Hey, guys – Travis, here. Keegan has been kind enough to allow me to scribble some of my hockey thoughts and reviews here at Schoolyard Puck, so I figured I’d start with something pretty basic – a friendly reminder, if you will. (Keegan has already published an entry on the “how-to” aspect of this post, which you can find here.) As street hockey players, we’re all familiar with the durability (or lack thereof) of the wheels that we pound incessantly, vehemently even, into the rough asphalt. Needless to say, even the most durable of wheels wear down with time – some faster than others. That said, it makes perfect sense that as play time increases in the summer months, so does the frequency with which we need to purchase new wheels. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, quality asphalt wheels aren’t typically readily affordable on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. If you buy the best, you’re spending more for a longer-lasting set of wheels, and if you buy the cheapest, you’re spending less for wheels that are likely to chunk in the first few hours of play. It’s a lose-lose, frankly, speaking in monetary terms.
One way that we can combat this, though, is by rotating our wheels. Chances are that most of you are familiar with the process, but for those of you who aren’t, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. Rotating street hockey wheels is fairly simple; in fact, all you need is the hex key/allen wrench that you use when replacing an old set of wheels.
So, how do we go about doing this?
You’ve probably noticed that, as you skate, your wheels begin to wear down on one side or another. Pictured above, you can actually see where one or two of the wheels have been torn to shreds on one side, while the other side remains much less scathed. This is a tell-tale sign of poor wheel rotation on the part of the owner (me, ha). So, to avoid this, all you need to do is detach your wheels, one by one, and reattach them so that they face in the opposite direction. A good way to do this (at least, initially) is to use the decal as a reference point. For instance, when you first attach your new set of wheels, make sure that you do so with all of the decals pointing outward (or inward). This way, when you go to rotate them after a few schoolyard sessions, you’ll know that you’ve made it through the entire set when they’re facing in the opposite direction. Obviously, the decals wear down over time, so you’ll have to use your good eyes at a later juncture!
How does this help?
Well, most players tend to favor one side or another, whether it be making tight turns, stopping, or even dragging a skate behind them. With that in mind, it’s pretty plain that one side of each wheel is going to wear more quickly than the other side. By rotating, we’re alternating between which side gets the majority of the wear. You can also choose to rotate between wheel position. The front wheel, for instance, tends to experience more wear than, say, the middle wheels. By moving the front wheel to the middle, and a middle wheel to the front, you’re taking another step to prolong the inevitable (which is our goal). Keep in mind, you don’t have to do this every single practice, game, or pickup session. But, you should try to do it periodically. Don’t go a month without rotating your wheels and then expect that this tactic will be just as effective. Personally, I try to do it once every two or three games – it’s what works for me. In the end, it’s all preference, though.
Ice blades and inline wheels can’t really compare to asphalt street hockey wheels. Blades may need sharpened frequently, but it’s what – $5 a sharpen? Inline wheels, on the other hand, cost just about the same as asphalt wheels, but they don’t wear down nearly as rapidly. Considering the money that we spend every summer on street hockey wheels, it’s certainly suggested that we do whatever we can to make them last even a few games longer. Rotating your wheels is a simple tactic to preserve usability, and consequently reduce overall cost.