Published on November 21st, 2011 | by DerbyLife1
Ask An Expert: Bushings
Q: “Howdy! I know that you guys have articles often about gear, skates, etc., and I had a request for topic. I feel very strongly that every skater, no matter their skill level or experience,
should be educated about their skates (bearings, wheels, pivot cups, boots, etc.). I’ve done tons of research on pretty much every part of the skate, but I have trouble finding detailed info about bushings.
I understand the function and purpose, but I’m not very knowledgeable about the benefits of using “softer” or “harder”. I know some people use a combo of both, but I’d love to know more about the fundamentals and benefits of each and why.
~Saturday Night Special #.38″
Zach Kulak, Consumer Communications for Riedell Skates had this reply:
“If you want to try and lump people into generic categories, soft cushions/bushings are generally recommended for lighter skaters or people that don’t skate very hard and hard bushings are recommended for heavier or stronger skaters. That always isn’t the case though. Bonnie Thunders, for example, skates on really hard bushings.
As the manufacturer of PowerDyne Magic Cushions, we’ve found that our softest bushings (the red ones) are some of the softest ones on the market. That was one of the reasons that led us to come out with our extra firm purple bushings that are the hardest of the bunch (orange and yellow are the other two colors/hardnesses available in between those two).
Softer bushings help skaters get a more severe angle on their skates and let them change direction quicker and easier. Harder cushions require more force to change your skating angle but they hold a turn better and provide a bit more “snap” coming out of a turn when they straighten out. When people combine bushings, they’re often tweaking the feel to get somewhere in between what was just mentioned.
In addition to the hardness of bushings, the shape of them can vary – which has an effect on the feel. Most cushions are a standard “barrel” shape, certain specialty plates such as PowerDyne Reactors and Labeda Pro Lines have unique cushions shapes, and conical is the other shape of cushions that is gaining popularity.
Our PowerDyne Revenge plate comes standard with conical cushions and we’ve also introduced a “Hop Up Kit” that includes 4 barrel bushings, 4 conical bushings, and the correct bushing cups to upgrade your standard cushions to a conical set up. The conical cushions are designed to be the cushions closest to the floor as you’re skating but people are encouraged to experiment (just be sure the cushions cups always stay with the cushions they’re designed to hold!). With a tapered edge, the primary benefit of conical cushions is a greater range of motion when skating. Because that edge slims down, it allows you to lean more before the cushions starts pushing back.
Lastly, cushions are wear items and are meant to be replaced on a regular basis. The amount of time it takes to wear cushions out depends greatly on how often you skate but anywhere between 6 months and 12 months is pretty average. Look for a decrease in the life of the cushions (or that “snap” I was talking about earlier) as a sign to get some new cushions/bushings.
Motley Cruz, Owner of Cruz Skate Shop, had this to say:
Bushings, which are sometimes called cushions, are typically made of urethane or rubber. Just like wheels, they come in various durometers. Whether you prefer your trucks loose, medium, or tight, the important thing is that there be compression on your bushings. Too much compression on soft bushings can cause them to “pancake” out or flatten and make for a stiffer feel than they are designed for. Too little compression can give a sloppy feel and can cause your “truck” or “hanger” to rattle around, which puts pressure and force on the king pin, pivot pin and pivot cup that will increase wear and tear and potentially break your king pin and/or cause the pivot to punch through your plate.
Compression adjustment on your bushings is done by loosening or tightening the king pin nut, or nuts as the case may be. Most people refer to having “loose” or “tight” trucks, when actually it is compression on the kingpin, loose or tight, that determines the amount of play in your trucks.
Compression can also be caused by natural gravity, so a heavyweight skater might create more compression simply by having her full weight bearing down on her bushings. A lighter skater would have less. We also find that with a plate that flexes, a nylon plate, more pressure is distributed throughout the bending plate and so less weight is transferred to the bushing.
Typically, a heavier skater would be best suited on medium to hard bushings and a lightweight skater on soft to medium. The softer the bushing, the more “play” you get from the trucks, giving a looser feel with more maneuverability and a quicker, tighter turn. Harder bushings give a solid, stable and stiff feel.
The temperature of your skating environment can also make a difference in your bushing’s response. Extreme heat can cause soft bushings to be almost too soft, which can give your skates that “squirrelly” feel that’s harder to control. Extreme cold can make your bushings stiffer, giving even soft ones a very rigid feel that makes your skates less responsive to your weight and directional shifts.
The quick and dirty pros and cons of a soft versus hard bushing is that with a harder bushing you gain stability and possibly speed, but sacrifice maneuverability and response. With a soft bushing you’re more agile and can juke and make tighter turns, but you may sacrifice speed and if you go too soft, you may feel unstable on your skates.
It’s a good idea to occasionally check your bushing cup that touches the king pin nut for denting or bending inward which can be caused by pressure of the nut being tightened against it. If the bushing isn’t seated properly in the cup, for example if the cup is cutting into the bushing, it can cause the bushing to split or just compromise the performance.
You determine wear on your bushings by looking at them. If they are flat, cracked, have chunks missing, or are crumbling, I would highly suggest replacement. Or, if you just feel your skates are not performing the way you want them to, experiment and try some new harder or softer bushings. It’s one of the cheapest and easy to change skate components that can make a world of difference.
Hope that helps answer your question, Saturday Night Special! Skaters, gearheads: anything to add?
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