When it comes to XC skiing in the winter, most skiers start to collect a quiver of skis, starting out with a pair for classical skiing, a pair for skate skiing, an older pair or two for use as rock skis, and then adding additional pairs for different temperatures and snow characteristics. I’ve come to the belief that for those skiers that want to ski throughout the year, they too should start to build a quiver of roller skis. Over the next few weeks, in a four part blog, I’m going to share some of my reasons why one should.
The most important part of a roller ski or cross skate is the part that comes in contact with the ground, the tire. There are three common types of tires that I have skied on, the polyurethane wheel, a solid rubber wheel, and the pneumatic wheel. Each has unique qualities and rolls in the world of summer skiing.
The polyurethane wheel is the lightest of the three. It is also the fastest of the three. It comes in common diameters ranging from 80mm to 150mm. If your thinking of racing, the standard size is 100mm. It is the wheel to use if you want the most speed with the least amount of effort. You can purchase polyurethane wheels with different hardness ratings, with some being rated as slower if your not into high speed, and others working better on wet surfaces.
This type of wheel is usually found on the skate type roller skis. Cost wise, it is the cheapest to replace when worn out. Disadvantage of this wheel is that it does not like defects in the pavement, or sticks and gravel on the trail. Some of the common manufactures of roller skies that use this type of wheel include: Marwe, Rundell, Pursuit, Jenex, Swenor, Fischer, Swix and SRB.
The second type of wheel is the solid rubber wheel. Like the polyurethane wheel, its most common diameter is around 100mm. The wheel is much wider than the polyurethane wheel, adding to a degree of stability for the user. It is usually found on roller skis that are used in a classical style. Because of this, the front wheels are manufactured with a built in one-way bearing. This allows the wheel to lock on a shaft when the ski is moved backwards, allowing the skier to move forwards with each stride. In most cases, the softer rubber used in these wheels will slow the roll down some and take some road vibration out of the glide. With a similar wheel diameter, it has some of the same issues as the previous wheel, not like pavement imperfections and dirt and gravel on the trail. It is the style of ski used in most classical roller ski races. Some of the common manufactures of roller skis that use this type of wheel include: Marwe, Rundell, Pursuit, Jenex, Swenor, Fischer, Swix and SRB.
The third type of wheel is the pneumatic wheel. It is most expensive of the three, as it uses a tire/tube combination mounted on a rim. General sizes available today are 125mm (5 inch), 150mm (6 inch) and 200mm (8 inch), with the 150mm wheel being the most common. I have found the pneumatic wheel to be my favorite to ski on, as it greatly reduces road vibration and handles pavement imperfections fairly well. Most pneumatic wheeled systems can be used with the skate or classic technique, as they also place a one way bearing in the front wheels. A few manufactures that seem to specialize in the use of these wheels include: Skike, Jenex, SRB, and Powerslide
The quality of the tire does matter with these wheels. I have skied on some tires that have worn out with less than 300 miles of skiing. The tire I have had most success with is Skikes‘ 150mm tire. I find they last about 2,000 miles with an occasional rotation of the tires between the right and left ski. I have not had a flat problem with their tires either.
Recently, I have been experimenting with the 200mm wheels on a pair of Skike V9’s and am very impressed on how well they perform in a variety of conditions. Slightly slower, they still work well on paved trails. On dirt trails they excel. They also work well during the in between seasons when the snow starts to fall, but there is not enough snow for regular XC skis. They work well on grass when using the classical technique. The surfaces where I do find that they still struggle with is sand and tree routes on well worn trails.
Feel free to provide feedback to this blog. The following is a list of all of the links mentioned above.
Until part two, have a good day, spending at least part of it enjoying the great outdoors.