The anatomy of a skate

Boot, plate… put some wheels on it and you have a skate. Right?
09 May 2017

Yes, that’s right, but there’s a lot more to it when you look closer.

I’ve already been writing about boots, and will write more in due time. This blog is going to be about most of the other parts, the bits and pieces that make your skate skate-able.

Here is a nice exploded view with all the basic parts that every skate has. Well, not every skate, but we’re gonna keep it simple for now.45493b2af271b2eb939313055be2be34.jpg



Everything starts with the base plate, that’s the part that is attached to the out sole of you boot. This base plate is made of nylon (beginner skate) or of some kind of metal, mostly an aluminum alloy. Depending on what kind of alloy this is it can be stronger, more stiff or more light weight. Sometimes brands specify exactly what kind of alloy they used, sometimes they just say ‘aircraft aluminum’. That’s saying as much as ‘it’s made of metal’. ;)

In the base plate there’s two threaded holes where the king pins go. The kins pins are screwed in tight, and usually you don’t take them out ever.

The king pins are holding all the other parts. It’s like that 'bones are connected' song...






First is the upper cushion cup. It’s the upper one, because when your skate is the right way up, it’s up ⇑. This cup holds the upper cushion in the right place. It’s shaped to fit exactly around the kingpin.

The upper cushion is next and is most responsible for stability and you adjust it according to your weight. When you are heavier, you want a harder cushion, when you’re more light-weight you probably want a softer cushion. The upper cushion is ‘barrel’-shape.

Next is the truck, it fits nicely between the upper cushion and the lower cushion. The cushions are the reason that your wheels can turn and move bit are still attached to the rest of your skate. And that’s an important job if you ask me ;)

To top this off there is the lower cushion cup (it’s on the bottom when you are skating⇓) and the king pin lock nut holds it together. You depend on your lower cushion for your steering, the agility of your skate. The softer this cushion, the more agile your skate is. So with just a little afford your can make your skate turn. When the cushions are too soft, your skate can feel a bit wobbly or unstable. When they are too hard, it makes it really hard to go around the turns, slice or do a slalom.

With the lock nut at the top of this nice stack of parts, you can adjust the tension that’s put on the cushions. You can compress them a bit more or a bit less. So feel wobbly? Tighten this nut half a turn and make it more stiff. Too hard to go left? Loosen this nut a half turn and try again.

Back to the truck. The truck is wedged between the cushions as we now know and it has two axles sticking out of it. The axles is where your wheels go. The bearings in your wheels, fit nicely on your axle, and an axle-nut will hold your wheel in place. The truck also has another part sticking out of it; that’s the pivot pin. The pivot pin is a bit like a second leg; the king pin is the first. And we all need that second leg to skate.


See it like this: The king pin-’leg’ is firmly on the ground, i.e. it’s screwed into the base plate. The pivot pin-’leg’ is only touching the ground, it’s not screwed in. But by being there and touching the ground it’s helping to keep stable and balanced.












The pivot pin fits in the pivot cup. Hey Sherlock!

The pivot cup in a plastic (Nylon/Delrin) cup that sits in the base plate. The pivot pin should be touching the bottom of the pivot cup. If the pivot pin is hovering and not touching, it won’t help and your skate might feel unstable. If it’s pressed too hard into the cup it gives unwanted forces on the whole set and can make your skate behave erratic. This is the reason for adjustable pivot pins. I will go into that some other time, but here’s a picture.


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If this has made you interested and you want to know more, you can sign up to the TDS workshop on skate maintenance. Find info on that on facebook, the website, or just send an email to job@thederbyshop.com.