In previous posts, we have spent some time talking about what to look for in a great sharpening, skate blade contouring (rockering & pitch) and, of course, radius of hollow. At this point, if you are a reader of this blog, you pretty much have a handle on what these things are.
But what do they really mean when it comes to skating? Let's dig in a little on RoH. (See what I did there?).
We know that a smaller radius creates a deeper hollow. We know that a deeper hollow delivers greater edge control. We also know that a deeper hollow creates more friction which, of course, detracts a bit from speed or glide.
Why is that? Why does a 3/8" ROH have more "grip" than a 1/2" or 5/8" ROH?
The answer is in the "bite angle".
Bite Angle Basics
What is Bite Angle?
Referring to the graphic above is probably the easiest way to understand bite angle. A 90-degree angle is created where the ice surface and the skate blade meet. When you introduce the hollow of a sharpened skate blade, that 90-degree angle is divided. While both resulting angles influence "grip", it is the lower angle - the one that includes the ice surface and the tangent line introduced by the hollow - that we refer to as the "bite angle".
What does it mean?
A larger bite angle correlates to greater grip on the ice. Since the slope of the tangent line is steeper given a smaller ROH, it creates a larger bite angle and hence more grip.
The edge of a smaller ROH (e.g. 3/8") will penetrate the ice at a steeper angle than that of a larger ROH (e.g. 1/2"). The steeper the bite angle, the more easily the steel of the blade can sink into the ice surface allowing the skater to dig in and push off. Compare this to the more moderate bite angle of a larger ROH and you can begin to understand why a smaller ROH (or a larger bite angle) delivers greater grip on the ice.
Why does it matter?
For some folks, it may not. For competitive hockey players and particularly for hockey players looking to improve their game, this could be really important information. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, while a smaller ROH provides greater grip, it may also be slowing you down a bit. By understanding bite angle and how it differs from ROH to ROH, you can now begin to try different cuts. With each new cut you try, you will begin to understand what works for you and what doesn't until you ultimately find the perfect balance for your skating style and playing style. Regardless of the ROH, a well-done sharpening is going to provide you with the sharp edges you need in order to skate, turn and stop. If you can get to a place where you are comfortable and confident on a larger ROH, it could give you an extra step on your competition. At the end of the day, though, it really is just finding what feels most comfortable to you.
If you have experimented with different cuts, you've likely learned a thing or two. Share your insight with us in the comments. We'd love to hear from you.