As we discussed last time, I needed to clean by bearings. In fact, my skates need a total makeover, but we’ll start with clean bearings and go from there. EW GROSS LOOKIT.
Yuck yuck yuck if dust is really human skin JUST THINK ABOUT THAT.
If you’ve never cleaned your bearings, come along with me. I will assist you in doing an okay job at cleaning Bones Reds and similar bearings. (If you have those weird fancy bearings, I’ve never seen those, I have no idea, consult a professional, have a great day, here’s a picture of a manatee which clearly shows that they have fingernails like their elephant relatives.)
Gather your tools.
You’ll also need bearing cleaner and lube. I used rubbing alcohol for the cleaner, which the dude at the skate shop said would be fine, and Speed Cream for my lube, which was what they had for sale at the skate shop. Buying bearing cleaner might be your best bet.
Remove the wheels and stuff
Take your wheels off, then pry the bearings out of the wheels. If you’ve never taken your bearings out, please get someone to help you the first time. You must have a friendly leaguemate who can assist you! If you mess up your bearing, it’s done for.
I decided to take my trucks off and clean out my pivot cups, too. They were a little dirty, as you can see, above. If you decide to take your trucks out, make sure to give yourself extra time to re-adjust them before your next practice. I wouldn’t recommend messing with them before a bout. (I think I say this about seven times in the Roller Derby for Beginners.)
Clean that nasty bearing
Ugh, we have two problems here. Problem one, obvs, is that there’s a bunch of crap and dust on the outside of the bearing. Problem two is that there’s dust on the inside too, which is slowing me down. We can’t have that.
Wipe off the majority of the dust from the rubber shield before removing it.
Carefully – CAREFULLY, NOW, remove the shield from the bearing. Pry gently from underneath at the center of the bearing. It should pop right off when done correctly. Common recommendations are to use a push pin or paper clip for this, but I use a paring knife, which I find easier and kind of looks cool.
Don’t be forcing anything, or you’ll be buying a new set of bearings.
Separate your shields and cages.
While you’re at it, take your wheels for a dip in some soapy water. Do not reunite your wheels and bearings until everything’s clean and super dry. I didn’t give my wheels the prime spa treatment for this, but they got a soak and I scraped off the bigger gooey chunks. Check your wheels for goo regularly, and this part won’t be as depressing/time-consuming.
You can also take this time to check the wheels for wear, and rotate the wheels if needed.
Clean off the shields (the red rubber part, here) by wiping or washing with sudsy water. I like to wipe the shield on a paper towel on my work space, always keeping it flat. Do not bend.
Place the bearings, sans shields, into a container that has a lid. Sometimes bearing wash comes with a bottle for this purpose. I’ve read that you’re not supposed to use glass because it can break but I feel pretty confident that I know the limits of my mason jar.
Put them all in there, cover with your solvent of choice, and AGITATE! AGITAAAATE!
Since I use cheap alcohol, I shook for a few minutes, poured off the gross liquid, and repeated a few times. You can also let it soak or shake for a longer period of time. You can also try the shake-swirl-shake method.
Take the bearings out, and dry with a lint-free cloth or canned air.
Take each bearing for a spin and make sure it spins freely. You shouldn’t hear any hesitation in the bearing. If you do, try cleaning it again. If it’s really bad, it might be dead. Congratulations – you now have a bunch of clean backup bearings, because you’ll need a new set. (It’s okay. This bearing lived out its destiny, and new bearings are like skating on magic.)
Follow the directions for your brand of lube, but a word of caution – you’ll spin your bearings after the lube goes in, but they won’t seem to spin as well as before they were lubed. “What the hell, man?” you’ll wonder to yourself. “Shh, shh,” says the bearing company. “Baby, be cool. It’s to be expected at first. But once you get back on those wheels, that lube is really going to save you from going dry and seizing up.”*
Put it all back together
Reassemble your bearings carefully. The shields should just pop back in, but much like a coffee cup lid, if it’s not flush all the way around, you’re in for trouble.
Get your bearing buddy back, because you need to press those bearings back into the wheels. Some hubs make this process easier than others. Using an appropriate tool will make sure you’re pressing only on the metal parts that can handle the pressure. Get those bearings in there flush, and again, ask for assistance if needed.
Thread the embearing-ed wheels back on the axle (rotated if needed), screw the hex nut back on, and tighten allll the way down. Loosen bit by bit until they’re spinning freely. You want the nut to be as tight as possible, while still allowing the wheel full roll.
The first time I tried this, my wheel popped off at the rink afterward sooooo yeah be careful.
Get back on those puppies
Yuck, if your skates were that bad, imagine what’s lurking in your skate bag. Don’t put your pretty clean skates back in that hellmouth. Take everything out and shake it or vacuum. Wash your damn gear, for crying out loud, if you have the time.
If you adjusted your trucks at all, get to practice early and take the time to adjust them, or get someone to help you if this is your first (or second, or third, or seventeenth time if you’re not mechanically inclined like some of us).
Ooh, don’t they roll nice? Yay!
Now look at them. They’re nasty again. Great.
*This is probably the worst lube joke that has ever been typed, and I’m a little in love with it.