If you keep an eye on your wheels, you can learn a lot about how you're skating. In general, wheels wear down mostly when they are scrubbing or skidding, and wear very little when they are rolling cleanly. As with skiing, scrubbing will slow you down, and clean movement will be faster. As a fringe benefit, cleaner skating will help your wheels last longer. But beware that some wheels, especially cheap ones, will wear several times as fast as high quality ones.
The kind of skating you do will affect how the wheels wear, too. If you're playing hockey, you'll get lots of wear, since skidding turns and stops are a big part of the game.
Distance skating is very easy on inline wheels, and should cause little wear. If you are getting a lot of wear on the wheels at the toe, it could indicate you are pushing off of the toe. This is a slower technique than what the top speedskaters do, which is "pushing from the heel" as you finish the stroke. Pushing from the heel makes all the wheels come off the road at the same time, so that you won't overload the front wheel, scrub, and lose energy.
Downhill slalom skating is fairly tough on the wheels. But the good news is that with good technique the wear is very even, and you will rarely have to rotate your wheels. Try to keep all of your wheels weighted evenly to get the best traction. This means that the front and back wheels, and left and right skate have the same pressure through the whole turn. If your rear wheels are more worn than the front, it means that you're sitting back too much, and will have a tendency to fishtail. If the wheels are more worn on the inside than the outside, it means that you're weighting the outside skate too much, and are likely to overload it in a big turn. Like they say, every wheel tells a story...
Scott Peer is co-organizer of the Westwood Ski and Sports Club inline program in Southern California, now in its fourth 10-event season of in-line slalom competitions with skates and gates. He has participated in the ESPN X games, and is actively promoting the addition of inline skating competitions to other venues,, such as street luge.
New Slalom Organization in the Making
If all goes as planned, the new In-Line Slalom Skaters International (ISSI) will be sanctioning events and standardizing competition rules and formats in the near future. Industry veteran Pete Beatty--former Ice Capade skater and IISA-Certified Camp Rollerblade instructor--is the force behind the new organization. Thanks to Pete's initial efforts, the International In-Line Skating Association has already recognized the ISSI as an international sports group and governing body. (The IISA is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting all aspects of in-line skating.)
As founder and president of Skateworks, LLC, Beatty has the experience and connections to make the ISSI a viable organization. His company handles everything from managing in-line lessons, product sales and promotional events to supplying wheeled talent to TV and movie producers. Focusing first on developing rules and site requirements for freestyle slalom, Beatty is currently busy putting on events and getting feedback from the best athletes this discipline has to offer. The scope of the ISSI will also cover competitions for speed and ski-style slalom. Standards for these will be established as the organization continues to grow.
For more information on the ISSI or to contribute your expertise toward the formation of slalom standards and rules, call toll-free 1-888-SK8-WORKS (758-9675), or write to Pete Beatty at Skateworks, LLC, 28 Paragon Lane, Stamford, CT 06905.