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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. 2, 2009

What Happened to Five Wheel Skates?

QHey, Bill: What are your thoughts on 5-wheel speed skates these days. It appears they are not as popular as they once were. Is that because of the larger wheel sizes? Couldn't skaters use 5-wheel 110mm setups? It seems that having an extra wheel would help with traction and also reduce friction on the bearings. Thanks - Ethan from Virginia

Hi, Ethan: Five-wheel skates are no longer used by any elite world class skaters. Basically, they are obsolete. That may sound like a cruel way to describe them, but it's accurate.

As for using skates with five 110mm wheels, that would not be allowed in international competition. The world governing body (FIRS) has limited the overall skate length to 50 centimeters (a half meter). A 5 x 110mm setup would far exceed the limit. Even a 5 x 100mm setup would be impossible without the wheels rubbing. (A typical 4 x 100mm setup is about 44 centimeters.) Besides, a 5 x 110mm setup — due to its length — would be difficult to handle and maneuver unless you're the size of Andre the Giant.

Several years ago, when 100mm wheels arrived on the scene, it quickly became clear that they were much faster than smaller wheels. Then the 110mm wheels came out and they out-rolled the 100s, leaving a trail of broken world records in their path.

But that is not to say that everyone is happy with 4 x 110mm setups. These days, many men are finding the long (13.2-inch) frames a bit cumbersome, and some are switching to a combination setup with a 105mm second wheel.

My daughter, Nicole, who is five feet tall and wears a size 5 (US) skate, finds the 4 x 110mm — and even the 3 x 110 plus 1x100 — too long for the banked track. But she loses too much roll skating on 100s, so she is looking forward to trying the new 4 x 105mm option.

Cheers, Bill

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