No, its not pillow talk! This is getting to know your cushions or otherwise knows as Bushings which are the rubber things on the king pin in between your wheels and your plate!
Cushions are rubber urethane that fits over your kingpin, either side of the trucks and held together with a nut on most skate plates.
These Cushions are basically your overall suspension for the skates and they allow your trucks to move independent of the plate.
Cushions are very important to the longevity and performance of your skates. You should as a general maintenance check your cushions for any cracking, discolouration or deformation. If your cushions have any of these issues they need to be changed and there are a few things to know before changing your cushions.
If your trucks are starting to feel looser than you'd like, it might be time to flip over your skates and take a peek to see if you need to get them replaced. This might be a perfect time to think about the kind of a feel you're looking for with your trucks as this is a great opportunity to get them feeling just how you like.
Not all cushions fit all plates. Some have conical and some have Barrel cushions, some kingpins are also a different diameters to others so getting to know your skates can help with this and also looking at the shape they had previously may help too.
Cushions come in not only different shapes but also different hardnesses or 'durometers'. A general rule when looking at the durometer of a cushion is, if you are a heavier skater you will want a harder cushion and if you are a lighter skater you will want a softer cushion. This is not the case with everyone so if you find yourself loosening the nut and not getting enough give you might want to try softer cushions so you don't harm your kingpin with the extra movement associated with over loosening your trucks. Similarly, if you are tightening your cushions so much that they are starting to bulge or if you are getting muscle pain from having to push harder to gain the movements then you may want to try harder cushions so there is a faster response to your pushing.
Cushions are so understated and overlooked and most skaters ask more about what wheels I am on than what cushions i have but they should be all part of the parcel.
Another general rule is that harder cushions are for more stability and softer and for more agility but the weight of the skater and style of skating does play a big part in how the cushions work for the individual.
If you are on skate park you would normally go for hard wheels and hard cushions for more stability but some lighter skaters prefer the medium cushions to allow for some more agility in tricks and jumps.
Nikita, our resident ramp skater and aggressive skate instructor showing some skaters how its done
- Photo by Dash
The cushions found on starter skates such as the GT-50 and R3 for example utilise a more cost effective material. These cushions won't give you the same responsiveness as those found on higher level plates. The material used in these types of skates also has a tendency to compress or lose it's elasticity quicker and won't bounce back when you apply pressure into your edge. They can be easily changed and so can the wheels!! If you have purchased these beginner style skates and want to upgrade but not spend quite so much on a totally new set up just yet, new cushions and wheels can be a great way to pimp your ride and get you through the first year or so until you have the funds and know exactly what you want to upgrade to.
There is no hard and fast rule for cushions as with wheels it is all how you like the feel of it and this comes down to a series of points. Some of the points to consider when looking at hardness of your setup is to do with the floor you skate on, floorboards/concrete/sports court. Others are more physiological like what size you are, your style of skating and what plate you skate on. So many factors to consider just like with your choice of wheels but there are some ways to make it a bit easier to find the perfect fit for you.
If you are on a new pair of skates, find out what the cushions are currently on your skates. Some cushions have a durometer rating usually from 71-98A (71 being the softest) and some are more simplified and marked as "soft" to "hard". What hardness wheels are you on. What are you currently getting from your setup that you love, hate or what do you want out of your skates. What floor are you on.
With derby for example, a light skater wanting some good speed and agility on a concrete floor would benefit from trying a soft cushion with a 90-93A wheel. This combo would get the stick you need to juke and nail those apex jumps with the speed and traction around those corners when undercutting the opposition jammer who didn't read this blog 😉. The same skater, on a soft sports court or sticky wood floor ,would benefit from a soft to medium cushion and a 93-95A wheel. The reason being is that these surfaces have more natural give in them and if you have a softer setup you then need to push through your hardware, then the floor to receive the rebound you need so hardening up your setup can help to achieve a faster and better response.
Some skaters will mix up their cushions across their setup in order to try and get the "perfect feel". Some skaters may try harder cushions on the rear axles and softer on their front axles to provide a more explosive lateral power when pushing through your heel and more agility when sinking into the edges at the ball of your foot. Don't forget, when skating backwards everything is reversed, so if you're looking for a similar backwards skating with lateral agility by sinking into your heel edges, it's going to be much harder to match your forwards skating agility on account of the stiffer cushions on your rear truck.
Some skaters opt to place one durometer of cushion on the top half of their truck and a different durometer on the bottom. The idea here is that this will provide a feel somewhere between the two. It may provide a slight difference, but in reality, the banking truck will only move as much as the harder of the two cushions will allow so going for a set of medium all around will get you the feel you're after or look at altering the wheel and cushion setup you have as a whole.
If in doubt and don't know much about skates and just happy to roll around the track but want to make sure your skates don't fall apart, change the cushions when they need it and stick with an all-rounder medium set up and you will still have stability and agility to corner and skate with a well-maintained set of skates.