Surviving a Nighttime Group Skate

Paris Friday Night Skate starting line

This may come as a big surprise the first time you join a group skate that rolls through the streets after dark: skating on a dedicated bike path using the basic stride and braking you learned in a parking lot just aren’t enough prep! The perils outside a controlled environment require a few defensive skills to help you safely manage real-world situations.

In a group setting, “sometimes the crowd is very dense and moving very fast,” pointed out Alex, a Get Rolling fan from Israel. “There are often light collisions, e.g., frame-to-frame contact.” He is so right! When unfamiliar terrain, motorists, low or no street lighting, unexpected obstacles, hills, and peer pressure are in the mix, the risk for getting hurt goes way up.

Defensive Skills for the Urban Skater

Before considering your fist roll in the dark with the “big kids,” be sure to get good at the moves that can save your skin. By working your way through the instruction links in the right column below, you will also build an extra layer of protection: confidence in your balance and agility.

Situation Save your skin with…
Sudden red light Heel brake works best, otherwise T-stop or Powerslide
Many skaters, not much space Stride 1 or Swizzles until space opens up
Cracks, rough, cobbles, light-rail tracks High speed Scissors coast
Lagging too far behind the crowd Stride 3. See 10 tips to Increase Your Pushing Power
Speed control on narrow downhills Intermittent braking (“governor“), T drag, “Slowplow”
Speed control on wide downhills Slowing Slaloms — but only if you won’t be cutting off skaters approaching from behind
Impending crash Get low, hands near knees to make a controlled fall on your gear
Curbs and stair steps Angle back skate 45+ degrees to curb. See Taking Curbs at a Roll.
Collision avoidance, too late for brake Hard swerve with a Parallel or tight A-Frame turn. More in Handling Urban Obstacles.

Essential Gear

Priority one in all cases: Wear your helmet and protective gear.

In the dark, you should also take precautions so that motorists can see you and you can see the skating surface ahead. Head lamps, reflective tape or clothing, plastic reflectors, and blinking lights are all good choices. Consider packing along some water, ID and insurance card, light footwear, and cab fare just in case.

Now, go out and meet new skating pals to share the thrilling fun of a critical mass street takeover!

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