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Inline secrets from the world's top skaters and coaches

This week's tip:

It's a Jungle Out There!
How to negotiate tar snakes, railroad tracks and other hazards for inline skaters

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By Debbie Rice
Sept. 11, 2009

Skaters in the Cold

Debbie Rice leading the pack.
Photo: Darlene Prois


Finding a safe place to skate or train can become a real challenge when you are an outdoor skater. The outdoors are always going to create some type of obstacle for you to overcome. I have skated on all types of terrain; however, I still have a rude awakening every now and then when I let my guard down. Trying to find that secure, smooth course — free of debris, pot holes, cracks, etc. — can be quite a challenge. Here's how to handle some of the most common obstacles:

1. Tar snakes

Those nasty little black, squirrelly lines in the pavement can bring you down in an instant. They are slick like ice when you hit them, and when the temperature is warm your wheels can actually get stuck in them! Avoid them at all costs.

If you are in a race and come across a tar snake, be sure that your wheel stroke glides across it at an angle so that your wheels won't get squirrelly on you, and alter your push to make sure your skates don't slide out from under you.

2. Railroad tracks

The larger wheels (100mm & up) make going across railroad tracks much easier, although I do not recommend anyone doing this. The safe thing to do is: slow down, stop, and duck walk across them. Some of us crazy people who come upon them at full speed steam roll right over them. And this is do-able ... sometimes. The trick is to keep the weight off of your front wheels so that the toe wheel doesn't get caught in the rut.

3. Street paint

Be cautious with lane markings and other street paint on dry roads. It has been known to grab wheels and make your skates go squirrelly, possibly due to the uneven surface created by the paint.

On the other hand, be afraid of street paint on wet roads. Wet street paint is just like ice. So again, alter your stroke and don't push on the paint.

4. Rocks, acorns

When skating trails, it's not unusual to suddenly come across a patch of small rocks, berries or acorns. When this happens, the best thing to do is not panic. Simply keep both of your skates on the ground, bend your knees and keep your front wheels light so they won't catch. Try to roll through the debris without stroking. If one foot gets caught, you'll have the other to balance on.

5. Pine needles, sand and grass

This stuff is slick if you try to stroke or push through it. Stay on top of your wheels and alter your stroke accordingly, same as you would on a wet surface.

It's a jungle out there so always wear your protective gear! Take it from someone who learned the hard way.

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Debbie RiceDebbie Rice owns one of the most amazing resumes in inline skating — and it keeps getting longer. This week, she added to it with a win in the Masters World Championship marathon in Italy. And earlier this summer, she completed a clean sweep at Indoor Nationals, collecting five gold medals and three national records. Last year, she won the pro division of the National Roller Cup. And in the 1980s and '90s, she won 15 national championships indoors. Debbie also holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records: fastest woman on skates — 61 mph downhill. A former cast member of the Roller Jam television series, she now jams for Bont's roller derby team. She is a Bont sales representative and team manager. A Houston native, she recently moved to Tampa.

Debbie's MySpace page




Related reading:

Skate Tip of the Week Archive
Beginners Guide to Outdoor Racing
Beginners Guide to Inline Skating




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