Feel like your skates aren’t quite cooperating or maybe they’re holding you back from progressing, but you’re not ready to invest in a new set? New skates, new boots or changing your plates are obvious and inevitable upgrades to make on your skating journey. But for some of us, these items are not accessible and that’s okay! We’ve got some easy tips on ways you can make some upgrades to your roller skates without hurting your hip pocket.
1. Switch up your cushion game
Cushions aren’t just those cozy, cuddly and downright cute squares of fluff that we put all around our houses. In roller skating, cushions are the bit on your skates that sit on the kingpin and are nestled on either side of your trucks. Cushions help you manoeuvre on 8 wheels, enabling you to hit your edges or turn. Cushions come in different hardness levels, but more often than not, if you have skates on the cheaper end of the price spectrum you have some seriously hard cushions or they may even just be rigid plastic. Different styles of skating are better served by different kinds of cushions.
If you’re looking to hit your edges easier for dance or flat ground skating, getting some soft to medium hardness cushions is a decent and easy upgrade. You can get universal cushions that fit most skates and if you’re looking for even more movement you can try some conical cushions (you might need to invest in some new cushion caps for these though). However, if your skates have those plastic trucks there’s probably little that new cushions will do in the way of gaining more manoeuvrability.
If you are a park skater you might be looking more towards the medium to hard end of the hardness spectrum for cushions, especially if you have wide trucks. But this is all personal preference and you can even mix and match with the hardnesses for each truck.
Cushions also deteriorate over time so if they look all ballooned out, super squished or have cracks in them then you are overdue for a replacement.
You can check out RollerFit’s favourite cushion options in our shop and make sure you head over to our Skate Tech Talks: Cushions Explained blog for more detailed info about cushions and how you can choose the right fit for you.
2. A wheely good time
Finding the right kind of wheels for your skating style or discipline is an important factor to consider when making upgrades to your set-up. Different styles of skating call for different kinds of wheels.
If you’re a person who skates mostly outdoors, trail skates or likes a crunchy surface then soft outdoor wheels are what you’re looking for. Check out our outdoor wheel blog over here for more details about what to look for in an outdoor wheel and for some of our faves.
Maybe you’re more of a dance skater, like smooth indoor surfaces or do a lot of RollerFit. You will be on the lookout for a nice indoor wheel, with hard (square) edges and a decent level of hardness depending on how much slip and grip you like. If you do roller derby, you’re going to want an indoor wheel in the low 90s hardness range with a bit of width to it for stability.
For the park skaters out there, you’re going to want to look out for a nice hard skatepark wheel with a rounded or conical edge. We like the Rollerbones Bowl Bombers or the CIB Street wheels. If you skate some old parks or love a good street sesh, then maybe a slightly softer hybrid wheel might be more up your alley.
If you do lots of different styles of skating or want to broaden your skate discipline horizon, then a hybrid wheel might be the way to go. The Chuffed Chillers or the Moxi Fundaes will keep you rolling on all kinds of surfaces and are suitable for a variety of skating disciplines. Plus, you get the major bonus of never having to fuss around and change your wheels! Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds.
3. Make them wheels roll!
Rolling is literally in the name of the sport. So what makes our wheels roll besides our willpower and strong legs? Bearings of course! Inside each of your wheels will be two bearings that sit around your truck axle. If your wheels don’t spin for long when you give them a flick or if they let out some painful shrieks and squeals when you’re rolling, then it’s probably time for a new set of bearings.
Bearings are rated based on their quality and durability on the ABEC scale. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of it, the higher the ABEC rating, the better the bearings are. Bearings are an underestimated upgrade and you don’t need the most expensive, fancy ceramic bearings to get a smooth roll (although they do have their benefits for the more advanced or lazy skater who doesn’t enjoy skate maintenance). You can get decent bearings for decent prices. Bones Reds are a classic option, coming from the skateboarding company Bones with over 40 years of experience in manufacturing roller sports parts. Better Bearings Rock Solids or Lickety Splits are also a great option and come in fun colours too.
Just make sure you select the correct size bearing at check out. Some plates and wheels only take a 7mm bearing, but most roller skates (except for Roll-Line products) take an 8mm bearing.
Before you go explore the world of cushions, wheels and bearings, there’s something important you should keep in mind when thinking about upgrading your set-up. It goes without saying that not all skates are made equal and not all roller skate hardware is either. Price is indicative of quality and durability. If your skates are on the cheap end of the spectrum, sometimes it is worth saving your money for a new set of skates altogether, ones that will see you through the next stage of your skating journey. If new skates are still out of reach have a look around for a set of decent skates second hand.
If you’re still unsure about ways you can upgrade your set-up, or maybe you want to go the whole hog and get a new set of roller skates, you can always shoot us an email with all your skate related questions. Everyone at RollerFit is a skate tech nerd, so don’t be shy, we live for this kind of talk.