to Paul Lutomski of the
Information about acquiring equipment, and links to additional information are at the bottom of this page.)
Inline speed skates consist of four main components; 1) Boots, 2) Frames, 3) Wheels and 4) Bearings
The boot is often the most important and expensive component. However, it is usually not necessary to spend a lot of money to have a boot that performs well. Many top skaters are using boots in the medium cost range. Popular speed boot brands include Bont, Hyper, Mogema, Riedell, Simmons, Powerslide, Canarium, and Verducci. The ankle, heel and sole of boots are a hard molded shell usually made of carbon fiber composites for lightness and strength. Some shells are heat moldable for a customized fit. The upper portion of the boot is usually leather. Most boots have some inner padding often made of neoprene or other foam covered in leather. All have laces and lace covers. Laces can stretch while skating so some speed boot styles have a replaceable buckle system for extra security and on-the-fly adjustment capability. The bottom of the hard molded shell has mounting blocks built in, to accommodate the frames. Mounting blocks vary by boot. Look for a mounting system that allows front to back and side-to-side adjustability (Though most frames also adjust side-to-side).
When getting skates, most important is that the boots fit well and are comfortable, because most skaters spend many hours when the boots put much pressure on their feet.† New boots often cause blisters and other soreness unless feet are hardened gradually.† So skating equipment may also include blister pads, duct tape, horse wrap tape, etc.; contact an experienced skater for more information.
The fit of boots sometimes can be improved by heat molding, although many skaters prefer to skate their boots as received for several hours to determine if molding is needed, itís best not done if not needed.† Here is some information about how to mold, written for a specific brand of boots, but applicable to many others.
The frame is the structure attached to the bottom of the boot. Frames are usually made of aircraft quality aluminum stock and come in three, four, or five wheel models that are made to accommodate a variety of wheel sizes and configurations from 80mm to 100mm. Frames can vary in length from front to back, depending on the number of wheels, wheel size, and other design factors valued by the manufacturer. Skaters typically chose frame designs and lengths to suit their age, strength, skating style, or just what "Feels" right. A common configuration is a 5-wheel frame for 84mm wheels. Most frames have two or three slots in front and back to offer both front to back and side-to-side adjustability. Speed skating frames usually have one-piece axles that insert on one side of the frame and screw into the other side of the frame to attach the wheel and bearing assembly.
Hereís a chart listing some frame sizes available.
Here are ideas regarding how to select a frame (more ideas are linked to on the top line of that page).
Wheels vary in size, hardness (A compression measurement called "Durometer"), and the type of bearings the hubs were designed to hold. Wheels come in many sizes, starting with 76mm, which very few speed skaters still use, to 100mm. However, many outdoor skaters are considering the 100mm wheels for the faster "Roll". Currently the most popular size, both indoor and outdoor, is 84mm. Larger wheels take a little more effort while accelerating to top speed, but have more momentum and are therefore easier to keep spinning at the faster rate ("Roll"). Hardness is roughly described by a wheelís durometer rating. Different durometer wheels react differently in use. Depending on the surface, a softer wheel may provide more grip and less vibration, but may not Roll as fast as a hard wheel. Durometer ratings usually range from 78A to 93A, with the lower number being a softer wheel. Softer wheels usually have better grip and are generally used outdoors to reduce vibration, and add overall rolling comfort and stability on a rougher course. Another property of softer wheels that partially compensates for the lost "Roll" is an effect called "Rebound." Rebound refers to the wheelís tendency to return forward energy into the wheel while rolling. The most popular indoor racing wheels are usually 84mm in diameter and have a durometer of 90a to 93a. Outdoor wheels durometer may range from about 82a to 85a, depending on the surface and the skaterís personal preference. The wheel hub (Center) holds the bearings. Most wheels have a spoked hard plastic hub that helps decrease the weight of the wheel.
Bearings are another piece of speed skating equipment that vary widely. There is considerable discussion in the inline speed skating community as to what works best among variables like size, number of balls, size of balls, materials, and lubricants to use. In general, bearings are made of either steel or ceramic. Both are fine choices if maintained well. Some speed skaters choose ceramic because ceramic is a material that does not deform as easily in heat, is very durable, and can last longer than steel. However, a good set of steel bearings can perform very well if properly maintained. Ceramic bearings are also usually about twice as expensive. Bearings also generally come in 2 sizes, either 608, which is most common, or 688 which is smaller in diameter and lighter because less material is used. The smaller size bearings are commonly referred to as "Mini-bearings." Most speed skaters prefer to lubricate with a very thin/light oil, or similar, rather than a thick grease which shows movement.
Equipment vendors sell on-line, some speed teams and rinks sell equipment, and some vendors have booths at larger skate meets. Used equipment can be purchased on speed skating websites as well as the popular online auction sites, such as eBay.† Most skate equipment can be purchased remotely (such as via web) with confidence, but, for boots, some skaters prefer to try their fit before selecting.† Usually the best way to get equipment is to ask experienced local skaters their recommendations.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT EQUIPMENT SELECTION AND CARE
Hyper (not much advice here, but a good explanation of a broad and popular product line)
Many equipment vendors have web sites with information about their products.