Can you put a brake on rollerblades? Yes, you can replace a broken or worn-down inline skate brake. You can also add brakes to rollerblades that came without a brake. Inline skates that have a braking system come with only one, and this brake is normally found on the right skate. But if for whatever reason you want to shift the brake to the other skate, you certainly can. In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about rollerblade brake replacement.
How to Add the Brake to Your New Inline Skates
So your brand spanking new rollerblades just arrived but they forgot to attach the brake. No worries, you’ll learn how to do it yourself in a short while.
But before we dive into how to install a brake on a rollerblade, pay attention to brake/frame compatibility.
Find the Right Brake System for Your Skates
Be sure to order a braking system that’ll work with your wheel size and wheel size. Some brakes are designed to work well with 3 x 110mm frames and not 4 x 110mm frames, for example.
Fortunately, some rollerblade brakes are universal and should work with pretty much any inline skate within a certain limit.
For instance, a universal brake system may work only with skates running on 8mm wheel axles and not others. I have provided a more detailed explanation in the FAQ section below.
Inline Skate Wheel Installation Video
So, here’s how to install an inline skate brake.
Step 1: Remove the Wheel Using a 4mm Allen Key
Grab the 4mm Allen Key that came with the package, put the tip to the screw head on the heel wheel, and unscrew it. Pull the wheel off and put it aside on a table, countertop, floor, or wherever. Note: store the existing shorter axle in your toolbox or somewhere else for when you’ll need to remove the brake.
Most inline skaters tend to chuck out their brake as soon as they outgrow the beginner phase. That’s because brakes almost always get in the way of advanced skating.
Step 2: Take the Parts Out of the Plastic Bag
Tear the plastic bag and remove the brake pad, brake bracket, 2 washers, and two screws. Place these parts on your working surface and be careful so you won’t lose them.
Step 3: Slide the Brake System onto the Frame
Take the brake (the pad usually comes joined to the bracket), open it out a bit, and push it forward over the frame’s portion where it should go. Keep pushing the pad/bracket combo until it clicks into place.
Also read: How do you rotate inline skate wheels
The frame usually comes with tabs designed to hold the brake in place as you work. You know you’ve mounted the brake bracket the right way when the two holes on it line up with the wheel axle holes. You can also run the Allen Key from either hole to cause the holes to line up perfectly.
Step 4: Pop in the Wheel, Add the Washers, and Then the Axle
Now that the holes are lined up, take one of the frame washers and put it over the first hole. Make sure that the flat side of the washer faces outside while the bumped-up side faces inside. Then, put the longer axle in, the one that came with the braking system.
The replacement brake axle is normally slightly longer than the existing wheel axle so that it can accommodate the extra thickness from the mounting bracket.
Step 5: Add the Other Washer and Tighten
At this point, tighten the bolt down until it sits nice and secure. Then, flip the boot so that the other side faces up. Place the second washer with the flat side facing outward as above. Then, put on the bolt and screw everything down to a tight hold. Don’t over-tighten the wheel, though, or it won’t spin properly.
Replacing a worn-down rollerblade brake pad is even easier than mounting the whole system for the first system. In this case, the mounting bracket is already in place. All you need to do is unscrew the worn-out rubber brake pad, put in the new brake pad, tighten the screw, and you’re done! But if you want to place both the mounting brake and the friction pad itself, go ahead.
What Kinds of Inline Skates Come With Brakes?
Unless you’re a complete beginner in inline skating, you already know that not all kinds of rollerblades come with a stopping mechanism. For the most part, only beginner-level inline skates/recreational inline skates, and fitness inline skates come with a brake. The brake is typically a rubber pad mounted onto a plastic brake frame.
Usually, fitness skates and rec skates come with the brake already attached to the right skate at the back. Skate manufacturers assume that most rollerbladers are right-foot dominant and that’s why they add the brake to the right skate.
What if you’re left-foot dominant? No problem — all you need to do is remove the brake from the right side and attach it to the left skate.
But not all skates arrive with the braking system mounted. In some cases, skate manufacturers/sellers pack the braking mechanism separately, usually in a plastic bag. Here are the brake replacement parts you find in that little plastic bag:
- 1 rubber/plastic brake pad
- 1 plastic mounting bracket
- 2 washers
- 2 screws, one quite long and the other one pretty short
Some brands include the brake as a separate component and expect you to be able to mount it onto your skate in case you need it there. But some new skaters may face challenges when it comes to organizing the braking system and mounting it onto the back of their skate.
If that’s you, stay with me. Because in this post, I’ll show you how to install a new brake on inline skates if it didn’t come already mounted. I’ll also show you how to replace a worn-out brake pad so that you can stay safe out blading as a beginner inline blader.
Many Inline Skates Don’t Have a Braking System, Though
High-performance skates normally don’t have a brake. Brake-less skates include speed inline skates, aggressive inline skates, rough-road rollerblades, forest-trail inline skates, freestyle slalom skates, inline hockey skates, and urban/street/freestyle skates.
Rollerblades without a brake almost always have large-diameter wheels and relatively long lightweight aluminum or carbon frames. Also, these skates usually have highly ABEC-rated ball bearings that roll really, really fast.
Brake-less rollerblades aren’t for starting skaters. Because these fast-rolling inline skates need you to have really good skating skills. You must have the ability to control these guys at speed and also be able to stop without relying on brakes. And that’s not something most beginners and even intermediate-level inline skaters have mastered.
“Beginning-level inline skates and fitness inline skates typically come with a braking mechanism. But speed skates, marathon skates/long-distance skates, aggressive skates, slalom skates, urban skates, and off-road skates, and forest trail skates typically don’t have a brake.
Types of Inline Skate Brakes
There are two types of rollerblade brakes namely:
- Traditional brakes
- Advanced Braking Technology Systems (ABTs)
Traditional Inline Skate Brakes
This is a friction-based braking system for inline skates, and it typically comes attached to the right skate right behind the heel wheel. But as mentioned above, it’s always the case that these brakes come attached. Sometimes they come as separate pieces and components that you have to organize and mount onto the frame.
A traditional inline skate brake looks like what you see below. It’s pretty much a rubber brake pad joined to a tough-plastic mounting bracket with holes on either side where you run the wheel axle.
These brakes may come in various slightly different designs/styles, but they essentially operate the same — through friction. Below are several designs in which the traditional system may be available.
To use a traditional brake, you need to lift up the toe of your boot while lowering your heel. When you bring your heel down, the rubber brake pad comes into contact with the ground. And the resultant drag slows you down to a stop.
This braking system is pretty basic, but it works. In fact, many skaters have reported that the traditional braking system is more reliable than the ABT system especially when skating downhill.
Me? Both systems are OK. But I’d advise beginners to go for the conventional stopping system because of the reasons I’ll explain below.
When Do You Replace a Worn-out Rollerblade Brake?
Replace your rollerblade brake when you’re about to wear it down to the clearly visible horizontal wear limit line on the brake pad. You really should swap the brake out before you grind it all the way to the wear indicator line. Because you don’t want to eat up the hardware (mounting bracket) since replacing the entire unit costs more than buying only the brake pad.
Pretty much all inline skates have the wear limit line. In case there’s no wear line, you’ll have to rely on your judgment.
How Long Do Inline Skate Brakes Last?
If you skate a lot over mostly rough surfaces, you might have to change out the brake in a couple of months. But if you’re a casual skater and are not subjecting your brake to the crappiest surfaces, your brake may last up to 12 months or even longer. It all depends on your skating frequency, weight, and quality of the skating surface.
Advanced Braking Technology Systems (ABTs)
This braking system is (no longer in production) more advanced than the traditional brake as far as technology. While both brakes rely on friction between the brake pad and the ground or other skating surfaces to do the job, the ABT system is more complex.
This system has two main parts. The first part is the rubber brake pad that stays pretty close to the ground. The second part is a long, pressure-activated fiberglass arm that runs up the skate’s back. This system lets you adjust the height of the brake pad by using a screw.
How the ABT Inline Brake System Works
One difference between this brake system and the traditional system above is that this one keeps the brake pad pretty low, almost touching the ground. Now, that’s a good thing because you don’t need to do much to lower the pad to the ground for friction.
All you need to do is lean back slightly so that your calf touches your skate’s cuff, applying pressure. It is this pressure that pushes the long brake arm which then pushes the brake pad down onto the ground — and you slow down and stop.
What I’ve just described is the original ABT system patented by Rollerblade in 1994. They then developed a second-gen version that worked even better than the original version. Finally, Rollerblade designed a sleeker and more streamed third-gen braking system that they built into the frame and boot.
Rollerblade and Bladerunner Discontinued ABT Braking Systems
One reason Rollerblade and its sister company Bladerunner discontinued the ABT system is that the intended user didn’t seem to like it very much. People still preferred using the traditional option which was cheaper and easier to maintain. You can still find Rollerblade and Bladerunner skates that use this system, but they’re no longer being made.
Reasons Not to Use an ABT Rollerblade Brake
But this system also had other disadvantages. First off, the brake pad stays very close to the ground. That makes braking easier and faster, but it also drags even when not in use, and that can’t be good. Also, incorrect brake arm adjustment can have you needing to brake in the traditional braking style — toes up, heel down.
Another demerit is that once the brake pad wears down too much, the system experiences trouble making it touch the ground. And you end up using it as you would a regular brake. These aren’t very bad things, certainly not deal-breakers, right?
Rollerblade Brake Replacement FAQs
1. Are Rollerblade Brakes Universal?
Some rollerblade brakes are universal and work with pretty much all inline skate frames. The Powerslide Urban Brake is an example of a universal rollerblade brake. This brake system (pad plus brake bracket) works for all inline skates that use 8mm axles. Make sure to choose a brake frame size that’ll work for your frame. For example, the Powerslide Urban universal brake works size S/M works well for frames for 4×72 mm-80 mm wheels while the L/XL brake size is for 3x100mm or 3x110mm setups.
2. Can You Buy Brakes for Inline Skates?
Yes, you can buy rollerblade replacement brakes, remove the old brake, and put in the new brake pad. If replacing the entire brake system, be sure to choose a universal brake or one made to accommodate the wheels you have. To avoid confusion, find the same brake your skate had and use that.
3. How Do You Install Inline Skate Brakes?
Remove the rear wheel using a 4mm Allen Key. Pull out the existing worn-down or awkwardly fitting brake. Then, take the new brake system and shove it into place at the back of the frame. Add the washers with their flat side facing outward, put in a long enough wheel axle, and tighten to a secure fit. Make clockwise turns until you sense some resistance.
4. Rollerblade Brake on Which Skate?
Beginner and fitness inline skates typically come with a brake attached to the right skate. But the brake can be easily moved to the left skate if you’re left-foot dominant. Read the section above on how to install brakes on inline skates and you should be able to swap it in under 10 minutes. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t require lots of elbow grease to complete.
Summing it Up
Rollerblade brake replacement is a pretty easy activity. All you need is a 4mm Allen Key, a replacement brake pad, an axle of the right length, and a useable pair of hands.
First, unscrew the worn-out brake pad. Then, take the replacement rollerblade brake and fit it into place. Screw it in, making clockwise turns until it’s tight and secure but too tight. It’s a 5-minute affair and you’re done.
If it’s a new skate that came with the brake unattached, remove the rear wheel and axle with an Allen Key. Pop the wheel back in, run the longer axle through the holes, add washers, and tighten the setup down to your liking.