Trucks, hangers, cushions – taking apart your skates

When I first got my skates a year and a half ago, I played with different ways to adjust them to improve my agility. The hardness of your cushions and adjusting the action on your plates are the two common ways to customize your skates. However at the time, the other obvious way for me to achieve fast wheels with quick turning was to adjust the nuts on my wheels slightly loose so they had a little wiggle action, like this:

It seemed like a good idea at the time and I’ve been skating with my wheels like that ever since. What I didn’t realize, this seemingly harmless adjustment was damaging my axles. It wasn’t until Rollercon11, when I showed my skates to one of my instructors, that she pointed out my wheels had way too much wiggling in the wrong direction and I should inspect my hangers and possibly get new ones. Wiggling like this…

Even with the nuts as tight as they could go, this is what my wheels do. The loose wheels wore down the axle of my hanger so much that you could visibly see the damage when compared to a new hanger.

Damaged one on top, good one on the bottom.

To fix the problem, I had to take apart my skates to replace the hangers. Following is a short tutorial on taking apart your skates. It’s a good idea to take your skates apart semi-regularly to inspect the parts, even if you aren’t having any problems, as a small crack can turn into a bigger problem if it’s not spotted quickly.

suregripsupercushions.1

Soft cushions give you more turning ability. If one of your cushions is shaped like a cone, more action will be in your skates

This is also the process you use to replace your skate cushions (also called bushings). The hardness of your cushions, mixed with how tight you adjust the truck nuts will allow you to customize your ride. The softest cushions will give you more turning action but less stability. You can customize further by choosing conical-shaped cushions, allowing for even more action.

If you are rolling on skates with adjustable pivot pins, you will also need adjust your pivots after going through the process below. (EG: Plates which have adjustable pivots include Avenger, XK-4 DA 45 and Invaders.) Check out this great video from Roller Girl on how to adjust your pivots.

Here is another video by Fluster Cluck on adjusting your pivots.

Before you get started…

Removing your wheels will make this job easier, so do that first. You may as well inspect your wheels and your bearings as well.

If you’ re happy with your current skate setup, write down your truck settings. Similar to adjusting your toe stops, your truck settings can be personalized as well. The more loose your trucks are, the easier it is to turn – however you may be less stable on your skates and looser trucks may inhibit your speed. For more information on how to adjust the action on your trucks, check out this video!

How to Adjust Your Trucks from Minnesota RollerGirls on Vimeo.

If you like where they are at, measure the distance of the nut with a tape measure or count the kingpin threads which stick out from the nut.

My front trucks are looser than my back. Make sure to record the position of both nuts. Regardless of how you set up your truck adjustment, it should be the same between the left and right skate.

Using your skate tool, loosen and remove the two nuts on your truck from each kingpin.

Lefty loosey

Pull off your first washer and cushion to reveal the hanger, then pull out the hanger. Then remove the second cushion and washer from each kingpin.

The reveal of the first cushion.

The skate hanger pulls right off, revealing the second cushion.

Easy, right? Don’t forget to take this opportunity to clean your parts ‘n pieces! Inspect your pivot cups (the part that your hanger tip is inserted into) for wear and cracks, ensure your plate is secure to your boot and look for cracks or wear on the plate itself.

The bare skate. You can see the two pivot cups next to each kingpin.

These are the cushions and washers. The hardness of your cushion affects the cornering of your skate. You can see I use conical-shaped cushions which get installed last.

To reassemble put everything back on in the opposite order, adjusting your trucks how you like them with the truck nut. If you are rolling on trucks with an adjustable pivot pin, make those adjustments after you tighten your truck nut (see first video posted above.)

Finally, put your wheels back on and tighten the wheel nuts so you get maximum spin but no wiggling in your wheels!

All back in one piece and pretty!

Remember that your skates are meant to be taken apart! For more information on other skate maintenance, check out this page.

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Time for outdoor skating! Here’s some tips!

With spring FINALLY arriving in my neck of the woods, I managed to get out for my first outdoor skate. I thought I would take some time to share my outdoor tips (and I encourage you to share as well) because this is how most of us Dames got our training last summer when we had no access to venue space.

Be aware of moisture

Be aware of wet areas on the paths and roadways. Not only does wet pavement cause your wheels to slide out when you push, moisture can ruin your boots and wreck havoc on bearings. Moisture inside your bearings can cause them to rust and stop spinning effectively. Avoid puddles at all cost and if you happen to hit the odd splatter, dry off your skates and bearings as soon as you are done your skate.

Get some outdoor wheels

When buying wheels at any time, look at these three characteristics…

Durometer (the “A” rating): Ranges from 74A to 105A. The lower the number, the softer the wheel. Wheel durometer affects durability, shock absorption and grip on surfaces. For outdoor wheels having a lower durometer helps absorb the little bumps in the pavement and also kicks little rocks out from under your skate. Ever hit a peddle on a harder wheel? Not fun. Lower is best.

Size or Diameter: This is the height of your wheel. Shorter wheels are slower and more maneuverable while taller wheels give a smoother ride and are a faster. Choose a size based on how fast you’d like to skate outside.

Love, love, LOVE these wheels! And I use them in bouts too

Width: The narrower the wheel, the more maneuverable it is. Also keep in mind narrow wheels are less stable for new skaters, so don’t choose something that’s too narrow for your skill level.

My favourite outdoor wheels:

Radar Pure
78A durometer
66mm high
37mm width

These glide SO smooth on rough asphalt and can handle minor gravel. These are wicked fast too.

Check out the Rollergirl.ca website, for many options of outdoor wheels.

Get some outdoor bearings

Switching bearings between your indoor and outdoor wheels can be a pain and you also risk damaging them over time. A second set of bearings to leave in your outdoor wheels is highly recommended. Some gals use their old bearings for outdoor skating so they don’t really care if they get them dirty or wet. But there are some bearings on the market that are fully encased, making it more difficult to for dirt and moisture to get in. These are pricey, but if you don’t like taking apart your bearings and cleaning them, it may be worth the money.

If you don’t have a roller skate shop near you, you can go to your local skateboard shop and talk to the crew there. Skateboarders are just as hard on their bearings (even harder because they almost exclusively skate outside) and they should know which ones will be best. Don’t forget, if you get your bearings from a skateboard shop, you’ll have to buy 2 boxes worth.

You can also buy bearing guards which can help keep dirt and debris from entering your bearings. Google that to find available options.

My oldest bearings go in my outdoor wheels and I wear them until they lose their spin. You can also purchase wholesale industrial 8mm bearings for a decent price. Surf the interwebs for a dealer near you.

When you go out… protect yourself…

Yes, you will get second glances when you go out skating in full gear. You might even get laughed at. Who cares! You are not skating on a smooth, predictable surface anymore. As some gals can attest it only takes a rock, a pedestrian or even a curb to get in your way outside. There is nothing worse than bashing your knee during a pleasure skate that keeps you from practice or injuring yourself in a way that keeps you from your job.

Don’t be stupid. Gear up. Especially if you’re going out to get your sweat on. But do your league a favour and wear your team shirt. You may drum up some new recruits or fans while you’re out and about.

Recommended: I have a summer set of knee, elbow and wrist guards. They are a bit lighter than my derby set so it’s not so hot to wear when it’s +30. I use these for casual skates. I often go without elbow pads for casual skates as well and on rare occasions, sans helmet. On days when I’m skating for training, I will do full derby gear, as I have had some pretty awesome spills when I get my speed on. You’ll get tan lines from wearing your gear in the summer. Just accept it.

Staying upright

Rookie mistake when skating outdoors (and in derby): coasting on two feet and locking your knees. There is nothing worse than face-planting in public. The best way to avoid falling is to always have your feet in motion by step skating. Why? If you’re on one foot and lose your balance or hit a rock that jostles you, you can put your other foot down to regain your balance. If you’re afraid to pick up your feet and coast down trails with intermittent pushing, your face will break your fall if you lose it. For the love of derby gods, pick up your feet!

Your knees are your shock absorbers and if you hit debris while your knees are bent, your body is in the perfect position to absorb and/or react if you stumble. Locking your knees or standing up straight impedes your ability to react and will cause your body to ‘tip’ instead of ‘absorb’ if you hit a rouge pine cone. Keeping fluid by bending your knees will keep your upper body relaxed as well. But remember to keep your hips and shoulders square and core tight to maintain your balance.

Your feet will feel “weird”

The vibration from skating on a bumpy surface will reverberate into your feet and up into your legs. It may cause your feet and/or shins to get tingly or even burn. Softer wheels will lessen the sensation. But the more you skate outside, the more you will get used you it!

Momentum is your friend

Skating slow on a bumpy surface will have your upper body lurching forward every time you hit a larger crack or debris because you don’t have enough speed to go over it smoothly. Always skate within your skill level, but understand that a sidewalk crack may cause you to stumble forward if you don’t have the momentum to go over it – like a car needing momentum to go over a speed bump. If you have a stable skating stance with bent knees and are picking up your feet, recovering from those stumbles will be easier.

As you skate on different outdoor surfaces, you will learn how to adjust your momentum to  surface with little lurching.

If curbs and sidewalk transitions make you nervous

Stop. Then step down/up from them using your toe stops to help stabilize yourself, then continue skating. Build your confidence in stepping on/off curbs at a stand still and work up to navigating them while rolling. Remember that roads are curved toward sidewalks so water runs off into storm drains. Be sure to compensate your body position to keep your balance. No matter your skating ability, always slow before entering an intersection so you can stop quickly if oncoming traffic doesn’t give you the right of way.

Finding places to skate

For the beginner, skating outside can be pretty intimidating. But I found my stability increased much faster by skating lots outside. Learning to negotiate gravel, pine cones and road intersections forces you to be aware of your surroundings and makes you pick up your feet… both good skills for a beginner. Plus navigating curbs makes you do little hops and steps that are common in pack work.

If you can find a clean parking lot or abandoned stretch of road to skate around on, that’s fabulous. For me, I really enjoy skating for endurance. The longer the path the better.

Try this: Map your favourite routes using a Google map or use an app on your smart device to record distance and speed of your outdoor skates. If you have kids, push them in a stroller/chariot or push them while they ride a bike to add fun and fitness.

Here are some of my favourite trails around Lethbridge. But there are many, many more. You can access the Lethbridge pathway map by clicking here.

My favourite skate routes. Google will map the distance as you draw the routes. Or use a fitness/motion app that tracks your speed and distance as you skate.

Orange route: Westside bike path loop – 3.16 mi or 5.08 km
Great for beginners. Very few intersections to navigate through. Gradual hill climbs and good opportunities for fast skating.

Blue route: Indian Battle Park riverbottom – loops range from .5 mi or .7 km to 3.55 mi or 5.71 km. Also has stairs for dryland training.
Great area for variety – lots of paths to choose from. Good for beginner/intermediate. Some short hills, but are easily avoidable if you’re not comfortable with speed. Surfaces vary from super smooth to bumpy. Lots of pedestrians, dogs and kids to watch out for. Debris from trees can cause hazards on windy days and is prone to flooding during rainy season. Great on hot summer days because of the shade from trees.

Red route: Pt 1 – Green strip to Henderson – 3 mi or 4.82 km
A nice cruise. Good for beginner/intermediate. Road intersections should be handled with caution, as some don’t have smooth transitions. Paths are generally clear but watch for gravel and pine cones. There are some sections where the path is terrible, but they are short-lived. Some short hills and opportunities for speed.

Red route: Pt 2 – Henderson loop – 1.76 mi or 2.84 km
A fun trail if you want to be seen by everyone! Make sure you take the trail furthest from the north side of the lake for the best ride (avoids most of the cobblestone path). Adjust your speed based on pedestrian traffic. These trails tend to be very busy. Keep to the right and announce to pedestrians what side you are passing on when you come up behind them. Cool air from the lake keeps you cool on the hottest of days.

Green route: Industrial trail – 3 mi or 4.83 km
Flat, smooth and few intersections. Great for a beginner. Very little debris except at intersections. Better on weekends due to decreased industrial traffic. Very little shade. Not recommended on hot days, great for early morning skates! This leads to new trails in the far north side of the city.

There are tons of new path systems in newer neighbourhoods that aren’t on this map. Go and explore!

Get skating!

So for those who are about to venture into the out-of-doors, I hope this helps a bit. I would love to hear from others about your favourite wheels, bearings or gear you use outside. No more excuses, freshies! Get out there and skate your asses off!

Game day quickie… wheel quick (see what i did there?)

Wheels wheels wheels. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that all those fancy, hard, narrow wheels just aren’t for me.

This game I’m using my outdoor wheels (78a Radar Pures). These wheels were the first ones I ever purchased and are like my best friends. They are labeled as outdoor wheels but given the surfaces we skate on, I’m willing to throw out all labels and stick with what I know and love.

They have now become my game day favourites even though they will never be the fastest compared to harder varieties I’ve tried. But they really allow me to hug the top of the track going almost-top-speed.

Other varieties I’ve tried have me coasting to maintain control on the slippery spots, which I really don’t prefer to do.

With all these struggles it makes me wonder if my skating style is part of the problem. I’ve questioned this before. Maybe I’m too upright, maybe I’m too centre-weighted, maybe I need to muscle-up that left leg a bit more. Hopefully when I attend Rollercon in July I can corner an expert who can watch me skate and shed some light.

So I beg to ask the question… What do you lightweights (>120) use? What’s your surface like? What have been your challenges in finding a wheel and have you adjusted your skating to make it work? Or do you work with the sliding?

Time to get ready! Wish me luck!

Go Gas City!

Dear readers, it’s game day!

Good morning everyone!!!!

For those who follow me on Twitter already know today is the big day!

I have a lot to do, including figuring out my boutfit, pitching in to help my derby wife move and hit up the Exhibition around 3 for some free skate time.

I was very frustrated to find out last night that the new sets of wheels I bought, don’t work for me in our bout venue. I was sliding out all over the place so it looks like I’ll be switching to my outdoor wheels for this game.

I have no problem with my outdoor wheels, they just aren’t as narrow and pretty as the new ones I bought. The search for my perfect indoor wheel continues…

See you all tonight!!!!!!

Switching up my wheels…

Disclaimer: Doing some shop talk with wheel choices in this post. Wheels don’t make you a better skater, but they can help you increase your skill with more speed, agility, etc. I’m passing on what info I’ve learned from my own research and talking to others; your wheel-choice-journey may differ greatly from mine. But I hope you learn a little bit from what I went through to choose.

I just ordered 8 more babies…

My pushers, 38 mm, 88a

My hard wheels 38 mm, 93a

Going into this derby business, I never knew how much I would stress over wheels and bearings. The choices are unimaginable!

Skate wheels come in multiple combinations of shapes, sizes and hardness. Picking the right wheels depends on your skill level, the surface you skate on and what you want out of them.

After skating on my 38mm wide Radar Pure outdoor wheels for so many weeks (which are on sale right now and can be found here and I HIGHLY recommend them), switching to my 44mm wide Radar Flat-out indoor wheels was a challenge. I felt like I was tripping over my own feet, locking wheels with other skaters and even banging my own wheels together all the time. My cornering felt forced and I just felt clumsy all around.

You’d think 6mm wouldn’t make a huge difference… it does.

So the search for my new wheels began. Part of the challenge is we don’t have a permanent venue to play at and many of these wheels are manufactured with certain surfaces in mind. Right now we skate on an old wood floor and sorta-polished concrete.

Completely opposite end of spectrum. Boourns.

On slick surfaces you need softer wheels so you don’t slide out around corners. On wood surfaces, you need a harder wheel to make up for the soft floor. (But trust me, wood floors aren’t soft when you whack your tailbone on it.)

I’m also considered a smaller skater, so I need to be careful to choose a wheel that is soft enough to allow me to dig into the floor when I need it. Choosing a too-hard-of-wheel will cause me to slide out in all sorts of different directions.

So after chatting back and forth with Lisa from Rollergirl, I decided to try a combo of 2 sticky wheels and 2 hard wheels per skate to work with both surfaces.

My white wheels will be riding on the left side of each skate. When I push, that’s the side I push from and also use to do various stops, so that’s where I’m going to let the softer wheels ride first to try them out.

My purple wheels will be riding on the right side of each skate. These are going to be the hardest wheels I’ve skated on to date. I’m really curious how they are going to perform and if I’m going to feel every bump on the track as a result. It will also make doing anti-derby (skating in the opposite direction) a little more interesting at practice.

The range of hardness for skate wheels is large. Also called the durometer and measured on an A-Scale, lower numbers mean softer wheels, higher numbers are harder. Here’s where my choices lie, and for reference, I’m >120lbs…

>86a
86a
88a – PUSHERS
90a
92a
93a – SPEEDYS
96a
<96a

So my combo is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

I’m nervous these won’t be sticky enough to hold me to the track, but I guess I’ll have to wait until they are appropriately broken in before deciding for sure.

I’m going to continue switching out my bearings between my wheels instead of buying another set for these. But when I DO decide to get another pair of bearings, I’m going to be hitting up my local skate shop on 5th Street to get those. (They have taught me lots about purchasing and taking care of bearings. If anyone is in the market for a set, I recommend going to talk to them.)

P.S. The best part? As I was writing this post, I got notification my order has already been shipped!!! I love rollergirl.ca!!!! Happy birthday to me!!!!

Shopping for safety

The weather turned kind of crappy when I got home so thoughts of skating after work were kiboshed. Instead I took my oldest boy out to the 2 skate shops in town, Bert and Macs, then Walmart for shopping for new pads.

My current knee and elbow pads are pretty cheap (they’re my kid’s actually) and don’t fit me well so wanted something a bit better.

Thanks to a tip from one of the girl’s on Sunday, she saw some Tony Hawk pads at Walmart for $20. After coming up empty handed at the other stores (one didn’t have their stock in yet and the other recommended to check some product on http://www.redprotection.com which they can order in) I decided to go with the $20 set until I really know what I want and need.

I decided my current wrist guards will suit me until I talk to one of the girls to see if they will be okay.

I consider myself lucky because I already have the skates and helmet. A lot of these girls are having to put a huge amount of coin for equipment before getting started. Wheels and bearings, however, I may have to invest in.

The knee pads are great! Very comfy and they fit my skinny legs. My elbow pad straps will need to be altered a bit so they fit tighter. I’m very happy with my purchase, but debating if I should rip off the Tony Hawk label and customize the knee pads with something more fun.

Snow is in the forecast. Ugh. I just want to SKATE!