Inline Skate Newbie - Wheel Rotation

Odd Shape

When you skate or indulge in other similar wheel-based sports, moving is important. Stopping is just as important!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't use the heel brake that came fitted to my K2 FIT 84 inline skates. I removed the heel brake. It was a pain and the braking performance was poor. I use a 'T' stop for braking or sometimes a spin stop. I'm working on the Hockey stop, for hard or emergency braking, but I'm not there yet.

Friction is the method for throwing off speed. If ya don't use a heel brake, you're gonna wear down your wheels. Braking with your right foot, the inside edge of your right front wheel erodes. Braking with your left foot, the inside edge of your left front wheel erodes.

If you don't rotate, excessive wear on the front wheels will render them unusable.

Braking accelerates wear from a soft, rounded profile (see above image) to an off-centre 'V' shape. (see left image). To eke out a full life-cycle from your wheels, rotate and flip them. Use both methods to extend the usability of your wheels.

Rotate means to re-position or relocate the wheel on the aluminium frame. Rotating wheels allows you to spread heavy wear across several wheels. For example, the front wheels get heavy wear due to slowing and stopping maneuvers.

Flipping a wheel turns it to face the other way and wears down the opposite edge. Numbering the wheels from front to back as 1, 2, 3, 4. There are various ways to rotate wheels as they wear. You can swap wheels 1 with 3, and 2 with 4. Or you can bump wheel 1 to position 4, wheel 4 to 3, wheel 3 to 2 and finally wheel 2 to 1.

Boots have an inside edge and an outside edge. The inside edge faces your other foot. Most wheels come with logos. The FIT 84 wheels have logos facing outwards, flip them so the logo now faces inwards. By flipping, you'll help extend the life of your wheels and get better mileage before you replace them.

Keep an eye on your wheels and try to maintain an even wear rate. You may have to move wheels often to distribute wear evenly across your skates.

When I first started skating a couple of months ago, wheel rotation was not important. Staying upright was. I didn't check wheel condition. Both left and right front wheel were badly worn, just like the example in the photo above. I didn't buy new wheels to replace them. Instead I got on the basketball court tarmac to slide! I placed the badly worn wheels at position 4 (rear) and practiced sliding, digging the heels heavily into the asphalt. It had two immediate effects:

1) Tyre wore to a more regular rounded profile on the opposite edge

2) I got a feel for the skates and their edges

Get to know your edges, its important.

Inline Skating Wrist Guards

Broken Wrists And Tales Of Woe

Skating backwards takes a ton of practice, effort, concentration and determination. Why? Cos I fall over... a lot.

The season is autumn or fall. Depends which side of the Atlantic you sit. But fall is quite appropriate just now.

1. - verb. To drop or descend under the force of gravity.
2. - noun. Season after summer and before winter. Autumn.

Twigs, leaves, stones, conkers, pebbles, seeds, and small branches are strewn across the basketball pitches where I skate at the local park. They litter the whole area where I practice, as its ringed by very tall mature trees. The stage I'm at, I cannot negotiate small obstructions, skating backwards, without hitting the deck.

I wear K2 wrist guards to protect my fragile wrists, but each fall reminds me how sore they are and the pounding they take. My wrists take such a whack, they're sore for days after.

The K2 wrist guards, are poor protection at best. They provide minimal and insufficient protection. Falling over this morning, I realized they lack sufficient rubber-foam padding, and they're not long enough to dissipate the energy from a fall. The bindings are poorly designed. The front velcro strap, barely holds the wrist guard in place. They've saved me from worse injury, but I feel they are not quite up to the demands of the job.

I fell three times this morning. Each time, travelling backwards. Each time, my wheels hit a stone or a twig. Each time, my wrists took the full impact. I intend to carry on skating (for many years). The K2 wrist guards are a poor investment in wrist and bone integrity. I need to invest in better protection. These are pretty useless.

Time to Google. One hour later, I find what I'm looking for:

Flexmeter Wrist Guards PLUS

Protection, at a price. These are sturdy, robust, and designed by a French sports injury surgeon specializing in wrist injuries. Most of the feedback is positive. I'm gonna buy these wrist guards on my next payday. Heavy duty protection.

The Flexmeter Wrist Guards come in three sizes. On Amazon, size information is detailed lower down the page. Scroll down to product details. Measure your middle finger to your wrist bend as a size guide. Small - Up to 17.5cm. Medium - 17.5cm to 19.0cm. Large- More than 19.0cm.

I'll live with the K2's for a few more outings, and ensure I limit my reverse skating till better wrist protection arrives.

On YouTube I watched a video of a skateboarder breaking his wrist. Its too damn easy to do that. As he tumbles, his arm stretches out to catch and stabilize. The break is inevitable. It looks painful. No thanks. Not for me.

The video drums home the message. Wrist breaks are no fun. Hours in A&E. Days off work. Loss of pay. Hours away from inline and ice skates, until wrists recover. (You cannot skate with broken wrists and risk another fall). Forget it. A few weeks back, I fell and injured a leg muscle. I could not skate for ten days. I missed the skating, the exercise, the open air and the weight training. I won't go through that again. No way.

Its a no-brainer. I'll buy the Flexmeter Wrist Guards Plus and skate on through Autumn and Winter.

Inline Skating Backwards

In Reverse

Now I've been skating for a couple of months and slowly found my balance and acquired some strength in my skating legs. I can stay upright skating forwards, and just as importantly, I can stop.

What now?

Skating backwards, that's what!

If you're a beginner, skating indoors is great. Think safety. Think comfort. Think protection. The carpet slows your wheels, you don't move too fast, and if you fall, it cushions ya and offers some protection. The sideboard allows ya to grab for support, and nobody will watch if you embarrass yourself.

In the living room along one wall we have one of those hideous 1970's teak sideboard cabinets. Its damned ugly, but has its uses. When I started skating, everyday I used that sideboard to provide support for my unsteady legs.

Now its time to skate backwards. I practice indoors on the carpet. Each day I fall. I use K2 wrist guards, to protect fragile wrist bones. I traversed that living room floor till I could stay upright while I learned backwards skating. Next stop, the park.

If it wasn't raining and my legs could take another pounding without needing a day to recover, I was down the park, early morning before work. There are two outside basketball courts side-by-side, which provide the perfect skating space.

I start with 10 mins of soft easy skating circuits to warm up. Get blood flowing and work up a gentle sweat. I go through a series of drills, that I feel I need to work on, such as: drag-stop, spin-stop or hockey-stop. I practice spins, turns, step-overs and slides. Slides are so much fun, but they wear-out urethane wheels so quickly.

Last week, was the first time I practiced backward skating outside. The basketball court has lines marking the edge of the arena. I use the lines as a guide as I tentatively start skating in a backwards direction. I straddle the lines. They help provide direction and location. Concentrating on balance and staying upright, your attention is not on the direction you're travelling.

When ya skate backwards for the first few times, say hello to pain from new muscle group combinations. You have not used those muscles before in this mode. Welcome to the pain and discomfort. After 10 - 15 minutes going backwards, those muscles refused to work. As I noted before, you tend to fall and injure when you're tired and fatigued, at the end of a skating session.

I fell a couple of times skating backwards, but it was not a balance issue. Small twigs, stones, pebbles, cigarette butts, leaves and other debris scattered across the basketball arena were the cause. Each time I tumble, I locate the offending stone or twig and hurl it off court, to bring me down no more. Skating forward you hit similar small obstructions, but leg strength, balance and momentum, don't cause a fall, you skate through and adjust your position.

A few days later, I returned to the park, skating backwards again. Sore leg muscles, and a degree of satisfaction, as I circled both courts a few times in reverse, at a slow speed. I class this as progress. Once again, stones and twigs, helped gravity pull me to earth. The park attendants need to clean up the area and clear offending debris. They won't.

I start practicing forward-to-backward transition. Its shaky, but ya start somewhere and progress from there. When I'm comfortable, I'll start work on the backward-to-forward transition, though its probably a few weeks away. I still have so much to work on.

I love skating. Its so much fun.


Inline Skates Advice

Purchase Advice

When I started skating I invested in a pair of quality boots. I knew I was serious about skating, and saw no sense in wasting money on cheap skate boots. I purchased K2 FIT 84 inline skates. They have a soft boot construction, an aluminium frame, 84mm wheels on ILQ7 bearings. Its a good quality skate.

The soft boot, as the name suggests, is soft and pliable. Its easy on the foot. The aluminium frame is rigid and transfers energy from your legs to the wheels and ultimately to the floor with little energy loss. The 84mm wheels are large, that means fast. The first few weeks, those damn large diameter wheels were just too fast for the total newbie, struggling with stability, balance, and weak unconditioned leg muscles.

Now I've been skating for several weeks, wheel size and speed is not a problem. The rigid aluminium frame minimizes energy loss and the skates are comfortable now they have bed in.

One observation about skate boots; buy them tight. Your toes should barely touch the front of the boot. The rest of the boot, should fit like a second skin. The boot should hug your foot like it grew on you. You want zero movement in those skate boots. Lace them tight. Strap them tight. Keep them tight.

To add to my skate training regime, I bought Bauer Ice Skates. Those Bauers are light and tight. They fit like a second skin. After skating (on ice) on the Bauers, I realize my K2's are probably 1/2 size too big. I take a size 8 1/2 training shoe. The K2s are size 9. They fit no problem, but they could fit tighter.

Looking back on when I started skating, the skate boots were too loose. Not that I had much time to notice. I was way too busy fighting to stay upright and moving in the right direction.

Now I have balance, feel and confidence, I can feel the boots were not done up tight enough, at the start. I pull those laces so tight, they almost stop blood flow. The K2 boots hug my foot tight, very tight.

My advice, for what its worth. Buy a skate with enough length, but make sure the boot hugs your foot.