By Eddy Matzger
Eddy Matzger on a road skate in Thailand in 2009.
With cooler, "northern-California weather" prevailing across the country, now's the season for long touring skates. Whether you're a leaf-peeper or a serious road skater (think A to A!), there are always a few things to consider before launching on that epic fall classic skate.
Bolts and stickers
Most bolts rattle tight (a personal opinion), but the ones that rattle loose can get you. After literally watching my front wheel go bounding into the Pacific Ocean during a skate race in the early 90's, I now make a habit of checking my equipment with extra care before a big race.
I recently completed the 100K in Prospect Park without mishap only to nearly buy the farm on the Brooklyn Bridge's bumpy boardwalk later that night on the way to the awards ceremony. On the downhill approach into Manhattan, threading my way through a sea of tourists, one bolt rattled out and caused wheel lock, while another bolt on the same skate was on its way.
Luckily I was able to come to a controlled stop and find the missing bolt. I finger-threaded the bolts back in and used my cousin's apartment key to get one more turn. Without a proper wrench, the bolts were still only loosely tightened, so I removed an ILQ-9 sticker from my helmet, tore it into small strips using my teeth to get the rip started, and placed them over the offending bolts with each end grabbing as much of the surrounding frame as possible.
I played dodgeball with the taxis all the way across and uptown with the bolts making noise but never daring to come out. Some skaters insisted I had only skated from the Times Square subway stop, but my skates told a different tale.
The moral of the story is to put stickers on your helmet, or alternatively, carry an allen key with you so you don't have to get so creative with your jury-rigging. If you are leery of carrying a sharp wrench while skating, fashion a removable duct tape case for the metal end. Fold duct tape in half onto itself to form a non-sticky piece, wrap cyclindrically around the wrench, fold the end over the top, then tape snugly in place with a half-strip of duct tape. Now you can take it along without fear of impaling yourself.
Unless you carry two water bottles and drink evenly from both, there's nothing worse than skating with a lopsided load in a two pocket jersey. With three pockets, carry your water bottle in the central compartment and food, money, keys, phone in the side pockets. Your hands can clasp below the bottle and hitch it up slightly for support, or you can keep one arm straight down your side, and reach across your back above the bottle to grab the opposite arm's forearm or elbow.
If you don't own a jersey with pockets (or if your skinsuit's pocket is so small it can only fit an 8oz can of pineapple juice, or your bottle just seems to get in the way and you can't find a comfortable skating position with hands behind your back), just wear it on your upper back by sliding it in under your jersey at the neck. The bottle nipple should be just below where your fully tilted-back helmet hits your back.
Take more food than you need
Eat when you're not hungry, and drink when you're not thirsty. A long skate-induced bonk can sneak up on you in a heartbeat and there's not always a Dr, Pepper vending machine nearby to bring your blood sugar and hydration levels back from the brink. Bring calories that fire up your salivary glands, like fruit-filled cereal bars, prunes, chocolate GORP, or gummi bears, so you don't get stuck skating up a hill with a wad of dry, un-swallowed granola in your mouth that you inhale down your air pipe. I hate when that happens!
It takes a lot of muscles to smile but even more to grimace, and sometimes I find my face locked up in effort that should instead be going into my legs. Some studies show a measurable loss of output due to squinting from not wearing sun shades, so it stands to reason a grimace qualifies as an equal or greater energy suck. Relax that hardened visage, let it all hang down, and go for "expressionlessness."
(April 22, 2009)
Since 1988, Eddy Matzger has been the No. 1 name in inline skating and one of the most motivational coaches in the sport. He still races and globetrots. Recenly, Eddy has been in China training young skaters, ages 12-22, for TWINCAM bearings, his sponsor of 16 years. Twincam bearings
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