GEAR REVIEW: UFR Antony Pottier
After a long period of dormancy, recent years have seen an abundance of innovative blade products enter the market. From skates to frames to liners, our maturing community has begun to experiment with the form of our equipment, expanding the limits of what is possible on skates. We think that is pretty cool. Enter the FR Skates UFR Antony Pottier Street, a new iteration of the beloved FR/Seba shell style that brings the skate into alignment with the UFS standard. Highlighting that development is the included FLAT frame, a precision instrument most regularly seen being put to surgical exactness by none other than Antony Pottier. With the skate’s near F1-level credentials well established, we wondered how it would work for us mortal bladers. So we asked San Diego local Sam O’Dell to put them through their paces and that’s just what he did. Read on for a detailed, first person account of skating the FR UFR Antony Pottier and consider if this rocket ship could be your next pick up.
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Anthony Pottier FLAT skates are black, ninja, and faster than you (or me).
After spending several months riding on and experimenting with a pair of these skates, one of the things that I really like about them, aside from the clean all-black aesthetic, is the way the boot fits my foot. The recommended shell size is close to my foot, making the fit snug and the feel responsive. I don’t have super wide feet, but generally have a hard time getting narrower boots (e.g., Roces M12) to be comfortable. Fortunately, the width of the toe box on the UFR Street APs feels anything but cramped. Another great thing about this boot is the open top, which displays a lot of liner instead of plastic, and produces much less of that top-to-bottom pinching feeling at the big toe. The stock liner is nice and cushiony and probably helps to keep the cost down, but when trying it on for the first time it felt very tight and too thick… like a hungry boa constrictor on the foot. However, after 20-30 min. the fit improved greatly, the stiffness disappeared, and the liner felt pretty good. The stock liners do offer one noteworthy detail: they have eyelets so that you can lace to the top of the liner… something I think more stock liners should have.
A standout feature of the UFR Street APs is the soul plate, which slides fantastic and fits tight to the boot so there is no gap between the soul and boot. They look high quality too! The UFR Street APs also feature Anthony Pottier’s FLAT frames with 65mm wheels, although boot-only options are available. The FLAT frame is both fast and stable, whether you are cruising at mach-chicken or trying to stomp your landing, you won’t wiggle or swivel unnecessarily. The 267mm wheelbase contributes greatly to this feeling but may be more of a handicap for riders with smaller feet.
FLAT frames are super beefy compared to other aluminum frames (e.g., Kizer Element II), and the axle heads are placed on the instep side of the frame, so these frames should last a long time. They also feature a relatively unique heel lift so the rear of the frame sits higher than the front, and a fast h-block. The frames come shod with a set of stock 65mm wheels and FR TwinCam MW9 bearings which are anything but flashy, though they offer high quality and good value where I expected little. A nice surprise indeed!
Across the top of the boot is a wide 45º strap, making it comfortable even when tightening more than necessary. In other words, you might experience less of the pinching feeling associated with narrower 45º straps found on other skates. FR has also added some inexpensive finishing touches that make these boots more comfortable and longer lasting. For example, there is a foam footbed underneath the liner that is nice and cushiony, unlike most boots where a slim plastic footbed is used mostly to protect liners from the tip of the UFS bolt coming up from the frame; this is also important since there is no standard wedge-shaped shock absorber. Additionally, all hardware inside of the boot is covered by foam tape which should keep the liners intact for longer, and create fewer holes from the hardware rubbing or contacting the liner.
Though I was overall impressed with the UFR AP, there were a few things that I think could have been done differently. It is important to consider that most of what I dislike about these skates boils down to personal preference and may not matter to you or affect you at all. For example, I’m not a huge fan of soul plates that are narrower in the heel than in the toe (i.e., like these) but this is hardly a negative considering how good they slide. Maybe I have been spoiled with the complete lack of a break in period offered by most MyFit liners, but I found the enduring stiffness of the stock liners to be uncomfortable; this did decrease over time, but it did not disappear altogether. Additionally, the insole that comes with the stock liner has a higher arch than the typical bargain basement insoles in most liners. The high-ish arch may be a saving grace for some, but it made my foot feel like someone had been hitting it with a cane all day.
The UFR APs also have a fairly stiff cuff and although there is some forward flex here, I prefer softer cuffs and the generous forward flex available in other skates. Of course, this is probably an unpopular opinion, but I don’t like to wear the boot looser at the cuff to accommodate for the lack of flexibility. Your ankle and leg are literally designed to bend in this way! The stiff cuff by itself didn’t give me huge problems, but there were a few factors that may have made this discomfort WAY more obvious. For example, the AP FLAT frames are relatively tall and long, considering the 65mm wheel size, and come with 88A flat profile wheels. The combination of a stiff cuff, a tallish and longish frame, and a whole lot of grippy wheel, made me feel like the skate was going to rip my foot off at the ankle when doing simple maneuvers like turning to fakie.
The UFR Street APs offer great value for the price and as Anthony Pottier and others have shown, they absolutely perform at the level required for these sort of skates. Although I think they are worth checking out, I simply didn’t get along with them as well as I had hoped and recommend trying them on before buying. After skating them stock for a while, I paired the boots with Kizer Element IIs and round profile wheels and found them much more enjoyable and maneuverable. The wheels are quality, but maybe the profile and hardness of the stock wheels was the culprit? I also put the FLAT frames on another set of boots and found that ride height was not an issue. In fact, FLAT frames are awesome in the right circumstances, especially if you like riding transition.
Photos by Steve Steinmetz