With spring FINALLY arriving in my neck of the woods, I managed to get out for my first outdoor skate. I thought I would take some time to share my outdoor tips (and I encourage you to share as well) because this is how most of us Dames got our training last summer.
Be aware of moisture
Winter hasn’t completely left us yet, so be aware of wet areas on the paths and roadways. Not only can moisture ruin your boots, they wreck havoc on bearings. Moisture inside your bearings can cause them to rust and stop spinning effectively. Avoid puddles at all cost and if you happen to hit the odd splatter, dry off your skates and bearings as soon as you are done your skate.
What Cherri does: I use this time to practice my agility by dodging, weaving and even jumping puddles. If I can’t find a path that has not enough dry spots, I sit in my house and sulk. True story.
Get some outdoor wheels
When buying wheels at any time, look at these three characteristics…
Durometer (the “A” rating): Ranges from 74A to 105A. The lower the number, the softer the wheel. Wheel durometer affects durability, shock absorption and grip on surfaces. For outdoor wheels having a lower durometer helps absorb the little bumps in the pavement and also kicks little rocks out from under your skate. Ever hit a peddle on a harder wheel? Not fun. Lower is best.
Size or Diameter: This is the height of your wheel. Shorter wheels are slower and more maneuverable while taller wheels give a smoother ride and are a faster. Choose a size based on how fast you’d like to skate outside.
Width: The narrower the wheel, the more maneuverable it is. Also keep in mind narrow wheels are less stable for new skaters, so don’t choose something that’s too narrow for your skill level.
What Cherri uses outside:
These glide SO smooth on rough asphalt and can handle minor gravel. These are wicked fast too.
Comes in a variety of colours and available at the Rollergirl.ca website, along with other outdoor wheels.
Get some outdoor bearings
Switching bearings between your indoor and outdoor wheels can be a pain and you also risk damaging them over time. A second set of bearings to leave in your outdoor wheels is highly recommended. Some gals use their old bearings for outdoor skating so they don’t really care if they get them dirty or wet. But there are some bearings on the market that are fully encased, making it more difficult to for dirt and moisture to get in. These are pricey, but if you don’t like taking apart your bearings and cleaning them, it may be worth the money.
My best advice? Go to your local skateboard shop and talk to the crew there. Skateboarders are just as hard on their bearings (even harder because they almost exclusively skate outside) and they should know which ones will be best. Don’t forget, if you get your bearings from a skateboard shop, you’ll have to buy 2 boxes worth.
What Cherri uses: My oldest bearings go in my outdoor wheels.
When you go out… protect yourself…
Yes, you will get second glances when you go out skating in full gear. You might even get laughed at. But you know what? Who cares! You are not skating on a smooth, predictable surface anymore. As some gals can attest it only takes a rock, a pedestrian or even a curb to get in your way outside. There is nothing worse than bashing your knee during a pleasure skate that keeps you from practice.
Don’t be stupid. Gear up. Especially if you’re going out to get your sweat on. But do your league a favour and wear your team shirt. You may drum up some new recruits or fans while you’re out and about.
What Cherri does: I have a summer set of knee, elbow and wrist guards. They are a bit lighter than my derby set so it’s not so hot to wear when it’s +30. I use these for casual skates. I often go without elbow pads for casual skates as well and on rare occasions, sans helmet. On days when I’m skating for training, I will do full derby gear, as I have had some pretty awesome spills when I get my speed on. You’ll get tan lines from wearing your gear in the summer. Just accept it.
Rookie mistake when skating outdoors (and in derby): coasting on two feet. There is nothing worse than face-planting in public. The best way to avoid falling is to always have your feet in motion by step skating. Why? If you’re on one foot and lose your balance or hit a rock that jostles you, you can put your other foot down to regain your balance. If you’re afraid to pick up your feet and coast down trails with intermittent pushing, your face will break your fall if you lose it. For the love of derby gods, pick up your feet!
Finding places to skate
For the beginner, skating outside can be pretty intimidating. But I found my stability increased much faster by skating lots outside. Learning to negotiate gravel, pine cones and road intersections forces you to be aware of your surroundings and makes you pick up your feet… both good skills for a beginner. Plus navigating curbs makes you do little hops and steps that you normally wouldn’t do in a pack.
If you can find a clean parking lot or abandoned stretch of road to skate around on, that’s fabulous. For me, I really enjoy skating for endurance. The longer the path the better.
Where Cherri skates: Last summer I created a Google map with my favourite bike paths to skate around Lethbridge. I hope to add to it this summer! It’s worth noting that I’ve skated all these trails with my kids on their bikes. For added training I would push them on my skates from behind. Fun for the whole family!
Orange route: Westside bike path loop – park at Nicolas Sheran – 3.16 mi or 5.08 km
Great for beginners. Very few intersections to navigate through. Gradual hill climbs and good opportunities for fast skating.
Blue route: Indian Battle Park riverbottom – park at Baroness Picnic Shelter – loops range from .5 mi or .7 km to 3.55 mi or 5.71 km. Also has steep stairs for dryland training.
Great area for variety – lots of paths to choose from. Good for beginner/intermediate. Lots of pedestrians, dogs and kids to watch out for. Debris from trees can cause hazards on windy days and is prone to flooding during rainy season. Great on hot summer days because of the shade from trees.
Red route: Pt 1 – Green strip to Henderson – park at Sugar Bowl – 3 mi or 4.82 km
A nice cruise. Good for beginner/intermediate. Road intersections should be handled with caution, as some don’t have smooth transitions. Paths are generally clear but watch for gravel and pine cones. Some short hills and opportunities for speed. South Parkside Dr. intersection is VERY dangerous for pedestrians… drivers are stupid and won’t be watching for you.
Red route: Pt 2 – Henderson loop – park at any Henderson lot – 1.76 mi or 2.84 km
A fun trail if you want to be seen by everyone! Make sure you take the trail furthest from the north side of the lake for the best ride as next to the lake has cobblestone. Adjust your speed based on pedestrian traffic. These trails tend to be very busy. Cool air from the lake keeps you cool on the hottest of days. The south side of the lake has rougher pavement, but use it as an opportunity to push harder and get your sweat on!
Green route: Industrial trail – park at strip mall at 5 Ave. & 28 St. N. – 3 mi or 4.83 km
Flat, smooth and few intersections. Great for a beginner. Very little debris except at intersections. Better on weekends due to decreased industrial traffic. Path ends at the Ardene outlet store, so grab yourself some new derby socks before heading back. Very little shade. Not recommended on hot days, great for early morning skates!
There you go!
So for those who are about to venture into the out-of-doors, I hope this helps a bit. I would love to hear from others about your favourite wheels, bearings or gear you use outside. Found a great place to skate? Please feel free to share it and I’ll add it to my google map! I am also willing to share my map with anyone who requests it; just send me a message and your email. No more excuses, freshies! Get out there and skate your asses off!