Before the pandemic hit and a large swath of the population retreated to their home offices, 37-year-old Justin had already outfitted the spare bedroom of his apartment with a “battle station.” But as a software developer who spends long hours at his desk, he knew he also needed the highest quality chair possible — a chair like the Herman Miller Aeron. Lauded on the Buy It for Life subreddit as the Cadillac of chairs, the $1,400 Aeron is the office chair that all other office chairs aspire to be.
So when Justin found one in perfect condition at his local Goodwill, he bought it immediately. Once he sat upon his new throne, though, something felt off. “It just felt kind of flimsy overall, and the lumbar support wasn’t what I expected for how much hype the chair gets,” he tells me.
As such, he took to Twitter to see what other software developers were saying about their chairs, and discovered an insider secret. “I saw [full-stack developer] Wes Bos mention he’d purchased some Rollerblade-type wheels at the suggestion of another person, and found them to be quite the improvement,” Justin says. “I found some on Amazon, and a few days later, a box of five wheels arrived that looked a bit larger than those from a Rollerblade — but maybe it’s just been a while since I’ve rollerbladed.”
Immediately upon installing them, everything changed. “The wheels made the chair feel brand new. The grating feeling I’d previously experienced was gone,” he explains. “No more annoying sounds of hard plastic wheels against hard tile as the chair glided across the office — not that I’m using the chair for any great lengths of transportation, but I’d feel confident doing so.”
Jay, a 58-year-old in Florida, likewise hated the “scraping” sound of the stock plastic wheels on his office chair, and having newly installed wood floors, he feared they were leaving damage in their wake, too. “I started to poke around on Google for replacement casters and was besieged by options for Rollerblade-type ones,” he tells me. “A light bulb went off over my head! Having once been an active rollerblader, I know how smooth and soft the feel is when you’re gliding along, especially on a smooth surface.”
After installing the wheels into both he and his wife’s office chairs, Jay says his work life was forever changed. “There’s no going back once you put these on your new ‘office ride,’” he tells me. “You’ll be tempted to glide from your office to the bathroom, kitchen and anywhere else in your place that you can glide to — they’re THAT smooth, THAT soft, THAT comfortable. All with the added benefit of not marring your wood or laminate floors over time.”
Michael, a 21-year-old in New Jersey, is equally effusive. “Whenever you sit in a ‘normal’ chair, you realize how much better your life is with [the Rollerblade wheels],” he says. “I can easily slide in any direction. It’s not like those wheels that restrict going back and forth or left and right — they glide across the floor so smoothly, it’s like butter. I honestly hate the noise conventional wheels make, too, so if you live — and now work — with other people, I’d suggest getting Rollerblade wheels on your office chair for a silent ride.”
More than just the glide, though, Justin says the wheels make the overall feel of his chair more sturdy. “One of the unexpected improvements with the new wheels was that the chair sits slightly higher as the wheels are taller than the stock wheels, which made the chair seem less sturdy the more you got off the ground. But with the new wheels, the chair feels much sturdier even at heights that were previously treacherous.”
“The funniest part to me,” he concludes, “is that while still reasonably priced at around $30, I paid three times more for the wheels than I did the chair itself. So if you can find a cheap chair at Goodwill, know that you can stick some Rollerblade wheels on that sucker and make it feel like a thousand-dollar chair in no time.”