Entrepreneurs looking for a brake 

Inventor hopes new braking system will lead to resurgence of inline skating

A team of B.C. inventors and inline skating enthusiasts have created a new braking system for inline skates that they hope will advance the industry and restore the sport to its former glory.

According to the inventors, sales of inline skates have declined from about 15 million pairs annually at their peak 10 years ago to just three million pairs a year. They believed that a new and effective braking system could restore the sports popularity – if people were afraid of hills, obstacles and making stops, then they weren’t going to take up the sport.

The system they invented is activated by straightening the leg. A trigger rod that is mounted behind the heel on a hinged cuff then pushes the brake lever downwards, which evenly applies a brake rail to all four wheels. The result, according to the inventors, is smooth, efficient and controllable braking.

Because the technology is simple and relatively low-tech in construction, it will only add a few dollars to the cost of the skates.

"I have successfully tested the brake system both on level ground and steep grades," said Kevin O’Brien, one of the inventors. "I found this to greatly enhance the feeling of safety and balance, allowing me to brake far more effectively than with the… rubber stopper than inline skates are presently equipped with."

Because of the simplicity of the design, the new brakes are inexpensive to manufacture.

They have taken the design to the major manufacturers, but discovered that the major names in the business design prototypes two years in advance. The companies are interested, but not soon enough for the inventors.

"What we really want is to partner with someone in the industry, someone who knows their way around, and can help get our design on the market. We know it works, but it’s hard to get your foot in the door," said Toby Lansel, who is helping to promote O’Brien’s invention.

Several papers in the Lower Mainland have run stories on the braking device, and according to Lansel there has been some interest. Unless someone steps forward soon, however, he says it could be years before the brakes hit the market.

Lansel and O’Brien can be reached at 604-562-3957, or by e-mailing chrismc@shaw.ca.

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