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Do Speed Skate Bearing Spacers Serve a Useful Purpose or Can We Roll the Roads Without Them

roadskater's picture

I've been wondering about speed skate bearing spacers today. Like these: 

  • http://www.trurev.com/product_images/w/137/spacers__42812_zoom.jpg

I was outside looking through the bucket of wheels and zip bags of bolts, washers, spacers and other various hardware I've collected just in case I might need it. My goal was to set up three sets of wheels with bearings and spacers so I could do relatively quick swaps to see how they felt in comparison as best I could. 

I noticed that all of my wheels had a built-in receiver in the wheel hubs so I could not push the bearings in too far, with or without a spacer. I also noticed that some wheel/spacer combinations didn't work well together. If the spacer was too wide, I couldn't get both sides' bearings to seat fully in the wheel hub.

It seemed to me that some of the other bearing spacers probably did nothing...the ones that were not wide enough. But I wouldn't know that unless I shook the wheels (especially, sideways along the line axle hole). 

Speed skate bearings have a ridge in the middle like a hat brim I guess you'd say. I believe that's the self-centering part of a self-centering spacer...it's there to help you be able to find the hole in the spacer when it's down between the two installed bearings. I notice that the self-centering device is not even close to being large enough to bear any weight (of course, because if it bore weight it'd be a bearing and would need some balls to reduce the friction).

I got the digital caliper out and measured some bearing spacers, finding most to be about 10.4 mm wide. I found two of my bearing spacers in my bag of stuff that measured over 12 mm wide. I put those aside and I assume they were meant to be used with the thinner microbearings, though they are not marked or colored specially.

I could see how if they are the perfect width, spacers might provide a slight bit of structural rigidity, but I wonder how much, how often. Once you clamp down on the axle bolts, if everything is perfect, the inner race of the bearing might meet up perfectly with a perfect spacer, but I don't see how that would add much if any axle strength (if that were needed why not just use a fatter axle bigger than 8mm and ditch the spacer again). Maybe in a perfect wheel it does. I'm wondering. 

It seems to me that as often as not, not paying attention to my spacer widths may have increased friction, either by doing nothing but rubbing against the inner race weakly (if the spacer is too thin) or pushing the inner race against the frame somehow or making bearing shields rub against the frame (if the spacer is too wide). 

So I am wondering if anyone out there has tried ditching the spacers and roadskating or rinkskating and how that went. Could you tell any difference? And for the theoretically-minded, please feel free to jump in and theorize. 

I'll report back when I've tested and with opinions from others if I get some good ones.


eebee's picture

Space out

I'm sorry but that picture of those spacers is beautiful. It also begs to be warholized:



warholized spacers


There's something funky going on with my wheels right now too. Not sure if it's from the wheel being warped, or a bad spacer-bearing combo.  

roadskater's picture

Soup Cans, Bearing Spacers

Hey thanks for the artwork. While it is lovely I assume you used a web tool to do this rather than spending hours maticulously tweaking? I found the photo online and figured it might help them sell some spacers to get a link in to their pages. Anyway I thought it a nice arrangement of parts, visually, as well. 

As for those wheels, lots of the 100mm and 110mm wheel hubs seem to be under-engineered at least for roadskating. For people using them in a rink for a few miles maybe they are fine? I don't know, but I'll be looking for some wheels with durable even if heavy hubs. 

eebee's picture

I ruined it!

You are correct. I took a quick look and found this:


Fun! But I think those spacers looked way better beforehand. 

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