Time for outdoor skating! Here’s some tips!

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 when we had no access to venue space.

Be aware of moisture

Be aware of wet areas on the paths and roadways. Not only does wet pavement cause your wheels to slide out when you push, moisture can ruin your boots and 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.

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.

Love, love, LOVE these wheels! And I use them in bouts too

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.

My favourite outdoor wheels:

Radar Pure
78A durometer
66mm high
37mm width

These glide SO smooth on rough asphalt and can handle minor gravel. These are wicked fast too.

Check out the Rollergirl.ca website, for many options of 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.

If you don’t have a roller skate shop near you, you can 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.

You can also buy bearing guards which can help keep dirt and debris from entering your bearings. Google that to find available options.

My oldest bearings go in my outdoor wheels and I wear them until they lose their spin. You can also purchase wholesale industrial 8mm bearings for a decent price. Surf the interwebs for a dealer near you.

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. 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 or injuring yourself in a way that keeps you from your job.

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.

Recommended: 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.

Staying upright

Rookie mistake when skating outdoors (and in derby): coasting on two feet and locking your knees. 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!

Your knees are your shock absorbers and if you hit debris while your knees are bent, your body is in the perfect position to absorb and/or react if you stumble. Locking your knees or standing up straight impedes your ability to react and will cause your body to ‘tip’ instead of ‘absorb’ if you hit a rouge pine cone. Keeping fluid by bending your knees will keep your upper body relaxed as well. But remember to keep your hips and shoulders square and core tight to maintain your balance.

Your feet will feel “weird”

The vibration from skating on a bumpy surface will reverberate into your feet and up into your legs. It may cause your feet and/or shins to get tingly or even burn. Softer wheels will lessen the sensation. But the more you skate outside, the more you will get used you it!

Momentum is your friend

Skating slow on a bumpy surface will have your upper body lurching forward every time you hit a larger crack or debris because you don’t have enough speed to go over it smoothly. Always skate within your skill level, but understand that a sidewalk crack may cause you to stumble forward if you don’t have the momentum to go over it – like a car needing momentum to go over a speed bump. If you have a stable skating stance with bent knees and are picking up your feet, recovering from those stumbles will be easier.

As you skate on different outdoor surfaces, you will learn how to adjust your momentum to  surface with little lurching.

If curbs and sidewalk transitions make you nervous

Stop. Then step down/up from them using your toe stops to help stabilize yourself, then continue skating. Build your confidence in stepping on/off curbs at a stand still and work up to navigating them while rolling. Remember that roads are curved toward sidewalks so water runs off into storm drains. Be sure to compensate your body position to keep your balance. No matter your skating ability, always slow before entering an intersection so you can stop quickly if oncoming traffic doesn’t give you the right of way.

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 are common in pack work.

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.

Try this: Map your favourite routes using a Google map or use an app on your smart device to record distance and speed of your outdoor skates. If you have kids, push them in a stroller/chariot or push them while they ride a bike to add fun and fitness.

Here are some of my favourite trails around Lethbridge. But there are many, many more. You can access the Lethbridge pathway map by clicking here.

My favourite skate routes. Google will map the distance as you draw the routes. Or use a fitness/motion app that tracks your speed and distance as you skate.

Orange route: Westside bike path loop – 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 – loops range from .5 mi or .7 km to 3.55 mi or 5.71 km. Also has stairs for dryland training.
Great area for variety – lots of paths to choose from. Good for beginner/intermediate. Some short hills, but are easily avoidable if you’re not comfortable with speed. Surfaces vary from super smooth to bumpy. 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 – 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. There are some sections where the path is terrible, but they are short-lived. Some short hills and opportunities for speed.

Red route: Pt 2 – Henderson loop – 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 (avoids most of the cobblestone path). Adjust your speed based on pedestrian traffic. These trails tend to be very busy. Keep to the right and announce to pedestrians what side you are passing on when you come up behind them. Cool air from the lake keeps you cool on the hottest of days.

Green route: Industrial trail – 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. Very little shade. Not recommended on hot days, great for early morning skates! This leads to new trails in the far north side of the city.

There are tons of new path systems in newer neighbourhoods that aren’t on this map. Go and explore!

Get skating!

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. No more excuses, freshies! Get out there and skate your asses off!

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49 thoughts on “Time for outdoor skating! Here’s some tips!

  1. Great timing on this post! It’s not warm enough in Calgary yet, but it’s time for me to start thinking about outdoor wheels! (For the first time ever, whee!)

  2. “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.”
    the skateboard bearings fit the rollerskates? (sorry for such a stupid question, i never read this anywhere, i plan on starting derby soon (custom order skates on their way) and i am gathering all information possible.
    i dont have an outdoor set of wheels yet though, so i am choosing them, and thinking about what bearings to buy… so i can find bearings in skateboard shops? would be nice if so! thanks for your time 😉

    • Yes! Skateboard bearings fit into roller skates! There are two in each wheel, popped in from the outside and inside. The nice thing about bearings is that there are a wide range of price points available. So I would suggest to buy the best wheels you can afford and use the difference to purchase your bearings. Bearings are the one thing I’ve bought the most of in one year, so don’t stress about your first set!

      Don’t forget to pick up a skate tool as well for adjusting your skates and pulling bearings. There’s a good three handled one that I use that works well.

      Happy skating!!!!!

  3. i was asking just that today, what tools to buy and all that.. could you send me an link online to buying the ones that oull out bearings and to change wheels please? any link, i can do price check or whatever or see if i find them in my city as well, i just wanted to know how they look like.
    and i am looking for the outdoor wheels but im really confused when it comes to choosing them
    my skates are on their way to me, and their wheels are g rods and qube 8 bearings, but that is for indoors, i wanted to have at least one extra set of bearings for my outdoor wheels, whatever it turns out to be! thanks again for the fast answer!

  4. Thank you so much for the help! I am getting lost and my pockets are having a hole on them, because i must buy all the pads and a big bag for the skates and all that… and now the tools, but we must have all this, so i have to suck it up and find a way to get all i need. not all the best of the best, but what i can go on with until i can get better ones

  5. This is beautiful information and very useful..But, I feel like I’ll never be able to get as good as I used to be when I was younger..I used to roller blade with my brothers inline skates when I was about 6 or 7..And I used to use them outside all of the time…I’m now 19 and its been a long time since I’ve done that…And I’m really rusty..I’m almost afraid to fall where as back then, I didn’t care..

    Are they’re any tips on how to get used to the feeling of riding again? I’m really panic-y when riding, since I have bad knees, I fear for falling and hitting the pavement on them..But, I don’t want to give up that feeling of riding..They are almost like my “Wings”..Bad refrence to a manga called Air Gear..But..I would really like any tips you can throw at me for it..Thank you.

    • Are you wearing kneepads when you go out to skate? Good quality knee pads used for roller derby will protect you from outdoor falls. Practicing falling helps a lot too (go down on your knees to see it’s not so bad)… It helps you lose your fear and helps your body know what to do if the unfortunate happens.

      It’s really all about building your confidence again. I’d recommend starting on path skating, then move up to street skating once you are more comfortable on your feet.

      • I suppose so..My boyfriend says I should practice on our local boardwalk..but, I don’t feel comfortable skating there at all..If anything, I feel more at “home” when I’m on the side walk or street for that matter..I try the boardwalk route..And I just feel less in control of the skates…I don’t know..I’m not sure what to do as far as practicing..We don’t really have any path skating things…So..I don’t know what to do..

  6. Hey Cherri – I just stumbled across your blog. I’m a fresh meat recruit for the brand-new Niagara Roller Girls and I’ve shared your post with our facebook group. Thanks for the helpful info! I look forward to reading more of your blog!

  7. Pingback: Rollerskating tips | Alatisedesigns

  8. Hei Cherri!
    Could you show me some bearings for me to use in my outdoor wheels?
    I´m going to buying them this week but I also want to buy the bearings. However, I really don´t know what bearings I should choose … Can you help with that?
    Thank you! I loved your blog!

    • There are tons of choices for bearing and it can seem a little overwhelming. You could go 2 ways… buy cheap so you don’t have to worry about ruining them with dust and moisture (depending on where you skate) or buy pricier ones and take time to maintain and care for them by cleaning them on a regular basis.

      You also need to think about how you’re going to skate outside. Do you mostly leisure skate for fun or do you skate outside as part of your training? If it’s latter, you may want to choose a bearing that has a good rollout so you don’t have to put as much effort into skating – one push goes a long way.

      But really, don’t over think bearing purchases… especially for outdoors. Buy what you can afford, knowing that these will wear down faster than bearings used strictly indoors. At the same time, if you take good care of them – cleaning and lubricating on a regular basis – they will last much longer. I’ve bought outdoor bearings from skateboard shops in the past simply because boarders skate outside all the time and if they are good for them, they are good for you!

      Hope that helps a bit!

  9. Great blog you have here! Getting ready for a relay for Heart and Stroke and found the move your feet thing interesting. We are relay skating 55 km so I appreciate your tips!! Thanks. LucieFER with gold city roller girls

  10. Ok so I am new at outdoor skating, I fell on my face and it hurts like hell, I wish to avoid that again at ALL costs but now I am worried…I have heard there are certain types of wheels for a slower, smoother skate but it seems (if I am looking at it right) that the fatter wheels are also a faster wheel… my face asks for help!

    • The taller in height the wheel, the faster and longer it will roll out. If you’re worried about going too fast, I recommend an outdoor wheel (78a) that isn’t very tall. You will have to push more to get where you’re going, but will be able to adjust your speed easier.

  11. Hi–thanks for this blog. I learned a lot. My wife and I just–like within the last few weeks–took up roller skating. Me on skates. She on blades. Hoping to do outdoor skating. Thanks for the tips and information! -Seth Fleishman, NJ, USA

  12. What are the exact skates you wear? I need help finding outdoor skates that arent overly expensive. I would be considered a beginner skater who hasnt skated in years. Im over 200 pounds . Please help !!!

    • I wear Riedell 265s and have had good experience with them (mine lasted four years with derby and pleasure skating). Try on as many as you can to make the best decision for you.

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  15. Hi there! Thanks for your article! You seem to know your stuff. So I thought I’d shoot you some questions… I have been wanting to skate outside for years now! And now that I’m done having babies and I have a little extra time, I’m finally ready to take the plunge! I have been researching online and reading reviews after reviews. My head is spinning!! Could you PLEASE recommend some outdoor skates for me!? (And good/breathable gear) I know nothing! Lol. I’m ready to purchase! I just can’t seem to decide!! Please help!!! Thanks in advance!

    • Most skates are made with leather or synthetic materials, so not sure you’d find many that are breathable unless you can find the sneaker style of skates. For leisure rolling, you may want to consider figure skate style boots. I’ve heard good things about Moxi Roller Skates. You may want to check those out.

      • Oh I see how that read. I’m sorry, When I said breathable gear, I meant as in protective gear. Not the actual skate.

  16. Thanks Cherri! I am a newbie and picking up my gear soon and was looking for pointers for outdoor skating, this article is perfect!

  17. Hello, I recently was gifted some roller skates. They are the Chicago brand. I read that those are not a very good brand. What is your opinion on them? Also are the radar energy wheels any good for outdoor skating and are they durable? I’m new to this kind of skating and don’t need wheels that are for going super fast. Just for some leisurely skating.

  18. Any suggestions on how to scrimmage outside. The issue I think would be using duct tape or spraypaint to lay your track down. I cant seem to find anything on google about doing this and of course cities offer roller hockey rinks, skate parks, and no derby facilities. I’ve seen some renegade derby matches on youtube but not really sure how they acquired a spot outdoors, maybe abandoned neighborhoods with squatters where no one cares? I live in an area where thats not an option. People have got to due this tho, no reason not to use the earth to get some practice in. Although all of the derby girls I know don’t skate outdoors for various reasons.

  19. Let me preface this question by saying I’m saving up for a new pair of outdoor wheels – Atom Road Hogs are what I have my eye on. Right now I skate outdoors and indoors with the same wheels and I’m not especially pleased with their performance. I expected them to be sub-par indoors (a bit slow) as they’re really outdoor wheels. They’re 85A Radar Sonar Zen wheels, and they’re pretty cheap, no hub, I only got them cause they came with my skates. My question is about the ride I get when skating outdoors. Is it normal to feel a good deal of vibration up your legs on a relatively smooth asphalt road? What about on sidewalks? Should you feel thuds as you roll over the edges of each different slab of concrete? I don’t know if this is from my wheels being not so good or if this is just how outdoor skating feels. I assume a really good pair of low durometer wheels can at least minimize the bumpy, vibratey feeling, but my question is, can a good pair of outdoor wheels ever make it feel like you’re skating indoors?

    • I find with my 78’s I get some vibration, but not a lot. A good outdoor wheel is soft enough to ‘kick’ small rocks out from under your wheels. If you find you’re feeling every bump and crack, you should probably go with a lower duromater. Hope that helps!

  20. I want to buy roller skates this spring but i am a beginner.I mean I NEVER used one. I would like to go with my husband in the park( running and skating).Could you tell me what kind of skate to buy? Thanks.

  21. Hello, I was wondering if you could recommend a good skate that would have plenty of arch support. I had plantar fascias a few years ago and have to be really careful what shoes I wear for running and walking due to foot pain. Also, when purchasing the skate do I buy the boots, trucks, wheels separately to get the best set up or can I get a skate ready to go? My goal is to skate outdoors, for cardio exercise, on my sidewalk and when necessary paved road. I live in a large city. I was going to go by what you mentioned in the above comments that you use. Any advise you have I welcome. Thanks!

  22. Great advice! I’m currently delving back into my love for roller skating, however the skates I used to skate were indoor speed skates. I am wanting to pursue outdoor skating now, however am not quite sure what brand/type of skate to go with. I checked out suregrip, they looked kind of promising, but I’m still unsure! Help!

  23. Thanks for the tips. Could you suggest some outdoor skates that are reasonable in cost for someone who hasn’t skated in 10 years? I read your suggestions on the wheels and such but I need something that is the whole package.

  24. I live in the Shetland Isles, the most Northern Islands in Scotland aand it’s ALWAYS rainy/wet here.. If I sat in and sulked I’d literally never have the ability to skate 😦
    My old bearings are completely wrecked and I have pricey bearings that are water resistant, WORTH THE MONEY!! 100% worth the money.
    I can’t do mad stunts or anything but I can skate over any terrain no matter how awful the roads are..Just got new wheels too aaand outdoor wheels 10/10 recommend.

  25. Thank you so so much for the info, this is exactly the blog post I needed!! I’ve been trying to get back into skating (competed when I was younger but haven’t done so in years), and it’s hard for me to get to an actual rink. Just bought the Sure-Grip Gravity Glitter outdoor wheels – so excited to put them on my boots!! Still had my velvet smoothies on them…. it’s been a while.

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