the wheels were outstanding, other than maybe the weight.

In terms of 125s, and again this is keeping in mind that I have only skated on them once in the last two years, so my opinion may change, but there is no doubt that the bigger wheels are faster (or roll better). I haven't done any fast miles in a really long time, and I was easily doing miles in the 2:36 range, which is a lot faster than what I've been putting out on 110s. Lately, my average on 110s, even though I don't time much anymore, is probably 2:48 to 2:56. So, my first day out on 125s I was in the 2:30s and honestly not even trying too hard.

With all that being said, I still prefer 110s. To me, the 125s require a lot more control. They are fun to skate on, but you really have to be on top of your technique in order to make them work. I still feel so much more comfortable on 110s. Maybe it was the weight of the Bont wheels, but I didn't feel like I could match my normal cadence without a significant increase in effort. From a racing perspective, I don't think 125s would be beneficial to anyone that isn't an elite skater. Again, I think they require you to really be on top of your game in the technique department and a lot of people don't have that. I do think someone with average technique could probably stick in a pace line and just roll (with the 125s), but if the course is technical or hilly or if there are a lot of changes in the pace of the race, I just don't see 125s being the right fit for the non-elite group. I think on the right skater, no doubt 125s are the way to go, but if I were going to race tomorrow, I'd probably still choose the 110s.
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Old July 7th, 2019, 06:36 PM   #14
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Ty, I think you are being swayed by two things that don't apply to most skaters:

1. All your skating is solo so you aren't aware of how much energy you can save sitting in a paceline with 125 roll.
2. You skated elite open which has race dynamics much more challenging than all other divisions.

As a pro-masters skater, it became obvious to me as the only 110 skater that I was not rolling relatively as well as the competition who all transitioned to 125s. I'll admit that since I was on the PS CF frame that has a ridiculously high deck height, I did not have to pay a height penalty going to 125. The overall height is about the same.

Chuck, 125 Junk wheels are being sold on MPC's website and have been available through the 100K registration for a couple years including this year. As far as G13, I see Matter does list that they have a thinner profile on their website. It also appears Bart Swings prefers the OneTwentyFives with the standard profile. Matter says nothing as to why the G13 is offered with two different hubs.
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Old July 7th, 2019, 07:38 PM   #15
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Ty, I think you are being swayed by two things that don't apply to most skaters:

1. All your skating is solo so you aren't aware of how much energy you can save sitting in a paceline with 125 roll.
2. You skated elite open which has race dynamics much more challenging than all other divisions.

As a pro-masters skater, it became obvious to me as the only 110 skater that I was not rolling relatively as well as the competition who all transitioned to 125s. I'll admit that since I was on the PS CF frame that has a ridiculously high deck height, I did not have to pay a height penalty going to 125. The overall height is about the same.

Chuck, 125 Junk wheels are being sold on MPC's website and have been available through the 100K registration for a couple years including this year. As far as G13, I see Matter does list that they have a thinner profile on their website. It also appears Bart Swings prefers the OneTwentyFives with the standard profile. Matter says nothing as to why the G13 is offered with two different hubs.
I agree with you. A while back, I ran into a skater on the local trail who was using 125s. We had a tailwind at our back. I only skated with this person for a few miles, but it was obvious to me that with the wind at our back and him drafting behind me, I wasn't going to drop him on the 125s. I just remember thinking, "this isn't even fair." I could easily sense the equipment advantage he had over me. With that being said, this was with a tailwind and drafting. You take that some skater and throw a head wind into the equation and a hill or two, and I think I would have dropped him easily on 110s.

It's the same for me. On good days, especially when there is no wind or a tail wind, I can go out and set all kinds of personal bests on the bigger 125 wheels. But, you add in a head wind, lots of stopping and starting, and I'm a totally different skater on the 125s. But, I'm not trying to sway anyone from using them. If you look at the world inline cup marathons, it appears that almost everyone is on 125s. Interesting enough though, a lot of the USA events have been won on 110s (duluth last year, Skate of the Union this year, and others). I would be surprised if anyone won the NYC100K or A2A using the bigger wheels, but maybe. So, 110s are still competitive, but I hear what you are saying...in a pace line, with the right group, on the right course, with consistent speed, in good conditions, you are at a serious disadvantage with the smaller wheels.
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Old July 7th, 2019, 11:06 PM   #16
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I agree with you. A while back, I ran into a skater on the local trail who was using 125s. We had a tailwind at our back. I only skated with this person for a few miles, but it was obvious to me that with the wind at our back and him drafting behind me, I wasn't going to drop him on the 125s. I just remember thinking, "this isn't even fair." I could easily sense the equipment advantage he had over me. With that being said, this was with a tailwind and drafting. You take that some skater and throw a head wind into the equation and a hill or two, and I think I would have dropped him easily on 110s.

It's the same for me. On good days, especially when there is no wind or a tail wind, I can go out and set all kinds of personal bests on the bigger 125 wheels. But, you add in a head wind, lots of stopping and starting, and I'm a totally different skater on the 125s. But, I'm not trying to sway anyone from using them. If you look at the world inline cup marathons, it appears that almost everyone is on 125s. Interesting enough though, a lot of the USA events have been won on 110s (duluth last year, Skate of the Union this year, and others). I would be surprised if anyone won the NYC100K or A2A using the bigger wheels, but maybe. So, 110s are still competitive, but I hear what you are saying...in a pace line, with the right group, on the right course, with consistent speed, in good conditions, you are at a serious disadvantage with the smaller wheels.

With all that said the marathon clock doesn't lie. Records have been broken and set with 125's. This has been debated for years now but you can't argue with the clock.... Well you can but only if you want to look silly!
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Old July 8th, 2019, 03:07 PM   #17
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Chuck, 125 Junk wheels are being sold on MPC's website and have been available through the 100K registration for a couple years including this year. As far as G13, I see Matter does list that they have a thinner profile on their website. It also appears Bart Swings prefers the OneTwentyFives with the standard profile. Matter says nothing as to why the G13 is offered with two different hubs.
I had forgotten about the Junk Deadshot 125mm wheels. Mostly because I had heard that they weren't the same as the 110mm Road Reapers, which are my wheel of choice outdoors. But, they are MPC urethane, which tends to be better than most outdoors, so they "may" do well for you.
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Old July 8th, 2019, 03:35 PM   #18
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With all that said the marathon clock doesn't lie. Records have been broken and set with 125's. This has been debated for years now but you can't argue with the clock.... Well you can but only if you want to look silly!
Then it needs to be understood why US elite divisions are dominated by 110s? I think everyone agrees 125s roll better, but racing involves a lot more variables. When I asked Jerome (SOTU winner) why he wasn't on 125s, he told me he prefers a high cadence. 110s may also help climbing hills (where he is a title contender every year at the hilly NY 100K and 87mile A2A, and the course record holder for the flatter 128km Defi Montreal). As far as the clock goes, Francisco swears he time trials faster on 110s. I suspect when you include all factors (weather, hills, acceleration, roll, drafting, breakaways, solo, strength, cadence, balance/technique, pavement, wheels, etc), different skaters will have different optimum set-ups - sometimes even for different races.
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Old July 8th, 2019, 08:03 PM   #19
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Then it needs to be understood why US elite divisions are dominated by 110s? I think everyone agrees 125s roll better, but racing involves a lot more variables. When I asked Jerome (SOTU winner) why he wasn't on 125s, he told me he prefers a high cadence. 110s may also help climbing hills (where he is a title contender every year at the hilly NY 100K and 87mile A2A, and the course record holder for the flatter 128km Defi Montreal). As far as the clock goes, Francisco swears he time trials faster on 110s. I suspect when you include all factors (weather, hills, acceleration, roll, drafting, breakaways, solo, strength, cadence, balance/technique, pavement, wheels, etc), different skaters will have different optimum set-ups - sometimes even for different races.
On the US side, I think the argument has always been that the handful of truly elite skaters we have spend most of their time on the track or indoors. And, thus, they don't use 125s, so when they show up at the marathons, they win just because they are that much better than everyone else and the equipment has very little to do with it (i.e., they would win on 125s too).

I haven't heard of anyone winning a world cup level race on 110s recently. Not sure if that's because nobody is using them or if they are truly that much more inferior to 125s. I don't follow the international races that closely, so it's possible someone has won on 110s (recently).

I would like to see Bart Swings do a solo marathon on 125s and then do one on 110s and just see what the time difference would be. I do think he would be faster on the 125s, but I don't think it would be huge. He was skating sub 1-hr times on 110s and I don't think his times on 125s are drastically different (but I guess that depends on how you define "drastically"). The NSIM record was set on 110s, despite many elite skaters (world class) using 125s in prior years. Granted, wind and maybe even course conditions and changes aided in that, but it does show that 110s are still really fast.

Had a chance to look at Bart's results at Berlin (and below are the times):

2013: 59:28
2014: 58:10
2015: 56:49 (I believe this was the first year on 125s - could be wrong)
2016: 59:59
2017: 58:42
2018: 57:58

Hard to tell by looking at this data how much of an impact the 125s make. Just looking at the times, it doesn't appear to be extreme, assuming 2013 and 2014 were done on 110s.
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Old July 18th, 2019, 12:34 AM   #20
SkateMO
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I think this video is proof that 110 wheels are still alive in the marathon scene. Yes, the overwhelming majority of the skaters are on 125. But, I counted at least two skaters with 110s in the top 10? If you look at the 1:00 mark, there is a guy leading the pack on 110s. Again, 110s are definitely not as popular, but I'm convinced that they are not completely inferior, even at the highest level of racing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H21Ct8M2Nk
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