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Why my wheels never match...

Did you ever look at those skaters whose gear looks like a disaster zone on a budget? I'm one of them, but there's a reason why my wheels don't match my tights or my socks or my leg warmers or my other wheels! I'm using a pusher set up, and I couldn't be happier!

It took a while to get it right, but when I did I thought HOLY CRAPCANS THIS IS AWESOME! What I've learned so far is that for my weight (80kgs) there are a lot of wheels that my lighter team mates swear by that will just slow me down. I've discovered that different combos result in varied performance but that if you have two 8 packs to mix and match, or even better, three 8 packs spanning a broader rnage of durometers, then you can respond to the floor at any given time. 

The last time I bought wheels I got two 4 packs, one set of harder wheels and one set of softer wheels. My thinking at the time was that I'd use the softer wheels as a pusher set. Great in theory, and they worked beautifully on the floor we were training on at the time, I gained almost 3 laps in my endurance testing overnight!! Then we changed venues... The old floor was slippery as sin, the new floor was dirty and ripply with a few slippery patches mixed into the roughs. And there was soon to be a 2nd floor in the mix, one that looked super shiny but was a bit grippy but slippery when dirty - what the??! My combo was ok, but it wasn't the best and I lacked the additional wheels to mix in to gain flexibility.

If you're reading this and thinking, combos? Mixing in? What the hell is she on about? Don't despair, I learned very quickly that researching wheels was going to help ME make the right decision for ME and not be led (or misled) by skater boy sales people who hadn't strapped on a quad skate since 1986. So here are all the combos I tried and what I found/felt while trying them...

The basic lowdown on roller skate wheels for derby is this...

Harder wheels work well for heavier girls but can be slippery on some floors. They're easier to learn how to stop in but can be harder for beginners to build speed and agility in. More experienced skaters will probably gravitate towards a particular compound, but for a sticky floor you'd want something in the low 90's, the heavier you are the harder you can go. The theory here is that a heavier skater can get grip through body weight, a lighter skater will need a wheel to help grip on the apex of the track.

Softer wheels tend to sit in the 80's range but you can get lower, they are great for outdoor skating as they absorb the bumps in a rougher ride, and they will also give you amazing grip on a slippery floor. Grip can really help you build confidence when you first start skating but as you improve you may want more speed. If you are heavier and all your wheels are soft you may lose speed, but if you combine soft and hard wheels you can get a good combo happening.



Pusher wheel combos...

All the photos are taken from underneath the skates so they show the right skate on the left hand side of the image - I'm sure you kids are all smart enough to work that out, but I thought I'd mention it just in case! The other thing that I've done (which old school skaters might not like) is I've referred to the inside and outside of the skates to specify the wheels! Many new skaters don't think of the inside and outside of their skates in relationship to a track, but rather in relationship to themselves. So when we say something is on the outside of your skate we mean the outer edge of each individual skate ie the outside of the left skate is the left edge and the outside of the right skate is the right hand edge. 

Combo 1: the George

The George uses 2 sets of 4 with the pusher wheels on the outside of both skates. It didn't work for me, but I've seen it work for other skaters.

Why do this?
It really depends on your skating style, basically the pusher wheels are gripping the track, so pay attention to your lean (or get a friend to film you doing some speed or endurance laps and check out your style on film) if you lean out on the tight turns then the George will be great for you.

Combo 2: the Jerry

The Jerry uses 2 sets of 4 with the pusher set on the outside of the left skate and the inside of the right skate.

Why do this?
It's a great combo if your lean and your floor are both consistent. If you're heavier you may find you get too much grab with the Jerry, in which case you may want to try the Morty.

Combo 3: the Morty

The Morty is a little bit of magic, there are 2 ways of rolling it, the second way is just the opposite of the first. Basically you are alternating the wheels in the Morty in a 1-2 1-2 format, the result looks higgeldy piggeldy, but your left skate and your right skate should match.

Why do this?
This combo is great for those who want grip without sacrificing speed. Its also best to try the Morty both ways to see which works best for you, I found the reverse Morty was better for one combo of wheels but for others the straight up Morty has been the way to go.

Combo 4: the Leo


The Leo uses 7 out of a complete set of 8 harder wheels but the front left wheel on the left skate has been replaced with a pusher wheel. I love this one!


Why do this?
Well basically I skate on 2 main surfaces, one which is grippy and one which is a bit slippery around the apex. By swapping in one pusher wheel, the last wheel to leave the floor when I'm crossing over has a bit of grip so I don't slip on the corners as much but I also don't sacrifice too much speed.

Combo 5: the Kramer

The Kramer is an adaption of the Leo, but uses 2 pushers, front left on the left skate, and the front left on the right skate.

Why do this?
If the Leo brings joy but you're still slipping slightly then this may give you just enough grip to hold you on the track on a tight turn and keep you in the game!

Combo 6: the Newman

The Newman is an adaption of the Kramer, it uses 2 pushers, front left on the left skate and rear left on the right skate. It's how I roll at the moment, and I must say, I love it!

Why do this?
If you are having issues with your toes (in particular with the ball of the right foot) it means you are probably getting damned good at crossing over, but it also means you're getting all that push from the front of your foot. This is often where the screw of your skate plate sits, hence the swollen ball of your foot aching after a skate. By putting the right pusher on the rear of the skate it forces your weight distribution into the back rather than the front, thereby reducing the swelling and inflammation on the ball. Problem soved!


Your personal success with these combos will depend on a few things, the main being your weight, your skate style and the floors you skate on. The best way to determine which works for you is to try them all!

Roll on my sweet petunias!




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