Minimum Racing Equipment
Following the Sporting Rules, the minimum equipment required for Speed Skating competition comprises just 3 articles: Skates (Quad or Inline) Helmet (ANSI-approved Bicycle Helmet) Gloves (Hand protection for Outdoor competition for all skaters under 18 yrs) and of course Clothing: the ‘Skating Uniform’. This can be a sport-specific lycra ‘skinsuit’ or sporting shorts with a shirt or bodysuit that covers the shoulders and is ‘clean and modest’.
click here for current Junior Skate Restrictions
Typically in Australia, all Speed Skating events are contested on Inline Skates. Inline ‘Speed’ Skates are not necessary for learning or competition but at advanced levels, are not competitive with sport-specific skates. Skates required by Regulations for competition are Quad (traditional-type rollerskates with 2 parallel pairs of wheels per skate) or Inline (blade-type skates with 3 or more wheels fixed ‘in-line’ per skate).
Speed Skating started in Australia on Quad rollerskates and was contested exclusively on these until 1992, when Inline Speed Skates made their appearance. Initially separate Championships were conducted for Quad Speed Skating and Inline Speed Skating and in 1993, Championships were combined with some events being designated Quad-only and others open to any skate type. Inline Speed Skates gave rise to a different Speed Skating technique and at advanced level, Quad skates are not competitive with the higher speeds able to be attained on Inline Speed Skates. Different techniques for Quad and Inline Speed Skating mean that skater development is accelerated by skating exclusively on Inline Skates. Inline Speed Skates are made of 4 components, generally available for purchase in packages or as component items – with a large number of available skate components being readily interchangeable.
Speed Skating boots appear lower-cut than recreational inline skates, however use more advanced construction materials to achieve sport-specific support. Boots make use of a fibreglass, carbon fibre or similar rigid or semi-rigid shell, into which shaping foam and lining are made. The boot’s outer or upper is made from leather or synthetic material, protecting the shell and providing integrated fastening to supply the fit and support the skater needs .Stock (sized) boots are available to suit all skaters and many skaters – particularly those with unremarkable feet – can expect to make use of Stock boots for years. Stock boots can be molded to conform to the shape of a skater’s foot using the careful application of heat and following the manufacturer’s instructions. Skaters should look for a boot that suits both their foot shape and size, allowing for a small amount of growing room (up to 2cm) if required. Because the ankle cups of a skating boot are somewhat rigid and fixed in position, using a boot that is too large can cause problems at the ankle where the foot and boot do not align adequately.
Custom boots, built from moulds of a skater’s feet, are also available – offering a more expensive, but precise-fitting boot for high performance skates. Boot shells are constructed around a metal insert or block, that accepts fastenings from the underside of the frame, to attach the two components.
Frames (or chassis) align and support the wheels and attach to the boot. Speed Skating frames are made of aluminium and other alloys to provide a durable, lightweight and consistent alignment of the wheels while skating. Frames come in a range of sizes (lengths) and configurations (number, size and position of accepted wheels) to suit a wide range of skaters. Skaters should consult their coach as to a suitable frame length and configuration for them. Using a frame that is too heavy (fitted with too many large wheels) or too long (making it more resistant to side-to-side movements) can impede the skater’s development and skill acquisition. Frames come with axles, which are inserted in one side of the frame and screwed into the other side – skewering the wheels between the sidewalls of the frame.
Speed Skating wheels are a different profile (sectional shape) to the wheels for other inline skating sports and are available in a range of sizes, designs, tyre compositions and hardnesses to suit all skaters, racing styles and surfaces. Wheels are formulated specifically for each of Indoor, Banked Track and Outdoor surfaces – with compositions to suit varying conditions at any of these venues. As a new Speed Skater, you certainly don’t need many sets of wheels. Your coach can advise you on what wheels are best for Practice at the venues where your club practices and where your competitions are held. Wheels are made up of a 1 or 2 compound outer tyre, moulded to a plastic or similar wheel hub. A central opening in the wheel accepts industry-standard 608-sized ball bearings – 2 per wheel, separated by a metal spacer ring placed between the bearings to ensure their correct separation distance. Wheels are inserted into the skate frame, aligning the bearing hole with the frame’s axle hole. The frame axles are then inserted into the frame on one side, pushed through the bearing assembly and threaded, then tightened into the other side of the frame. The wheels should each be able to spin freely. Wheels require regular rotation (repositioning on the skates) so that they are not exposed to biased wear on one side, or in any one position on the skate. (see Equipment Care & Maintenance)
608 (standard) sized Ball Bearings are used for Speed Skating. Standard wheels accept these bearings, which should be inserted 2 per wheel (1 each side), with a metal spacer placed between them. Bearings may present with metal shields on both sides, a mix of shield types or with 1 shielded side and 1 open side (for easy maintenance). Each bearing should be inserted into the wheel so that the shielded size faces outward, preventing dirt entering the bearing. Bearings require regular, easy maintenance to ensure their performance is maintained and their working life is prolonged (see Equipment Care & Maintenance).
An ANSI-approved Bicycle Helmet is required for Speed Skating and skaters are required to wear the helmet for Practice and Competition, Indoors and Outdoors. The Helmet should be correctly sized and fitted. If you own a suitable bicycle helmet, you already have what you need. If not, see your local Bicycle Shop to select a helmet and have it sized and its fastenings adjusted for you by the staff.
Open or closed fingered cycling gloves are required to be worn for Outdoor Skating at Practice and Competition. This applies to all skaters under 18yrs. The gloves should fit well – meaning they are fitted sufficiently to the hand so that any landing on the hand would not cause the glove to come off.
Optional Protective Gear
Of course, more protective equipment is available – however Sporting Regulations only require a helmet and gloves. Skaters and parents may prefer to also wear knee and/or elbow pads, wrist guards, scuff guards, mouth-guards or any other protective items.
A specific sports uniform exists for Speed Skating (the ‘skinsuit’ or ‘bodysuit’) but is not required. Although the Skinsuit offers maximum freedom of movement and low resistance, skaters may prefer to wear a shirt and shorts. Any sporting shorts are suitable, together with a shirt that covers the shoulders which is clean and modest. Skinsuits are one-piece lycra uniforms (generally short-leg and short-sleeve) which are available from your Club as the club racing uniform, as well as being commercially available from some skate shops. Second-hand skinsuits are always available, particularly from skaters competing professionally overseas who may change teams or sponsors from one season to the next. Expect to see all advanced skaters practicing and competing in a skinsuit.
Equipment Care & Maintenance
Clean & Check. Boots are generally quite durable, however it pays to keep your boots clean (upper and shell) and handle the underside of your skates during regular cleaning – to inspect for any cracks in the shell or problems with fastenings. Sweat. After skating, your boots will be sweaty. Sweat can prematurely degrade the lining of your boots – so it is wise to remove skates from your bag after practice, open them wide (tongue and fastenings) and allow them to air (occasionally in direct sunlight to discourage bacteria). Skating in the Rain. After skating in the rain, your boots require special care. Wet boots that are dried improperly not only degrade, but can lose their ‘fit’ and ‘feel’. Rinse your boots through with clear water to remove dirty water. Remove the laces and wash & dry them separately. Wipe your boots inside and out with an absorbent towel, squeezing it against the inside sides to remove as much water as possible. Dry your boots using moving cool air, with the skates sitting open with the tongue out (don’t dry them in the sun and don’t dry them with hot air unless you must dry them in a hurry for coming competition). If you want to accelerate the drying, you may initially place torn newspaper inside the boots to absorb moisture (do not stuff it in, or your boots will stretch).
Clean & Check. Frames are very durable, however you should regularly take the opportunity when your wheels are removed, to wipe your frames off with a damp cloth – dirt comes off easily before it has accumulated and encrusted dirt can impede the movement of your wheels. When wiping them over, check the condition of the fastenings (mounting bolts) and platforms (flat areas where your boot sits) for problems. Skating in the Rain. After skating in the rain, dirt and muddy water can encrust your frames. Wash your frames using your hands and warm soapy wate, and dry them with a towel.
Indoor Wheels. New indoor wheels should be washed quickly with soap and water before use, to ensure the best performance the first time you use them. Although indoor wheels last a long time, wheel rotation (regularly changing their position in the skates) prevents premature wear to particular wheels or particular sides. At competitions, to get the best performance from indoor wheels, wipe the tyres over with a slightly damp cloth and allow to dry just before heading onto the track. To get the most from your indoor wheels, never skate outdoors on them: when the wheels are dusty or the uniform, shiny surface is degraded, so too is the grip the wheels can provide.
Outdoor Wheels. Outdoor wheels should be used thoughtfully, as the abrasive nature of outdoor surfaces can greatly reduce the life of the wheel. Take care not to use sliding actions to stop, drag your wheels, or use your best race wheels on a hot day at road practice. Hot, sunny weather (therefore high surface temperatures) is harder on your wheels – so consider which wheels you might wear to practice on a hot day. Outdoor wheels provide the most grip with a uniform, non-abraded surface. Badly worn wheels cannot be expected to grip well on outdoor surfaces.
Indoor & Outdoor. It takes a few minutes to change the bearings and spacers from one set of wheels to another. Having a set of indoor bearings (always ready in your indoor practice wheels) and another set of outdoor bearings (in your outdoor practice wheels) – will help you be on-time to practice. Dirt Accumulation. Bearings have shields, but they don’t prevent everything getting in. Whether its indoor or outdoor, your bearings accumulate dirt fastest (then dry out and run slow, rough and loud) in the environments with the most particulate dust and dirt. Skating in water or rain, of course, means an immediate bearing removal and clean is required after skating. Cleaning. Cleaning your bearings is a 6-step process, but a worthwhile one that provides noticeable performance benefits from the bearing. Ask your coach for tips on bearing cleaning. A general guide for cleaning Speed bearings is:
- Remove the wheels from your skates and wipe excess dirt from the bearing faces with a cloth while they are still in the wheels. Remove the bearings from the wheels, using a suitable tool that does not damage the wheel or the shields on the bearings.
- Ensure one side of the bearing is open. This means you can view the cage – the part that separates each ball in the bearing. If both sides are closed, ask your coach how to remove 1 shield from the bearing for cleaning.
- Place the bearings into a ‘basket’ within your cleaning container and apply a cleaning solution that cuts grease (such as citrus bearing cleaner, white spirits, shellite, mineral turpentine). Agitate the bearings in the solution to flush out dirt and grease. Ensure the ‘basket’ is suspended above the container floor, so loose dirt can fall away from the bearings.
- Remove the bearings from the basket, tapping out any excess solution, then tap each bearing firmly a few times open-face-down onto some newspaper. Hold the bearing in your hand and spin it, blowing forcefully diagonally into the open face in the direction it is spinning. Then leave the bearings open-face-up on the newspaper to dry 5-10 minutes.
- Re-Lubricate the bearings by applying a drop of Skate Oil into each open face, then hold the bearing vertically and spin it – coating the interior surfaces with oil.
- Re-Install your bearings into your wheels or store them in a dust-proof, moisture-proof container for later use.
Fastenings on your skates keep the components securely together and your skates securely attached to you. They should be regularly inspected and you should always carry spare parts (in the event that a fastening fails, or is lost, at practice or competition).
Carry 1x spare pair of laces, that are the same as the ones already in your skates that you are used to. If your boots have a microbuckle and index strap on each, carry 1x buckle and 1x strap for quick replacement if necessary.
Boot to Frame
Carry 4x spare mounting bolts, that are the same as the ones already fastening your boot to your frame – because you know they work. Every now and then, put a smear of bearing oil on your finger and wipe it over the heads of your mounting bolts. This keeps them from rusting and helps prevent their failure. Carry more than 1 allen wrench – so that if you misplace one, you don’t have to find someone else’s to adjust your skates.
Frame to Wheels
Carry at least 1x spare axle to suit your frame – in case you lose one (which would mean you had to go without one wheel). Carry at least 2x spare standard bearings – in case a bearing fails, or becomes dry and overheats at practice and needs replacement. Carry at least 2x spare standard spacers (for between the bearings) – in case you lose one, or you put in new wheels and they won’t spin freely with a particular spacer you are using.
Keep your allen wrenches sharp. The head of the shaft on your allen wrench, if rounded or dented, can damage the shape of your axle head or mounting bolt head – making them almost impossible to adjust or remove. You can sharpen an allen wrench by grinding off the leading 2-3 millimeters on a grinding wheel – making the wrench good-as-new.
After skating in the rain for a prolonged period, if you know you will be needing to clean your entire skates (bearings included), you can save time by initially taking your skates into the shower, and washing and wiping them with moving warm water (and soap where required). Clean, wet skates, are easier to disassemble, then move on to clean the components.
For events where airline travel is required, special consideration must be given to transporting Speed Skates and equipment, in line with Aviation Safety Guidelines and Airline Requirements. Given the potential to have your checked luggage transported to a destination, other than your own, it is best to pack your carry-on luggage with enough equipment that if you needed to race on Day 1 without your checked luggage, you could. To that end, it is recommended to pack (Carry-On):
- Boots (Frames are generally required to be in your checked luggage) 1-set race Wheels, 1-set race bearings (and spacers), helmet & gloves, 1 Skinsuit/Race Uniform, 1 pair of skating socks and preferred underwear.
With this equipment at hand, you won’t miss a race because you’re missing your checked luggage.
Note: Tools are not permitted in the aircraft cabin, and must be in your checked luggage or they will be confiscated. If taking bearings and spacers in your carry-on luggage, pack them at the top of your bag, for easy inspection by security staff if required.