By Greg Major
Traveling with skates can seem like a hassle. First you have to worry about what to pack, then how to carry it all, and finally how to get it through airport security.
But it's not as hard as it sounds. I've found that it's relatively simple if you follow a few simple rules:
1) Travel light.
Pack as little as possible. Unless you're planning an extended stay, don't take much more than your skates, helmet, skinsuit and a few extra items of clothing.
Traveling light will make it easier getting in and out of airports, and besides, it's just nice to have less stuff to worry about.
2) Check the weather.
Before you head out, check the forecast for your destination and pack accordingly. One year, my Rainbo teammates and I flew to Orlando for an event and brought only summer clothes. We were greeted by wintry temperatures that never rose above the mid-40s. To say we were ill-prepared is an understatement.
3) Carry your skates.
Don't check your skates, carry them along with your skinsuit, helmet and any other protective gear you need. That way even if your luggage gets lost, you'll still have everything you need to race (which is why you're traveling in the first place, right?)
4) Keep an eye on them.
Don't let your skates out of your sight. Replacing lost clothes on the road is no problem., but finding a new pair of skates — not to mention, breaking them in — is near impossible.
5) Buy a skate bag.
A good skate bag makes it easier to carry your skates. There are several good ones of the market. Among them are the Transpak and Bont's skate bag.
My personal favorite is the Ultimate Skate Bag. It holds a lot of stuff! Aside from skates, helmet and skinsuit, it will carry you skate tools and some extra clothes. It's all I usually carry when I'm headed for an event. And like Bont's bag, it has sealed compartments for your skates. Which is good if you've got stinky skates and want to make sure the smell doesn't force your plane to make an emergency landing.
6) Take a tool or two.
Don't forget to pack a small skate tool. That way you'll be able to check that your axles and frames are snug before the race. You might also want to bring a bearing puller and, if there's rain in the forecast, an old set of bearings. Once you arrive, you can put on the old bearings to save your good ones in the event of rain.
Just make sure any tool in your carry-on luggage is small. Current airport screening rules prohibit tools seven inches and longer. (If you want to take longer tools, put them in checked luggage.)
(Check the Transportation Safety Administration web site for the latest carry-on rules.)
I would advise against stowing bearing oils or lubes in your carry-on luggage. Small containers of liquid (up to 3 ounces) are allowed. But airport screeners are trained to double-check anything out of the ordinary, and your lube might raise a red flag.
Now get out there and skate!
The bottom line about packing for a race is to keep it simple. Take only what you need and never let your skates out of your sight. Those two rules alone will pretty much assure you get to the starting line on time. After that, it's up to you to skate a good race and have a great time. (April 6, 2007)
Greg Major is a veteran racer, a certified personal trainer and the president of Bulldog Bootcamp Co. A lifelong athlete, he played semi-pro football in the 1980s and won the Chicagoland Natural Bodybuilding title in 1992. He started skating in the 1980s on a pair of $19 Rollerblade knockoffs. Today, he is a member of Team Rainbo and Tru-Rev's masters racing team. He holds the course record for his age division at the Northshore Inline Marathon (1 hour, 6 minutes and 24 seconds). He and his wife, Michelle, founded Bulldog Bootcamp in 1999.