Title:
Bootless inline skate
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A skate with inline wheels is disclosed that employs a lever (termed a mast) to provide the upright support and lateral control usually supplied by a stiff boot or shell. The lever doesn't trap heat and perspiration as will the boot or shell, particularly since these must be lined with heavy padding to provide a modicum of comfort. Moreover, unlike the skate boot, the mast may be folded back along the frame of the skate when not in use to enhance portability and minimize the need for storage space. Additionally, the various embodiments of the invention are easier to put on and take off than traditional designs. These features gain additional utility when considered in combination, which have the collective efficacy to usher the inline design into entirely new applications. The inventor considers that the impressive speed of inline skates generally, combined with the features disclosed herein, may someday cast this erstwhile toy and sports accessory into a new role as a practical transport machine.



Inventors:
Crony, Edward L. (Glen Carbon, IL, US)
Application Number:
09/931995
Publication Date:
02/20/2003
Filing Date:
08/18/2001
Assignee:
CRONY EDWARD L.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63C17/06; A63C17/26; (IPC1-7): A63C17/06
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
AVERY, BRIDGET D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Edward L. Crony (101 Dunwoody Dr., Glen Carbon, IL, 62034, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An inline-wheeled skate comprising: a skate frame, a legband, and a folding lever attached to said skate frame, said lever, hereafter termed the mast, being configured for strapping to a leg by said legband so as to provide the strong lateral support required by inline-wheel design.

2. The skate of claim 1 wherein said mast comprises a spring steel rod, preferably of the stainless type.

3. The skate of claim 1 wherin said mast is hinged in such a manner that, while providing stiff lateral control of said frame, said mast is free to move in a plane longitudinal to the direction of motion for comfort and control.

4. The skate of claim 3 wherein said pivotability allows said mast to be readily folded along the frame, thereby dramatically reducing the bulk of the skate in storage as compared to a conventional skate with a boot or shell.

5. The skate of claim 3, further comprising a sliding loop over said mast, said loop being part of a cable linked, in turn, to a footband and configured for providing automatic tightening of said footband.

6. The inline skate of claim 1 further comprising a means for providing adequate control of an inherently unstable single-plane wheel arrangement by attaching the skate at just three strategic points: (a) Heel of shoe, (b) Front portion of shoe; and (c) To a leg well above an ankle.

7. The skate of claim 6, further comprising an adjustable sidestop which provides one of said control means by constraining the heel portion of the skater's shoe when skating.

8. The inline skate of claim 6 wherein the mast of claim 1, in combination with the sidestop of claim 7, is instrumental in attaching heel of shoe to frame.

9. The inline skate of claim 6, further comprising a footband which provides a means of attaching a front portion of a shoe to the skate.

10. The skate of claim 9, wherein said footband further comprises a solestop which is easily adjusted to shoe width when said footband is slack, guides the skater toward placing shoe in a consistently centered position over frame, and locks firmly into place when said footband is tightened, thereby keeping shoe from slipping sideways despite the rigors of skating.

11. The skate of claim 1 wherin said legband is a multi-padded legband configured for binding said folding lever, the mast, to a user's leg, wherefore covering less skin surface than the cuff and lined shell of conventional design and thereby reducing heat buildup.

12. The skate of claim 11, wherein said legband is equipped with an overcenter-latched buckle whereby an integral lever can be rotated 180 degrees about its pivot to cinch up a strap to provide the pullup useful for quick and convenient latching of the legband and/or other bands.

13. The skate of claim 1, further comprising an adjustable backstop which can be repositioned on aforesaid skate frame to accommodate different ranges of shoe lengths.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to inline roller skates, and to means for attaching such skates for use.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Experiments that began in the 19th century revealed that relocating the wheels of a skate from the four corners to a single plane provided a major advantage: namely speed. But a major problem was also introduced. With all wheels in one plane, considerable force was needed to keep the skates vertical when going straight, or properly banked in a turn.

[0003] A method to keep the ankle from twisting under the strain of coping with the dynamic forces threatening to overwhelm it at every moment was borrowed from two winter sports. The ski and ice skate fraternities had accumulated much experience with these very problems. Their solution? Support the ankle with a very stiff boot that is well padded.

[0004] By dint of innumerable trials, various types of rigid encasement (to keep the ankle from collapsing) combined with padding (to distribute the pressure and make the pain bearable) were adapted from these cold weather sports. Ultimately this was accomplished with enough success to create a new skate industry that overshadowed its quad skate precursor. But what these founders could not borrow was the cold weather! Most outdoor roller skating is done in hot, or at least fair, weather. The physical exertion combined with higher temperatures, and encased feet surrounded by copious padding (i.e., insulation) were not a happy combination. This still holds true today despite many refinements.

[0005] Another problem was that the stiffness necessary for the encasement (i.e., boot) to support the ankle against lateral forces interfered with the fore and aft bending of the ankle needed for gaining momentum. While this was alleviated by articulating sections of the boot (not unlike medieval armor), comfort was never a boast.

[0006] The present invention adopts a new approach that makes improvements on many fronts. These are summarized below, and treated at length later.

[0007] Some of the prior art accomplished the transition between skating and walking by means of a special boot that is an integral part of the skate, yet can be separated from the skate and subsequently used for walking. But this is easier said than done. A boot that incorporates the structures needed to latch on to the skate and also counter the forces generated by the inline wheels is not readily made comfortable for walking. Inevitably this has to be an inherent design conflict.

[0008] Nor can such a skate (based as it is on individually fitted boots) be readily shared. Not even by a typical family, much less the public at large, as in a club or rental agency.

[0009] Still another skate design consists of special shoes that incorporate one turning element: a single roller that is built into each heel. A very small roller. In a very thick heel. Fun, to be sure, but not a serious vehicle of transport.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] Herein is described an inline roller skate having multiple wheels in one plane but, unlike most skates of this genre, ordinary walking shoes are used instead of integral fitted boots.

[0011] A lever (mast) is attached to the frame of the skate in such fashion that the mast folds alongside the skate when carried or stored. But when the skate is donned, the mast is pivoted upward and strapped to the leg of the skater. By this means, the stiff, padded (and often hot and sweaty) integral boots are no longer required.

[0012] When the skater wishes to quit, the skates may be removed and folded in seconds. Now the skates are readily stowed—perhaps in a shoulder bag. And the skater is free to enter a building where ordinary shoes are expected.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of an exemplary skate showing a lever (the mast) attached to a skater's leg to counteract the torque reaction generated by the lateral forces of the inline wheels.

[0014] FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of the opposite side of the exemplary skate in FIG. 1, again showing the skate in use.

[0015] FIG. 3 is a cross-section view through the skate of FIG. 1 at the footband, taken along lines 3-3 of FIG. 1.

[0016] FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of skate in folded mode, ready to be toted or stored.

[0017] FIG. 5 is a plan view of the skate of FIG. 1 showing mast in folded-down position, but pulled away from frame (which is the first step when preparing for skating). Mastband 110 is truncated at 135 because scale of drawing isn't suitable to show the buckle parts shown in FIGS. 11 and 12. Also for reason of scale, cable 150 is truncated at 150a.

[0018] FIG. 6 is an enlarged cross-sectional view through the skate at the sidestop, as denoted by the lines 6-6 of FIG. 5;

[0019] FIG. 7 is a sectional view taken at lines 7-7 of FIG. 6;

[0020] FIG. 8 is an enlarged view of the roller shown in circle 8 of FIG. 1, which also includes a quarter-section view showing the plain bearing thereof.;

[0021] FIG. 9 is an enlarged end view of the mastpad, as indicated by lines 9-9 of FIG. 1;

[0022] FIG. 10 is an enlarged end view of the legpad taken at lines 10-10 of FIG. 2;

[0023] FIG. 11 is a frontal view of an exemplary pull-up (cinching) buckle used to tightly and conveniently tighten the mastband, and (in an alternative embodiment) the footband;

[0024] FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 12-12 of FIG. 11.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0025] General

[0026] With reference to FIG. 1, an exemplary wheels-inline roller skate 101 has a frame 104 whose upper surface forms a platform 105 for bearing a skater's regular footwear 106, and ultimately the full weight of the wearer. Frame 104 is designed to securely hold a plurality of inline wheels 102 by means of axles 103. Skate 101 has a conventional heelbrake 145.

[0027] Skate 101 also includes a mast 124, which is configured as a lever that is attached to skate 101 on one end 125, and whose other end 123 is configured for attachment to a skater's leg 130 by means of mastband 110. Mast 124 is instrumental in allowing the skater to keep skate 101, with its inline wheels 102, upright. These, as well as other components of skate 101 are more fully described below.

[0028] Skate 101 supports a user's ankle 132 by substituting leverage for encasement. Specifically, mast 124 is attached to skate frame 104 and also strapped to leg 130 at some distance above ankle 132. The substitution of mast 124 for the usual fitted boot allows ankle 132 to better cope with keeping skate 101 upright, improves cooling, increases comfort, and offers much more convenience.

[0029] Mast 124 is hinged to frame 104 at 125 so as to accommodate angular motion between leg 130 and footwear 106 in the foreward-back direction (as indicated by arrow 128). But in the transverse plane, mast 124 helps maintain platform 105 at a right angle to leg 150. This is accomplished by a right-angle bend 125 in mast 124.

[0030] A relatively generous length of mast 124 (as compared to the height of most skate boots) tends to reduce the unit pressure needed to oppose the torque required to keep skate 101 upright. Moreover the leverage of mast 124 allows padding to be strategically concentrated into the areas most effective in countering the torque induced by inline wheels 102. In both cases this leads to a reduction in the padding required, and in the area of skin covered. The end result is the aforementioned better cooling.

[0031] Mast 124 is readily folded in a parked position alongside frame 104 when it is not in use, making for compact storage in luggage or shoulder bag. Clearly the usefulness of a pair of inline roller skates is enhanced for tourist or shopper if they can be readily doffed before entering coffeeshop or boutique, and just as readily remounted to continue the journey.

[0032] Still another advantage of skate 101 for both supplier and purchaser is that one size fits virtually all adults, male and female.

[0033] This newfound convenience, comfort, and universality may someday be recognized as entitling skates 101 to be considered a principle conveyance, rather than as a mere toy or sport accessory. A similar metamorphosis occurred with the bicycle when it was converted from a high-wheeled curiosity to one of the world's major vehicles by the invention of the sprocket drive a little over a century ago. Even the mere possibility is notable. And for anyone in the business of selling or renting skates, an end to the need for stocking a full range of sizes in every model should be welcome news.

[0034] Not that there haven't been prior attempts to utilize ordinary footware with the inline wheel concept. But an exhaustive search has not revealed any disclosure whereby the structural additions that accommodate ordinary footware are as successful in achieving compact storage as mast 124. This is not only because of the very small volume of mast 124, but also the result of its ability to be folded alongside the frame.

[0035] An inline skate has a speed capability within the lower range of a bicycle. Yet a pair of them may now be tucked into a lady's handbag. Within seconds after use. The utility of such a tool is manifest. In sum, a miniature yet useful vehicle that improves one's fitness while conserving resources is no trivial thing.

[0036] Three-Point Retention

[0037] Three retention points are used to obtain secure and stable attachment of skate 101 to leg 130 and footwear 106.

[0038] (a) Binding top of mast to leg. Referring now to FIGS. 1, 2, 9, and 10, this is accomplished by mastband 110. Two padded plates 181 and 201 of mastpad 111 and legpad 122 respectively, are placed on opposite sides of the skater's leg 130 to absorb the torque forces on mast 124 generated by lateral forces on inline wheels 102. Mastband 110 clasps both mastpad 111 and legpad 122 to leg 130. This must be done firmly. A “stretchy” band will oscillate under the stresses of skating and quickly become uncontrollable. Therefore, the relative narrowness of this (non-elastic) mastband 110 performs a function, allowing pads 111 and 122 to tilt slightly to match the various contours of human legs. A wide band here (since it must be non-elastic) would be less adaptive, since a wide band on a curving surface (the leg) tends to concentrate the pressure along one edge thereof and cause discomfort.

[0039] (b) Securing front of shoe 106 to platform 105. This part of the three-point retention is performed by a footband 107. Physical and operational details of band 107 are explained below.

[0040] (c) Securing rear 106a of shoe 106 to platform 105. Referring to FIGS. 1, 5, and 6, rear 106a of shoe 106 is captured between between mast 124 and sidestop 160. A backstop 140 locates heel 106b of shoe 106 forward/back on platform 105. All of these constraints are adjustable to match different widths and lengths of shoe 106, as well as locate shoe 106 laterally central to platform 105.

[0041] A preferred and deliberate omission from skate 101 are bindings over the instep 131. Such bindings are virtually a universal practice in this field. But when ease of donning is paramount, mast 124 allows this omission while still providing secure retention for commuting and touring.

[0042] Preferred Embodiment

[0043] Much of the following detailed description has to do with operation, since one of the principle objectives has been ease of use. Or more specifically, ease of adjustment, ease of donning, and foldability into a compact form for stowing.

[0044] Before using skates 101 for the first time, various adjustments fit skate 101 to a specific shoe 106. These one-time adjustments are preliminary in nature, the main object being ease in mounting skates 101 (donning). But the actual donning and final tightening procedures are separate operations that are covered in detail later.

[0045] We now examine the preparatory adjustment steps. These are best undertaken while not wearing the intended shoe 106. Instead, shoe 106 and skate 101 may most conveniently be held in one's lap. Once adjusted, the settings can be fairly permanent, and therefore not a normal part of donning.

[0046] Referring to FIGS. 1 and 3, the first preliminary adjustment involves setting the length of footband 107 using a belt slide 109, so that footband 107 will encircle a forward part 106c of shoe 106 with just enough slack that permits easy entrance of shoe 106. Slide 109 is a standard “off-the-shelf” device for adjusting belt length. The fit of footband 107 should not be too loose in order that it be within the range suitable for the final tightening operation to come mechanism (covered later). A standard belt loop 108 holds the unneeded part of the belt.

[0047] When adjusting the length of footband 107 it is also important to center shoe 106 over platform 105. Centering is controlled by the position of a solestop 220 which hugs corner 221 a of shoe sole 221 as shown. Solestop 220 is adjusted by sliding it along footband 107 to suit. This is easily done when shoe 106 is temporarily removed from footband 107. Solestop 220 has three functions:

[0048] (a) Provides visual guidance for placing shoe 106 (FIG. 1) at the desired central position over platform 105 as the skate is donned and,

[0049] (b) When footband 107 (FIG. 3) is tightened, and the edge of the shoe's sole 221 lies in the corner of solestop 220, shoe 106 will not shift from the desired center position under the rigors of skating.

[0050] (c) Finally, its minute size and inclusion with the flexible footband facilitates preparing the skate for storage.

[0051] With shoe 106 slipped under footband 107 (both still held in the lap), the next pre-adjustment step is setting backstop 140 (FIG. 5). Backstop 140 is anchored to platform 105 by a screw 141 in any one of a purality of locating holes 142. The resulting plurality of backstop positions allows individuals with different foot lengths to find an appropriate placement for balance and appearance.

[0052] With backstop 140 adjusted, the next procedure involves two constraints that center heel 106b over frame 105: sidestop 160 and (when erected) mast 124.

[0053] FIG. 6 shows, in phantom lines 161 the sidestop 160 when fully retracted into frame 105 as when skates are stored. In position 161, the two hooked ends are at position 162a, having passed through two slots 163 in frame 104. Also shown is sidestop 160 when pulled outward until outward movement is limited by stop 164. The latter is a special nut whose position is controlled by adjustment screw 165 as also seen in FIG. 1. Retention washer 166 keeps screw 165 in place. The operation of stop 164 is best viewed in a cross-section taken at lines 7-7 of FIG. 6 (shown in FIG. 7).

[0054] FIG. 5 shows in phantom lines 127 the position of mast 124 when fully retracted for storage by sliding its lower arm 170 through its bearing in frame 104 until springclip 126 limits against frame 104 at 126a. Mast 124 may be slid in an outward direction as far as adjustable collar 172 will allow.

[0055] Accordingly, sidestop 160 and mast 124 together serve to position and retain shoe 106 in a central position over platform 105 by appropriate adjustments of a sidestop screw 165 and a collar 173 respectively.

[0056] Once all the above preliminary adjustments are incorporated, the first step of donning is enabled. This consists of pulling sidestop 160 and mast 124 laterally outward from their parked positions 400 (FIG. 4) to their outer limits as previously adjusted.

[0057] Next, shoe 106 is inserted under footband 107. Then heel 106b is settled onto platform 105 ahead of backstop 140 and simultaneously against sidestop 160. With all of these elements pre-adjusted to accommodate and correctly position shoe 106, mounting skate 101 is a smooth and continuous operation.

[0058] With front 106c and back 106a properly positioned over platform 105 as indicated above, mast 124 may now be raised (rotated) to a vertical position as shown in FIG. 1. As this is done, a rubber roller 121 (shown enlarged in FIG. 8) rotates on its bearing 176 to ease passage of mast 124 over shoe 106. In the preferred embodiment, roller 121 consists of two rubber grommets 177 and 178 mounted on a flanged tube 176 (for a bearing). Most importantly, when mast 124 is vertical, the ribbed roller provides a frictional grip on shoe 106 to assist mastband 124 in pulling skate 101 up instantly whenever foot 106 is raised and wheels 102 have lost their ground support. This positive response is an important consideration in the absence of an instep band.

[0059] In the preferred embodiment, FIGS. 3 and 5, raising mast 124 also causes a nylon-sheathed cable loop 151, which initially was next to roller 121, to slide along mast 124 toward bend 125. As mast 124 is moved to (or slightly past) its vertical position, loop 151 has no choice but to go around bend 125 until stopped by a springclip 126. In effect this latches tautened cable 150. Since the other end of cable 150 is attached to footband 107, the displacement of cable 151 provides the final tightening of footband 107. Compression spring 153 takes up cable slack to keep cable 150 from fouling. Opposite end of footband 107 is anchored to the frame by means of screw 112.

[0060] Referring to FIGS. 1, 9, and 11 (with the mast 107 now vertical and footband 107 now tight) the final donning step consists of securing mast 124 to leg 130. This is done by wrapping mastband 110 about leg 130 and attaching rectangular ring 190 over hook 180.

[0061] Referring next to FIGS. 1, 2, 11, and 12, the length of mastband 110 is adjusted by slide 109 to be snug, but not so tight as to be difficult to hook ring 190. After mastband 124 is hooked, legpad 122 is slid along mastband 124 so that legpad 122 is on opposite side of leg from mastpad 111. (Generally this will already be the case except for first-time users.) Now it is time for final tightening of mastband 124 as follows.

[0062] Cinchlever 192 is turned 180 degrees to position 193. When thus rotated, slide 109 is pulled toward ring 190 (at 199). This reduces the circumference of legband 110 while, at the same time, an overcenter condition locks cinchlever 192. Final tightening is now complete. The mast is thereby securely attached to the leg. This completes the donning process.

[0063] It is feasible to don skate 101 with mast 124 on the inner or outer side of leg 130 (FIG. 1). The muscle structure of the leg favors the latter choice from the standpoint of greater comfort while skating. On the other hand, the physical process of putting on skate 101 is easier for most people if the mast is on the inner side of the leg. Particularly so for those who choose to don the skate while sitting in a cross-leg posture. These options are to be explained in an operating manual and the choice left to the user.

[0064] At the conclusion of skating, removing skate 101 is simply a matter of swinging open cinchlever 192 and unhooking ring 190 from hook 180, thereby releasing the mastband 110. At this time skate 101 may be pulled off (not unlike pulling off a shoe when the laces are undone) and then folded. FIG. 4 shows skate 101 completely folded.

[0065] For mast 124 of the preferred embodiment, stainless steel of grade 304 was selected because of its corrosion resistance, good formability, and lack of need for heat treatment after forming. Obviously an infinite variety of variants in cross-section and material (including both metals and composites) are possible that would essentially utilize and illustrate the same principles that are the subject of this disclosure.

[0066] In the preferred embodiment, frame 4 is of aluminum in a generally conventional channel configuration. However, any frame structure that is functionally equivalent and compatible with the principles of this disclosure is assumed to fall within its purview. The following variations in frame material and construction are cited to illustrate the point. Namely, since all the types cited (as well as others) are adaptable to and could profit by incorporation of the mast and its allied devices, these disclosures apply broadly to inline skate design, rather than specifically to the preferred embodiment. (No drawings have been provided, since the various frame configurations and materials are merely a designer's choice and have no bearing on the core concept of the folding mast.)

[0067] (a) A frame 104 of composite material, like fibreglas.

[0068] (b) A molded frame 104 of polyurethane or other suitable and moldable plastic.

[0069] (c) Frame 104 may be in articulated sections instead of in one piece.

[0070] (d) The frame's cross-section may vary. For example, one or both edges of platform 105 may be extended outward for greater foot support (e.g., a pi-shaped cross-section in place of the inverted-U of the preferred embodiment).

[0071] The list is meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive.

[0072] Alternative Embodiment 1

[0073] The automatic footband tightening mechanism described in the preferred embodiment, including cable 150 and associated parts of FIG. 5, may be replaced by incorporating a second pull-up buckle (not shown) identical to that used in the mast band 110 and shown in FIG. 11. Said second pull-up buckle would utilize belt-adjustment slide 109 and cinchlever 192 in the same fashion as already described except for one difference. Namely, the rectangular loop 190 would not be fastened to hook 180 of FIG. 9, but would instead be permanently linked to the footband. A loop in the belt provides the means of linkage. Such loops are a common belt termination in the trade, using standard sewing or riveting means of attaching ring to belt end.

[0074] Alternative Embodiment 2

[0075] In this embodiment, the storability of skate 101 may be marginally enhanced by incorporating a hinge in backstop 114 of FIG. 1, thereby providing a means for folding the backstop down onto frame when storing the skate. This embodiment is simplistic and obvious, and is merely touched upon here for the sake of completeness.