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After struggling to change my indoor wheels to outdoor wheels and fumbling about with bearings, I got a lot of top tips from a sympathetic onlooker so thought I’d share the advice.

You’ll find yourself removing the wheels from your skates for any number of reasons: maybe you’re just cleaning your wheel bearings, maybe you’ve splashed out and upgraded your ‘starter’ wheels to something a bit more speedy, or maybe you’ve got a dedicated set of wheels for outdoors and want to go impress the neighbours. The approach is always the same though:

  1. Take wheels off
  2. Change/ clean your bearings
  3. Put wheels back on

The example I’m going to run through here is taking off my Radar Cayman wheels that I use for training indoors, popping out the red ABEC 7 bearings to clean, fitting a set of blue ABEC 5 bearings to my pink Radar Zen wheels (for skating outdoors), then fitting these wheels.

What you will need:

  • A ‘skate tool’ (I got mine from Kate’s Skates)
  • 8x ‘soft’ wheels for outdoor skating (anything below a 85A hardness makes a nice soft wheel, suitable for absorbing all the lumps and bumps outdoors)
  • 16 bearings – 2 per wheel
Wheel removal kit

Wheel removal kit

Use  your skate tool to loosen and remove the nuts from each wheel then remove the wheel from the axle. Don’t lose your nuts!

Wheel screwed off

Wheel screwed off

Whether they look dirty or not, it’s always a good idea to clean your bearings at this point. It’s amazing how much dust and grime they’ll gather even from skating in an indoor games hall! To remove the 2 bearings (front and back) from your wheel using the minimum resources, place the wheel over the tip of the wheel axel and use this to gently pop out the back bearing, and then the one on the front.

Pop back bearing off

Pop back bearing off

There are products out there that promise to keep your bearings all lubed up if you wants to spend the money. Go Go Gadget Skates from Dundee Roller Girls also just pointed me towards a great online tutorial for cleaning bearings.

Your poor wee skate will be looking a bit bare now, so lets get the other set of wheels on. It’s my preference to have another set of bearings for my outdoor wheels because I’m lazy. They’re not overly expensive and it makes the process a lot quicker if your wheels already have the bearings in them.

Pop your extra/ newly cleaned bearings into the wheels, one on the front and one on the back. It’s important to make sure these are fitted tight, so if they look like they’ve gone in squint, take them out and try again. My preference is to push the bearing into the wheel gently, then use the wheel axel of your skate to push the bearing into place.

Wheel and bearings to fit

Wheel and bearings to fit

Ta da! Bearings all snug in the wheels

Ta da! Bearings all snug in the wheels

All that’s left now is to fit the wheels on your skates!

With each wheel now loaded up with 2 bearings, push the wheel right down on the skate axel and replace the wheel nut that you removed about 20 minutes ago. I just screw mine on a little by hand then use my skate tool to tighten it up and make sure it goes on straight. The trick that I use to keep my wheels not too loose, not too tight is to screw the nut as far as it will go (right tighty) – at this point, your wheel will not move if you try to spin it. I then use the tool to loosen (left loosey) the wheel for about a quarter turn until I’m happy that the wheel spins freely. The wheel should not be clicking back and forwards on the axel – tighten it a little more if it is.

Hope that helps! The investment in a skate tool and an extra pack of bearings shaved about 30 minutes off my wheel-change process once I got the hang of it. As with most things in Roller Derby, the equipment you buy will be down to personal preference, but we can all do with a helping hand, right?

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