Rollerski Review: Aluminum vs. Composite (Pursuit Fork Flex & Marwe 620XC)
While we're (hopefully) nearing the end of the roller ski season, I thought I'd share my experiences with the models I've used for the past seven years in case someone is trying to decide on a great holiday gift for a skier.
Pursuit Fork Flex Skate Roller Skis ($259.99)
Wheels: Speed 2 Slow 105mm
Purchased: 2016 at rollerskishop.com
I use my rollerskis for summer training along the Central Lakes Trail between Alexandria and Fergus Falls, MN, which is a wide asphalt trail built on an old railroad bed. Parts of the trail are in decent shape, but many sections are rough, cracked, and in need of repair. My Pursuit Fork Flex Rollerskis handled the varied conditions well, and over the 5 years I used them, they required very little maintenance. They are tough, well-made rollerskis that proivde a good value for the money. The Speed 2 wheels are designed for training and are similar in speed to good snow conditions. They are slower than you would find on a a pair of inline skates, which is good for safety since stopping takes a bit of planning. The only issue I had is fallen leaves getting stuck in the fork, but that's not a unique issue to the Fork Flex design (it's a problem with all rollerskis I have used). Late in 2020, after logging over 3000 km on the trail, the wheels finally wore down to their rims, and one of the forks did break. Overall, I have no complaints -- they were great rollerskis and held up remarkably well under heavy use.
Marwe 620XC ($419)
Wheels: Standard Purchased: 2021 at FinnSisu
I was initially hesitant to purchase composite rollerskis due to the higher price tag, but I eventually decided to spend the extra money in search of a smoother ride. After owning the Marwe 620XC for 8 months, I can say that they are slightly better on very rough pavement than the Pursuit Fork Flex. However, in most conditions, the differences between the two models are very small. In terms of speed, the standard Marwe wheels are comparable to '2' Pursuit wheels. I did have a warranty issue with the Marwe skis this summer, when one of the composite frames split while I was trying to avoid a crack in the pavement. However, Marwe immediately certified it as a warranty issue, and FinnSisu replaced the broken frame in about 30 minutes.
In their promotional material, Marwe states that "This model simulates perfectly the feeling of skiing on snow." This is definitely an overstatement. In my experience, there's nothing like the feeling of skiing on snow--not from Marwe or from any other manufacturer. Nonetheless, these rollerskis do a reasonably good job of simulating the motion of skiing, and they are a good way to get some kilometers in when snow is nowhere to be found.
The performance differences between the the Marwe 620XC composite and Pursuit Fork Flex aluminum roller skis are minimal. Marwe offers a good product, but you do have to consider the significantly higher price for the relatively small upgraded feel. For most skiers, I think the Pursuit Fork Flex is a better value and will offer an overall excellent experience.
A Note on Straight Frames
The first pair of rollerskis I owned (before purchasing the Pursuit Fork Flex) had a straight frame design without forks. Compared to the straight frame, I greatly prefer the fork model as it offers better stability and a smoother ride. I think it is worth the cost to upgrade to the Fork Flex model.
Don't Forget About Ferrules
If you're just getting started with roller skiing, don't overlook the ferrule! Typical ski pole baskets/tips won't last long and aren't usually sharp enough to grab pavement. You'll need to replace them with dedicated roller skiing ferrules and keep them sharp. The best thing I've done to improve the quality of my rollerskiing experience was to invest in a bench grinder and sharpen my ferrules every 50km or so. Skiing with sharp ferrules is so much more enjoyable, and it's also much safer.