WTF is skate maintenance?
You're fresh meat. You're looking at buying a skate package, or you've already bought one. There's this weird metal tool that comes with your skates that you're pretending isn't there because whatever. You're just supposed to put these things on and go, right?
So, let's take a close look at your skates by showing you your skate's anatomy. Thanks fiveonfive for the graphic!
Look at all that stuff. But...you haven't skated before, so we don't need to get tied up with EVERY SINGLE PIECE and what to do with ALL OF THE THINGS. Believe it or not, your skate anatomy knowledge will develop organically. As you break your skates in, you'll become aware of wiggles and wobbles and jingles and you'll eventually be able to diagnose issues without even taking your skates off to have a peek.
But you're no skate whisperer yet, let's cover the things that you should definitely know NOW.
This is the bit that keeps your wheel from flying off your skate. It's a pretty important little part; if it's not on properly, your wheel won't roll properly. If the nut is screwed on too tight, your wheel won't roll. If it's too loose, your wheel will move across the axle. Tighten or loosen the nut so that the wheel rolls smoothly when you give it a spin. I PERSONALLY make sure there's the tiniest bit of movement along the axle (we're talking a millimeter) because when you put your weight down and everything smooshes, that millimeter ensures continued smooth rolling.
Your toe stop screws into the plate and is held in place with a washer and toe stop nut. Basic plates don't have a locking mechanism that keeps that toe stop immobile, so you need to check on those suckers before every practice and they do have a tendency to fly off so now that you've been warned about the worst, you can prepare.
Seeing as you're just starting out, you don't know where your toe stops should be. A good rule to follow is to place the skate on an even surface and make sure you can slide two fingers (like index and middle, shocker-style) between the floor and your toe stop. You can use your hands to tighten or loosen the toe stop, provided the washer is loose. Once you get the toe stop in the right spot, you need to hold it while you tighten the washer or the toe stop will turn while you tighten the washer. Annoying, but reality.
OMG, trucks. They're the things your wheels sit on. Some derby lingo includes knowing the difference between loose and tight trucks. Truck tightness determines the relationship between your skate boots and your trucks. Tighter trucks make for more rigid skates, while loose trucks make loosey goosey skates. One is NOT better than the other; HOWEVER, inconsistency in your trucks will make learning and mastering skills challenging. A good place to start is turn that boot over and HAND tighten all four truck nuts with a tool. Don't summon your Hulk strength, just make sure they're all the same tightness and use your hand strength to gauge this. Then, loosen the top nut (so the nut closest to the toe stops) on each skate one full turn, so a full 360. If this freaks you out, grab a Sharpie and mark the nut. Then loosen the bottom nut on each skate by half a turn, so 180 degrees. Again, grab a Sharpie if you don't trust your eye. Try and keep that half turn relationship between the nuts. Skate around between each adjustment and stop loosening when you're like...YUP, THIS. Over time, this sweet spot will change because you'll be breaking in your cushions. We'll save the cushion talk for another day because this is more than enough for now.
All of these basic adjustments can be handled with one tool. A good skate tool has everything you need right in the palm of your hand. The Y3 Skate Tool is small enough to be tossed in a gear bag and carried around EVERYWHERE. It has a non-slip grip, which is great when you're trying to undo stuff that's too tight. This tool will handle your toe stop washer, wheel axle nuts and the nut on the truck. It's like Mary Poppins for your first pair of skates.
Feel free to contact us with more specific questions. If you're the type of person who's like...EW, OMG...no...I'm not touching that sh!t...and you'd like to throw money at the problem, we'll happily adjust and maintain your skates for you for a small fee. We get that not everyone likes to get their hands dirty, but we already have mechanic fingers around here, so we're good! All skate maintenance proceeds go to hand moisturizer. (That's not an entirely accurate statement.)