Have you had your roller skates for a while, but now they aren’t feeling quite right or feel like they’re holding you back from nailing those new tricks? Whilst getting a new and better set of skates can solve this problem and help you progress in your skate journey, it’s not always necessary. Here at RollerFit we always recommend saving up for good quality skates or trying to score some second-hand skates rather than wasting money on cheap skates that need replacing every 6 months. If a new set of skates aren’t in your budget, then we’ve got some easy ways you can improve your skates without breaking the bank.
Hot Tip #1: Get more stability or more movement with some new cushions
Cushions, or some people might know them as bushings, are the bits on your roller skates that go on your kingpin and sit on either side of your trucks. Cushions are what help you and your skates turn and hit your edges. They are made of a urethane compound which compresses as pressure is applied to the cushion and then bounces back when this pressure is released as you shift your weight in your feet and skates.
Cushions should be changed when they start getting cracks or look like they are ballooning and getting a bit misshapen. You can also change them at your leisure if you want to gain more stability (go harder) or get more movement from your trucks (go softer). There’s a range of universal cushions and a bunch of brand or plate-specific cushions so make sure to check the name or product description to see if they are suitable for your plates or skates.
Just like skate wheels, cushions come with different hardness ratings. You can even mix and match hardness levels on the same trucks or throughout your setup. If you have skates on the cheaper end of the price spectrum, there’s a good chance that you have really hard cushions and some may even be made of rigid plastic.
If you like the sound of changing your cushions, keep in mind that different styles of skating are aided by different kinds of cushions. If you do lots of roller dancing or flat ground skating where you want to hit your edges more, some soft to medium hardness cushions are an easy change to improve your skating experience. For park skaters, you’re probably looking at the medium to hard cushions, especially if you have wide trucks.
Hot Tip #2: Expand your wheel library
If you bought a complete skate set-up and haven’t changed the wheels yet, upgrading to a better quality wheel that’s suited to your skating style can do wonders. Like the cushions, different kinds of skating are better served by different kinds of wheels.
If you mostly skate outside, do trail skates, skate on rough surfaces or want more stability and grip then some soft outdoor wheels might be the go. You can have a look at our favourite outdoor wheels here.
If you do a lot of RollerFit or skate on smoother indoor surfaces you should be on the lookout for an indoor wheel, preferably with hard edges (square edges). The hardness level you choose for an indoor wheel is a personal preference, depending on how much slip or grip you are looking for. For a little bit of grip go for low-mid 90s hardness and for a bit of slip go for mid 90s, low 100s, or a D-scale hardness wheel.
Derby skaters will be on the lookout for a wider wheel in the mid 80s – mid 90s hardness range. We like the Reckless Morph wheels. Not only do they look sick but they have a dual urethane compound, meaning two hardness levels on the single wheel so you don’t slip out on the derby track.
Park skaters, check out some high 90s – low 100s hardness wheels with a rounded edge or conical shape. The bigger the wheel size the better it is for big ramps and bowls, the smaller the wheel the better for street obstacles and reducing wheel bite.
If you like to dabble in a bit of everything then a hybrid wheel could be the go for you, especially if lots of different wheels aren’t in the skate budget. We love the Chuffed Chillers or the Moxi Fundae wheels because they roll comfortably just about anywhere and they’re suitable for lots of different kinds of skating. You get the added bonus of not having to change your wheels too!
Hot Tip #3: Smooth your roll with new bearings
I’m sure you have strong skater legs that make you roll, but there are also some little circular contraptions in your wheels that make your skates go. Bearings can be found inside the hub of your wheels and they sit around the truck axle. You will have 2 bearings for each wheel and need a pack of 16 bearings to freshen up your ride. To test if you could benefit from new bearings give your wheels a flick, if they don’t spin for at least 10 seconds then it's time to clean them or get a new set. Another tell-tale sign that it’s time for new bearings is when your current set of bearings is making a squealing sound.
When you’re looking for your new set of bearings, you’ll find that they have the word “ABEC” followed by a number in their description. ABEC is the scale that rates the quality and durability of bearings. The higher the number the better the bearings. Bearings range in price depending on the ABEC rating and their construction. Traditional metal bearings are cheaper and ceramic bearings are more expensive. You don’t necessarily need the most expensive ones to get a smooth roll. We love Bones, Better Bearings and Roll-Line bearings.
Before you checkout with your fresh bearings just make sure you’ve selected the correct size bearing for your skates. Most roller skates take an 8mm bearing, but if you have Roll-Line plates or some old speed skates then you will need 7mm bearings.
Hot Tip #4: Practise some skate care
Let’s be honest, many of us wait until our skates look filthy and our wheels don’t roll before we summon the willpower to clean them. But an easy way to improve our skates and extend their longevity is to practise a little bit of skate care by giving your skates and hardware a regular thorough clean.
Depending on how often you skate, you should generally clean your bearings once a month. Your wheels also build up a crust of stuff you roll over and can be washed and scrubbed in some warm water and detergent. Giving your plates and trucks a wipe down with a dry cloth never hurts too and keeps them from getting grimy. Cleaning your skates also gives you a chance to check your cushions and pivot cups for any damage. We’ve got a whole slew of roller skate care products and tools you can use to dismantle, clean and reassemble your skates.
If you need any help choosing the best bits and bobs to improve your skate setup or maybe you’ve decided that you just want to get a whole new set of skates, you can always shoot us a message with all your roller skate questions. The RollerFit Shop staff are experienced skaters and big-time skate tech geeks so let us help you out!