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Concept of this method

Method B is about "gravity-directly-thru-ankle":

Position the ankle and foot so that gravitational force from body-weight is transmitted down thru the ankle joint, which must be positioned behind the rear wheel.

Key steps to make this method effective

balance

Trying to get maximum braking force with Method B requires very good balance, because the skater is trying to put lots of weight on the front skate, and the two ground-contact points for the front skate during braking (its rear wheel and the brake pad) are very close together.

So lots of skaters put more weight on the rear skate for easier balance and control, and get supplemental braking force from other methods, rather than worrying about maximum from method B.

modify equipment

Getting more out of method B -- and often getting any braking force out of method B -- usually requires modifying the heel-brake design or the skate + frame + brake configuration.

options include:

  • Cut or grind down the brake pad, to make the pad-to-ground gap bigger. This is a minor modification which makes it possible to tilt the skate back more to get transmission of the skater's body-weight focused back more over the brake-pad.

Brake pad rubber is not so easy to cut or grind unless you've got suitable power tools. I don't have such power tools in our apartment, but I was able to cut down one of Sharon's brake pads using a hacksaw.

I think cutting the brake pad down could be a good one-time strategy for while learning method B, to make it extra-easy to get the feel and balance of getting lots of body-weight into the stop. But if I thought I'd have to cut down every replacement heel-brake-pad I bought before using it, I think I'd prefer this:

  • Switch to a different heel-brake design with a bigger pad-to-ground gap.

as of November 2005, the after-market heel-brake offered by Miller Sports has a bigger pad-to-ground gap than some other models, and is compatible with many (but not all) speedskate wheel-frames.

  • Change the mounting of the wheel-frame, to move the wheel-frame further forward relative to the boot -- so ankle joint is back closer to the brake pad.

  • Switch to a different wheel-frame which doesn't stick out so far behind the skate.

  • Manage the overall strategy for braking so that some other method is used to deliver stronger braking force when needed -- while waiting for a new or replacement brake pad to wear down to a big enough gap for method B to deliver substantial force.

Perhaps some options for the "other" method might be: (1) a second heel-brake on the other skate, with a brake-pad already worn down to enable use the combination of methods B and A to deliver strong braking force -- while for situations that do not require strong force, method A is used to wear down the first brake pad; (2) the mechanical assistance of a leash. My experience is that (1) is complicated to manage, and but it's made less hard by adding (2) in combination.

warnings

Even after modification, there are very very few skates with brakes that are not sometimes "neutral" or "negative" under Big B Test. Which implies that

> > > Sometimes method B cannot work. Not at all. < < <

So the skater must have some other sufficiently-effective stopping method ready to use for that situation. Most skaters who like method B use as their "backup" stopping method A, sometimes with the special mechanical assistance of a leash.

> > > method B alone is usually not sufficient for a strong quick stop. < < <

So when a quick strong stop is needed, the skater must have some other sufficiently-effective stopping method ready to help. Most skaters who like method B use as their "supplemental" stopping method A, sometimes with the special mechanical assistance of a leash.

move

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The key skills for this method are: 

  • Learn to commit more weight to the front braking skate. (see tips below)

  • Get good at using some other effective braking method -- different from B but compatible with B -- which can be used as a "supplement" or "alternate back-up" as needed.

Method A is the obvious choice, and it's usually straightforward to overlap methods A and B and shift the proportion between them as needed. But method A might not be sufficient as a supplement for some skate + brake configurations for some stopping requirements.

  • Detect when the current skate + brake + body-weight configuration is "neutral" or "negative" -- and get good at easily and quickly switching to a different braking method other than B.

  • Do not try to commit more body-weight to the front skate when the current skate + brake + body-weight configuration is "negative".

Ideas for learning to commit more to the front skate:

practice standing still (indoors) with nearby supports -- less and less weight on the rear skate. Try to get to lifting the rear skate off the ground and feeling what it is to balance on only two points:

"final exam" of expert-level method B is to make a stop (in favorable terrain) with full body weight all on the front braking skate, with the other skate a little ways up in the air.

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Equipment

Equipment is the big crux for this method.

The Big B Test: The design and configuration of the pad + brake + frame + boot must be such that when the skate is tilted back so that weight is only on the two points: brake pad and rear wheel, then the ankle joint is behind the contact point of rear wheel and the ground -- the further behind, the more braking force from gravity.

Many skate + brake combinations need substantial modification in order to permit this position. It can be tricky: One of my skate+brake models fails the test with a new brake pad, but passes when the brake pad is worn down.

Balance

Maximum braking force from B is with virtually full body weight on the front skate. This means that most of the skater's body would be supported on only two points only about 5cm / 2 inches apart -- which is a very short "wheel-base" platform. So method B is fairly demanding on balance -- even just to stand on one skate in that position without moving anywhere. So most people do put some weight on the rear supporting skate.

Strength required

Often seems to require some isometric shin-muscle strength for me to hold the ankle-joint-behind-rear-wheel position -- but nowhere near as much as for method A.

Interactions with other methods

  • Using some of method A can only help add braking force to B. I normally try to use a significant amount of shin-muscle force to help my braking. Sometimes when I put on a new brake pad, I need a large amount of A to provide enough stopping force until the pad wears down. Which is another reason I use two brakes, one on each skate -- so that at least one skate always has a worn-down brake pad.

  • There's a trade-off between B and A in how far the skate is tilted back for the heel-braking position (which is governed mainly by the size of the gap between the brake pad and the ground). Tilting the skate far back increases the force for method B. But the foot-ankle-leg configuration required for that tilt-back takes the ankle-joint and shin muscle to the end of their possible "range-of-motion" for the ankle-dorsal-flexion move, so the force from method A is reduced. (Since the pad-to-ground gap changes as the pad wears down, the trade-off between A and B also shifts.)

  • There can also be a trade-off between B and C in how far the skate is tilted back for the heel-braking position. A large pad-to-ground gap could require the skate to be tilted back so far that for method C to apply significant force to the boot-cuff, the leg and hip must be leaned back so far that it would require the skater to sit back so low that method C would get various strenuous just to support the weight of the skater's upper body on the rear skate in such an awkward configuration.

  • Perhaps one way to resolve the contradiction in body positions between B + C might be to make the stop in two phases: start with B, then finish with C. Another approach might be to use more of C when the brake pad is new, then more of B after the pad is worn down. The problem with this is forgetting which method is the one to use currently -- not a trivial problem if your attention is focused on a sudden obstacle that is requiring an unexpected quick stop.

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