Cushions/Bushings, whichever you call them, are one of the most under appreciated elements of many a skate setup. They play an integral part in the feel of your skates, particularly the response you receive when delivering power into your edges. They're not shnazzylooking, and even if they are, they're pretty hard to spot when gawking at your hero skater's setup. On the list of things you'll notice they're way down the list, but ask
any high level skater and cushion selection is right up there on the list of tweaks they make to their skates.
Understanding which cushions work best for you depends heavily on what kind of a feel you're after underfoot.The softer the cushion, the more your truck will bank/tilt when pressure is applied. This will provide you with more lateral carving agility, but you'll be sacrificing explosiveness off your edges. Conversely, harder cushions are going to feel stiffer under pressure which is going to result in more lateral explosiveness.
Cushions are made out of either urethane or rubber and, as with most roller skate wheels, cushion hardness is rated on the 'A durometer' and can range from 71 up to 98. 71 being the softer end of the scale and 98 being the harder. Often skate brands will abstract these numbers into terms such as “soft” or “firm”. This can give you an indication as to how the feel of those cushions will compare to one another, but making a little less precise if you're looking for exact feel from one brand to the next.
Many different plate manufacturers utilise differently shaped cushions to accommodate their truck designs. For traditional kingpin designed trucks you have the capability to tighten or loosen the top nut in order to compress the cushion more or less. This can give you a slight adjustment on feel of the truck if you're looking for a responsiveness which sits between those provided by the available cushion ranges. Ideally, these micro-
adjustments won't be required, as cranking pressure into the cushions from that top nut can result in increased wear over a shorter period of time (more on that later). With nonkingpin plates such as the Arius, these micro-adjustments aren't possible and the feel of the truck is completely down to the cushion selection.
Some skaters will mix up their cushions across their setup in order to try and get that perfect feel. Some skaters will opt for harder cushions on the rear axles and softer on their front axles. This provides for more explosive lateral power when pushing through your heel and more banking agility when sinking into the edges at the ball of your foot. Those explosive edges on the rear axle mean more power when blocking targets alongside you. The front banking agility means sharper carving laterally across the track. Be wary that as soon as you wind up skating backwards everything is reversed, so if you're looking for a similar backwards skating 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.
I've also seen skaters opting 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. If you're wondering if you should put a firm cushion on the bottom and a soft cushion on top, then perhaps going for a set of medium all around will get you the feel you're after.
Cushions, just like wheels will start to wear over time. In fact, cushions are far more likely to wear down faster than wheels. Unlike wheels, the wear on cushions results in them becoming compressed over time due to the constant edge pressure applied on them. This can result in skaters tightening the top nut which actually serves to exacerbate the problem, increasing the rate at which the cushion will compress over time. The cushions
found on starter skates such as the GT50 and R3 generally utilise more cost effective material. These cushions won't provide you the same responsiveness as those found on higher level plates or stand alone after market cushions. This material also has a tendency to compress or lose it's elasticity quicker and won't bounce back when you apply pressure into your edge.
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. While you're at it, pay some mind to what 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!
Check out our cushions here: