John Larmier, 39 and a single dad living with his two teen-aged sons in Phoenix, is one of millions who now use inlines to exercise, commute and socialize. "We regularly skate anywhere we want to go on the weekends," he says. "We're expanding our comfortable skate areas to a radius of 15-20 miles around our home."
If you've adopted skating as a clean and healthy form of transportation, you may have already noticed a need to manage the practical side of your passion. Here are some products that have made my commutes and errand rolls much easier.
Made by Hyper, the wheel company, these tiny but simple devices wedge between two wheels on each skate. A rubber-covered disc at the bottom contacts the ground so you can walk without rolling while still in your skates (smile at that nice store manager). Carry a pair for eviction prevention.
Hyper Wheels can be reached at (800) BE-HYPER (234-9737)
Walk and Roll
The Walk and Roll looks like a smallish fanny pack when you're skating, but when you've got to de-gear, it delivers a pair of shoes and the freedom to walk where skates aren't allowed. This is because it converts to a hands-free carrying strap. My sample fanny pack showed good materials and workmanship, but I wasn't sure it could handle my K2 5-wheelers and full gear, including a bulky helmet. Sunglasses, wallet, my PalmPilot, and keys had to fit somewhere, too.
No problem! In fact, after loading up the Walk and Roll as a shoulder carry-all, I couldn't resist modeling my tidy self to Dan the Man. I was impressed that the small pack actually carried everything I needed. After looping my skate buckles through the webbed strap's end loops, I then attched my nested wrist, knee and elbow pads to the next loop up. I slipped my helmet strap throught the webbing last.
The size 7.5 deck-style shoes fit inside the fanny pack perfectly, because the packs are sized to fit the shoes. Slip-ons are nice after fussing with skate buckles, straps and laces, but Dan points out that they're a bit lightweight for pumping iron. We both like to skate to the gym.
6/4/00 Update - Walk and Roll is out of business.
When I'm leaving town for a couple of days and skating is in the plan, I pack my sturdy Transpack backpack. Skates-even my 5-wheelers-fit in the side pockets, leaving extra space for socks, shorts and a T-shirt. My helmet, pads, knit clothes (to avoid wrinkles) and toiletries fit in the center compartment. The pocket on the top flap carries keys, electronics and sun stuff (removed if I check baggage).
When wearing the Transpack, my hands are free because of its backpack design. The waist strap is very lightweight, however, and the harness system wouldn't be comfortable for day-long treks. After 18 months of use in a variety of travel situations, this bag is still in great shape.
Transpack can be reached at (212) 260-0623; http://www.transpack.net
Once you branch out from the security of flat bike paths, you need solid stopping skills and the best braking system you can buy. Last December, I tested the PowerStop, a new technology by Avangard. Although the patent still needs the funding of a manufacturer, the prototype I used gave me consistently smoother stops and significantly shorter braking distances (up to 48% shorter than my standard brake on the same turf!).
How does it work? "Controlled friction" is generated by a graduated disk brake mechanism. When the skater applies the lever-mounted heel brake in the standard way, the inconspicuous lever-mounted pad not only applies friction to the pavement, it compounds the forces transferred to the disk brake (up to three times) where it presses against a specially-fitted braking wheel. Although this brake makes shorter scratch marks, the stop itself is smooth and predictable, and not in the least sudden. (I've decided that "stopping on a dime" could be dangerous, especially for novices.)
AvanGard's cuff-activated version would make learning to stop that much easier, and any skate with this brake attached would give road warriors quicker, controlled stops where they count most: on hills and near traffic.
Call and offer your grass roots support to Geoff Peck, Avangard Design Associates, (703) 538-5592.
Do your part for the environment and skate everywhere you can!