Nov 08 2012

Gravity Master – serious brakes for serious blading

Get your pads on and ride.
Pray you don’t need to stop.

Ran into a man at the Start Haus last week (I’m pimping gear and stoke for them) who was headed out the door with a serious piece of speed machinery in his hands – I’m talking wheels, not edges – for pavement, not snow. Where the no fall zone begins a lot sooner, and the consequences of a wipe out get out of hand in a hurry. This is shussing with full armor, mental and physical.

I’m talking about a six-wheeled roller blade and I’m talking stability at speed but, gulp, no good way to stop. Until now.

When the rubber meets the road things start smokin’.

Ellis was his name, his first the same as mine, and he had a cheshire grin, like he had just eaten something lip smackin’ good. He cradled the thing that was in his hands like a trophy and it was soon evident why. This was a pavement skiers way to slow down and turn, rather than just hold on, aim well, and ride it out. It makes six inline wheels under your feet, uh, “safe”, er, lowers the probability of a bloody wreck.

You can add the brake to your existing blades, or step up to a 6-wheeled downhill version.

It works by using the mechanical power of your lower leg, like skiing, except you lean back to brake. It sounds unnerving but Craig was rather confident and exuberant about how stable it made users feel. It is tempting and looking at the connection it is easy to see how a person can drive the brake pad down with enough lower leg pressure to provide serious resistance and the power to control it.

“Does it burn through the brakes?” I asked.

“Ha, ha, yeah,” Craig chuckled, “it can burn through em.”

In the asphalt world steep starts waaaaaay sooner than on snow.

I don’t know how much it started with, but there was only an inch of pad left. It had been clearly ground to a smooth angle by #5 grid asphalt, with ridges running lengthwise. The pad looked strong enough to provide some serious stopping power, but I did not ask to take ‘er for a ride.

Adrenaline junkies, on the other hand, might be licking their chops for an opportunity to ride such a pair of rolling rockets. Give Craig Ellis a buzz (3-ten-seven-21-twenty-97), he’ll be happy to set you up.

Craig Ellis is a mechanical engineer with a degree from Rensselaer Polytechinic Institute (RPI), where he was captain of the ski team, and he holds an MBA from UCLA. He spent much of his career designing and building airplanes. He was the head of composite materials on the B2 stealth bomber and worked on many NASA structures programs during his career. In 2007 he was ranked #25 in the world by the International Inline Downhill Association. This Fall, Ellis worked with the Mammoth Mountain Ski Team coaches and athletes on his skates as part of their dryland training program.
© 2012

  • Kevin Francis

    Hey we trained with these this summer! A bunch of Mammoth Mountain Ski Team athletes met up with the inventor and went skating. After the first day getting the hang of it on a moderate hill, we took it to the max, without any trouble. Total control is RIGHT!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.kadas Ben Kadas

    When I lived in Truckee in the mid eighties I had a set of five wheeled Roller Blades, aluminum frame, 70mm wheels (?), they were a total hoot, waay fast, but I didn’t use a rubber stopped to brake, instead it was all about cutting back and forth to control speed. My favorite skates were coming down Donner Pass Rd starting at the old Cal Trans building and finishing at the lake, Mt Rose Highway from above the snowmobiling meadows and into Incline, and the grand daddy of the long rides was going down Hwy 50 into Washoe/Carson. Great fun and awesome for building powerful quads. I have quite a few scars from those days, including a big chunk of scar tissue on my right hip from sliding under a car on Mt Tam, whoops! Hey Craig, you need a set ;)

  • Tom Reid

    My 13 year old son is on the Mammoth Ski Team. We went out with Craig and from the first run he looked awesome. No reason to do a 15%+ grade, but he did anyway very comfortably. They are great for summer training, same muscles, same balance, technique etc. I like them for fitness on the flat, but feel more confident being able to stop so quickly. The 6 wheels per skate smooth out the monstrous cracks and canyons on my road. If you aren’t training on snow over a 80 days a year and want to be super competitive you gotta get some of these. Or if you just want to have some good old gravity assisted fun or if you like fitness skating but want a signicantly better brake than the multitude of other skates I have tried.

  • Guest

    Craig – feel free to suggest edits to my last comment, I want to respond but not sound like a “dick”, which I know I can sometimes without meaning to…!!! Thanks! Craig

  • George Merkert

    I’m George Merkert – three time US National Inline Downhill Champion. I started training for inline downhill in 1996 as a way to make summer fun until ski racing season started again. Since I started training inline dh (in 1996) speed control has been a HUGE issue. I’ve raced in inline dh world championship races on gnarly courses in Europe and have skated many steep routes (like Onion Valley and Mt. Baldy) with whatever braking system I was trying at the time. I’ve used them all from wheel braking (skidding) to conventional heel brakes to Rollerblade ABT’s to custom brake force multipliers. The only brake that has ever given me the confidence that I can stop when I need no matter how steep the pitch is the Gravity Master. And it’s incredibly easy to use. I trained on it for only two days before using it in a race.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.lockhart.581 Scott Lockhart

    What a novel concept. I rollerblade and ice skate for dry land training for skiing, so this would really work out nice.

  • Craig Ellis

    UPDATE: Breakthrough season: The current 2017 points leaders in all four disciplines of the International Inline Downhill Association are racing with Gravity Master brakes. It was a pretty quick trip to the top for #skatebrakesthatwork !!