Hi-Lo set ups change the composition of the skate mainly the frame length and wheel size which directly impact the acceleration and maneuverability of the skates. There are ups and downs of a hi-lo system as there is with a standard set up as well. These differences will adhere to different skating styles and situations making hi-lo setups better in some instances and standard set ups better in others.
Whether in a hi-lo set up or standard set up of skate wheels the size is going to determine the way the wheel is going to perform in differing conditions. Let’s talk briefly about the sizes of wheels and how a smaller diameter wheel is going to perform in accordance to a larger wheel.
Smaller Inline Skate Wheels – 80mm Wheels or Smaller
80mm used to be the largest wheel available but as the sport of inline skating progresses so does the equipment. Now considered a smaller wheel size anything 80mm or lower is going to offer a few upsides; smaller wheels are going to accelerate faster and offer better control and maneuverability.
Larger Wheels – 84mm and Larger
Larger wheels are made for speed and for going greater distances. Being larger in diameter these wheels are going to take a bit longer to accelerate to top speed but once you get to top speed you will receive a smoother and faster ride overall. Larger wheels will ride over debris smoother and be greater for longer distance skates where you find yourself striding at speed for long distances.
The Combination of Smaller and Larger Wheels, Hi-Lo
With there being great upsides to both a smaller and larger wheel it was only a matter of time until a company decided to put the two together. When this happened the hi-lo inline skate set up emerged and with it a new era of skating was rung in.
Mixing Acceleration, Maneuverability and Speed
What a hi-lo set up essentially creates is a skate that offers great acceleration, top end speed and a smooth skating experience. Mixing smaller wheels in with larger wheels you are able to accelerate from a stand still quicker and once accelerated you are able to coast and gain extra speed due to the larger wheels. The larger wheels also offer a stable platform for rougher terrain.
This variation was one of the first set ups offered for the hi-lo generation; originally with inline hockey skates this set up changed how skaters accelerated. This is a fairly aggressive hi-lo set up in comparison to others and offers a great amount of get up and go with two smaller front wheels. The slight downfall to this design is splitting between two small and two large you will not get the most top end speed. This lack of top end speed makes this set up ever popular in inline hockey set ups and not found as regular on marathon or fitness inline skates.
This set up is found in roller hockey skates but has become more common in regular fitness inline skates. Offering a good amount of acceleration mixed with a good top speed and consistency this set up is becoming more popular in more skate models. The one smaller wheel allows the skates to offer a shorter frame length which aids in maneuverability.
A hi-lo set up sounds great but there are instances where a hi-lo set up is not going to be the best go to set up. There may be more but here we will cover the two most common times when a standard wheel set up may fair better than a hi-lo set up.
Although a hi-lo set up is evenly set with the frame so all wheels touch the same it can be intimidating for a complete beginner to skate with differing sized wheels. A standard set up will give the skater the confidence in knowing all the wheels are the same size.
Distance Marathon Skaters
Those skating many miles at great speeds find that all the same sized wheels in a larger diameter is going to offer the greatest and smoothest top end speed. This top end speed is worth the lack of acceleration as the amount of time spent accelerating is minimal compared to the time spent at top speed.
As you can see there is some easy explanation of hi-lo setups on inline skates which are not rocket science. Hopefully with this information you can make an informed decision when looking at skates with hi-lo and regular set ups.