Time To Rebuild My Skates

I’ve done this before. 

I have skated 21,000 miles.  Elite Inline Fitness Skater.  I’ve taken a long break from the sport.  There’s practically nobody doing it any more, except us “hard core” group who do it because we enjoy it.

That and your kids.

But it’s not like it was back around 2000 when there were races and competitions and you would trip over people trying to get into a shop.

For a brief time I was even sponsored, although that could be stretching it a bit.   I had a relationship with a skate shop in Philadelphia who would give me some gear from time to time to try out and report back how it worked out.  Not too much, mind you.  T-Shirts, of course.  Water Bottles, but everyone had those.  Deep discounts on parts like wheels and bearings.  Some free bearings that I liked so much that I kept them clean, lubed, and used them for over a year and well into the second year.

A year then was 2000 miles plus.  My peak week was a week I took vacation to simply skate. 

204 Miles in 7 days.

Seriously.

I’ve introduced people to the sport.  Served as a coach and trainer for others.  Even got paid to train people which was a serious ego boost.  Enjoyed Skating more than just about any physical activity that you can do in public.  Had a resting heart rate of 42 BPM as a result.

But lately I’ve come back.  Skating in Florida is different.   There is no park here like the Schuylkill River Trail.  I’ve skated from the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to Valley Forge and back a number of times.  That is 20 to 30 miles of “Black Ice”.  Smooth asphalt complete with regular Water Stops.

There was one trip that I came around a bend in Valley Forge and spotted a Buck.  A Deer.  Pointy things on its head.  He spotted me and trotted beside me for about a half mile at my speed.  We looked back and forth at each other enjoying the workout and parted friends.

That sort of thing doesn’t happen often, does it?

Here I find myself going to Pompano Airpark in Pompano Beach.  Meh.  Better than most, at least it is safe.  4.5 mile loop of table top flat asphalt with a water stop at start and middle.  Not exactly exciting but … well it works.

After a while though, you find yourself thinking it’s time to rework things.  The wheels get flat spotted.  In the 94 degree heat and direct sun, the polystyrene compound breaks down on the black pavement that you could cook an egg on.  Where I got 50 to 200 miles on the wheels in the cooler conditions of Philadelphia, I am lucky to get 10 out of them here.

Swap the wheels out, especially the all important rear wheel – the Push Wheel that wears out on your power stroke faster than all the rest. 

Look at the bearings.  Wipe off the dust and road grit.  Hold the center spindle in your fingers carefully and see if they spin free.

Nope.  I thought so.  I was out with my dog Rack skating around the neighborhood the other day and thought I was being held back by the bearings.  Takes too much effort to move forward, may as well skate with a parachute.

Take a pin to flick the C Spring clip out.  Then spin the shield around that looks like an aluminum pancake with a hole in the middle and pop it out of the bearing.  Flip the bearing and repeat.  Spin the bearing and see if it is free spinning.  Drop it in a plastic container for later.

Repeat for each wheel.  10 wheels for the racing skates.  8 wheels for the cruising skates.  Two bearings per wheel plus a speed kit in the middle to hold it all together.  36 bearings, 72 O Rings and C Clips.

Do a few extra in case there will be a problem.  Throw out all the sealed bearings because they can’t be rebuilt.  It all comes out in the wash.

The Wash is when you pour Citrus Degreaser on all bearings and shake vigorously for about a minute.  The degreaser goes from a pale orange to black.  All those miles melt into the bottom of the plastic cup.

Triple rinse the bearings in water to loosen more grease, grit, and degreaser.  Bang them out on a paper towel to par-dry so they don’t rust.

Then take them to the hair dryer that everyone has hidden in the back of the cabinets.  Don’t have one?  Stop off at the thrift store and get one for this purpose.  It has to have a metal mesh on the air outlet.  The mesh has to be flat.  Put as many bearings on the mesh as fit.  Turn it on full blast and get the bearings as hot as you can.  That will boil off the last of the water.

Repeat for 36 bearings.

Reassemble the bearings.   One shield, one C Clip.

Snap!

Lay it out on a paper towel and drop 3 drops of Tri-Flex Teflon Lube on the bearing. 

Repeat for 36 bearings.

Put the other shield and C Clip back on.  Spin to test. 

Ahhh, silky smooth!

Each wheel gets one bearing per side, and a speed kit.

Slide the wheels in the skate “truck” that holds them to the boot.

Now, you are good.  Another 200 miles per bearing rebuild if the conditions are average.  If you can hear them get loud, rebuild them. 

Two and a half hours of rebuilding, snapping, lubing, and reconstruction.  They’re not doing this sort of thing any more.  Want to know why? 

Skating is still fun.  Even in 94 degree 75% humidity Florida heat.

Gliding over Black Ice at up to 15 MPH.  4 Minute Miles.  Slower when the wind comes in off the ocean.

That makes that afternoon well spent.  The knowledge that I will be able to go out and have the park practically to myself flying free in the sun.

Feel like a workout?  I’ll slow down for you.  I’ll even give you some tips.  There was this time where I was at mile 20 when I burned through all my breakfast and needed a rest and there was the most beautiful sunrise over the city of Philadelphia.

You’ll be surprised what you will see on 8 wheels.  10 wheels if you’re lucky.

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