True TF9 Skates / Marsblade R1 Conversions
As a long time Sprung user, who loves his Easton Mako skates, both the True TF9 and Marsblade R1 were intriguing options. The True boots are the closest skates on the market to the Mako fit and feel and the Marsblade R1, like Sprungs, offer a more ice like feel than a more traditional flat chassis.
The TF9 Boots – Fit and Feel:
My current ice skates are 8EE Easton Mako II’s and my other inline conversions are OG Makos with Sprungs and Mako M7s with Sprungs (both 8EE). My feet are approximately 26.7CM long and I usually wear 10W dress shoes (nothing beats trying skates on, but if you have to guess on sizing when ordering online, you’re better off going by measurements than shoe size because some people wear their shoes tighter than others based on preference). On the Bauer fit machine, I scan as a 7.5 Fit 3 and have demoed 7.5EE Bauer skates at events in the past.
When I first tried on TF9s in a store, I started with an 8W – even before baking, those were obviously much larger than my Makos. A 7.5W TF9 felt like the right size before baking, but between a TF9 sizing video I watched on YouTube and reading feedback from TF9 owners on online forums that mentioned they really opened up after baking and break in, I decided to go down to 7W.
Before baking the 7W felt too small - it was very hard to get my foot in and my toes were very hard against the cap. After baking, I still had to undo the top two laces and twist my foot to get it in, but now my toes were a little less firm against the cap. Sean did tell me to keep him apprised of my progress and offered to exchange them for a 7.5W if needed, but I kept using them and after about 20 hours of use I’m glad I stuck with the 7W. They’re still a challenge to get on and off, but provide a great performance fit without any pain.
Like the Makos, the TF9s use a speed skate inspired, zero negative space concept and really wrap your feet. The heel lock was already good in my Makos, but feels even better with the TF9. The boot is extremely thermoformable and does form well around your feet after a bake, especially when you use the luggage wrap method.
When I put my 8EE Makos next to the 7W TF9s they appear to be the same length and the boot height and depth is very similar as well (the only difference there is that the Mako has one side lower than the other at the ankle, but the TF9 is the same on both sides).
The TF9s are a bit stiffer, have less flexible tendon guards and the toe box is taller and not asymmetrical like the Makos. In use, I don't notice the tendon guard difference, but I do notice the toe box. The Mako toe box is slightly more comfortable for my feet and I like that there’s less volume over my toes (yes, I know I could add powerfoot inserts to the TF9s). As for the stiffness – it does feel like the TF9s would be more protective and provide a bit more energy transfer.
Inside the toe caps, I did notice a bit of a hard ridge that I was worried might bother me, but it doesn’t start until about an inch above the bottom of the boot; so, I think it starts just above my feet. It doesn’t bother me when using the skates and I can only feel it if I put my hand in there and look for it. I don’t feel it with my feet when the skates are on.
The TF9 uses a clarino type liner that seems to be very durable. The Makos have a wicking grip liner that is nice, but has shown wear in some spots on my older Mako II’s and I believe the TF9 liner will potentially be more durable.
One area I’ve read about with the TF9s is the tendon guard attachment. The tendon guard is secured in one place with a nut and bolt. I’ve read that some users have had the bolt loosen or fall out in some instances. This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I do feel that the way the Makos have their tendon guards secured by two bolts on either side may provide more security.
The tongues are secured by Velcro. This allows the user to move the tongues up and down and if the tongues ever wear out, changing them would be simple. After setting the height of the tongue I’ve never adjusted it again. My only concern with this design is that the Velcro may lose its grip over time.
The TF9 insoles come with arch support inserts. I tried the medium inserts, but found that when I was taking my feet out of the boots the insert would often come loose. After this happened a few times, I just took out the inserts and used the insoles without them. For me, the insoles work well without the arch support inserts. The insoles itself feel a bit more cushioned and thicker than the ones in my Easton skates and most other skates I’ve used.
When I first tried the R1 I didn’t notice as much movement in the chassis as I do when I use the Sprung chassis. With that said, I felt more stable and could still get full stride extension. I did feel a little more mobile in the Sprungs, but at that point I’d only just started using the R1 and had used Sprungs for over a decade.
During the first outdoor pickup games with the R1, I brought both the TF9/R1 and my Mako M7 with Sprungs. It felt like the Sprung chassis was a little lighter and made it easier for me to pick my feet up. I was also more comfortable going backwards and stopping with the Sprungs.
The next pickup game I brought my old worn in Sprungs on the OG Makos. Those felt really squirrely and unstable – I retired them for anything, but emergency use after that night. I do love the feel of Sprungs when they’re in good condition, but if they’ve loosened up due to friction wear, they’re not as stable and responsive. The R1, with its resin upper and alloy lower, definitely feels like it’d be more durable long term than the plastic Sprungs.
The following game I decided to leave my Sprungs at home and start to get used to the R1. I’m glad I did this because by the end of the approximately 2-hour skate, I was already more comfortable going backward. The boots themselves felt a little tighter in the toes than the Makos, but they opened up a bit more with each skate.
After several outdoor skates, I finally got a chance to play some indoor pickup on Sport Court on both the Sprungs and the R1 this fall. These were morning sessions vs. the evening sessions I was playing outdoors. The TF9s felt very comfortable for these sessions; perhaps my feet being at their smallest in the morning before the swelled throughout the day helped.
I was much more comfortable turning and stopping indoors with the R1 than I was outdoors. I was using the OG Konixx Pure on the Sprung skates and the Konixx Pure X on the R1 indoors. Outdoors I was using very hard Revision Asphalt wheels on smooth outdoor rinks. I believe I was more comfortable stopping and turning indoors because the Pure X wheels gave me a better grip on Sport Court than the Asphalt wheels did on smooth cement.
I thought I’d really want to go back to my familiar Sprungs, but loved the heel lock of the TF9s and was now comfortable with the R1. I was comfortable forward and backward, stopping and the speed felt like it may even be better than with the Sprungs. I do think the Sprungs are a slightly more mobile and lighter, but the R1 performs really well.
For me, I’d say the Sprungs when new are an A+ when it comes to turns and controlled stops, the R1 would be an A and a traditional flat chassis would be a C. While I still have a slight preference for new Sprungs to the R1, the R1 is miles better than a traditional flat chassis and is also better than a worn out Sprung. I also believe the R1 will be more durable than the Sprungs.
For some reason the R1s felt lighter indoors than outdoors. Out of curiosity, I weighed my skates:
7W TF9/Marsblade R1 with Konixx Pure X +2 with two 80mm wheels in the back and 2 76mm wheels in the front: 1396 grams
8EE OG Makos/Sprung chassis with old Kuzak 82a outdoor wheels all 76mm: 1231 grams
8EE Mako M7/Sprung chassis with Konixx Pure +2 wheels all 76mm: 1334 grams
So, the weight difference isn’t huge, especially since the R1 uses two 80mm wheels and the Sprungs are using all 76mm wheels. I do believe the R1 is slightly heavier than the Sprung and a Hi-Lo Kryptonium chassis (or the discontinued Magnesium version) would be even lighter. Personally, I prefer the feel and performance of the R1 to a Hi-Lo and wouldn’t sacrifice that for weight savings.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great mounting job Coast to Coast did on the conversion. We exchanged a few messages about rivet sizes and after this, they made sure to seek out the correct size rivets for the True boots. I’m happy to say that none of the rivets have come loose on the boots and I’m not a small guy at 6’2” tall and over two hundred pounds.
The mount is perfectly straight and is the rivets were pressed very cleanly. The attention to detail is superb.
I like the TF9 boots so much that I’d definitely consider getting them for ice once my Mako II stockpile is depleted. I wish they didn’t fit large though as it’d mean dropping down a holder size or paying to have the holder size I’m used to installed – perhaps they’ll fix the sizing in the next iteration. For a roller conversion, the ice holder sizing is irrelevant though.
The R1s did take a bit of an adjustment, but I’m now very comfortable and happy with them. An alloy version of Sprungs would be my first choice, but the R1 is a very close runner up and feels much better than a traditional flat chassis.
Overall, I have a bit less negative space in the TF9s, get even better heel lock (the Mako heel lock is already very good) and like the extra stiffness. I do prefer the lower profile, ergonomic shape and comfort of the Mako toe box though and believe the Mako tendon guard mounting system may be a bit more secure.
Most people will need to go down a half size from Bauer and CCM to the current True retail offerings and those coming from Makos may need to go down a full size if they want a performance fit. The right size will definitely feel too small before baking.
Oh, one other note. In the right size in the TF9, you'll need to undo the top two eyelets completely to get them on and off. This is similar to the Mako, but I find it easier to get the laces back in with the Mako. With the TF9, it's really hard to do up the top two laces unless you put the lace behind the tongue first and then pull them over after you thread the lace.
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@althoma1 on forums like Modsquadhockey, Reddit, Sports2k
A recreational inline and ice player and official who is far from a pro, but as a gear nerd who constantly reads and watches everything I can about equipment, I’ve built up a base of knowledge and enjoy helping others who share my love for the great sport of hockey.