Archive for June, 2010

Specialty Gear: the Skater’s Coach

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Skater's Coach logoA product called the Skaters Coach (TM) is available to make inline skating accessible to aging skaters who are still competent with the basic stride and able to effectively use the heel brake but can no longer afford to fall down. Curious? Watch a (helmetless) skater using the Skaters Coach in this video.

Inventor Tom Demme is in the over-60s age group. As he explains it, “I had a need for fitness after my total knee replacements. Now I still use my Skaters Coach when skating every week, simply because I cannot afford to be injured and miss work.  It makes me feel safe and secure from falling. I use it down by the lakefront in Chicago and it’s fun.” He says that most of his buyers are skaters over the age of 60 who want to continue the sport.

After testing the SkatersCoach myself, I feel it is important to stress that due to the highly responsive steering and minimally effective brakes, this is not a solution for beginning skaters or those with balance problems. Also, even the most competent skaters should read and fully comply with the safety literature packaged with the SkatersCoach.

Skaters Coach skating stability device
Skaters Coach stability device (click to enlarge)

Ordering info: Because this product is well made (in America), the cost to buy your own Skaters Coach is a little steep at $599. But it’s a one-time purchase designed to be used for years. Strange as it may seem to many of today’s avid skaters, those of advancing years who have grown to love the sport  are willing to pay this amount for the extra security it offers.

Share the link to the Skaters Coach home page or sign up to follow the @SkatersCoach Twitter tweets.

Special discount for my friends:  Get $25 off the purchase price by entering the coupon code “getrolling” on the Skaters Coach ordering page.

From the Skaters Coach testimonials:

“I am 67 years old and have not ice skated since I was a kid, but loved it then, I have only had the skaters coach for a week, but just love it, I have all the safety stuff on but I am up to about 3 miles a day increasing .5 a day, I would have fallen a few times, going over paper and stuff on the road. No falling here! I feel very, very safe and it is fun.”

Ghana Speedskaters Need You

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Using the Inline Planet Skaters social network, I have been corresponding with Paul Korankye in Ghana, Africa for the past year. Although he’s only 20 years old, he is as passionate about his speed skating group as he is about his Christianity. Last year I sent them a carton of Get Rolling books, plus a few stickers and other spare skating-related items.

I have been deleting spam from Nigeria for years, and I encountered many opportunists in my trip to Tanzania in February, so I react with suspicion to requests from Africa. But it is clear from our exchanges on the Inline Planet community and the photographs under his profile that Paul and his team are definitely enthusiastic about this sport!

Paul's Ghana speedskating team

Group photo taken at a June 2010 event

I promised young Paul I would do my best to introduce him and his group to my friends. In his own words, here is what he is requesting from U.S. skaters:

i want to travel to the u.s. to spend some holidays there and see how skate is going on there and also to see how skate teams plan events or a competition and come back to Ghana and share it with skate teams here so that we will develop skating in Ghana and across Africa and know what and when to do with this life experience i want you to talk to the skaters there so that they can rise some funds to support me to get a visa to come there OK this the what am asking from you all skaters there we are all one family in Christ and in skating ….please!!!….please!!! this my dream to make skate one of the biggest sports in the whole world …so this is my idea and plan please ..!!!!!!!!

View Paul’s latest photos and make friends with him by joining the  Inline Planet Community. If you decide to support his speed skating team, he would welcome direct contact through email at

New Orbit Blog Ends Get Rolling Drought

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Downtown Nantucket Town, the day before our Zephyr Skating Adventure was to begin

I apologize for the lack of fresh Orbit newsletter stories I normally use to keep the Get Rolling home page fresh and interesting. Since my last Orbit announcement, my active lifestyle and passion for travel and being outdoors were in direct conflict with the hours of PC face time needed to generate, illustrate, index and announce a quarterly batch of stories.

But what adventures I have had! Thanks to many hours of training hikes in the local hills—and our Zephyr Adventures guides, of course—Dan and I reached the 19,304 foot summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro at 7:45AM on January 31! After another week on safari and on the beaches of Zanzibar in Tanzania (photo albums here) we returned home to finish our seasonal Lake Tahoe area ski passes.

With plenty of snow still on the slopes in late May, we took a final 3-day ski trip at Mammoth Lakes for the Memorial Day holiday (see blog photos). One week after that I was guiding a Zephyr Adventures Skate Tour in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (more blog photos!). Between each trip, I steadfastly worked 9-hour days to prove my worth to the employer who helps me pay my bills. I even found time to teach a few weekend skate lessons.

Excuses, excuses. But this is about to change!

Now that my new Droid smart phone has unchained me from the home office PC, I am learning how to upload photos and blog posts mid-adventure. This extra flexibility means more frequent communications from me and more updates to the Get Rolling content for my site visitors. As I have always done, at regular intervals I will send my usual announcement with ticklers about the latest Get Rolling web site additions. But because I am now creating these stories in the new Get Rolling Blog, anybody who wants subscribe or to respond with a comment can do so.

4XS Brake Technology Update

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Last year I conducted a small survey asking people “How much extra would you pay for a new pair of skates if they had the 4XS installed? ” referring to a new cuff-activated braking technology I tested and loved.  I am still getting a trickle of responses, with the overwhelming majority willing to pay at least $20 more — and a few who said they’d pay $100!

Latest 4XS disk brake prototype

Unfortunately, the prototype that shortened my own stopping distances by 50% is still not available to these folks. A year ago, I was excitedly reporting (as much as I was allowed to divulge) on plans underway with a major manufacturer. But as of April this year, production is stalled due to the effects of an averse-risk economy combined with the expense of creating new molds for the various components.

Inventor Alex Bellehumeur is not giving up! He is currently seeking venture capital to help jump-start mold development. Meanwhile, I will help him in whatever way I can to build a supportive network that may lead to funding.

Become a fan on Facebook
to stay up to date on progress towards production.

Support Your / Our Trails!

Monday, June 21st, 2010

In northern California where I live, the East Bay Regional Park District maintains miles and miles of multi-use trails that residents use for recreation, commuting and exercise. When I relocated from Alameda County to Contra Costa county, I was sad to leave the Alameda Creek Trail behind but ecstatic to find the Iron Horse Trail, a converted rail trail that Dan and I use on a weekly basis. We are so devoted to persuading others to come out and play on skates that we maintain a website called with these trails plus over 300 other routes in our home state.

Scenic bridge on the Iron Horse Trail

Anybody who wants to find skate-friendly routes across the US can use the free search tool, powered by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and supported by a partnership with Google Maps. If you have a favorite trail that’s not listed, go ahead submit your writeup and photo.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting local communities in converting unused railroad corridors into community trails. I have donated financial support to this worthy organization for years because they are making it possible for skaters to enjoy more and more time and distance in the great outdoors.

I also support regional multi-use trail expansion efforts that may not result in new wheel-friendly routes for me but do encourage people of all kinds to participate in human-powered sports. The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council and the Pacific Crest Trail both get my annual donation.

Does your community or state benefit from the work of organizations like these? I urge all of my skating friends to become aware of trail projects such as the ones I mention here that will help stave off the looming obesity epidemic. Which organization can you commit to supporting today? How many extra calories burned would you like to take credit for?

Skating in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I felt extremely lucky to be a co-guide for Zephyr Adventures’ Nantucket & Martha’s Vineyard Skate Tour from June 6-10, 2010. Despite thunder and lightening and epic downpours, we managed to skate nearly all of the planned routes on both islands. What a fantastic place to skate!

The ever-changing weather painted some unforgettably beautiful skies that week. The springtime blossoms were perfect in their freshness and and the bleached sand beaches were simply dreamy. Although my duties kept me very busy for over a week, I made time to capture some of these images to share with those who have not had a chance to discover the wonders of skating on these two historic New England hideaways.

Rollerblade Spark Pro Review

Sunday, June 20th, 2010


I really like my new skates, the women’s model of the Rollerblade Spark Pro.

A box arrived mid winter when the days were short, the pavement wet and the season’s snow skiing  was at is best. By May, I’d barely gotten the chance to try them out with a decent pair of replacement insoles. (Customizing the foot bed is a standard with me; I get the feeling skate manufacturers expect users to toss away their wimpy stock insoles.)

By the second week of June, I felt sure enough of their performance and comfort to take them to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard where I was signed up to help run a skate tour with Zephyr Adventures.

We  guides do a fair bit of skating to check an area’s bike routes and back roads before our customers arrive. I was originally skeptical about the odd-looking asymmetrical lacing on the Spark Pros, known as the Total Wrap system. But no matter what socks I wore, thick or thin, they were consistently comfortable. I was so impressed that I never once used EZeefit ankle booties with them, normally an indispensable comfort aid in all my sports foot wear. After two 25+ mile days that week, I have to say that these are the most comfortably-fitting skates I have ever owned  in my 18 years of inlining.

The key to the Total Wrap system, I believe, is its off-center design. Starting from the toes, the lace channel curves away from the big toe knuckle (my bunion!) and then arcs back to front and center at the top. By starting with generously loose laces, evenly tugging the ends results in a uniformly snug and comfy grip across the entire foot, regardless of sock thickness.

With ABEC 7 bearings and 84mm wheels, the Spark Pro could easily deliver years of fun trail and urban skating, from speeding along on the flats to bombing or carving the rolling hills such as the ones we found on the east coast islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The standard heel brake felt smooth and secure for speed control on the steep, narrow downhills and stopping at street intersections.

As I had hoped when choosing this model from Rollerblade’s 2010 catalog early in the year, I can enthusiastically recommend this skate to any woman who loves to roll for fun and fitness.

Notes from Mammoth Lakes California on Memorial Day Weekend – Part Two

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

On Sunday morning we carved turns on the east-facing corduroy groomed slopes until the surface became perfectly buttery. By 9:30 it was beginning to ripen all over the mountain, and the next two hours were “magic time” where every turn made us feel like the best skiers in the world!  We continued to follow the sun as it gradually softened the hard snow on the western slopes of Mammoth Mountain. By early afternoon, it finally became too soft to be enjoyable and we decided to quit so we could save our legs for more fun on Monday.


Liz skating at the base of Mammoth Mountain

After we returned to the condo we grabbed our skates and went out for a quick roll to an overlook on the outskirts of Mammoth Lakes, where the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains spanned the horizon in all their glory. This town has an excellent trail system, serving walkers, cyclists and skaters.  See more skate trail info on

Next stop was Wild Willy’s mineral hot springs, a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Unfortunately, the secret is out and this small pool is attracting larger and larger crowds, at least on the holiday weekends. But we got lucky and spent an hour hearing other peoples’ stories as we sipped wine from plastic glasses.image

Back in town we got cleaned up and stumbled upon a tiny place where we enjoyed a surprisingly sumptuous Mediterranean-style meal. Despite a table of 20 young women who arrived half an hour after we did, the service was  friendly and excellent through the home-made Balaclava dessert.