Wheel Ignorance

So chatting with a skater, who recently invited me to come out and refnounce, the subject of wheels came up. She has heard of/thought of getting two sets of wheels. However she didn’t understand the why. A lot of skaters just accept the fact, from other skaters, that when you play vs team X you need Y wheels so you don’t slide all over the place. Or when you play against Team C you need wheel set D so you’re not stuck in the mud. But do you know the why? If you did you might consider trying a different set of wheels that speed up your game exponentially. Seriously, I hate to use Nawty Dee as my go to example, but when she tried a new set of wheels she went from an average speed skater to keeping up with the speedsters and or lapping them!

heartless wheels

So I’ll try to make it as easily understandable as possible, and believe me my intent is not to make anyone feel dumb.  So there are three points to keep in mind wheel hardness, wheel size (and how both react with different floors) and finally your weight. yep your weight also plays a factor.

Now for starters, polyurethane wheels are measured by their hardness by a durometer (the  resistance to penetration) the higher the number the higher the resistance. Most ROLLER skate outdoor wheels fall between 78a – 84a. Skateboard wheels are measured the same but have different ratings and various sizes. Indoor ROLLER Skate wheels generally fall between 84a – 102a (few manufacturers make 102a+ and are quite rare)

so what the heck do these numbers mean? Well have you ever noticed that when you skate  on your track you seems to skate at a fine pace, but if you skate somehwere else you’re either struggling to stay on the strack because you’re sliding everywhere OR you’re skating MUCH slower than you usually go? That’s the hardness of your wheels working with/against the floor. So the lower the number the softer the wheel is (easier to penetrate) and therefor it better “grips” the floor you skate on. This is something you want when you skate on polished concrete, slick wood floors, new skate/sport court, or masonite. Now when you skate on a newly cured/coated wood floor, old skate/sport court, or painted/pourous concrete you might want to use higher rated wheels. they’re harder so they don’t grip to the floor (the floor can’t penetrate the rubber) and so the wheels just keep rolling.

Wheel size also plays a factor, this info comes from my experience as a longboard skater. Essentially the smaller the contact patch (the amount of wheel surface that makes contact with the ground) the faster you will roll. the math behind it, think newton, an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless something something an outside force.

Wheels will spin until gravity and contact with a surface slow it down.  When you’re skating, your weight, gravity and how much wheel surface touches the ground determines how fast you will roll, or rather how long before you STOP rolling if we’re being technical.

Wheel sizes are measured in millimeters, both the diameter, (how long across the circle of the wheel) and how wide the wheel is. As far as roller derby is concerned, there is one standard wheel sizes and two standard wheel widths. There ARE a few companies that make variations on these sizes, but for the most part when you look online you will find 62mm tall and either 38mm or 44mm wide. Again there are companies that make smaller wheels (shorter) 57,58 and 59mm tall. The benefit of smaller wheels is that they accelerate faster how ever it takes more effort to maintain that speed.

For arguments sake, because I had a friend look this over and she wanted an explanation. Imagine your average BMX bike and a Beach cruiser. One has 20″ wheels the other 24″. Now imagine that the same person sits on the BMX bike and pedals once for a full rotation. The wheels turn a full 2 times so the BMX bike goes 40″ (20″ x 2) before it starts to slow down due to external forces. Now Beach cruiser same person same thing, they travel 48″ before they start to slow down (24″ x 2) make sense?

Now back to the skate wheels. Wider wheels offer stability for newer skaters especially in the apex (turn of the track) when they crossover. Narrow wheels offer longer periods of max speed because it has less floor to deal with. I couldn’t come up with an example for my friend, but just trust my experience with longboards that you can go faster further. The only example that I can think of is Quads vs Inline skates.

So to review lower number wheels with slick floors and high number wheels with sticky floors is the goal. If you’re an experienced skater. You can skate a WFTDA Assessment with your eyes closed, can teach or explain how to turn around toestop, tomahawk or anything else related to skating I’d recommend that you try narrow wheels.  You’ll be surprised at your new results.

The last thing that no one wants to talk about, a female’s weight. If you are over 150 lbs ~ 70 Kilos or heavier (I’m a Guy pushing 230 lbs ~ 105 Kilos) SUBTRACT at least 2a from the duro rating of your wheel.  For example I use a mix of 96a,94a and 88a wheels. but because of my weight they are in essence GRIPPIER than what they are rated as. so its more like 93a,91a and 85a. I can’t prove this last paragraph other than what I know about physics and skater drill/game I’ve seen.


2 different skaters using same wheels and bearings. From the jammer line a third skater pushes each one with the same effort/force. The skater who has the least resistance will roll farther. The point of this post is that you have a better understanding of wheels. How to choose your next set by considering all the relevant factors and hopefully you’ll noticably improve your speed and stay on the track by being properly equipped.

For anyone who cares I went from Labeda Hecklers, to G-Rods to Lowboys (all wide wheels) to Heartless in a mix and match type setup. I’ll discuss mixing and matching wheels and wheel bearing in a future post so stay  tuned


Heel Lock

Heel Lock

What the what?

Why do we, skaters and referees, accept pain and or discomfort as a fact of skating or try in vain various combinations of things til we find something that is most tolerable?  Yes folks, I’m writing about skates and feet. Again. This time, specifically about a heel lock, one of a few remedies that can help your confidence as well as your skating ability. Bologna!

Well I’ve come to find out that some skaters have issues with their skates and just deal with it until they find the right combo. Assuming it is because of the boot that they cannot skate well. Well, that is only part of the equation. You see, when you buy a car, generally, you make it your own. You might get new wheels and rims, or a nice stereo and speakers. Or at the very least a bumper sticker. SO why do we just get on our skates that costs from one to three car payments, and go around in circles until our feet callous over and get used to the pain?!

I for one don’t tolerate pain unless I absolutely must, which was only for nine weeks of basic training. Ever since I look for the best most efficient solution. “Work Smarter not Harder”. I unfortunately had the mindset of just buying a new boot everytime the pain got to be too much. Eventually my circumstances changed and I couldn’t spend a couple hundred buck to buy another boot.

Slip’n Slide

Now at RollerCon 12, among one of the 20 or so bouts I officiated on and off skates, I skated with a ref who had some Bonts. They were Hybrid Carbon Pros, like the last pair I had just before I bought my Antiks. but He didn’t use the straps, but laced around the plate behind the rear trucks. I have yet to see anyone else do the same. I have however seen skaters lace around the plate near the middle of the foot to lock the arches down (but that’s another post for another day). His complaint was that the strap wasn’t high enough to hold his heel in the boot. No matter how tight he pulled the strap, to keep his heel from slippin and slidin while he does his crossovers. He said he felt it gave him better ankle stability. I really wish I could remember his name, or what league he’s with. But I doubt there’s another skinny lil ref (shorter than 6′ / 1.8m weighing in less than 175lbs )

Lack of Heel Lock was a secondary issue I had with my Bonts. My main issue was that my arches were killing me. I kept cinching the laces tightly so I could get a semblance of an heel lock in addition to using the strap. However I never really felt like I had ankle stability, because my heel would slide a little in the boot. However my arches would be in excruciating pain. Anywho, because of arch pain and ankle instability I went with Antiks because I believed that they’d solve all my problems.

Guinea Pigs

As it turns out, there are a few skaters who have an issue with their heel staying put. Also with foot arch pain. So Here’s a picture of what a solution might look like. I have not skated with my laced laced this way so I can’t attest to how well it will work with resolving with your arch or heel lock issues. I love how light my bonts are (I actually still have them … somewhere.. I think) but I also love how snug my ankles are kept in my antiks. So if you can’t afford to buy another pair of boots, and seriously why spend the money on new boots you’re going to have to break in. When you can just go ahead keep what you got, spend a few bucks on long wax laces and try something out that can save you hundreds as well as solve instability and or foot pain.

But if this works out for you or you know a skater who might benefit from this, please feel free to share. Be sure to follow because you never know when I might have an epiphany about something that could help you out. Cuz I surely don’t have a clue either.

heel lock lacing 1Heel Lock 2


check this link out! It’s a new/differ way to achieve a heel lock if you have low top boots. Or even antiks. I can’t take credit, I saw it on some skaters in Acadiana/Lafayette and they said they saw it somewhere on the interwebs. But I couldn’t find it so I had one of the skaters video and upload it so I could link it. Thanks Weezy for the video and I think Foxxi Cleopatra for the lacing