Planet Column: Skate Coach

What to Wear to a Night Skate?

The Right Clothes and Gear Help You to See and Be Seen


(Editor's note: Skate Coach Kathy McSparran answered this question from Richelle Berard, who is headed to next month's Great EsSkate in Miami.)

Richelle: I haven’t been on a night skate before. What do you recommend in the way of lights and reflective gear?

Kathy: Great question, Richelle! But let's back up first. To start with, let's talk about what you should wear.

To make it easier for drivers to see you, be sure to wear light-colored clothing whenever you are on a night skate.

When I pack for the Great EsSkate, I include a light-colored T-shirt plus a light-colored jacket, which I can wear or tie around my waist once I get warmed up.

If you have clothing made with reflective fabrics, such as illumiNITE, bring it. It's not absolutely necessary. At large night skates, there's (relative) safety in numbers. But it can't hurt.

One thing you'll need is a $10 blinkie light, which you can buy at any skate or bike shop. Blinkies clip onto your clothing, helmet or fanny pack.

My favorite is the VistaLite Whale Tail, although it's hard to find. (Here's one online source.)

I like the Whale Tail because it attaches to the back of your helmet. That not only makes you visible to traffic approaching from behind, but means you don't have to worry about inadvertently obscuring your blinkie if you tie your jacket around your waist halfway through the skate.

It's also a good idea to have a front light. That way drivers coming toward you will be more likely to see you.

But don't use red blinkies in front. Red is for tail lights. Using it in front could confuse drivers.

One option is to carry a small flashlight. But most skaters find it awkward to carry anything in their hands. And besides, a flashlight isn't bright enough to illuminate potholes and rough pavement on dark stretches.

If you want something that will do double duty—illuminate the road and make you highly visible— get a good quality headlamp.

My personal favorite is the NiteRider Evolution. It has a 15-watt headlamp and a relatively small battery that fits in a fanny pack.

It’s like having a piece of the sun on your head (although not quite as hot). However, it's not cheap (about $270). So only buy one if you plan on doing lots of night skating.

(If you do go this route, be assured that NiteRider has a great warranty and service department and is carried by most good bike shops.)

Don't bother with cheaper models with lower wattage lamps and heavy battery packs. If you're going to spend the money, you might as well get one that illuminates every crack and nuance of the pavement, not just whether there is a tree in your path.

On the other hand, if you want a cheap and dirty solution to "frontal visibility," get one of those fun party lights that attach to your clothing with a magnet. It's better than nothing and only costs a couple of dollars.

Summary: At minimum, wear removable layers of light-colored clothing and a blinkie light.

If you want to be covered for all possible circumstances (such as pack gaps, in which you might be the lead skater in a group of skaters behind the front pack) bring along a flashlight or flashy party light.

If you want the night skate to feel like a day skate, splurge on a top of the line headlamp.

See you in Miami!

(Got a question for Skate Coach? ... Post it here.)

Kathy McSparran is the director of Phoenix Inline, an Arizona skate school. She holds five IISA teaching certifications: Level 1 (Beginners & Advanced Beginners), Level 2 (Intermediates & Advanced Intermediates), BladeFitnessTM, Freestyle Dance and Fitness Inline Trainer.



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Related reading
Go to the Planet's Beginners Guide to Inline Skating

Read more of Kathy McSparran's Skate Coach columns


Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson

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