1. Commuting to work on roller skates
2. A death defying experience resulting in ultimate smugness
If you are reading this thinking that I probably live a mile away from my work separated only by a lovely smooth cycle path....
Nope - my work is over 65 miles away from where I live! I don't skate all 65 miles, and I don't have to go in every day! But 2-3 times a week I skate to the train station, get the train, then skate to work and back again – overall it’s an 8 mile round trip. 8 miles of hilly, bumpy, gravelly skating a day!
And before you say it, no I am not a hardened street skater - I learnt to skate at roller derby practice on nice, smooth sports hall floors, where dust is a nuisance, inclines don't exist, and the only traffic to contend with is your teammates.
I'm also not doing it to save the planet or my purse strings. Getting the train isn't cheaper than driving, but it does allow me to work or nap (mostly nap) on the way. The main reason I do it is because it is fantastic exercise, additional training for derby, and makes me feel awesome!
Obviously the point of this blog is not just to tell you how awesome I feel, but rather to give you some tips and advice so you might also consider skating to work, university, your kid's school, the supermarket.... wherever!
Trust me when I say that I have learnt most of this advice the hard way.
1. Firstly, don't expect to look like this....
…..unless you work at Miami Beach and your boss doesn’t mind you wearing gym clothes and skates all day!
You will likely arrive at work a hot and sweaty mess, so be prepared! You will also trip and stumble a lot, mostly on invisible obstacles, so forget any preconceived ideas of looking graceful and dignified. I’m pretty sure I lost my dignity along with my toe-stop on one fateful journey home from work, much to the bemusement of several onlookers.
2. Know your route!
Like really know your route! Driving it is not sufficient - you need to know what the pavement is like, how smooth/flat/wide is it, how busy does it get? You may be good at dodging derby skaters at training, but dodging unaware pedestrians and vehicles while going downhill on bumpy concrete is a whole other ball game.
Basically, don't do what I did! The first time I skated to work I was following Apple Maps on my iPhone (silly for multiple reasons, and FYI Google Maps is much more skater friendly). Anyway, my phone took me down a steep gravel bus lane leading to a duel carriageway, where I panicked, lost control, and had to choose between my phone and the flesh on my hip! (I like my phone!)....
So, set aside time to practice the route, ideally with your derby pals (then you can make one of them try the scary-ass looking hill, and if they break themselves you can find another route - kidding!), and don't try it for the first time when you only have 45 minutes to get to work for a 9.30 meeting with your boss (yeah I did that too!).
3. Don't wear your fancy derby skates...
Need I say more?
But seriously, they will get trashed! And wheel changing is a meh (I only have one set of indoor wheels for this very reason)!
3a. Wear comfy skates.
Your old derby skates that you upgraded because they blistered your feet will not suddenly feel like comfy slippers!
It occasionally does this in England.
Rain will also ruin your bearings if you don’t clean and dry them straight away. Unsurprisingly, I feel the same about bearing cleaning as I do wheel changing, resulting in me having to skate the grime and rust out of my bearings to get them moving again on several occasions (not recommended!).
5. Quick changes.
If like me, your journey will involve changing in and out of skates multiple times, you need to allow time to get your skates and pads on and off (another reason why Antiks are not ideal for commuting).
And try not to forget your shoes (yup, I’ve done that!).
When first starting out going uphill is your friend, a horrible, sweat-inducing friend, but a friend nonetheless because you are in control of your speed, unlike….
Even after 3 months of commu-skating, there is one downhill that still fills me with dread every time I lace up my boots! It is a long, steep, winding downhill on rough concrete that seems to stretch on for miles (note: it’s probably half a mile max).
One thing I learnt quickly when skating downhill and wanting to slow down – plowing is not your friend – no matter how good you are at plowing on the derby track. T-stopping is what it is all about! I’m now so good at T-stopping downhill, that I naturally start doing it in a wall while derby skating (I’m not sure if this is a good thing).
My biggest tip if you are uncertain, is to brake before you even hit the downhill, and even come to a complete stop. If you enter the hill at speed, you will only pick up more speed, and won’t be able to lift a foot to put on the brakes…
8. Tactical dismounts.
Otherwise known as ‘planned falling-over’. Again, leave the dignity at the door, if you feel like you are going too fast and losing control downhill, please just take a knee or two (onto knee pads of course and ideally a soft grassy landing). You may look like an idiot, but it is much better to be safe than sorry!
9. Square-shaped wheels.
Lots of t-stopping downhill on rough concrete will ruin your wheels. I currently have 3 round wheels, 3 cone-shaped wheels and 2 square wheels. This means they make a funny noise as I skate, and send vibrations through my feet! However, if I can skate fast on square wheels on uneven and hilly terrain – imagine what I can learn to do with my Rollerbones Turbos on a sports hall floor!
10. Don’t leave your wrist guards at the train station! Yes – I have done this too!
The moral of the story is - have a go, don't worry about looking silly or doing something stupid, because I have already done it all! Trust me - I have! But I survived, my fitness has improved, my derby has improved, and I feel awfully smug on the train journey home! Bolty x