New Harlick Skates Break-in

by mary on April 21, 2014

new Harlicks, first time on my feet.

New Harlicks, first time on my feet.

They’re finally here! Picked up my new skates on Wednesday and tried them out for fifteen minutes. Within five minutes I flew over the toe-picks: not sure whether I caught a pick in the laces or just wasn’t used to the new blades. Luckily that hasn’t happened since and each day I’ve been able to do a little more.

Harlick recommends leaving the top two sets of hooks unlaced for 4-6 hours of practice and then just the top set unlaced for the next 4-6 hours. Of course the partially unlaced skates feel insecure. You aren’t supposed to jump, spin, or bend your knees deeply during that 10-12 hours. The idea is to get creases to start forming in the proper place on the boots without putting too much stress on your ankles and feet or the new boots. I’ve been doing basic stroking, slaloming, and bit by bit getting back to my gold moves.

Looking at this photo of my skates from Wednesday I can see how loosely they were tied: the boots are so stiff at first that it’s hard to get them tied snugly. It helps to re-tie them every half an hour or so to gradually work the laces tighter.

By Friday my ankles were cut on the outsides from the top edges of the boots. I covered the cuts with bunion pads and athletic tape, that worked to keep them from getting any worse. I thought that Bunga Pad ankle sleeves like a friend of mine uses in her skates might help me. I bought a long gel ankle sleeve at a local skate shop and cut it in half. We’ll see how it works on Monday: I have high hopes.

Once I’d been in the new skates I found the old ones intolerable. I’d thought I might use both while breaking in the new pair, but my instinct when I tried the old skates after the new ones was that I wanted them off my feet, and I didn’t last more than five minutes in them. Just felt really weird like my brain was going overtime to get used to the old balance points again, and they felt choppy on the turns and like they didn’t have enough glide. I guess I really did need new blades?

I had complained to my coaches that I had virtually no rocker anymore, that’s how it felt, and they looked at the blades and commiserated. But looking at the two blades I’m not sure that I can see a difference. Someone told me a while ago that the old ones were ground excessively at the tail, and my skate fitter told me recently that they were almost at the last possible sharpening.

old Harlicks with Gold Seal blade

old Harlicks with Gold Seal blade

I really loved the Gold Seals when they were new and the Pinnacles are supposed to be equivalent. I’ve been nervous about whether they actually are. You can see by the odd reflections in the top photo that the Gold Seals are side honed to get a sharper bite into the ice, which the Pinnacles are not. The Gold Seals are also tapered at the tail, but not the Pinnacles. The rocker profile, the shape of the curve, is supposed to be the same.

My skate fitter told me that the manufacturers had not seen any difference in performance with the side-honing and tapering, and the Gold Seals are much harder to sharpen with those differences in shape. I hope he’s right about the equivalent performance. I see that some of the top Olympians are still using Gold Seals, so they certainly are not obsolete.

A big advantage of the Pinnacles and the other new blades with stainless steel runners is that they can go much longer between sharpenings. Since each sharpening wears down the blades a little (and can change their profile) the fewer sharpenings the better. I have to drive almost an hour each way to get mine sharpened, so there’s cost and inconvenience to sharpenings, too.

The Pinnacles and other newer blades are very lightweight. In theory that improves performance. The difference in weight is negligible compared to a skater’s whole body, but being on your feet they are at the very end of a big lever arm, your leg, perhaps that makes is a noticeable difference. I can certainly tell the difference in weight when I pick up the pair of skates.

All I can say about the differences (or not) between the two blades is that so far, so good. I felt a very nice bite into the ice from these new blades and they feel stable. On Friday coach Lisa had me test the new skates in various ways. She had me glide on each foot without trying to change my direction and my glides went completely straight, proving that the blades were  mounted true.

new Harlicks with Eclipse Pinnacle blade

new Harlicks with Eclipse Pinnacle blade

I did not feel secure enough to do backward to forward three turns in the new skates, so coach Lisa helped me by holding my hand while I skated my turns as if I were just learning them for the first time. I was blaming the new skates for my inability to do the turns, since normally I do them every day that I skate, but Lisa told me it was actually my technique. I resisted that idea, but she is right that my technique is aggravating the problem of getting used to the new blades.

My main problem is on my right back inside three turn, where I don’t get enough rotation with the upper body before the turn. I really have to fix that to make the turn with these new blades. After working with Lisa for a while I was once again able to do the turns on my own, though that one turn still has intermittent problems.

Yesterday I made more progress with the new blades and was able to start practicing my bracket pattern again for the gold moves. I’m really hoping I can break these skates in fast enough to be able to test the gold moves again in May. I’ll have a couple of weeks to decide whether to test then.

There are no local test sessions in June so it’s either May or July, and USFSA is changing the gold moves test in July.  I want to get it done before they change the test. I also want to test the Ten Fox before my ice dance coach goes away for the summer. But May is very close! Wish me luck on getting used to these new skates and getting them broken in!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eva April 22, 2014 at 1:02 pm

So pretty! Good to know that the new blades aren’t totally different from the Gold Seals. I did hear about the Gold MIF changes, and it looks like the backwards 8 will be easier without the pesky inside pattern. I’ll be curious to hear what you think of the new power circles since they are combining the forward and backward patterns. Good luck adjusting to your new boots and blades! I get my new blades on Saturday (same blade, just new), and I can’t wait!
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mary April 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Yeah, it’s funny. The figure eight is the one thing that I passed last time, with above-level marks from two of the judges. And yet now I’m having trouble getting around that inside eight. Still, I feel like I’ve put so much work into learning it that I want it to be on my test. The power circles are my strongest move so I don’t want to skate with those changed, either. I hope you like your new Coronation Aces, I was certainly happy with them for all the years that I skated on them.

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