Ripstik Mechanical Maintenance: Overview

Maintenance of any mechanical device is important for the smooth and trouble free operation. A ripstik is a kid’s toy, similar to a skateboard, and as a kid’s toy, gets vicious abuse. We bought a used Ripstik Classic and it really needed some TLC. Here is what we did. As a result of our maintenance the ripstik runs much smoother and glides farther, resulting in faster speeds and/or less effort. These are all benefits of a couple of hours of maintenance.

A ripstik is a caster board, invented in Korea. As an engineering device it is quite intriguing for me. The kid gets on, similar to a skateboard, one foot fore and one foot aft. The ripstik, however has only two wheels, again one fore and one aft. The device twists in the middle of the board, and the wheels are canted 30 degrees forward. There is a side to side sinusoidal motion coupled with a torquing motion of the board that generates forward motion.

While there are lots of hours of Youtube videos on the ripstik and other caster boards, there is scant little on maintenance. It does take a significant amount of wasted time to sit through these videos to find the few gems with any significant maintenance information. This post is aimed at the fathers of Ripstik riders, and for the few dedicated Ripstik riders that care much for their Ripstik. Ripstiks are not that universal, so there is really not a lot of information about maintenance on the internet.

The Ripstik is a pretty simple device comprised of: the torsion bar (1), fore and aft platforms, face plates (2) and side grips (4), caster mechanisms (2) and wheels (2). The tools you’ll need include: Philips screwdrivers (large and small), flat head screwdriver, 14 mm socket and ratchet, 4mm hex key (2), 6mm hex key, grease, Locktite (red and blue) and oil.

Maintain the Face Plates: Turn the board over and remove all philips head screws. There are two lengths of screws. The shorter screws will remove the face plates. There are 4 screws for the front face plate and 5 screws for the aft, all in the middle of the board. Note that there is a big ass sticker on the back of the aft face plate that hides a screw hole. If you forget to remove this screw you will break the face plate. Remove the sticker to expose the hole and screw. Insert the flat head screwdriver into the rectangular slots that hold the small face plate tabs and give a gentle push. The face plates will come free without any brute force required. Do not be ham fisted or your kids will be furious when you snap a face plate. A new set of face plates costs $20 + shipping. The side closest to the torsion bar will have two tabs for each face plate. These need to be slipped out in the direction away from the torsion bar.

The longer screws are for the side grips. These grips are substantial pieces of plastic, so you need not be delicate. Use a thin screwdriver after removing the screws and push these side grips free.

Wash the face plates and side grips of all dirt and crap with soap and water. You will now see the inner area of the platforms. If there is rust on the caster bolt, use a brush of any kind to scrub it. Wash the platforms of dirt and crap. Store these face plates and side grips where they will not be broken or lost.

Maintain the Torsion bar: Turn the board wheels side up. You will see the torsion bar is attached to the board by two 6mm hex head bolts. Remove these. The torsion bar will come out. This torsion bar provides the torquing motion of the board. Clean it of any rust and crud. The torsion bar is covered by a metal pipe, which can be cleaned of rust and repainted . I simply cut a piece of bicycle inner tube and stretched it over the metal pipe, providing protection as well as an inexpensive, durable and waterproof grip. The metal pipe is 1.25″ in diameter, so you can add a pipe cover with any plastic or metal cylinder that has an inside diameter larger than 1.25″. You will need about 4″ in length. I covered the torsion bar with grease so it will not rust again. Reattach the two 5mm hex bolts with blue Locktite. The torsion bar’s flat ends point up when screwing the bolts back in.

Maintain the Wheels: You will need two 4mm hex keys, one on either side to screw off the wheel bolts. They are locktited on with blue locktite, so need some force to be removed. Do not be shy. There is a male and female side to this bold, similar to a Chicago screw. Note the flat washer and cylindrical spacer, a pair for each side. Remove the wheel. There are two bearings for each wheel, separated by a cylindrical spacer in between. Use a bolt that’s a little too small, tilted sideways to try to yank out the bearings. Try not to damage the bearing if you are reusing them. Once one comes out do not lose the spacer. The other bearing can be pushed out with an arbour press, or simply push it out from the opposite side. The bearings can be soaked in varsol or mineral spirits to dissolve the oil if really dirty. They then need to be lubed with oil after this. After servicing the caster and when replacing the wheel bolt, remember that the washer goes on the outside of the cylinder spacer and the cylindrical spacer is between the washer and the bearing. The spacer in the wheel between the bearings can shift, so use a thin screwdriver to line it up. The order of reassembly is: bolt head, wheel bracket, washer, spacer, wheel, spacer, washer, wheel bracket, bolt head. Use Locktite blue on this bolt.

Maintain the Caster: Once the wheel is removed this exposes the caster bolt. Use a 14mm socket and ratchet and remove the bolt. Remove the top metal piece, the bracket that holds the wheel to the caster. There will be a black plastic washer and 16 ball bearings. Remove and wash these clean of dirt and other crap. Do not lose any of the ball bearings. Wash and scrape off all caked on dirt and grease from both the main race holder and the wheel bracket area. I needed to scrape off quite a bit of caked on dirt. Wash with soap and water. Use 400 sandpaper and lightly sand both sides of the race to reduce friction. The bearings will rust if they sit in water. Let dry. The main race holder will have a cylindrical spacer, which you need to remove and wash. The wheel bracket has a bearing in it, which you can also maintain. It is awkward to remove this. I simply brushed the large dirt off and oiled it.

Reattach the cylindrical spacer to the main bearing race and grease. I used automotive bearing grease in a translucent colour. Replace the black plastic washer on top of the main bearing race and add all 16 ball bearings. Repack with axle or bearing grease. Reattach the 14mm bolt with red Locktite. Tighten down until the wheel bracket does not move up and down, and the caster swivels smoothly. Do not over tighten or the caster will bind and not move smoothly.

You are done. Check all bolts after a couple of hour’s use to ensure nothing has fallen off. Get the kid, if you can and they are willing, to clean off the dirt after each use. Any extra oil from bearings will attract dirt, so it is better to wash this oil off the bottom of the board.

For parents there is usually no thanks for maintenance. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done, while you see your kid happily wiggle their way down the street.

Addendum July 17 2012: Our wheels are a little too worn, and I have priced them at $20US plus shipping. They do come with new bearings.

Instead I went to a used clothing store and bought a pair of relatively new name brand rollerblades. The wheels are 78mm, just like the Ripstick. Watch that you get an adult size pair because kids roller blades will have smaller wheels. The bearings were not ABEC rated and did not spin as well as the original ABEC 5 bearings, so we learned to clean the original bearings and install them into the new wheels.

To clean the original bearings we learned to pop the covers off the original bearings, spray with automotive brake cleaner to remove the old grease and dirt, and let dry overnight. The next day we added automotive bearing grease, and it has been smooth rolling ever since. On top of this we get 4 sets of near new wheels.

Roller blade wheels have a different sized axle, so we needed to remove its small spacer and replace it with the spacer that came with the original wheels. Other than the spacer, the width and size of the wheels were identical to the original. You will need to reuse the original Ripsik axle, washers and spacers.

So far so good. The new wheels gives a faster motion, which means less effort overall.

Addendum Aug 11 2012: We added a metal sleeve between the front and rear platforms. The metal sleeve needs to have an inside diameter of 2.25″ and a length of 4″. We used the body of a Maglight flashlight, the ones that take C batteries. The maglight has a cross-hatching diamond pattern on the outside, for extra grip. The wall of the cylinder is about 1/8″, so it was not extremely difficult to cut it down. The new metal sleeve makes the ripstick look much better. If you do not have a metal sleeve you can make do with an inner tube of a 24″ or 26″ bicycle tire. If the sleeve is too loose, you can add the bicycle tire section under it.

Addendum May 27 2014: Little Weed is still using his Ripstik, and two more of his friends have also bought, making them 4 in total. The Maglight metal sleeve is working out well but was a little too loose. We cut a yogurt container, polypropylene, to make a shim, allowing the metal sleeve to rotate but not rattle. Two thicknesses of the polypropylene was too tight, so only one thickness can fit. Cut the shim circumstantially for a single layer.

We found some rollerblade wheels that are 82mm diameter. This is the max size for the standard Ripstik, leaving only about 2-3mm clearance. Little Weed likes the increased diameter, though it is only 2mm larger per side. The Rollerblade wheels wear down faster than the harder Ripstik wheels, but seem to have better grip.

Little Weed wants to replace the torsion bar. Supposedly the new Ripstik DLX has a stiffer torsion bar, and costs $19US, but I fear that unless the company uses USPS we will have to pay a brokerage fee, which will exceed the cost of the torsion bar. The Ripstik G torsion bar is the same as the standard Ripstik one.

Addendum July 2014: We purchased Little Weed a new DLX, as his Classic’s torsion bar was finally worn out. The DLX torsion bar is much stiffer, resulting in less effort required. The DLX is faster than the “G”. The Classic is faster than the “G” but not as fast as a DLX.

We’ve also learned more about wheels and bearings. Instead of taking bearings apart, it is easier to simply replace them with similar ABEC 5 bearings. Rollerblade wheels fit the Ripstik, but their durometer or hardness is different. The wheels are both 76mm but hte Ripstik brand wheels have a durometer of 97A, much harder than inline skates. Harder durometers result in lesser wear but much less grip. You can actually slide the Ripstik. Lower durometer results in better grip but more wear. I’m unsure what is more important, because the Ripstik needs the side to side motion and therefore grip in order to propel itself forward. There has been a lot written about durometer for inline skates, but not for Ripstik use.

Heavier riders will need to change their wheels often, irregardless of using the original Ripstik wheels (high durometer of 97A) or not. Sidewalk use really destroys the wheels.

I have looked for 76mm inline skate wheels in high durometer of 90A or 95A, and cannot find any. The only high durometer wheel I can find in 76mm or something close is the authentic Ripstik branded ones. It seems that inline skaters require both grip and durability, so they mix this into their wheels. The high durometer inline skate wheels are only available in 100mm and larger.

2 thoughts on “Ripstik Mechanical Maintenance: Overview

  1. Martin

    Thanks for that.
    I got a second hand board that has seized so it won’t twist.
    Very useful.

  2. seth

    I am wondering what size the steel balls are that go in the caster axle for the ball bearings? I was taking mine apart and found only one ball bearing left and I am trying to find out what size they are so I can get some replacments. Thanks for your time.

    [Don: We did not measure the ball bearing size for the caster axle. If you have one ball bearing left you can measure the diameter with a vernier caliper. If you need ball bearings for the wheels it is better and cheaper to simply buy bearing races for roller blades.]

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