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Skating's top coach answers your questions

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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

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Dec. 29, 2010

What Does Wheel Wear Reveal About Your Skating?

QHi, Bill: Would you please describe the different patterns of wheel wear and explain how they relate to proper skating technique? Regards - Bill Atterbury from Columbus, Ohio

Hi, Bill: If you are skating correctly on good quality open circuits or roads, your wheels will wear evenly without scuffing. By skating correctly, I mean in the low, butt-down position with your knees above your toes and hips above your ankles.

In this position, you achieve a full extension side push with all wheels on the ground when fully extended. If you are placing your foot down on a slight outside edge, wear should be relatively even and invisible until you can no longer see the center mold mark of your wheels.

If you are a toe-pusher, you will wear down the inside edge of your front wheel and to a lesser extent your second wheel. Toe-pushing is common among rec and fitness skaters. It is caused by skating in an upright — rather than a sitting — position. In a standing position, you can’t push much to the side, so you end up pushing backwards, which makes for a toe push.

If your wheels are wearing down flat across the top, it usually means you are just shuffling along without any real side push. Of course, this won’t get you very far very fast.

If your back wheels are wearing out before your front wheels, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some strong skaters who set their heels down first get heavy wear on their back wheels.

Keep in mind that wheel wear varies widely depending on surface conditions and skating styles. A powerful sprinter can crucify a set of wheels during one 300-meter time trial while another skater can finish a 20K with wheels that look new.

Some skaters on the wide-cornered Geisingen track in Germany have been able to make their wheels last all season. Yet on the same track, one of the New Zealand skaters was chewing up a new set of wheels every training session last fall.

In general, one thing is clear. You can save a fortune on wheels if you skate in the low position and learn to properly transfer your body weight over your support leg. Polishing your technique is the best way to save your wheels.

Cheers, Bill

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