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Ask Bill Begg!
Skating's top speed coach answers your questions

By Bill Begg
Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What's this about closing the hips?

Hi, Bill: You say that pointing the toe inward toward the heel of the supporting leg helps to "close the hip" during the recovery loop. What does "close the hip" mean and how is it helpful? Thanks. - Ken Roberts

Hi, Ken: When you stand with your toes pointed out like a duck, your hip opens. When you stand with your toes pointed in, your hip closes.

During the recovery phase of skating (after your push), you should bring your hip to the closed position with your toes pointed in. This keeps your legs close together as you drive your foot forward and through. It also makes it much easier to get on your outside edges and keeps your foot in the "power box zone."

Sounds kinda loopy to me?

Dear Coach Begg: I am a novice inline speed skater, though I have an extensive background in ice hockey and cross country ski-skate racing. One aspect of inline technique seems strange to me: the looping back of the returning leg behind the body. In other skating sports, you return your foot directly back to where your push started (no wasted movement). Could you explain the idea behind this delayed and round-about leg return? Thanks very much. - Darrell

Hi, Darrell: Just pushing out from the knee and pulling back to the knee is not enough. For top speed, you need continual "drive forward" motion, which is what you get from the round-about leg return, which is called the "D" movement. The "D" movement is one of the main tools for increasing speed.

When your leg parallels the pavement (after you lift and loop it behind), you pull the closed hip forward, ahead of the support knee. Then you drive forward.

(There is a perfect photo of this movement from last year's World Inline Cup in Engadin. It is an aerial shot that shows the top five ladies at top speed with each one in a different phase of the movement. Sorry, I couldn't find the photo. If you have it, send it here so we can add it to the column.)

Not all top skaters point their toes in. But most do. Wouter Hebbrecht from Belgium is an exception. He uses a pronounced open hip (on one side in particular). It works for him, but I don't recommend it.

Why double push?

What will the double push give me? - ארביב אילן (From Israel)

If you learn it right, it will give you greater speed. It will also allow you to transfer your body weight more effectively so you can do a better job getting behind your push.

When Chad Hedrick arrived on the scene with his classic double push, it allowed him to maintain a higher top end speed (for about 200 meters longer) than other skaters.

Bearings for the rain?

Hello, Bill: I understand that MPC rain wheels make a wet surface feel dry. Are there special bearings (rain bearings?) to go along with rain wheels? I used to have a pair of micro bearings that handled water pretty well. But my 608 Bone Bearings don't like water at all. - Thanks, Joe

Hi, Joe: I don't recommend mini bearings in the wet. They clog up far too easily. My skaters use BSB or Bont ceramic 608 bearings that have been well broken in and have a bit of movement in them. We keep them lubed with extra oil. (We use the special Bont Jesa Kluber oil for this.)

Ceramic bearings are usually a better bet. Some bearings claim to be waterproof, but water seems to be able to penetrate them all. Some skaters use double-sided neoprene-covered bearings packed with grease, although I have not noticed top pros using them.

By the way, you got it right about the MPC rain wheels. After Basel and Rennes, I believe the demand outstripped the supply, as they were a very big factor.

Wedges for outside edges

Hi, Bill: I’ve been trying to learn to skate on my outside edges. Should I feel boot pressure on the inside of my ankle when I set down my skates? Or am I supinating too much? - Oncefast

Hi, Oncefast. You are more likely to feel boot pressure on the inside of your ankle when you set down on your outside edges. To relieve the pressure, you might try doing what most pro skaters do: place a bit of fine sandpaper (or a soda can pull tab) between your frame and boot.

Pros do this to help get on their outside edges. But it doesn't cure all foot problems. Probably only 10 percent of the top skaters live without foot trouble of some kind.

What size wheels are best?

Hi, Bill: I am a 62-year-old male who is in pretty good shape. I have a few questions about wheel size. Thanks. - MF

1.) Using 100mm wheels, I feel my right ankle sagging by the end of a marathon. Would I be better off using 90mm wheels?

Hi, MF. I have not heard of sagging ankle syndrome until now, so I can't comment on it. But I can tell you that most skaters get by with 100mm wheels without too many downsides. On the other hand, some skaters say 110mm wheels give them sore knees.

2.) Are 90mm wheels better for a hilly road course?

Well, my daughter (world champion Nicole Begg) and I used to think so, until tiny Anne-Claire Maillard (93 lbs) tore up Glarus on 100mm wheels and in the process beat most the men. Meanwhile, Marc Christen nearly won on 80mm wheels.

It's another area of personal choice. ... Recently, Kalon Dobbin and my son Wayne decided that 110mm wheels are quicker than 100s going up hills. Every skater has to decide what's best for him or her.

3.) What is the best way to choose wheels given a person's age and skill?

First, you need to consider the course you will be skating. If bendy and tricky, like Rennes, 100mm wheels make it easier to navigate the corners than 110mm wheels. But on mostly flat courses, like Incheon, Zurich and St. Moritz, where you can get into a continuous rythym, 110mm wheels may provide an advantage.

But there are no hard and fast rules. The first person to ever race on 100mm wheels at the World Championships was my daughter Nicole. She was 14 years old at the time and was only 4-foot-10 and just over 40 kg (88 lbs). Everyone said that 100mm wheels were only for big strong guys. Yet Nicole, the smallest skater there, managed a fourth place in the 5K road race. On the other hand, Luca Saggiorato, one of the bigger men, used 100s on the road and won silver.

The bottom line is, if you are not strong and lack acceleration, big wheels can help by providing roll. They can also provide an advantage on rough surfaces since they do not sink into the divots as much.

But sorry, I can't give you a magic answer: it's up to each skater to use trial and error to determine what works best for him or her.




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Find out more about Bill Begg and his Ask the Coach column.

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