Table of Contents(the links jump to each section in this page)
Dr. Scholl's Cushlin Blister Treatment
Magicool instant personal cooling
So now that you're really into inlines (or at least plan to be) and you've hopefully read the Buying Guide for Inline Skates and studied and practiced the various Stopping Methods, it's time to get properly equipped for your regular skating sessions.
Although skates and protective gear typically get the most attention in the press or in stores, there's a whole host of other gear you might consider wearing or carrying with you when you go for a skate.
Even if you're only rolling around in your local neighborhood, you might find these items will come in handy. For skating far away from home, and long-distance skating, these may become indipensible, and perhaps even a life-saver.
First, let's cover the basic skating gear and tools.
Your skates naturally are the most important component. However, don't take your skates for granted. You need to periodically inspect your skates to make sure nothing is falling off or loose that might trip you, or maybe cause you to lose a wheel (happened to me once!). Although probably not for everyone, ideally you will do the following after each time you skate:
- Wipe down your skates
Using a damp (not soaked, just damp) cloth, wipe down your skate boots and frames. Not only will your skates look better for it, but you won't tend to track dust and dirt all over your other gear. Plus, dirt and grime are not good friends of your bearings anyway.
- Wipe down your wheels
Remove your wheels, and wipe them down, since the dirt gets lodged in the little nooks and crannies of the wheel hubs and spokes.
- Wipe down your bearings
Remove the bearings and yes, wipe them down as well. The damp cloth is wet enough to pull the dirt off, if any, without introducing the rust monster. Also, give your wheels and bearings a simple spin test. If you hear gritty or grinding noises, it may be time to clean your bearings.
- Fastener check
Check your laces and/or buckles to see if anything is frayed or coming loose.
- Boot check
Even if you don't play rollerhockey or do any aggressive skating, your boots may still suffer some damage from falls or scrapes.
- Brake check
Check your brake pad briefly, see if it's wearing out in anyway.
I won't go into huge detail about safety gear, since it's pretty well-covered elsewhere.
In general, most helmets out there are pretty good now. Just make sure that whatever helmet you buy is Snell/ANSI certified (look for the sticker on the helmet). Most helmets are certified, but make sure all the same. Also, never buy or use a helmet that has been in a crash!
- Knee pads
Knee pads vary quite a bit, although I recommend the kind that you can slip over your leg and then secure with the velcro straps. They'll be a little hotter maybe, but they'll stay on your knees a little better in event of a crash, or just from regular skating movement.
- Elbow pads
Same goes for elbow pads. I recommend the kind that you slide your arm through, before securing with velcro.
I strongly recommend wristguards for most skaters, especially beginners. Once you get more proficient and are a lot less likely to fall, you might start to eschew wristguards (I skate with only bike gloves on most of the time, so that it's easier to grab my water bottle, etc.).
Fanny Pack Skate Kit
Among the most useful gear is a fanny pack (or waistpack, whatever you want to call it). Small enough to carry useful items, but not so big that you feel like you're wearing luggage. Lots of fanny packs also include a water bottle holder, or even built-in water bladders, so shop around and find a suitable one for your skating needs.
Some basic tools and parts that I would strongly suggest carrying in your fanny pack:
- Axle wrench, that is appropriate for your skate axles
Most skates should come with an included hex wrench, but you can also get some nice third-party tools, or just go to your local hardware store for the right one.
- Small screwdriver (usually phillips), that is appropriate for your brake pad/assembly
Although most of the time, you probably won't have to swap your brakes sometimes it happens. Or perhaps you may need to remove your brake completely for artistic/trick skating or indoor skating.
- Bearing pusher/extracter, appropriate for your bearings
You can either buy a bearing tool, or just find a bolt or cylinder that is the right diameter for pushing your bearings out of your wheels.
ALTERNATIVE: Many years ago I bought a handy Rollerblade 3-way tool that includes all 3 of the above (axle wrench, phillips screwdriver, and bearing extractor). Saves having to carry 3 separate tools, keep your load lighter. I don't know if Rollerblade still sells their tool, but there are others such as the Sonic Pro Tool, that I've seen.
- Spare wheel
You never know if one of your wheels might disintegrate or fall apart. Or if you're like me and like to use the toe-drag stop, you might shred through your toe wheel to the point where it needs replacing. To save money and make the most of you wheels, use "used" wheels from your other wheel positions (or from other skaters) as your sacrificial toe-wheels.
- Spare brake
If you're a big brake fan (like me), you might need to swap in a new brake on occasion (especially if you do lots of downhill skating).
- Spare axle parts
Depending on what kind of axle system your skates have, you may need 1 or more pieces. One time the axle nut on my Aeroblades got loose without my knowing (may have forgotten to tighten it) and my wheel came off while I was skating. While not a crisis in my case (I skated home on 7 wheels just fine), it may not always be so minor.
- Water bottle (or other water delivery device)
I know not everyone likes to be weighed down when skating, but I'm a firm believer in staying properly hydrated (even when not skating!). As they say, if you're thirsty, your body is already short on fluids. When skating I like to sip from my water bottle every few minutes or whenever there is a lull in the action.
Lots of skaters (and bikers) prefer the water-pouches (such as the ever popular Camelbacks) so that you can take your drink relatively hands free, without having to reach for the bottle and then have to put it back.
- Night-time lights
At the very least you ought to carry one of those flashing red/white lights that you can clip to your clothes or helmet straps, so that if you are skating at night, you can be seen by cars and other skaters/bikers, etc. If you are a frequent nighttime skater, you will probably also want to carry a lightweight flashlight/headlight of some sort. Some of the ones they make for bikes usually mount okay on helmets or even just for you to hold in your hand.
In addition to the normal biking/skating flasher lights, there are some pretty cool LED products out there that might put a little spice into you nighttime skating:
Flashing LEDs. LEDs come embedded in all sorts of stuff, but the simplest are the ones they call "body lights" that come in small earring-sized cylinders that have tiny (but very strong) magnets that you can use to attach the LED to your clothing, or even on your earlobes. A good source I've found is Gotta Glow (www.gottaglow.com)
Gotta Glow sells a wide variety of glowing products, so if you don't like body lights, they have tons of other stuff to choose from.
Flashing light wheels. Probably the ultimate inline skating LED accessory, these are inline wheels with embedded LEDs that will light up when the wheels are spinning. I'd do a search on Google for "flashing light inline skate wheels" or something like that.
Expect to pay more for these wheels, but if you like to light up the night with your skates, these will surely do the trick!
- Carrying strap
If you expect to be in non-skating areas you may want to be able to sling your skates over your shoulder. There are various contraptions for carrying skates. Some are simple straps with two loops on either end with a clip (my preference, since it rolls up extremely compact). Other products are kind of like ski-boot carriers, that are T-shaped for you to mount your skates on it. Cool, but not very portable. I recommend the straps.
ALTERNATIVE: there are also several products designed to let you walk while still in your skates. Typically they are either covers that go over the wheels, or some sort of wedge that you stick between the wheels, so that you can't roll. And at least you won't have to walk in socks or carry shoes with you.
Best Kept Secrets (my personal favorites)
So far we've covered the more obvious skating tools and gear that you will find very handy. You may not like carrying around stuff while you skate, but personally I prefer to be prepared for any likely occurrence. Better safe than sorry, especially if you might end up stranded miles from home or your car.
Anyway, here's a few other items that most skaters know about, or have considered for skating.
Dr. Scholl's Cushlin Blister Treatment (see www.drscholls.com)
Although experienced skaters may not get blisters anymore (due to a nice build up of calluses in all the right places) for some people blisters can be an ongoing problem for whatever reason. Either way, blisters never make skating as enjoyable as it should be.
In general I've found that beginners and people with ill-fitting skates are usually the most prone to blisters. For myself, after a long time without skating, my calluses had all but disappeared, and sure enough the first time I went skating again I got some blisters.
For those that have not tried it, the best way to describe Dr. Scholl's Cushlin Blister Treatment is that it's a small piece of adhesive sterile second-skin that is somewhat cushioned. The pads are water-resistant and makes a very tight seal around your blister, so much so that you almost feel like your blister is not there anymore. You leave it on at least for 48 hours, through showers and everything. You will hardly notice it anymore.
After you take it off, the blister has had time to heal and dry up somewhat so that it forms a nice callus. I have not tried skating with the blister pads on, so I'm not sure how well they are at blister prevention, but I would imagine that might do a good job
The blister pads costs around $5-6 from most drug stores or Wal-Mart/Target. The small size (for toes and such) contain 6 pads. The large size (for other parts of your foot) contain 4 pads.
Magicool (see Cool Comforts, http://www.coolcomforts.com)
Spraying water to cool off is hardly a new idea (elephants and other animals probably have known this trick for eons, right?) But Magicool does the best job of instant cooling that I've seen so far, and it's portable enough to carry with you while skating. No pumps or batteries to deal with. It's cool all the time, anytime.
Maicool's key difference from the various pump misters is that it is self-cooling. No refrigeration required. The mixture is a coolant (dimethyl-ether I think, for you chemistry types) and demineralized water. Now if you paid attention in science class, you'll rememeber that you can rapidly cool something via evaporation (this is how they produce liquid oxygen and such).
Well, this is exactly what Magicool does. When you spray it, the coolant evaporates, taking with it the latent heat of the water and the hot air around it. The now-cooled water mist gives you an instant cool boost.
The mist from Magicool is pretty fine (as in small droplets) so you don't feel like you just ran through a sprinkler.
Magicool also does a great job on your car, when it's been parked in the sun for hours. Just spray it in the car for a little bit, and the temperature drops pretty nicely. And again, since the mist is very fine, you won't be soaking your car seats at all.
For you macho skaters out there, this product may seem like a needless luxury item. And perhaps it is. But for some people, especially those just starting out, or children, or even people that are prone to heatstroke (once you get heatstroke, you're more likely to get it again later in life), an instant cooling may be just the perfect thing after a good skate.
Other Useful Gear
Some other fairly useful gear that you might want to try out:
- Two-way radios / Walkie-talkies
What used to be mostly a toy has come of age in the last few years. Now two-way radios that use the FRS (Family Radio Service) frequency is now sold just about everywhere and very inexpensive. These can come in very handy when skating with others. With a typical range of up to two miles (line of sight distance), you can stay in touch even if prefer to skate a different speeds or in different places.
- GPS Receiver
For now, GPS receivers are still semi-luxury, but the price has come way down and eventually they will become as mainstream as two-way radios and digital watches. Anyway, the GPS receivers are good not only for telling you where you are (if you're lost), but many can also map your route as you skate, plus tell you your speed in mostly real-time. GPS signals are prone to some deflection or blockage (even by your body), so you might have to wear it higher up for better signal reception Also, you might get some erroneous readings, such as "you're traveling 200 mph), but still pretty cool technology nevertheless.
Do you have a personal favorite inline skating tool or gear item that you'd like to share? If so, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org