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The importance of bearing maintenance

damaged Seba frame because of bad bearings maintenance

There are many misconceptions about owners of inline skate shops and one of them is that these people always maintain their bearings perfectly.

Well, hmm, "perfectly", you say? Well, let's just say that I often skate in the rain and on sandy roads and therefore also clean (or have to clean) the bearings from time to time, even the water-resistant ones, but "perfectly" is a tad exaggerated.

For three weeks now, I've been lugging a new set of water-resistant bearings in my computer bag from the shop to home and vice versa. I'll change my bearings at home, they need replacing urgently. Oh, didn't have time, I'll do it at the shop. Oh, I didn't have time, I'll do it at home anyway. Etc. etc. etc.

Yesterday I took my youngest daughter to gym class, she on her bike and I on my skates.

She: "Daddy, what's that weird noise?"

Me: "Yes, I need to change my bearings, because I'm afraid a wheel will block. I wanted to do it before we left, but I didn't have time."

She: "Dad, that really is an irritating sound."

Me: "Yeah, I know, but it doesn't bother me anymore, because I've been hearing it for a few weeks now, every time I skate with my "rain-skates" and I'm used to it by now."

She: "Dad, it's really loud and it enervates me."

Me: "I'll replace them anyway once I get back home."

After dropping her off, I went back home via a big round trip and you can guess: one of the ball bearings of the front wheel of the right skate suddenly jammed, causing the axle to unscrew, the wheel to warp and the frame to bend. I immediately realised what was going on and was able to stay upright by quickly shifting my centre of gravity to the left skate and bulging out on one leg.

It's a strong frame though, the Seba predecessor of the FR Flat 4D frame for a 4x84mm set-up. But the torsional forces were too high due to the speed. You may remember the formula for kinetic energy from school:

Ekinetic = 1/2 . mv2

The speed is squared and an increase in speed increases the energy quadratically. On the attached picture you can see that the frame could not resist the forces and is bent.

There is such a thing as Murphy's law and of course during this ride I didn't have an Allen key with me to temporarily fix it or at least move my second wheel to the first position, despite the bending of the frame. So there was nothing left to do but skate back home without the front wheel.

My first fear was that a second or third wheel would also block and then it would have been completely a mess. But I soon realised that my main fear should be that I wouldn't manage to get out of the habit of doing that little extra push with the front wheel at the end of the sideways stroke. If you do that while the front wheel is not there, you always hit the road with your frame. 😨

I got home unscathed, but it's not a recommended set-up. 😂

Moral of the story: clean the bearings regularly and always have one of those handy Allen key tools with you.

And above all, have fun skating, even in autumn! That's perfectly possible as long as you don't postpone the maintenance or replacement of your waterproof ball-bearings forever. Greetings, Koen

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