Roller Skating with the Least Chance of Death?
September 22, 2015 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Hi! I've just spent way too much time (about 4 hours) online trying to learn which type of skating will hurt less. All information, including this thread, has only told me preferences regarding style and speed, not what will make me go boom less. I care not about speed, performance or dancing in them, only if they can get me to work (much downhill) without dying.

The lowdown: I am in shape but super clumsy. I used to walk the half hour to work, then moved another half hour away, and am too busy to walk a whole hour to work. Tried biking, got hit too many times. Driving deprives me of exercise and uses gas. Solution: skate.

The question: Inline, quad, or other?

What I want but can't get: all-terrain mountain skates, even outdoor skates aren't this good.

What I've learned thus far:

Quad: more stable side to side, but fall cracking helmeted head in front or back. Cannot handle cracks or pebbles as well as inline, which makes me more likely to fall on bad sidewalks.

Inline: less stable side to side, so can crash sideways, but stable from front to back. I'm more likely to fall sideways because seriously, can anyone stand still on thin wheels? Can handle more rocky terrain, but unfortunately faster, causing harder falls.

Either types' wheels will be DIY covered with rubber tire covers with thick treads, since I can't find any wheels of this type, and I need to be able to manage rough roads.

Other: What about these fancy Cardiff Skates? Or turning a pair of skates into caterpillar track like tanks?

Please remember, this is all about safety, balance, slow speed = better, and less blood shed = better.

Thank you for your advice!
posted by Arachnophile to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry for this total non-answer, but are you really committed to the skating idea? I would suggest maybe thinking about a Razor-type scooter. For me, stopping is more of a dangerous process than the actual skating, but I can scoot without a problem.
posted by karbonokapi at 7:26 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I also came here to answer scooter!
posted by samthemander at 7:27 PM on September 22, 2015

Thanks for the scooter ideas, are they allowed on sidewalks? If I suddenly stop, will the handlebars jam into my thorax? Also, I'm loathe to carry around a large piece of equipment everywhere, in stores, etc. I'll look into it, any other specific types of Razor or other brands you might recommend?
posted by Arachnophile at 7:31 PM on September 22, 2015

I did a lot of inline skating for a while. I found them more agile for sidewalks than I remembered quad-skates being, but I haven't used quads since I was a kid so I don't have a good comparison. Since you say quads aren't great for cracks/texture/pebbles, I wouldn't use them for a city commute. You say you'd want to add treads, but that would be basically impossible on a lot of models, because there just isn't clearance space in between the wheels or from the top of the wheel to the boot/frame; and I can't help imagining a little piece of rubber coming slightly unglued, tangling a flapping corner in the wheel mechanism, and jamming solid, tipping you onto your face. Just sounds really risky, probably not worth the gains. Quads may be a little easier to fit treads on to if you're sure you wanted to try that.

Comparison skates/scooter: A lot of the practical aspects are not that different. While it's possible that people on sidewalks would give you dirty looks, it wouldn't be much worse than if you were on skates. You aren't sure you'd want to carry a scooter around with you, but they do fold flat, and can then be carried in one hand, not really more awkward than a pair of skates; there's the added bonus that you can just step off it and fold it up, without having to pause and change shoes.
posted by aimedwander at 8:17 PM on September 22, 2015

Great insight, thank you! More Amazon browsing now. :)
posted by Arachnophile at 8:19 PM on September 22, 2015

Do you already know how to roller skate as an adult (not just "I skated when I was a kid")? And do you have health insurance?

Is there a roller rink near you where you can try out incline and/or quad skates in a safe no-cars-no-sidewalk setting? Or a skate shop that focuses on quads and/or inline skates? Your profile says you're in LA, so maybe talk to one of the derby-affiliated shops (Moxi Skates is in Long Beach, Square Cat Skates is in Hermosa Beach). And hey, maybe you'll want to check out some roller derby!

I don't think you'd need treads on quad skates, just outdoor wheels -- these are a softer durometer and are almost gummy/bouncy to the touch. They also take cracks/texture/pebbles a little better than a really hard wheel, which is what you'd normally get out of the box. The derby shops sell them.

And on that note, getting a full kit -- entry-level skates, outdoor wheels, helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, wristguards -- will probably cost around $200 for quads (not sure about inline, but probably similar). Even more if you go for nicer skates or nicer safety gear.

Downhill sucks on skates; even a little tiny decline that you'd never even notice when you're walking can be really hard and you can lose control, which makes you stand up, lose your balance, and then you're sprawling. I'm a decent skater but still managed to somersault down a hill once when momentum got me, and I was wearing full gear (helmet, knee and elbow pads, wristguards).

If you're going to be carrying anything to work, like a laptop bag or a purse or a lunch bag, that will also make it harder.

Also, when you wear protective gear -- it's not optional, you absolutely must -- fair warning that it will get really sweaty, especially wristguards. You will have no idea how much your hands sweat -- and how bad they will smell -- until you're wearing wristguards for two hours every day. You will start washing your hands up to your elbows, and they will still smell.

I'll be honest -- I played roller derby for three years while living a 20 minute walk away from my office, and I never once skated to work. (And people asked me why I didn't.) Until you're confident enough in your skating ability that you can pay attention to traffic and people around you and all the things you might encounter and not think about what your feet are doing, I would not suggest roller skating as a commute option.
posted by littlemisslaika at 10:28 PM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

Well, I've been waiting over 10 years for the right person to pass this little nugget of knowledge onto--I happen to personally know (slightly) the Godfather of Skating himself. The web site is perhaps not as informative as it could be, but I'd bet if you'd give David a call or email he would be quite helpful. He is big on encouraging folks to skate to work and the like.

A very useful web site with all the basics is this. Particularly look at the checklists sections.

Also, I hate to give a non-answer to a question you didn't ask, but the very obvious answer to a one-hour walking distance is to bike it. One hour walking distance=super easy, short bicycling distance. If you're biking and getting hit multiple times, something is very, very wrong. That something can almost certainly be fixed, and if it is fixed, the improved results (ie, far, far, far, far, far, far, far fewer times being hit) will be very dramatic. I would very highly recommend the bicycling classes offered by the LA Bicycle Coalition. They will change your life. Call and talk to them about it.
posted by flug at 11:21 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

As a fellow clumsy person - I can't recommend skating to work. I have been skating for 2 years on pretty ideal surfaces - ie indoor sports hall floors. In that 2 years I have had several concussions and sprains - that's with full safety gear. I've seen super-fit, non-clumsy skaters who have been skating several hours a week for 5+ years just fall for no reason.

I also can't imagine inflicting my pad stink on a office full of non-skaters all day.

Skating as an adult is very different to skating as a kid. Its a lot harder and skating outdoors is very different to skating indoors, even with specialist "outdoor wheels".
posted by missmagenta at 4:37 AM on September 23, 2015

While it's possible that people on sidewalks would give you dirty looks, it wouldn't be much worse than if you were on skates.

Aside from dirty looks, this is in fact illegal for adults in some cities (riding scooters or skates on sidewalks). I recommend checking on that before you buy any equipment, OP.
posted by telegraph at 4:37 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just started quad rollerskating again, and am actually practicing on pebbly outdoor tiles with cracks between them, leaves and twigs. I'm one of those "if it doesn't kill me it can't hurt" people, which has its benefits when learning since I tend to relax and thus don't fall much... yet that said, I would *never* skate to work, neither on blades nor quads. The difference with a bike is that, on a bike, you always have the option of putting a foot down. With skates, your feet are wheels. Think about walking: every once in a while we stub a toe, trip a little bit, wobble for some unfathomable reason. And that's walking. On feet. Now put wheels on your feet. Nah, it's just not worth the risk.

For fun though, wow yeah, those are some sweet all-terrain setups. You know they're custom? You can buy whichever plates, boots/shoes, bearings, and wheels you want and put them together. A roller derby shop would indeed be your best bet for showing you the ropes, and they'd probably be able to put together a beginner setup for you if you gave them your specs. As others have said too, there are outdoor skate wheels that are softer/more forgiving; those would be a good start before trying something like the nubby ones. Bearings are generally classed by ABEC, with 1 being not really worth it, 3 pretty common, 5 a bit faster, and 7 is pretty fast. My skates have ABEC 7 bearings and I found myself on my ass about five minutes after first putting them on. They're really fun now that my body's gotten used to them. Also, you can and should practice falling. It's all about muscle memory and teaching your brain not to panic: "see! we've done this before, it'll hurt a bit but no broken bones." Still though, sometimes feet will behave like feet.

What happened that you got hit so many times while cycling? (Not implying it's your fault, I've lived places where drivers seemed to be hell-bent on maiming as many pedestrians and baby strollers as possible, not to mention cyclists.) Were the accidents serious? Is there a way you could cycle to work along a safer route?

It's just that as a lifelong cyclist, in spite of the pretty bad accidents I've had and fucking scary run-ins (once had an idiot slap my ass out his car window while he and his driver pal hooted at me; I was doing 35kmh, still don't know how I saved that from a crash), it's still a pretty optimal commute option. With scooters the risk will be pedestrians, and downhill on a scooter isn't very safe either.
posted by fraula at 1:37 PM on September 23, 2015

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