Inline Skating Knowledge: Rotating Wheels

"Why should I rotate my wheels? Don't they do this all the time?"
Ok, joking aside... why should I?
Have a look at your wheels - chances are they are not as brand new as they used to be. Instead you start wearing them down - more on your stronger foot than the weaker one, more on the inside than the outside, and more towards the front if you're a beginner or intermediate skater. Rotating them evens out this wear pattern (and can also do other things - see below), thus saving you money by extending the active life of your wheels. Rotating your wheels also ensures acceptable behaviour from your skates - having badly worn wheels mounted can really affect your skating!

OK, I see. So what do I need to do?
If you ask 10 experienced skaters how to rotate your wheels you'll get 11 different opinions. At least. This here is mine ;-)
What you need to do is have a look at your wheels, and when they start showing wear, rotate them in one of the ways described below. Use this handy chart for reference:
wheel wear shapes

A:   a perfectly new and unworn wheel. No need for any action here...

B & C: uneven wear on wheel, these urgently need to be rotated

D:  who are we kidding? if your wheels look like this all you can do is chuck them out, and get some new ones. You'll be surprised how your skates behave all of a sudden ;-)  And next time rotate them before they look that bad!

Sounds like a pain - how frequently do I have to do this?
Five minutes work, maybe a few more the first time you do this... rotating wheels doesn't need to be a pain or a chore. There's no fixed rule for frequency, as it depends on a lot of factors, like the wheels you're using, your weight, your skating style, the surface you're skating on...  some people only need to work their wheels once a year, others (like yours truly) needs to do so after every bigger skating session or street skate. Keep it simple: each time you come back home from skating, have a look at your wheels. If they are worn and look asymmetrical then rotate them before you put your skates away. That way you'll always have properly set up skates to grab when your run out of the house!

Basic wheel rotation for a flat setup

Flat setup? See here for more details...
13 24 rotation

OK, here's the classic 1-3/2-4 rotation. A good place to begin to even out the wheel wear.
Make sure you always turn the worn side towards the outside of your skates when you put the wheel into its new position!

Alternate this rotation with the 4-1-2-3 variant on the right
to ensure best results

If your wheels are beyond saving, or simply too small, then you'll have to purchase and put on an entire set of 8 wheels in one go, moving the bearings from the old to the new wheels. Take a note of in what order things came off so you can put them back like this, and make sure you don't lose any of the parts!
4123 wheel rotation

Advanced wheel rotation
You can get much more life out of your wheels if you use the techniques below. But beware, these will change the behaviour of your skates, as you create a HiLo or a HiLo Rocker setup, respectively. The decision is yours... I can only recommend these setups! Plus, if you start from a flat setup, then the transition will be gradual, giving you time to get used to the changed behaviour of your skates.
wheel stack

For these rotations you need to take out all the wheels first, and then order them by size. If it's hard to decide which of two wheels is bigger then it won't really matter which order you put them in, so don't spend hours doing this...

If you feel the smallest wheels are getting too small, or they start 'coring' (the polyurethane starts coming of the core of the wheel), then you discard the two smallest wheels, and add two new wheels (move the bearings and spacers to the new wheels!) at the other end of the stack of wheels, like this:

If the wheels are broken then throw them out, else measure them, write the current size on them, and place them in the 'spare wheels' bag every skater has for special occasions or specific setups!
wheel stack with new wheels
hilo  rotation

Ok, the actual rotation - get your skates, upside down, and get your stack of wheels, too, and distribute them as shown (remember, always put the worn side towards the outside of the skates):

For a HiLo setup

For a HiLo rocker setup

Both these diagrams assume that your right foot is your stronger one, so the wheels on the right skate will be a touch bigger then the ones on the left. If you're left-footed simply reverse the left/right pattern for the correct effect.
hilo rocker rotation



Skating is a dangerous activity. Wear protection. I can't take any responsibility for what happens to you if you try and play with the things on this page, so you'll have to take responsibility for your own actions. There's not guarantee that what works for me will work for you. Your mileage will vary. Go skate.

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