By Steve Larios
Steve Larios during the icy 2010 Roller Montreal Marathon.
I’m not going to apologize to my Canadian friends for writing a cold weather skate tip while living in Nashville, TN.
The truth is we don’t get a lot of snow here. But we do get our fair share of cold. And that means that though our roads and trails are skate-able most of the winter, you only get to enjoy them if you are willing to face 20 (F) degree temperatures and icy winds.
So, while many of my northern friends are keeping warm in a rink or gym, I’m outside trying to keep my face from freezing. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1) Manage your sweat.
Sweat is your worst enemy in the cold. The way to beat it is with light layers of high-end cycling garments, like those made by Pearl Izumi, Sugoi, Assos and Hincappie. A full set of layers for the coldest days consists of:
Merino wool layers are also good, but sometimes they get too warm. Adjust the layers to suit the temperature and wind conditions. Avoid cotton at all cost – it holds sweat like a sponge. I like bib tights (no chamois, of course) when the temps are below freezing.
2) Protect your face.
Your face is the most exposed part of your body. I find that balaclavas or other face masks hold too much moisture to be comfortable. Instead, I take a tip from the ski world and apply a coating of Dermatone to my face. Dermatone is like a combination of petroleum jelly and sun block. There are similar products on the market. But Dermatone works the best for me. I also use cycling ear warmers and eye protection to help with the wind.
3) Protect your hands.
Skaters have an advantage over cyclists. We can keep our hands behind our backs most of the time. Still, hands freeze quickly. The best protection I have found are the “lobster-style” gloves worn by cyclists. They are wind-proof on top and warm, but still flexible enough to make it possible to handle water bottles and GPS units.
4) Protect your feet.
Speed boots offer little protection from the cold. And regular socks aren't much of a help on a cold day. So I wear Ezeefit’s full foot booties.
They won’t interfere with the fit of your custom or heat-molded speed boots. And you can even wear a thin sock over the booties.
Another option is to use a boot cover.
No matter what you do, your feet will still go numb after 60 minutes of cold weather skating. But suck it up, dude — it’s speed skating. ... Besides, suffering out in the cold and wind in the winter will put you ahead when the warm weather arrives in the spring.
Steve Larios is one of the most active members of the outdoor skating community in North America. He competes in more than a dozen races a year and is one of the top skaters in the grand veterans division of the National Roller Cup. Most days he can be found at the Asphalt Beach skate shop, which he opened in Nashville, TN, ten years ago. He is the skater/manager of the Asphalt Beach/K2 pro speed skating team and was the founding member of Team Roadrash. He has been a certified skate instructor since the 1990s.
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