I get asked a lot to borrow stuff on the bench, whether it's my handheld drill or my bearing press, I have a lot of stuff in my gear bag because, well, this is literally what I do for a living. And when you change 10 sets of wheels a day, you can't imagine not using the right tools.
But not everyone is a gear nerd like me, so it's totally understandable that you don't necessarily even know what you need as a tool or you use tools only when things feel weird or your coach tells you you're squeaking, so you easily forget they're a thing. Unfortunately, it's when you need to fix something the most that tools can be most elusive, so here are a few tips to prepping in advance for such occasions. And if you're not the prepping type, read on to know what to ask your team mates for.
Know Your Multitool
There are a lot of multitools out there that have...you guessed it...multiple tools in one. They may have a few sockets, an allen key, they are the swiss army knives of skate tools. You get the convenience of only having to remember one thingy, but they're not all created equal. They are usually purpose specific, so a skateboard tool would be different than an inline tool or a roller skate tool even though they kind of look the same. Some will have stuff you don't need, others will be missing something critical. So, if you're going for a multitool, look for one with the following:
- Something to take your wheels off (1/2")
- Something to tighten/loosen your trucks (size varies)
- Something to raise/lower your toe stop (tool varies)
These are the things that need adjusting most often. The easiest thing to do is look at the brand of plate you have and buy a multitool by that brand, but beware that even the same brand can have different parts for different plates. A good example is the nylon Thrust Plate by Powerdyne which needs a wrench to tighten toe stops, while most other Powerdyne plates need an allen key. When in doubt, ask us!
Bearing tools are also a good idea if you don't have a set of bearings per wheel. Also in case you break a bearing and have to replace one mid game or jam session. A good handheld bearing puller will do the trick for most wheels, but if you love metal hubs, you likely need a bearing press which is amazing for removing bearings, but on the larger, heavier side.
I can't live without my drill. With the right socket attachments, it is amazing for quick F1-like wheel changes and it's sized for my wee hands and skate bag. I love it for games when I'm unfamiliar with the surface and bring multiple wheel sets. I actually have time to switch wheels after on skate warm up before the action begins. If you want to get a portable drill, look for one with a small battery. Mine is a Ryobi but I know people who like the inexpensive one you can get from Ikea.
Kingpin wrenches, I give you this piece of advice based on personal experience and because I just fixed a skate with this problem at the Team Canada tryouts in Rockland. The kingpin on your skate is what the cushions go on and if you have the kind that screw in to the plate, sometimes, they can come loose, like if you thought you loosened your trucks, but in fact just turned the whole kingpin. This can be bad, because a loose kingpin is wiggly and can strip the threads inside the plate. If you don't tighten it, you can ruin your plate. That's $$$. So, getting a $10 wrench seems like a deal. Because the space between the plate and the cushion cup is tiny, your wrench needs to be pretty thin.
Pivot Pin Wrench
Pivot pin wrenches are only necessary if you have adjustable pivot pins. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you likely don't have them. If you do, your plate usually comes with a double sided wrench, so keep it in your bag! It's not so much that you're going to spend a lot of time fiddling with them. Once you set them, they're usually good to go unless you adjust your trucks, but they can come loose and then you may strip the threads.
No but really, it does. And I mean this in a couple of ways. The more obvious way is that you clearly want to get the right sized socket/wrench etc for what it is that you're trying to tighten or loosen. Beyond just practicality, if you use something that's the wrong size, you risk stripping the metal and causing some real problems down the line. The worst offender I've seen for this is allen keys. If you use an allen key that is slightly too small for the nut you're screwing in, over time that lovely hexagon will turn into a circle and then good luck moving that gem! I hope you love those toe stops because they're not going anywhere. A good example is Powerdyne vs Sure-Grip toe stop nuts. Powerdynes take 5mm ones, Sure-grips take 3/16" ones. To the blind eye, they look the same but they are not! If they wiggle when you put them in, they aren't the right size. If your allen key itself is starting to round, replace it.
Aside from the right size bit, there's the actual size of the tool. If you opt to use the tiny tools that come with your skates, you will survive, but you might struggle to get the amount of leverage needed to loosen a really tight part. Plates are also machined with different tolerances for toe stops so you may need a heck of a lot of power to get them tight enough so certain toe stops don't turn. This is where bigger can be better. The Bionic Allen Tool pictured here is a great example of a tool that will help provide leverage
Mark Your Territory
Your teammates aren't jerks, you just all have the same Bones bearing puller and Y3 tools so if your tool finds its way into their gear bag, judge them not! Instead, use those thousands of sharpies that mark your arms to write your initials on your treasured tools. This will keep them in the right hands