This week's column:
Can I Learn on Marathon Skates?
Oct. 19, 2011
Hi, Bill: I am a 58-year-old cyclist (5 foot 7, 70kg). I use Bont Semi-Race skates with 100mm wheels. I skate a few times a week for a couple of hours each session on Plymouth Hoe. I am very new to the sport (eight months), obsessive with technique, and eager to learn. Question: Do I need to go to a racing boot or switch to 110mm wheels to learn my trade. I hope to compete in marathons next year. I can average 16 to 18 mph on my current setup. Kind regards, Mark Savery from Plymouth, England
Hi, Mark: Your Semi-Race skates — one of several so-called "marathon skates" on the market — provide a couple of advantages for beginning speed skaters.
They have a higher cuff than a typical racing skates, and they have a shorter plate (frame). The higher cuff provides added ankle support, which can be helpful when you are starting out. The shorter plate makes the skates easier to control, which is helpful when learning technique.
I would suggest you stick with your Semi-Races until you get your technique sorted out and get to the point where your skates are working for you, rather than the other way around.
You’ll know when you arrive at this point because you will have the sensation that you are gliding over the top of the ground, rather than pushing or clumping into it.
On the other hand, if you have already mastered your 100mm wheels, you may be ready to move up to 110mm wheels and low-cut speed boots. This doesn’t necessarily mean going to a 4x110mm setup.
If your feet are small, you may be better off with a 3x110mm plus 1x100mm setup. The key here is that not more than three-quarters of a wheel should extend from the front or back of the boot. Anymore and your skate will be cumbersome and you will have a greater risk of clipping skates and falling.
You will find that 110s give you improved roll on the open road — but only if you’ve developed the proper technique.