How do I know when my speed skating wheels are worn?


The glossy surface of a wheel plays a role in its grip performance, particularly indoors.

The shiny, new wheel is perfectly smooth, putting as much wheel material in contact with the skating surface as possible. As the wheel loses its shine, some abrasion of its surface has occurred, slightly reducing its contact area. Over time, increased abrasion makes the wheel feel like a cat’s tongue, further reducing contact area with the surface and increasing the likelihood of the skater slipping.


Wheels wear with use. The life span of a set of wheels depends on a number of factors, including skater weight, skater power, surface quality, surface temperature and skater technique.

Generally, heavier, stronger skaters will wear wheels much sooner than lighter, younger skaters.

Typical training wear from a lot of miles will wear the ‘working radius’ of the wheel the most, rounding the elliptical profile of the top of the wheel. While the grip from the wheel may still be acceptable, the wheel will no longer roll or accelerate as fast.

Racing wear from intense use can wear the side of the wheel the most, from hard turns and aggressive crossovers in the corner. Particularly on high-temperature surfaces (such as summer road racing) this can ‘cat tongue’ a wheel very quickly. Depending on the demands of the skater, this may quickly relegate it to a ‘training wheel’ and a replacement race wheel may be required.


Wheels have a race side (smooth all the way down the side of the tyre to the hub) and a cut side (where a slight step or grooved area exists where the tyre meets the hub). The cut side is the result of trimming the wheel after it is removed from a mold. For high performance where corners are critical, it is recommended to face the race side into the corner on both skates.


Wheels are often coated in a release agent during production, to help release the tyre from the wheel mold. This agent can be slippery when skated on, but wears off generally in the first few laps of skating. For indoor wheels it can be removed by scrubbing gently with slightly soapy water, then rinsing in clear water.

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