Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

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.”

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.

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.

Lefties! How To Swap Your Heel Brake

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Which foot leads when you pull on a pair of pants, start up a stairway or kick a ball? Do you have an injury that changed your original habits? Could you be one of those oddballs who is right handed but left footed?

Knowing the answer to this question is very important to the first-time skater. Since new skates are always sold with the brake mounted on the right, left-footed beginners never find out that swapping the brake would make it ten times easier to learn the essential safety skills of braking and preventing unwanted speed.

A couple years back I wrote Lefties, it Does Matter to share this message. To celebrate the launch of this blog, my first article is a pictorial tutorial showing how to swap the brake from one skate to the other. Click the photos to see a larger image.

This blog is a work in progress. My goal is to convert the look and feel to blend in better with the Get Rolling web site.