World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.
Where Can I Skate in New Zealand?
Hi, Bill: I will be visiting New Zealand in a week and while I'm there I was hoping to get some skating in. Should I bring my inline speed skates or can I rent skates there? I will be traveling all over the country. Could you recommend some trails to hit? - John Scott, St. Paul, MN, USA
Hi, John: Unfortunately, our laws here in New Zealand prohibit skating on the roads. However, one place where skating is tolerated is the Auckland waterfront. It is several kilometers long but fairly crowded, so you'll have to dodge pedestrians.
You can hire inline skates in Auckland at Fergs Kayak Shop (12 Tamaki Drive, Okahu Bay). You might also be able to join the Sunday morning Auckland group skate ... if it's still happening.
As for skate trails, forget about it. They don't exist in New Zealand. Fortunately, there are some other options.
You will find an indoor rink in Auckland: Mt. Wellington Skateland (tel: 0957 04811, map). You can hire skates at the rink and skate at public sessions.
If you are a competitive skater, you can head for one of our banked tracks. You'll find them in Hastings, Upper Hutt at Avalon, Blenheim, Christchurch and Timaru. We also have a new 400-meter road circuit in Palmerston North. You can hire skates at Christchurch and Timaru, although the quality of the rentals is usually low.
Timaru is my hometown. If you make it there, look me up and I'll give you some free tips on skating. (The last six or seven Beggs in the phone book are relatives and can direct you to me.) Our bitumen banked track is 100 meters from beautiful Caroline Bay, the safest beach in New Zealand.
I know skates are a nuisance to carry. But if you love yours, you may suffer withdrawal without them. So bring them along.
Despite our unfortunate prohibition against street skating, you'll find some nice places to skate here. And if the law does touch you on the shoulder, as a foreigner you can simply plead ignorance and apologize. They'll just ask you not to do it again.
Sorry, John, but that's the best I can do. New Zealand is not an outdoor skater friendly country like Switzerland. That's why our top skaters head to Europe in the spring to race in the World and Swiss inline cups.
How Do You Choose Wheels?
Dear Coach Begg: How do you decide on what wheels to use for a competition? Thanks. - Darrell
Hi, Darrell: The best thing to do is to start with a benchmark wheel, one that is recognized as excellent. (The benchmark outdoor wheel used to be Hyper's Bank Robber. But it's been the Matter yellow for the last couple of seasons.)
After you've settled on a benchmark, try a couple of contenders. Put one kind on one skate, another on the other. Then skate and decide which you like better.
After you've picked a favorite, repeat the process with your favorite contender on one skate and the benchmark wheel on the other. Again, pick your favorite.
After you've got a favorite, experiment with various wheel combinations (softer and harder wheels in different frame positions) and find the combinations that provide the best grip and roll for the kinds of skating you do. Basically, you want maximum adhesion for sprints and maximum roll for distance.
Beware of subjectivity. The feel of a wheel — comfort and roll — can unduly influence your conclusions. Remember that the real test is the clock.
I remember a dispute that erupted during my days as the coach of the Australian national speed skating team. We were on quad skates then, and my assistant coach, Neil "Shark" Bond, and our technical advisor, the Italian Guiseppe Cruciani, couldn't agree on a wheel for the road circuit of the 1986 World Championships in Adelaide.
Bond favored a 94-durometer wheel; Cruciani, a high-rebound, 89-durometer wheel. At the end of the day, Cruciani said, "The only real truth is the watch test." We tested the wheels against the clock, and the softer wheels won for the longer distances.
When in doubt, use the watch test.
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