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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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June 2, 2010

What's Wrong With Hi-Lo Setups?

QHello, Bill: I'm a recreational-fitness skater and love my K2 Alexis 2007 skates, which have two 80mm wheels in front and two 84mm wheels in back. This setup gives me both speed and control and is great on turns and smooth on downhills. You recently mentioned that none of the top skaters use setups with two smaller wheels in front and two larger wheels in back. Why is that? - Ann Ledesma

Hi, Ann: You probably already know this, but let's get this out of the way first. It's a proven fact that the bigger wheels are faster. Your 80 and 84mm wheels may be great for rec-fitness skating, but they have no chance in a race against 100 or 110mm wheels.

On racecourses with serious hill climbs, like Glarus in Switzerland, some World Cup skaters have succeeded on smaller wheels. The lighter weight and quicker acceleration of smaller wheels can provide an edge when you're nearly at a standstill going uphill.

A few years back, Angele Vaudan of France did well with smaller wheels at the Basil World Cup, which has an uphill finish on a bridge and some tricky corners. But I can't think of any other race in recent years in which smaller wheels were competitive.

As for hi-lo skates with two smaller wheels up front, one potential problem is that they could pitch you forward onto your front wheels. This could lead to toe-pushing and prevent you from sitting back on your skates. But given your enthusiasm for your K2s, this apparently isn't a problem for you.

As far as speed skating goes,  hi-lo setups with two smaller and two larger wheels haven't worked well. One theory about this is that having two smaller wheels on your skates limits your speed to that of the smaller wheels.

My daughter, Nicole, tried a 110-100-100-110-setup this year. But they weren't as fast as her old 110-100-110-110-setup, so she gave them up.

Of course, Nicole has tried 4x110mm setups. But they are too big for her. Nicole is petite (5-foot tall) and has small feet. The 4x110 setup is too long and cumbersome for her and she finds that it hurts her technique.

Cheers, Bill

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