When I first saw a 3x125 setup, I think I had the same feelings as nearly everyone else. I wasn’t ready to change. I loved my 4x110 setup — the way it looked, the way it skated, the vast number of options I have for wheels based on any course conditions I would dream of encountering. I knew what characteristics I liked in the feel of a 4x110 setup, and could knew which wheels and frames fit my criteria best.
I had questions about the 3x125. The main question, of course, is whether or not 3x125 is faster than 4x110. Yeah, the wheels are bigger, but would having one less touch point on the ground impact the amount of power I could produce from each stroke? And if they are faster, how come more pro skaters in Europe aren’t on them? Even the ones sponsored by companies who made the 3x125 frames weren’t on them.
I had other questions too, like how would it feel? Would it be a radical change? Will it take weeks of training on the 125s just to be able to match the speed I had on the 125s? Would my ankles get destroyed because of the extra height? Will it be easier to get on my edges or harder? Will I be able to turn a corner at speed? What will the length feel like? Will this be a short lived fad that I shouldn’t bother spending a single dollar on, or is this going to be the “new normal” over the course of the next few years?
Well, after Duluth I decided to answer as many questions as I could first hand.
Before I get to that, I should mention that another question I typed above has really been answered already this year — the question about European and American pros racing on them. Bart and Joey proved at Duluth that the 3x125s weren’t slow. Bart’s performances at both Duluth and Berlin on these wheels have got to be some of the most impressive wins I’ve ever seen. Yes, the majority of that has got to be because Bart is one of the best skaters there ever has been, but perhaps his equipment had something to do with those performances as well. More and more pro skaters in the european pack seem to be switching over to the 125s. Perhaps they are doing it out of sponsor obligations, I’m not sure. But, they’ve surely proven that 125s are not slow.
Now that I’ve skated on 3x125s a handful of times, I’d love to answer some of the questions that I’ve frequently heard, and also have had myself. First of all, how do they feel? In short, not as different from 4x110s as I expected. Really, I think that the difference in feel between two wheel companies like Matter and MPC is greater than the difference in feel between 4x110 and 3x125. I don’t feel any higher. My ankles don’t feel like they are working any harder to balance me. In general, the balance is exactly the same. If you can skate well on 4x110 (or even 4x100), you are going to skate well on 3x125.
Skating on them isn’t EXACTLY the same as 4x110. I do feel a few differences. The skate feels lighter, and I mean that in two different ways. For one, it feels like it weighs less. I haven’t weighed the frames and wheels yet to confirm, but I’m quite certain it is true. Second, the 3x125s feel “light” in that they are easier to push with. I’m not sure if this is the result of the size of the wheel, the fact there are 3 wheels instead of 4, or just the wheel itself. Other than some noise issues, I think that Matter hit a home run with these 125 wheels. Have you ever noticed that some wheels just feel like they take a lot of power to push and you they make you have a lower turnover rate vs other wheels that are easy to turn over and seem to reward a high cadence? To me, these fall into the second camp.
My first time skating on these wheels, I drafted off Alex while he was on his bike. We don’t do this very often. We usually either both skate or are both on bikes. Anyway, i was amazed at the immediate performance I felt. We were always going a few mph faster than I thought we were going. Drafting behind the bike at 24mph couldn’t have been easier. If Alex wasn’t so winded from having to hold 24mph for miles on his road bike, i could have easily had a conversation with him at that pace. These wheels just roll and roll. I’m not sure how they sprint yet, but the cruising speed is very high. Higher than 4x110 at the same effort level, in my opinion. Since they are so easy to turn over, my legs never felt remotely tired.
When Alex skated on the 3x125 by himself, he tied his fastest solo lap ever the very first time he ever skated on them. His second lap on them was his 3rd fastest solo lap ever.
Last night, I did a solo lap around our 10 mile lake, just to see how close I could come to our record. Our previous record skating together was 25:20, and I remember that being a perfect day. Last night, weather conditions were pretty much ideal and the trail wasn’t very crowded, but I had to slow down quite a bit at two intersections to let traffic pass. I figured it probably cost me about 10 seconds or so. Otherwise, I knew it was a pretty fast lap. When I finished, I was expecting to see about 25:45, but would have been excited with anything under 26:00. I was pretty astonished to see 24:50. That’s 30 seconds faster than I’ve EVER skated around our training loop before. I’ve skated thousands of laps around this lake, and I’m not even in great race shape right now. This 3x125 setup is definitely faster than anything I’ve ever skated on.
It’s not ALL positive though. It might be mental, but I’m still a bit nervous taking very sharp turns at high speed. I felt like I knew the limit of my 4x110s. I haven’t discovered the limit of these 125s yet, so I’ve been taking corners a tad bit more conservative. They seem more slick than my 4x110s on water or sandy asphalt. I was expecting the bigger wheels to roll over any obstacles in their path. 4x100 felt like it rolled over cracks and sticks WAY better than 5x84 or 5x80, so 3x125 should, in my mind, roll over cracks and sticks like a monster truck would. To my surprise, they don’t feel that much different than the smaller wheels over cracks, sticks, rocks, etc. I’ve even had a few close calls when I accidentally stepped into some deep cracks or divots in the asphalt.
So if you skipped to the bottom get get my final opinion, here it is. 3x125 is the future of the sport. Our sport is about going fast, and I firmly believe that 3x125 is faster than 4x110. They aren’t so fast that guys on 4x110 can’t keep up, but I would say that skaters on 3x125s have an advantage. Again, I don’t really know how they sprint yet. So far I think it would be pretty good. The top speed feels good to me. I can tell you for sure that my cruising speed at a given effort is faster than I was on 4x110. In our sport, races are often decided by very small margins, so having the fastest wheels could be the difference between being on the podium and being the guy/gal taking a picture of the podium. Which one do you want to be?