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Essential Inline Skating Gear

April 2003

Table of Contents

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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.

Safety Gear

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 (

    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.

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.

Your Turn

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


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