ONE Magazine hit me up and asked “Would you write a review about some XSJ Powerblades if we got you hooked up?” As you can see from the above and below, the answer was “yes.”
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I remember the rumors… the talk that Chris Farmer and Dustin Latimer were working on a totally innovative and progressive boot design. The anticipation at that time was at an all-time high for a truly unique blade invention — a game changer. I think we all can agree they delivered. Xsjado blades, whether you like them or not, were an innovative step of progressive direction that hit the reset button on the way we think of how blades were supposed to look and operate.
Regardless of the innovation I just never really dug the blade. Maybe I thought the aesthetics were off, or maybe the emphasis on earthy tones. To me it just put anyone riding on the blades into a box: a box that screamed “I’m different.”
Today we know that the “Xsjado style” of blading hasn’t left, but rather has evolved further than anyone could have imagined. And while blading itself and the way people blade has changed, so too has the marketing, team makeup, and overall image of Xsjado. It now reaches talents and style preferences that reach much further into the palate of blade culture.
But the company that changed everything needed something to compliment and exemplify its metamorphosis — and that something was the Xsjado 2.0
The particular blades I’ve tested are a Powerblade setup, complete with Kizer Level 2 frames and Powerslide 76mm/85a wheels. And it’s all completely new to me; I’ve never ridden a setup like this. The only possible comparison I have must be the rec skates I used some 17-odd years ago. You could say that the street skating purist side of me was a little cool to the idea of Powerblading, but my curiosity took over.
And I ended up embracing the experience.
Powerblades fill a gap in a culture I lived more than half my life. We have all tried to share our love of rolling with, for example, a girlfriend. Powerblades would be good for that. You want to blade around the city? Rolling around anti-rocker is an energy-killer, and at my age a body-killer. Even riding around on a street skating flat setup is less desirable once you’ve ridden a proper Powerblade setup.
I know, I know — calm down you blade purists. Think of Powerblades as the longboard option within our culture. It’s a way to get around without any of the downsides associated with our normal freestyle culture. It’s a way to show that you’re proud of what you do while using blades as a more practical and efficient means of transportation. If you don’t believe me, a quick hill bomb carving session — compatible to a shred on some winter slopes — can certainly change your mind. Not to mention you can still grind that ledge or rail you see in your new seemingly endless terrain park — the city.
As you may imagine, wheels are an important part of any Powerblade setup. You need the right size and hardness for maneuvers and control, without the overt softness of recreational wheels which can chunk or just plain stick if you try grinding. The wheels on this pair of Powerblades seem perfect in the size/hardness department. Matched with the Kizer Level 2 frames — and their h-block and emphasized split — and you can hit those frame tricks like royales and farvs. That h-block also adds torsional stiffness to the frame, a good thing for jumping gaps and just getting the most out of each push. Along with recessed axel heads for the hardware and the symmetrical design (perfect for “rotating” your frames) these frames are clearly designed to take street skating-style abuse.
The skeleton of the 2.0 itself is a matured representation of the company. Even old design details from the 1.0 are carried over as a sort of homage to what came before. The “bamboo” vertical supports of the cuff assembly are replaced with the more traditional cuff and hinge system (though their flex grooves at the cuff top remain), a change that some team riders seem to resist. Jeff Stockwell and others can still be seen riding the 1.0 cuffs, presumably for the more free ankle movement. But for me, whom the old cuff always allowed too much unwanted ankle mobility, the change to the two-piece cuff provides more support as well as more forward flex. It should feel more anatomically familiar to bladers using other companies’ skates.
Next to the two-piece hinged cuff, the biggest change to the 2.0 is the one-piece soul plate. It’s slimmed down and seems to fit better with the shape of the shoe. The overall increase in slimness doesn’t negatively impact the width of the soul space, and after just a few sessions you’ll forget that it even changed. Probably one of the high points of the new soul plate is that it’s much stiffer — a benefit for speed, style, and confidence overall.
I wanted to get a real feel for the new boot, so I swapped the Powerblade frames for some Youth frames from my old 1.0 boots. The backslide groove is an especially notable change. It’s not as deep set as the past backslide plate, which people may take as a good and/or bad thing depending on their preferences. I found that after a short break-in period that torques were a littler easier than in the old groove.
Rounding out the improvements and evolution of the Xsjado 2.0 are new, higher quality materials in the liner, padding and straps. Each seems stronger and sleeker, with the new low-profile tongue form-fitting so closely to the ankle. It definitely fits more securely. In general I’d say it seems less bulky in areas that didn’t need the bulk, and stronger in places that needed the support.
To wrap up this lengthly review, I can say that the Xsjado 2.0 is exactly the upgrade the company needed. It’s sleek, simplified, and progressive. The innovative Xsjado design works perfectly with the Powerblade setup, meaning there’s no need to carry around extra shoes. If I am cruising around downtown San Diego, taking full advantage of the happy hour apps that smartphones and technology have given us, the last thing I want is to be burdened by carrying around a pair of shoes. Now there’s no need. Just strap into the Xsjado 2.0s and hit the city… gaping, grinding and shredding whatever comes across your path. And when you get to your destination, trust me — the pair of blades you step out of will be a real conversation starter.
— Chris Couture