By Robert "Just the Factoids" BurnsonMarch 12, 2008
Bont's Semi-Race is both speedy and responsive. In fact, it's the fastest and best performing marathon skate we've tested. (Price: $330-399 USD)
A Different Kind of Marathon Skate
Not surprisingly, Bont, the world's top maker of racing skates, has designed a marathon skate ("trainer") that is nothing like the competition.
While the marathon skates made by Rollerblade and K2 are essentially modified fitness skates, the Semi-Race is a modified speed skate.
The Weight of Marathon Skates
K2 Radical Pro: 2lbs - 15.7oz
Bont Semi-Race: 3lbs - 3oz
K2 Radical 100: 3lbs - 3 oz
Rollerblade Marathon Carbon: 3lbs - 7oz
Rollerblade Marathon Carbon TF : 3lbs. - 8 oz
Bont Vaypor 3 Point racing skate: 2lbs - 11.5oz
All skates were size 42 Mondo (U.S. men's 9). They were weighed on a digital postal scale without brakes.
When I opened the Semi-Race box, my first thought was that Bont had sent me a pair of Vaypor racing boots by mistake. But then I noticed the higher cuff and realized I wasn't that lucky.
The skate's cuff is an inch or two higher than the cuff of a standard racing boot. But otherwise, the Semi-Race looks like any other three-point Bont racing skate.
The boots come in two color schemes: red and black or black and white (pictured above). The finish shines like high-gloss enamel. It's a nice looking skate, though some skaters might prefer the more traditional look of boot leather.
Getting Up to Speed
Unlike fitness-style marathon skates, the Semi-Race is not ready to roll right out of the box. In fact, the boots are so stiff and inflexible that it's difficult to immediately get them on your feet.
But that's the idea. The skates are supposed to be heat-molded before use. They are made with thermoplastics (among other things) which turn to goo when heated. This allows them to be heat-molded to conform to the shape of your feet.
To heat-mold them, you put them (without frames and laces) into an oven at 185 degrees (F) for 20 to 30 minutes. After heating, you put them on and lace them up.
Once heat-molded, the Semi-Race is as comfortable as any other racing skate ... which is to say that it is less comfortable than a typical fitness skate, but not a problem if you are accustomed to speed boots. In fact, once I got the skates on the road, I found them to be more comfortable than other off-the-shelf racing boots.
The first thing I noticed when I started testing these skates was how easy it was to control my edges. Their stiff, solid construction makes them feel like extensions of your legs.
There's no play or mush in the boots. They are responsive and nimble. When you ask them for something, they do it.
With other marathon skates, I have found it difficult to get a good under push. But with these, it was surprisingly easy.
The Semi-Race is unusually fast for a marathon skate.
In 1-mile time trials, I only lost three percent of my speed when I switched from my racing skates to the Semi-Race. With other marathon skates, I have been as much as 10 percent slower.
The Semi-Race is lighter than most fitness skates, but significantly heavier than a racing boot.
A size 9 (U.S.) Semi-Race weighs 3 pounds and 3 ounces, 7.5 ounces more than a three-point Bont Vaypor. (See Weight of Marathon Skates, above.) If you are used to wearing racing skates, you'll notice the extra weight after a few miles.
Inline Planet Buying Advice:
The first thing to do if you are in the market for marathon skates is decide what's more important for you: comfort and ease of use or speed.
If your primary concern is comfort, you will probably be happier with a traditional marathon skate, like the Rollerblade Marathon Carbon or K2 Radical Pro.
But if it's speed you're after (and you're not yet ready for full-on speed skates), go with the Semi-Race. It is the fastest marathon skate on the market.
What you get in the box:
Semi-Race bootsAluminum S-frameFour 100mm Hyper Stripe wheelsABEC 7 bearingsAllen keyBont laces
A brake can be ordered separately.