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Alkali CA9 RPD

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A HUGE Thank You out to Justin at Alkali & JR for making this review possible, Christmas came early for me this year when these arrived.

Product: Alkali CA9 RPD

Size: 8

Background: Been playing roller for almost 20 years, currently a Men's Leaguer who moonlights on the PIHA Circuit. Previously I've been using Tour's Top of the line skates since they came out with the all 80 set up (Code-1, Tabu, Thor, etc) and I've also converted One70's & Vapor XXXX's w/ the Hummer set up as well.

Initial Impressions: I skate in a Bauer APX and tried to size the Alkali like the Bauer but the first pair from Justin that were 7.5 were too small so we worked out an exchange for a size 8. Out of the box the first thing I noticed was the look of the skate, the all black with yellow highlights gives the skate a clean, sharp look to them. Nothing flashy about the RPD's compared to Mission or Tours offerings, just a great looking skate. Picking the skate up out of the box, you can feel that the RPD has a good light weight to the boot accompanied by the mag frame. The other noticeable thing is the RPD doesn't feel 'clunky', I always feel like when I pick up a Tour or Mission skate, it just feels like a roller boot & chassis and kind of 'clunky' if that makes sense. The RPD feels more like a converted ice boot with a chassis that has been put on. Rounding out the RPD were the Labeda Addictions, I've loved these wheels since they came out and being a bigger guy in the 215lbs range they've always provided the best performance as well as lasting long too so they're a bonus as far as I am concerned.

Like any kid with a new toy on Christmas, I had to play with these the moment I got them. As soon as the RPDs arrived I swapped out the Addictions for an old set of wheels so I could head down to the basketball courts by me to give them a whirl. Without baking the skates, I laced them up and noticed how stiff the skates were, the RPDs were noticeably more stiff than any other pair of new Tours I've laced up and used for the first time. The one pain or more discomfort area I experienced was in the toe box area, Alkali states a 'medium-wide toe box & forefoot' but the RPDs felt very narrow in this area, I chalked this up to not baking the skates and would later find that to be the case since I really don't think I have that wide of a forefoot. The volume of the skate was perfect in the RPDs and even without baking I could feel my heel fit nicely in the skate.

I cruised around for about 20 minutes on the RPDs and loved the stiffness & responsiveness of the boot and chassis but the discomfort in the forefoot was bothering me so I called it a day. The one thing I did take away from the 1st skate on the RPDs was the pitch of the boot feels a little different than normal skates. The way the back of the boot is angled and pitched slightly forward I kind of felt as if the chassis was maybe mounted a little too far forward, but the angle of the boot forces you to keep a consistent bend in your knees to stay over on the balls of your feel. The boot angle/pitch change is by no means a bad thing, it just took me a few minutes to get used to it.

Next up, baking the Alkali CA9 RPD ...

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Baking the Alkali CA9 RPD Skate

I'm lucky enough around my area to have some connections that I can get access to a skate bake oven for free. There is also a bad part to this access..the 'Guardian' of this skate bake oven is also a seasoned (and might I add stubborn) Equipment Manager for a D1 college hockey team. After getting past the customary ribbing on me for playing roller hockey it was time to unveil my new jets, the highest compliment I can give the aesthetics of the Alkali CA9 RPD skates is when Ice only guys are saying how much they love the look of the skate and the equipment manager is asking if I am there to put Tuuks on them.

Back to baking the CA9 RPD...like I had mentioned previously the Equipment Manager I am working with here can be a little stubborn and did not believe me that the CA9 RPD should be baked for 9 Minutes (let alone stood in right after baking). Luckily for me, Alkali has a nice video on the 'How-To' for baking, so in the CA9 RPD went for 9 whole minutes. Out came a pretty toasty skate that I was ready to lace up. The change in the CA9 RPD after baking is pretty incredible. As I had mentioned previously I had some issues with the forefoot width of the skate in the toe box area, the discomfort associated there was completely gone after lacing up the boot & standing in the skate after the bake. The 9 Minute bake really opens up the CA9 RPD and completely enhances the fit of the skate. Out of the box I thought the CA9 RPD fit well but with the baking the skate it really forms to your foot, allows your heel to get fit snuggly where it should be, & like I mentioned before standing in the skate really does change the forefoot fit of the skate. I can't compare the baking process of the CA9 RPD with a high end Mission inline skate & I've never baked a Tour skate, but baking the CA9 RPD provides a significant improvement over the out of the box fitting. Any worries I had about pain points in the boots were eliminated after the baking and the improved fit made me even more excited than I was to get these guys on the court.

I would also tell folks trying on an Alkali skate worried about either the depth of the boot, the stiffness of the skate, or a wider than normal fore foot that the baking process is going to improve the fit of the skate & more likely than not remove any of those concerns.

Up Next, the first post bake skate on the Alkali CA9 RPD...

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1st Skate in the Alkali CA9 RPD Skate

Prior to my first competitive day of games I was able to get about an hour and half worth of rink time in the Alkali CA9 RPD to get a better feel for the skate after baking them, here are some thoughts:

- Post bake skate fit was night and day compared to the 1st time I laced up the RPDs. The fit around the forefoot and the way the boot wrapped around my ankle really enhanced the fit of the RPD and it felt like these were the skates I had been in for a month already, really liked that.

- I am also usually an 'Under' guy as in Skate Tongues under my shinpads but I couldn't do it with the RPDs. I am used to either a Tour EX1 Tongue or a Bauer APX Tongue, both of which are super thin that I don't notice them under my shins. The 9mm RPD Tongue is a lot thicker and longer than either of the tongues I am used to and felt awkward under my shins. Nothing performance impacting here, but more of a personal preference/feel sort of thing so I tried going 'Tongues Out' w/ some flop which resolved the issue. I guess I'll have some good flop and earn some street cred with the young kids who will think I have some style. (look good, feel good, play good, right?)

- Boot Stiffness/Top Eyelet Open/Boot Pitch: The RPD is remarkably more stiff than the previous Tour models I've been skating in and the stiffness feels closer to my ice Bauer APX skate. I thought to compensate for the added stiffness and since this would be my first time in the RPDs I'd try the skates with the top eyelet undone. What I didn't think of, was how aggressive the pitch of the overall Alkali boot design is and with the top eyelet undone and over your the front of your skates you were able to get. I decided to lace up the top eyelet and felt more stable in my stride and turning than with the top eyelet undone. Again, I think this can towards a personal preference scenario, but coming from skating on a Bauer APX skate I really liked the support & stiffness I had with the boot with the Top Eyelet laced up.

Additionally, the forward pitch of the Alkali is interesting. I can tend to be more of an upright (my dad has always called it 'lazy') skater where I tend to coast and straighten out my knee bend, with the Alkali pitch it felt as if it was forcing me (in a good way mind you) to keep my knees bent at all times. I really like the aggressive pitch concept here from Alkali.

- Magnesium/All 80 Frame/Frame Mounting: When I got the first pair of RPDs from Justin that fit a tad too small, I mentioned to Justin that the frame looked to be mounted further forward than what I had seen on other all 80 set ups and had asked Justin if the mounting was done this way in relation to the pitch of the Alkali boot, Justin said there was no correlation in terms of chassis mounting & the boot pitch. In fact Justin informed me that Alkali tries to mount all of their frames as far back as possible. Even though Justin did state that, even some folks on the board here mentioned that they thought the Chassis was mounted pretty far forward. In my first skate in the RPDs I did notice a little a bit when when I was standing straight up that it almost felt like my skates weren't underneath me the way I felt in a Tour all 80 set up or with an all 80 chassis mounted. Of course, with the pitch of the Alkali boot and my knees bent, I felt solid and balanced. I never felt like I was going to fall backwards but it did feel as if the chassis was mounted slightly more forward than I am normally accustomed to and after about 20 minutes in the RPDs I wasn't even thinking about. In terms of the weigh of the chassis, it never crossed my mind which I would say is a good thing because I never said 'wow, this chassis is heavy' or 'wow, this chassis is light'.

- Tendon Guard: For the specs of the RPD Alkali says the Tendon guard is flexible, personally I felt the tendon guard was more stiff than any tendon guard I've used. With the pitch of the RPD and the stiff tendon guard I could feel it rubbing up against the back of my leg at times. I think it took some breaking in because after about an hour I did not notice the tendon guard at all during skating, but note that during your initial time with the RPDs you might feel the tendon guard at first.

- Boot Performance/Energy transfer: Like I had mentioned previously, leaving the top eyelet undone did not feel comfortable for me, didn't like the lack of stability in my ankles or power in my stride. With the RPD laced up to the top I felt much more comfortable with my stride, turning, & acceleration. You can really feel the transfer of energy in your stride with the RPD, from the pitch of the boot to the Mag frame, my stride felt more solid like I was on ice with my APX rather than on my Tour EX1s. Turning and cornering felt a little off with the stiffer boot the first time but that feeling improved as I skated more. I am not used to that stiff of an inline skate so from a turning, cutting, cross over perspective, I felt a little limited. I felt like this had more to do with breaking in the skates and getting used to them more than anything though. But like I said, loved the way the stiffness worked with my stride in the RPD. I expect this to get better as I get more comfortable in the boot.

- Wheels/Bearings: I love the addiction and don't have a bad thing to say about this top of the line Labeda wheel, they were awesome here and are just a bonus on the RPD. The bearings felt great too, I am a bigger guy so the question is going to be how they hold up in the long run.

- Pressure Points/Blisters: No blisters, my foot was locked in and ready to go, the baking really transformed the RPD to fit to my foot. Like I mentioned the tendon guard did bother me a bit that went away too. I did feel a little pressure in the forefoot of the skate but that was b/c I really tightened up the laces from the 1st eyelet up which I never do. I re-did my lacing to a normal snug pull and I was golden after that.

- Overall: Very impressive 1st outing. Given the lack of stiffness that I am not used to with an inline skate I was kind of worried it might take me longer to adjust to the RPDs but that wasn't the case at all. Loved the way my stride felt in the skate and after some initial feeling out of how I need to lace the boot to accommodate my foot, the RPDs performed excellent. I am really looking forward to see how the RPD continues to perform and most importantly to me how the RPD holds up over time.

Next, Multiple games in 1 day with the Alkali CA9 RPD...

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My First foray with the Alkali CA9 RPD in a competitive environment was a stretch of 4 games in a day. Just to touch on our schedule for the day, after our 1st game we had a break, then 2 games back to back, then a break before our final game. I think the schedule is key to point out given the amount of use the skate would be getting during the day.

Luckily our first game was against a weaker team so it served as a good warm-up & I wasn't worried about using an unfamiliar pair of skates in a game setting. Out of habit, I laced up the CA9 RPD as I would my other skates and really tightened the skates. Within a few minutes on the rink I was extremely uncomfortable in the skates, the forefoot area of the boot was killing my foot along with the mid part of my foot experiencing some lace bite. The discomfort I feel was a side effect of the boot stiffness & the post bake process, I think the skate will get better over time but I just can't lace them as tight as I am accustom to. After I adjusted the level of tightness with my laces & all was good after that, my heel sat nicely in the boot & never moved.

I have to admit in my first live game action, I was feeling a little bit unsure of myself skating wise with the CA9 RPDs. A lot of talk on the board has been centered around the forward mounting of the Chassis on the CA9 RPD and I was definitely feeling 'off-balance' in my first game. When I say 'Off-Balance' it wasn't so much in a lateral, side-to-side sense but more so with a front-to-back, almost heel-to-toe, meaning if I was going into a turn I wasn't concerned about the corning of the turn but more so failing back or forwards in the turn. The instability I felt would be associated with the Chassis placement on the CA RPD as it did feel to be mounted more normal than usual. I spent the first half of the game getting my skates underneath me and getting accustom to where my feet needed to be in my stride, turns, & pivots so I could move past the instability. With that being said, I had no other effects in the skate, the boot was great, the lacing discomfort was gone, my only obstacle was the stability.

We had a break between our 1st & Second game so I decided to take my skates off in between. I skate w/ socks & noticed the interior of the boot was barely wet a nice feeling as I hate wet gear and knew I had 3 more games in front of me. Our next two games would be played back-to-back so I knew I was going to put the skates to the test. Based on the previous game I found the correct lace tightness and we were on our way to the doubleheader. Heading into the second game I still felt slightly off-balance in the skates to start but have to be honest, by the time we got to the start of the second game of our back to back, that off-balance feeling was gone. I will recognize that there is some initial adjustment that takes place with how the chassis feels mounted on the CA RPD but after you do adjust to the forward mounting it becomes an afterthought. I would have to think if you took someone from a Hi-Lo set up and put them on an all 80 set up, or vice-versa, there is going to be a similar adjustment and I equate the forward chassis mounting of the Alkali CA RPD as no different.

After our back to back games, I took off the skates, the boot was damp but by no means soaked or weighed down with sweat. That is a key to an inline skate in my opinion as you're normally playing a bunch of games in a short period of time and you can't have your gear feeling uncomfortably bogged down with sweat. Now I do realize this is winter in the north east & its cooler, only time will tell when its summer I am sweating more in the boot & how it holds up.

Overall, I spent the better part of my day in the Alkalie CA9 RPD and did have some issues. I did feel some discomfort with lacing the skates tighter than they should but that was resolved quickly. The biggest issue was the instability I intially felt from the chassis during game play. Granted I did adjust and it become an afterthought, I can see folks trying on an Alkali in-store, cruising around the store & feeling off balance and maybe going with a product they know either a Hi-Lo or another brands all 80 set up. Given the time in an Alkali skate though, that instability will go away and you are going to adjust.

I'll be on the skates more & will post some pics of the chassis & updates soon.

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So it's been a while since my last update & I do apologize for that but sometimes work/life gets in the way.

The good news is, I've been in the Alkali CA9 RPD once a week on a regular basis and I could not be happier with these skates. While I was not skating in the CA9 RPD on a more frequent basis the skate did take some time to fully break-in. I can now lace the skates as tight as I'd like w/out discomfort but I don't really need to lace the skates that tight because of the boot stiffness which is perfect. I'd say overall the skates were broken in after I skated around 10 hours in them.

It took me about 5 hours worth of skating to feel fully comfortable with the pitch of boot & chassis placement. I don't even notice the chassis placement anymore and actually now prefer the chassis placement over mr previous Tour skates. The slight feel of the chassis being forwarded plus the pitch of the boot makes my transition from playing ice to roller much smoother, you get that kind of toe digging into the ice feel when you are striding.

Some other features I love on the skates:

The Tongue - Oh dear god, Alkali needs to sell me another set of tongues to put on my ice boots. As I mentioned I was never a 'flop' guy but am now & the tongue on CA9 RPD is perfect for flop. But the tongue also is super comfortable & provides a great feel between comfort and lace bit protection. Its thick enough to stop lace bite but still super comfy.

Boot Feel/Stiffness/Energy Transfer - You can really feel the energy transfer in the boot on the CA9 RPD when you're taking off or coming out of a turn. The stiffness of the skates is perfect, like I mentioned it took a little while to get to this point but once there, stiffness is right on. The ankle area in the boots too are great, very comfy & snug, keeping your heel down where it should be.

Wheels - Labeda Addiction wheels still look brand new.

Frame - Might have started off worrying about possibly getting the chassis remounted, but after some time as I mentioned above, I prefer it. I don't even notice the slight forward feel anymore, I actually have to remind myself during games about when I used think I didn't like the chassis, those days are long gone.

Overall, I don't have any real negative feedback about the CA9 RPD. Were there some bumps in the road at the beginning? Yes, there was. Are those gone? You bet. To find an issue with the CA9 RPD I really have to nitpick & the only thing I would nitpick on is the shape of the Tendon Guard. (Theres no issue with the Tendon Guard, I just prefer the rounded look of a Bauer Tendon Guard) Again, its still only 2 months but the CA9 RPD still looks brand new so wear is not an issue. I'll keep following up with more posts as I continue to skate in the CA9 RPD.

If anyone has any questions about the CA9 RPD, please post in the I'm Back...Alkali Hockey thread in the Roller Forum. I've been providing some insight over there as well.

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I wanted to take a quick moment & chime in on my latest update to the Alkali CA9 RPD, still loving the skate & performance. Addictions are barely worn down and the boot has never felt more comfortable.

With that being said, I took a shot right directly off the toe cap last night and goddamn did it hurt. After the skate I was looking at toe cap, there was no structural damage mind you, but I did notice that the toe cap does move a little bit with the tongue. By comparison I was looking at my APX, the toe cap pretty much doesn't move but with the CA9 RPD if you move the tongue around, like unlace the skates and fold the tongue back at the toe cap, there is some flexibility in the toe cap.

Again, this isn't a huge deal and I doubt I'll get hit that solidly on the toe cap again (there is a no Shot blocking clause is explicitly written in my men's league contract) but I did want to mention it in the LTR.

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Been a while since I've updated this review as there is not much to update as my RPD's are still going strong. They're still stiff as can be & performing as good as Day 1. (Still rolling on my Addictions too and getting great performance out of them)

What I do want to update is using the RPD here in the warmer summer months. While I didn't get to any big time tourneys this summer I have played in a few Iron Mans using the RPD multiple times a day and I have to say the skates perform awesome in that environment. The inner material is great, does not get water logged and each time you put on your skates you don't get that gross, slimey, 'I've worn these skates 3 games today' feel. They feel like you're putting them on dry for your 1st game.

Love these skates, but now I want a pair of the RPD Max!

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