Sled FAQ needed
January 29, 2007 6:27 AM   Subscribe

How can I get my sleds to go faster?

I have 4 Flexible Flyer-type sleds with metal runners, 2 that I grew up with and 2 that came with my current house. Half are I guess 5' long and half around 4'.
The 2 I grew up with work fairly well, but the longer one works much better. Is this because my (adult) weight is better distributed on longer rails?
The 2 that came with the house barely move under the same conditions. The only noticeable difference is some rusting on the runners. Is minor rust what is killing these sleds? What's the best way to get it off? Should the bottom of the runner be flat or have a 'hollow' like a skate blade?
Finally, how important is the parallelism of the runners?
posted by MtDewd to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total)
Rust means the runners aren't as smooth as they could be. I wouldn't remove it, but I'd soap (or wax, but soap works just as well) over the rust.

I don't know how parallel they need to be - a forward-pointing V should work, but a reversed V, like a plow, would slow you down.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:38 AM on January 29, 2007

We always use Naval Jelly to remove rust from the runners.
posted by lobstah at 6:45 AM on January 29, 2007

Sand off the rust, then wax 'em or grease 'em. Maybe slap a litte wd40 on 'em to prevent more rust. Spray-on wax (or Pam even) works great for plastic sleds, and you can pick up luge wax if you decide that you're going to get super crazy about it.
posted by klangklangston at 6:50 AM on January 29, 2007

Rub a wax candle over the runners. I did that when I was a kid and my rusty old sled almost caused me to break my neck, it went so much faster.

It was awesome.
posted by bondcliff at 6:54 AM on January 29, 2007

Steel wool will take off the rust (0 or 000 grades I think). Ski wax for speed.
posted by caddis at 7:02 AM on January 29, 2007

Best answer: Here's what we used to do:

1. Remove any rust with a wire wheel or sandpaper.
2. Use scotchbrite or very fine sandpaper to get the runner as smooth as possible.
3. Apply wax or silicon spray.

Yeah, the longer rails work better because your weight is more evenly distributed. Obviously friction increases as the surface area increases, but friction also depends on the downward pressure. Also, with a smaller surface area you could be breaking through the snow surface which would slow you down.
posted by electroboy at 7:10 AM on January 29, 2007

Sleds with metal runners like that work best on ice. If you want to get better speed and distance on powder or other non-hard surfaces, get one of those plastic tobbogans. They're not as classy looking, but they work a lot better.
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:19 AM on January 29, 2007

Remove the rust, using any of the methods above that create a smooth surface.

Parallelism of the horizontal part of the runners is important. Runners that are splayed or pigeon-toed slow you down, because they are pushing sideways slightly, instead of sliding straight ahead.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:20 AM on January 29, 2007

Ice - slightly slippery
melted water on top of ice - ungodly slippery

Sleds with runner work so well on ice and hard packed snow because they slightly melt the ice at the contact point so that you are actually sliding on a thin film of liquid water over the ice. Ice skates work the same way. It is harder to achieve this effect in fluffy snow.
posted by caddis at 7:34 AM on January 29, 2007

I wouldn't worry so much about the rust at first. Try out the silcone spray or the WD 40 and see what happens. I never tried the wax on metal but it sounds like it will do the trick. I have a feeling that you will be impressed with the speeds you achieve. Be careful!
posted by bkeene12 at 7:34 AM on January 29, 2007

On snow ideally you want the runners mirror smooth with a coating of hard wax to reduce the coefficient of friction. One good way to shine the runners is to run them back and forth in a sandbox.
posted by Mitheral at 9:19 AM on January 29, 2007

Amundsen was taught by the inuit to coat his sled runners with polished ice.
posted by hortense at 10:32 AM on January 29, 2007

Hortense: I think the trick about "waxing" your runners with ice, only works if you're in an environment that's significantly sub-zero. It relies on the your pressure between the ice block and the runner to melt the ice, then quickly refreezing on the runner as you move it along, creating a coating of ice.

In order to make it work, you'd have to make sure that the runners were very cold; if you're in the sun or if it's too warm to flash-freeze the water back to the runner, it's probably better to use wax.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:49 PM on January 29, 2007

Steel wool to smooth them off, then spray them with Pam!
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:58 PM on January 29, 2007

Removing the rust will make an enormous difference.
posted by unSane at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2007

OK, us modern sledders might use teflon
posted by hortense at 1:36 PM on January 29, 2007

Response by poster: I tried several of your sugestions.
I used candle wax on the rustiest one and it did not seem to make a difference. Maybe the wrong kind of candle.
One I sanded down pretty good and it improved enormously. I tried some silicone oil on top of that and it helped, but just a little.
They were out of polished ice at the 7-11.

Thanks to all.
posted by MtDewd at 4:52 PM on January 29, 2007

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