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Date: Sun, 11 Oct 1998 19:43:21 -0700 (PDT)
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To: a2a@rboc.net
Subject: [A2A] Re: Lust skates question
Cc: uwe@netcom.com
From: Uwe Brockmann <uwe@netcom.com>
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Status: R

On Sun, 11 Oct 1998 at 18:23:17 -0400
Brett Foland (bfoland@woodengems.com) wrote:

> I am one of those people that does not like to skate without a brake. I can
> also build anything. If it is not too much trouble, I would like to know how
> you built your brakes. Even a close up picture of the mechanism would be
> enough for me to duplicate it.

There is a finish-line photo of the 1994 Athens-to-Atlanta event at


that shows the brake leverage devices. The picture probably does not
show enough detail to allow you to easily copy the devices. However,
with the instructions that I enclose below the brake leverage devices
should be easy to copy. The materials that you will need should only
cost a few dollars.

Another person already asked me how to build the brake leverage devices
by e-mail. Here is a copy of the detailed instructions that I sent to
that person:

The "Puerto Rican emergency brake"-style brake leverage device requires
a standard rear brake. It helps you apply more leverage to the rear

The effectiveness of a rear brake is strongly affected by its placement.
The further it sticks out to the rear the less effective it is. On
longer wheelbase frames (13.7") braking power is severely reduced.

Braking power increases substantially when two rear brakes are used
simultaneously. It is easier to simultaneously use two rear brakes when
the frames are shorter. This is a reason to use short (12.8" to 13.0")
frames if possible. However, even on long (13.7") frames a reasonable
amount of stopping power can be achieved if two rear brakes and two
brake leverage devices are used.

The basic idea of the brake leverage device is to attach a cord to the
front of your skate that you can pull up on with your hand while
engaging the rear brake, thus giving you extra leverage. Instead of
having to rely solely on the relatively weak muscles that pull up the
front of your foot towards your leg to put pressure on the brake, you
can now provide assistance with your upper body and even lean back like
a water skier to use part of your body weight for leverage on the rear

For a practical brake leverage device it seems to be best to use a loop
of cord rather than a single cord. On Mogema frames I drill horizontal
holes into the frames from both sides as high as possible on the frames
between the first and second wheel from the front. Then I run the cord
into the frame on one side and out on the other side. The cord should
not touch the wheels. I tie knots into the cord on both sides so that
it cannot shift left or right where it runs through the frames.

I position the upper end of the loop in the calf area on the front of
the leg well below the knee. Now the loop runs up on one side of the leg
to the calf, crosses over to the other side of the leg, runs down to
the front of the frame on that other side, enters the frame between the
first and second wheel on that side, exits the frame on the first side
again betwen the first and second wheel and meets itself.

I do not want to have to hold anything in my hands while skating. Thus
I need to find some way to attach the cord to the legs. I use Velcro
brand hook and loop fastener to attach everything to my legs. I prefer
1 1/4" wide elastic Velcro. However, narrower or non-elastic Velcro
works fine too. I use one strip each of hook fastener and loop fastener
per leg. I cut each strip to the same length, just a tad bit shorter
than the circumference of my leg between the knee and the calf.

I stick the hook fastener and the loop fastener together so that about
3" of hook fastener stick out on one end and about 3" of loop fastener
stick out on the other end. Then I put the whole thing around my leg
above the calf but below the knee. I stick the 3" of free hook fastener
to the 3" of free loop fastener. Now I have one layer each of hook
fastener and loop fastener going all around my leg below the knee above
the calf. This Velcro loop cannot slide down because my calf
circumference is larger than the circumference of the Velcro loop.

To make it easier on my hands to pull up on the loop cord that comes
up from the frames, I run the cord through a horizontally positioned
tube of plastic tubing. The plastic tubing is about as long as my hand
is wide. It can be purchased for a few cents at hardware or home
improvement warehouse stores.

I want to suspend the plastic handle in a horizontal position from the
Velcro loop below my knee. I use two thin elastic cords. I attach one
end of each to the pull cord that comes up from the frames on either
side of the plastic handle. Then I run each of the two elastic cords
straight up to the Velcro loop located above the handle. I form a loop
at the upper end of each of the elastic cords and thread the outer
layer of Velcro through both loops.

The only remaining problem is that the pull cord that runs down at both
sides of each leg flops around and gets in the way. To get it out of
the way I attach a piece of elastic cord to the pull cord on one side of
the leg below the ankle, run it behind and under the boot and attach its
other end to the other side of the pull cord.

The trick here is to attach the end of the elastic tie-down cord that
comes out from behind on the left side of your foot to the right pull
cord and the end of the elastic tie-down cord that comes out from behind
on the right side of the foot to the left pull cord. Then the elastic
tie-down cord will pull hard enough on both sides of the pull cord so
that the pull cord from one side of the leg will get pulled over the
pull cord from the other side of the leg. Each side of the pull cord
will then cross the other side of the pull cord directly above the boot
twice. When you pull hard enough on the handle to engage the brake
leverage device both sides of the pull cord will sort themselves out,
i.e. they will not cross each other any more until you release the
brake leverage device.

I bought all of my cords at an outdoor/camping supply store in Germany,
however I have seen similar cords at REI in the U.S. Thus it should not
be difficult to find all the parts you need.

It can take many hours to adjust all cords to the correct length,
however, the cost of the required materials is almost zero.

When I put on my skates, I first put them on normally, then I bring the
pull cord into its proper position and fasten the Velcro by sticking the
two 3" loose ends together. To take my skates off, I first unstick the
3" loose ends of the Velcro leg band and then take my skates off

Occasionally, I slide the loops of elastic cords that hold up the pull
cord handle off the outer layer of Velcro and wash the Velcro in the
washing machine with other laundry.

To maintain stability while applying my brake equipment, I engage one
rear brake first, then I engage the other brake and finally I
engage the brake leverage devices, usually simultaneously. When I
expect trouble on a downhill, I sometimes put my hands on the handles
to prepare myself for more rapid deployment of the brake leverage
devices. Do not attempt to engage both rear brakes simultaneously, since
this will frequently result in loss of balance and a fall. On long
frames it can be hard to use one brake and much harder to use both
simultaneously. With the help of the brake leverage devices it is much
easier to keep the brakes engaged than without them. It seems to me
that especially on long frames, the simultaneous use of brakes and
brake leverage devices requires less skill than the use of the brakes

For me it is easy to reach the handles of the pull cords because I am
already in a low bent-forward speed skating stance most of the time.
This may not be true for you if you skate in a more upright stance.

As far as I know Don Ruiz first came up with the idea for brake leverage
devices almost ten years ago. I did not think that they would work and
told him so, but he built them anyway. I was still skating on quads
(roller skates with two wheels in the front in a side-by-side
arrangement and two wheels in the rear, also in a side-by-side
arrangement) then and I had excellent brakes on them but I did not know
about the simultaneous use of two rear brakes yet.

Don Ruiz and I skated down a hill repeatedly and engaged our brakes
(single rear brake on quads for me, single rear brake on 5-wheel in-line
skates with single brake leverage device for him) simultaneously. Don
was able to stop in almost exactly the same distance as I from speeds of
about 30 miles/h. I was very impressed.

The rear brake that I used on my conventional skates was a lot more
effective than the rear brakes on recreational 4-wheel in-line skates.
The reason is simply that the rearmost axle on my quads was mounted in
approximately the same position as the second wheel from the rear on
most recreational in-line skates. Thus the rear brake was also mounted
much further forward than on recreational in-line skates.
There are some differences between Don Ruiz' original design and the
version that I use. Ruiz attached the pull cords to the front of the
boots rather than to the frames. Ruiz suspended the pull cord handle
from the bottom of his shorts with safety pins rather than from a
Velcro loop below the knee. As a result his handle was positioned above
the knee rather than below the knee as in my design. Also, I seem to
remember that he used a different arrangement of elastic cords to
prevent the pull cords from flopping around.

I am not interested in making or selling brake leverage devices because
I do not think that it is possible to make a reasonable profit off them.
Don Ruiz never applied for a patent for his invention. Now it is too
late to apply for a patent since the invention is no longer "new".

I have never tried to use a brake leverage device on 4-wheel in-line
skates. Due to a shorter wheel base standard rear brakes are already
more effective on 4-wheel skates than on 5-wheel skates. In addition it
would seem difficult to find a place to attach the pull cords as far
forward on 4-wheel skates as the position I currently use on 5-wheel
skates. If the pull cords were attached further backwards on the skates,
their effectiveness would decrease. I also find that I can get nearly
the same stopping power on 4-wheel skates without brake leverage
devices as on 5-wheel skates with short (12.8" to 13.0") frames and brake
leverage devices. Thus I think that brake leverage devices provide too
little benefit for use on 4-wheel skates. (I do not know off-hand how
the stopping power of 4-wheel skates without brake leverage devices
compares to the stopping power of long-wheelbase (13.7") 5-wheel skates
with brake leverage devices since I have not skated on long-wheelbase
frames in a long time.)

As far as I know Don Ruiz and I are the only persons who have ever used
a brake leverage device. Considering how many people have difficulty
stopping on 5-wheel in-line skates, I think that it is a shame that not
more people use such a simple and effective device that almost anybody
can build himself for just a few dollars. Perhaps that will change now?

Please feel free to ask further questions, especially if you should
find the instructions for building brake leverage devices to not be
clear enough.

Uwe Brockmann, uwe@netcom.com

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Uwe Brockmann, uwe@pobox.com, http://www.panix.com/~uwe/brakelev/