Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Geeking Out With Inline Skates

They are finally here. My skates. You know, inline skates? Oh don't think of those things you wore in the 90's. Those clunky black things that weighed 10 pounds each, with the neon laces that you had to tie halfway up your calf to put on?

Not those.
Circa 1988. My friend still uses these. She books it, too.
These are Bonts, the ones the pros wear. Oh, you didn't know that inline skating was a pro sport? Well, it is, thank you. Not that I'm a pro, but I like to think of myself as a pretty good skater. At last year's  inline marathon I realized that moreso than in other sports, equipment matters. You can go faster with better equipment, even if you never train. Add the training factor and look out, you've got yourself one fast skater.

I've always loved skating from my very first pair of quads, the term us skating geeks call traditional skates that were around before inline skates were invented. I used to skate up and down our driveway and all around on the sidewalks, and in the winter I would skate all around our ping pong table in our unfinished basement. You can picture me, right? Long hair in ponytails, glasses (just to confirm the geekdom here), all elbows and knees with skinny legs in between? Yep, that was me.

As a newlywed in 1995 I bought my first pair of inline skates. I remember going skating for what was probably a little under a mile and paying for it the next two days with burning legs that refused to go up and down stairs. But I strapped them back on the next weekend and the next weekend, and used those things for 10 years, through four houses and two babies, countless wheels and a multitude of bearings.

After baby #2 was born in 2005, I treated myself to a new pair and retired my old ones after 10 years of service. The new ones were amazingly light, faster, and much easier to put on. In the early years I would circle Lake Harriet twice in 50 minutes and it wiped me out. I wished I had the stamina to go farther, because I loved the feeling of speed, being outdoors, and enjoying the ride.

Seven years later so much has changed, but still not the skates.

I am still skating on that second pair from 2005, but now I'll cover 10 miles in 50 minutes, or hit the greenway and get 14 or 16 miles in. Last year I competed in my first inline marathon, and finished in 1:58, or an average speed of 13 mph.

It was time to change the skates.

Come to mama!
I finally invested in some equipment, buying Bont semi-race boots with 100mm wheels. The jump from 84mm to 100mm is dramatic -- most skaters take the in-between step of 90mm wheels to get acquainted. (FYI, basic physics here: the larger the wheel the less energy it takes to get it spinning and the more distance it covers with each rotation.) I decided that I probably should've spent the last two years skating on 90mm, so I was going to take the big leap.

Another skating geek factoid: racing skates do not have much padding in them because the more padding there is the more your energy is absorbed by the padding and not transferred to the wheels. The less padding, the more of your physical energy transfers to your wheels, increasing acceleration. Also, the lower the boot the more you can bend your leg, lowering your center of gravity. The lower your center of gravity, the more aerodynamic you are and the faster you go.

Can you tell this is all about speed? And people say I can't do science...hmph!

The skates have a hard outer shell, and they have to be heated to 180 degrees for 10 minutes before you  slip them on. Once you lace them up, they mold to your feet and re-harden in that shape.

I picked them up tonight, and seriously, it's like Christmas in July. I do not remember a time when I was so excited for a material purchase. When I got the call today that they were in, do you think I could wait until the next day to pick them up? Of course not! So after dinner off I went to get them fitted and bring those babies home.

If you've made it to the end of this post, I have to applaud you and award you the inline skating geek fan award. I'll give it to you next time I see you. You'll be at the Minnesota Inline Half Marathon, right?


  1. WOW! That is really cool!

  2. Awesome ! Its Looks Amazing ! Thanks For Sharing Your Memorable Story About Inline Skates .