When was the last time you rotated the wheels on your roller skates?
I ask skaters this from time to time and they often look at me confused. "Don’t they rotate every time you skate?" Not exactly. Roller skate wheels are like the tires on a car. Removing your wheels and changing their positions is a regular part of maintaining your skates.
Why You Should Rotate Your Wheels
So you don't rotate your wheels. What's the big deal?
Roller skate wheels are made of urethane, a rubber that is strong but not invulnerable. Over time your wheels can wear down unevenly. This can happen if you favor one side over the other or if you tend to turn one direction more often than the other.
Flat spots are caused by the wheel being stopped suddenly, eroding a patch at a tangent to their circumference. This causes them to be less efficient and extremely noisy. Any tricks that require parallel sliding, like a powerslide or T stop, can result in flat spots.
Both issues can make it harder to stay balanced on your skates. Uniform wheels allow for better grip maneuverability, and control, especially at high speeds and with complex tricks. Removing your wheels and changing their positions will help prevent uneven wear and flat spots, extending the life of your wheels and keep you skating smoothly, for longer!
Tips for Rotating
I use this tip to keep track of how I've rotated my wheels:
Label the inner side of each wheel with a permanent marker. Assign them R or L for either the right or left foot, and numbers corresponding to their location on the skate.
This is just one way to assign them a location, but I've found it super helpful! When it's time to rotate them, you'll be trading positions in a criss-cross. Top left becomes bottom right, top right becomes bottom left, and vice versa.
How Often Should You Rotate Your Wheels?
How often you rotate your wheels will depend on how often you skate, the type of wheels you use, and the type of skating you do. If you have soft, outdoor wheels, you'll need to rotate them more frequently as they wear down faster. Some sources recommend once a month, to be safe. I personally skate harder, 101A wheels. I stick to relatively smooth surfaces, so I only rotate mine about every 4 months.
A great rule is if you can't remember the last time you rotated them, you're probably overdue. I like to take a photo or make a note in my phone with the date that I rotated them. And any time I change between different types of wheels I rotate them to keep things even.
This is a simple part of skate maintenance that will keep your skates in better shape for longer!