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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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July 15, 2010

Why Am I Slower on Bigger Wheels?

QHi, Bill: I find that I no longer skate as fast on the bigger wheels. I have done all the NorthShore Inline marathons. But my fastest times have been on old 5x80mm setups. I'm currently on a 4x84mm setup. I've tried a 4x90mm setup, but I just seem slower. I weigh 145 pounds. I used to skate the NorthShore in one hour and 35 minutes. But now I'm a good ten minutes slower. Do some people just skate better on a smaller wheel or is it a matter of getting used to the bigger wheels. Thanks. - Tom Amundson

Hi, Tom: I have to admit it’s been five years since I’ve had much contact with skaters on wheels smaller than 100mm. So all I can do is update you and give you some general advice.

As you probably know, none of the top skaters are on 5x80mm, 4x84mm or 4x90mm setups these days. In Europe and China, most speed skaters over the age of 13 are on 110s. Any skater who is still on 80s, 84s — or even 90s — is considered to be behind the times. And skaters who try to compete on smaller wheels find they lack the roll to keep up.

Roll is the secret sauce of the big wheels. It’s what happens on the non-push stage of your stroke when you are balanced over your support skate. The secret to maximizing roll is to learn to transfer your body weight over your support leg and let your wheels roll.

As for the NorthShore Inline Marathon, it is an ideal course for 4x110mm setups (or the shorter 3x110mm + 1 x100mm setup). The NorthShore doesn’t have any serious uphills, so the extra weight of the 110s shouldn’t be much of a factor.

If you have posted a marathon time of 1:35 on a 5x80mm setup, you should be able to cut 10 minutes from your time with a 110mm setup with reasonable technique.

Another factor is which wheels you buy. I recommend the 100 and 110mm MPC Road Warriors. They are very fast. But be advised: my employer, X-Tech, is MPC’s Asian agent.

There are other good wheels out there, including Matter, Atom and Bont; and Curtis Labeda is now the driving force behind the Hyper brand, so it is sure to produce some competitive wheels.

But if you do switch to big wheels, be assured that Road Warriors will definitely cut your times.

In wet conditions, there’s really only one wheel: MPC’s Storm Surge. The first five World Cup marathons this year were wet and won on Storm Surge wheels, and Joey Mantia used them to win the Incheon WIC.

Cheers, Bill

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