Ken Roberts - - Skating

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06dec28: road-skate Newark NJ - Wallingford - Fort Lee - GWB - Manhattan


poles to help push in skating

see also: skate with poles + videos 2007

posted to 06dec13:

subject:  poles or sticks to help push in skating

I've been trying to use ski poles to help push while out skating on the roads, and I'm finding it fun. I've used ski sticks or poles on snow lots for all kinds of skiing, but I didn't think I'd like them on asphalt. I was trying it only to get my muscles ready for snow-skiing -- but now I thinking I might be doing it in the summer too.

I like it best on rolling hills with a wide skating space. I'm not convinced using poles makes me go faster -- but it feels easier. I think that's because I don't bend over as much, and the weight of my shoulders + head is supported sometimes by something other than my back muscles.

Fun to have more combinations of moves to play with also: How many pole-pushes to make for each pair of pushes by the two legs? In which phase of one leg's skate-push to start the pole-push? etc.

Warnings: Along with the complexity comes more dangers of getting a foot tangled up with a stick and falling. Perhaps a more serious danger: accidentally catching a pole tip in pavement out in front, then getting impaled by the handle of the pole as you glide forward into it. Keep the tips behind you, even when you're not using them to push. Resist the temptation to use the poles to help with slowing or stopping.

Width: I like more width for skating with pole-push because I tend to use a slower turnover frequency, longer stride length means longer distance out toward each side. So its good that I like skating out on quiet streets, I think it would feel cramped on a typical off-street bicycle trailway.

Not ski poles, actually. With lots of ski poles intended for snow it's pretty easy to break the metal tip off when using them on asphalt. So what I use are special "rollerski" poles, which have a metal tip especially designed for maximum grip on asphalt, with the tip-connection designed to withstand the repeated shock of impact on a hard surface.

Favorite stroking combination so far: Double Double Double: double-push by Legs with two Arm double-pole pushes.
A little more detail:

  • I always push with both poles together at the same time.

  • I make one double pole push for each leg-push -- so two pole-pushes for each complete stroke-cycle of both leg pushes.


  • (1) I make the inward-push with my leg as the previous pole-push is finishing, definitely before the start of the next pole-push.

  • (2) I start the pole-push (by both poles together), pivot the aim of my foot toward the outside during the initial pole-push phase, which angles my glide out toward the other side.

  • (3) Then make the main outward-push with my leg roughly during the second phase of the pole-push. And set down the other foot and start the cycle on the other side.



Subject: Re: poles or sticks to help push in skating
Date: Wednesday, December 13

John Doe wrote

For how long?

First time using poles with skates was about three years ago, several times when I was just getting started with inline skates. Then I went through a long time when I found it satisfying to discover that I could climb up lots of hills without poles -- longer and steeper than I ever guessed. In the last month I tried them again to help climb up steep hills, and it was only a couple of days ago that I thought to try poles while skating on gentler streets.

I think I first used poles on asphalt about six years ago, used them lots during the three years before I got skates -- back then I was on "rollerskis" (sorta like a 2-wheel skate that attaches to a cross-country ski boot). Back then I did lots of poling without any pushing thru my feet. I can go very fast with just pure pole-pushes without any leg-skating assist: I can pole a mile much faster than I've ever run a mile.

I find that most folks out walking or standing in their yards think it's very cool to see me skating with poles. For 5th grade boys the idea of gliding around using weapon-like implements is irresistible. (but people think it's wierd and laughable if I'm doing pure poling without skating.) Car-drivers on the other hand are less favorable and more disconcerted about encountering me skating with poles than without.

Apparently no one here uses them regularly.

I think I remember Phil Earnhardt wrote on this newsgroup that he once used poles when skating to work. And some guy who skated across the USA carrying a backpack last year used poles. But I was doubtful about poling being any use for general outdoor skating. I have some bad memories from my rollerskiing years of occasionally tripping over my poles -- also sometimes the tip of the pole doesn't grip the asphalt and instead skids out and leaves me off balance -- so there's a reliable simplicity to skating without poles.

Of course it's much trickier to skate together in a group if one or more people are using poles -- more chances to get your skate tangled with some pole -- either your own or somebody elses. But in Europe they do have serious races skating out on the roads on rollerskis where everybody uses poles, so I guess they work it out somehow.


P.S. One new puzzle I ran into was what to do with my poles when I went into a store to pick up some food on the way skating home. I almost never have any problem going into non-large stores with my skates on, but I decide to leave my poles outside leaning against the door. Nobody took them while I was inside.


Subject: Re: poles or sticks to help push in skating
Date: Wednesday, December 13

CG wrote

There are one or two guys in my area that are cross-country skiers that do it as part of their off-season.

Yes that's how I got into it too. Sharon got me into cross-country skiing on snow. Then I tried rollerskis in the fall to prepare for snow in the winter, and I soon found that other kinds of poles didn't work well on asphalt, so I soon bought the special rollerski poles.

After two or three years I discovered that _skating_ on snow could be magical. Then some cross-country skiers were talking about inline skates, but some coaches were saying that inline skating would cause bad form in ski-skating. I tried a pair of inline skates and soon found they were really magical.

They used to use roller-skis, but they change to inline skates because quality skates and parts were more readily avaialable and the fit, comfort and price was better.

I have no problem getting parts for rollerskis. But I think inline skates are safer for making quick stops and avoidance maneuvers -- and just more fun than rollerskis.

Key shortcoming for using inline skates for training for snow-skating is that snow is slow compared to polyurethane wheels rolling on decent asphalt -- so the first day of skating on snow in winter can be a shock. Rollerskis are usually sold with slower wheels, and some models have an adjustable speed reducer, to simulate the slowness of snow. In the last couple of years I've been putting some 80mm rubber wheels on my inline skates in late November to ease the transition.


best residential street skating

posted to 06dec4:

Subject: Re: Where is the best residential street skating in the world?

A couple of places where I continue to have lots of fun skating on favorites routes on the streets -- and rewarding exploration for more good streets and places to skate are:

  • Bethlehem - Allentown - Trexlertown in eastern Pennsylvania.

  • Union county, New Jersey -- roughly southwest from Liberty Newark airport.

Be glad to hear about more suggestions for places to try for street-skating.

"Momentum" is what strikes me about both of these areas: They keep re-paving more streets with smooth fine-grain asphalt. It's like I get another birthday present month or two: find another nearby street that received fresh smooth blacktop while I wasn't looking. It's not (yet) that you can just skate randomly and find mostly good surfaces, but the percentage has gotten high enough so that it's getting easier to find long routes that are interesting and only have short stretches of coarse-stone surface.

versus Europe:

The critical long-term advantages of many northeast U.S. communities over Europe are: (a) road width; (b) lotsa off-street parking, especially residences with big driveways. The problem with lots of areas in Europe is that they weren't designed for a car culture, but most Europeans want to drive cars, and they have to drive them somewhere, and they have to park them somewhere. The roads were originally built for horsecarts and walkers, and houses and trees and walls are so close that it's socially difficult to widen them. Even where the roads are wider, there's lots of cars parked on them, so I feel I can't use the apparent width because I'm somebody might open the blunt end of a car-door into my face. In some European cities, even lots of the sidewalks are narrowed by cars parked over them. So while I still always bring my skates to Europe, and still like trying different cities, I'm more often feeling that they don't measure up to the freedom and surface quality I'll be coming home to.

Bethlehem - Allentown - Trexlertown, PA:

  • finding more smooth quiet streets in residential neighborhoods outside the core city centers, though sometimes I still find neighborhoods with old-style coarse-stone surface.

  • major streets in the core centers are usually well-paved, and sometimes the key to connecting a nice route is to find a narrower street or alley that's been smoothly paved.

  • lots of major streets connecting the city core outward are wide and well-paved (though not all). I used to instinctively avoid obvious higher-traffic streets -- now I make sure to check them out.

  • excellent off-road race course loop at Trexlertown, and lots of new suburban roads right nearby. Currently kinda tricky to connect between Allentown and Trexlertown -- I'm hopeful some great connector route will emerge once the construction is over.

  • hillier than some other places. Almost no paved surface is truly flat. I've put together longer routes which are mostly gentle-to-moderate, but it's hard to avoid including a few substantial hills. Don't go out randomly exploring unless you're prepared to handle an unexpected steep hill, up or down.

Union county, NJ:

  • lots of gentle quiet streets, with a few moderate hills.

  • new paving of three streets in the last month changed my 25km loop from good to great.

  • the percentage of smooth-surface streets is getting high enough so that it's fun for me to go out and explore. Last month I felt confident enough to try distributing campaign literature on skates in some residential neighborhoods I'd never been to before (the tricky part is getting back down home sidewalk stairs).

  • but not much skatable off-road trails.

  • atmosphere: variety of ethnic and economic-class neighborhoods. Lots of immigrants.

  • excellent public transportation, especially trains. Our apartment is 100 meters from a station.

  • easy access to more skating in New York City -- the big City's advantage is not its streets, but the other skaters (and some great off-street venues).


southern France - Provence

posted to 06dec4:

Subject: sampling southern France 

I got the chance to visit some cities in western Provence, mostly somewhere in range of Marseille.

Marseilles city:

  • hills: be ready for them. For exploration I was real glad I had heel-brakes and Gatorleash. The main train and bus station is up a substantial hill from the main port area.

  • too many narrow streets, narrow sidewalks, too many parked cars on most of the streets I explored.

  • found a fair amount of OK surfaces, but not much beautifully smooth.


  • city center has lots of pedestrian streets with smooth stone, which looked pretty skatable (though I was with Sharon on either bicycle or walking, so I didn't actually get to skate).

  • lots of these city-center streets are kinda narrow, so might want to avoid street-market days when they're crowded with walkers.

  • mostly gentle around the city center, some hilliness outside.


  • city pedestrian center has pedestrian with smooth light stone (marble?). I found it very skatable, but might get very slippery when wet. Shortfall is that the pedestrian center is nowhere near as large as Aix -- depends on how much territory you like having available.

  • I skated in and out from a suburb. Finding streets without lots of car traffic and/or parked cars didn't seem easy.

  • Some of the narrow alleys were well-paved, so that might be the key to making up a good route.

  • mostly flat or gentle, both in and outside the city center.


  • Seemed to have some similar characteristics to Nimes ...

  • ... but hillier -- mostly not real steep, but more than just gentle. .

(but I didn't actually skate there, only walked around the city center with Sharon)


  • didn't strike me as promising for a skating visit.

(but I didn't actually skate there, instead bicycle and walk).

Mont Ventoux:

  • famous "big challenge" bicycling climb and for car-driving tourists. In rather favorable conditions, I skated the upper section to the summit on pretty good pavement -- see my other post about that, and


(not in Provence, much further north)

  • too many coarse-stone (or eroded) surfaces on the streets I explored.

  • central pedestrian area is delightful for walking, but I didn't find it much good skating surface.

  • so I couldn't seem to put together a nice loop route on the streets.

  • best skating I found was a scenic flat off-road trail along the west bank of the Drac river. (I think there was parking for that at exit 14 of the A48)

(hopefully in a few years the surfaces will have improved, but for now for street-skating in that region I'd prefer Lyon or Chambery).



Mont Ventoux (France)

posted to 06nov30:

I found it a good challenge for uphill skating -- there's even a "skate Mont Ventoux" website now: - - ( old dead link: )

Bicyclists have been climbing the road to the top of Mont Ventoux for lots of years. It's a famous mountain in southern France, see and the climb has been included in some famous bicycle races, including the Tour de France. More recently people have started skating up it -- in the last couple of years groups of more than 30 skaters have made the big climb -- here's one story:

Two weeks ago I tried part of it too. I remembered that Thibaut had reported some bad pavement when he tried to climb it on skates the easier way starting from Sault, so I was thinking that I probably would not want to try skating it at all. Sharon and I were in that region mainly for a bicycling vacation -- she doesn't skate much. Sharon said she'd like to see the summit of Mont Ventoux, so we drove our rental car up the hardest way starting from Bedoin -- and found that the road was closed with a locked gate -- seemed like 5 or 6 km before the summit -- a little above Chalet Reynard. I got out and checked the road surface, and it felt decent for skating. So I decided to try skating the upper section starting from Chalet Reynard, which is about 500 meters of climbing in about 6 km of distance (or 1600 feet of climbing in 3.65 miles) -- average steepness grade around 8% (which I think is sorta similar to the l'Alpe d'Huez climb).

I figured I'd only try the top third because I wasn't sure I would succeed even on that -- and it wouldn't be fair to make Sharon wait as long as it would take me to do the whole thing. I felt good as I started, had no trouble ducking low enough to coast under the locked gate. Then it turned out the summit tower was farther than I thought, and there were headwinds on some sections (? I seem to remember that "ventoux" means "windy" in French ?) so I had to be careful to go slow thru those and not burn out. Big views all along the way, and even bigger views when I got to the top.

Since the road was closed, there were no cars on the upper section, but Sharon couldn't drive up to wait for me at the top. So I put on my windbreaker and insulated hat, and started down using my heel-brake with Gatorleash -- which worked fine for slowing me down, but still my shin muscles got tired. Fortunately I had tied my sneakers to my fanny pack on the climb up, so I changed into those and jogged the rest of the way down to the locked gate where Sharon was parked.

What I found out:

  • just succeeding on the upper third without needing to pause for rest was pretty satisfying for me.

  • one skater in the group who climbed the whole thing in July said that after he reached the top he never wanted to do it again. But a couple of days later he was already planning for coming back next year and how to get a faster time. Now I'm thinking about trying the whole thing some time.

  • the road surface starting from Bedoin to the summit was mostly pretty decent. (The easier way starting from Sault has some rough surface).

  • the whole climb starting from Bedoin is something like 1600 meters of climbing in 21.5 km -- or for Americans that's 5280 feet of uphill climbing over about 13 miles horizontal distance) -- kinda cool that it's a vertical mile.

  • the upper third has the big views all the way to the Mediterranean sea. The low starting section serves as a moderate warmup climb thru pretty vineyards and farms. The middle section is the steepest (but hopefully more sheltered from headwinds), with interesting curves thru the forest. But that forest goes on and on -- Arnaud in his story called it the Never-Never forest.

  • temperature was perfect the day I tried it in November, and having the top section closed to traffic was nice ...

  • but I'd be glad to do it a little earlier when the summit road was still open and have a car (or my bicycle) waiting for me at the top. But not on a crowded weekend day with lots of cars going up and down.

  • overall average steepness grade is 7.5% which is significantly steep, and some of the middle sections are over 10%, which is really steep. I was glad I'd been doing some advance training workouts on really steep hills back home.

It's a great challenge.


Paris not on Friday night

posted to 06jly5:

Subject: Paris not on Friday night

Lots of skaters (and non-skaters) have heard of the great Paris Friday Night skate in France, organized for thousands of people to be skating together out on the streets starting at 10:00pm at Gare Montparnasse. I joined that a couple of years ago, and it was lots of fun -- hope to do it again.

Recently I got to try skating in Paris just on my own on a Tuesday night around 9:30-11:30pm. It opened my eyes to what a great place Paris is for my style of skating on the streets -- best I've found so far.

What made the streets of Paris so good?

  • lots of good pavement on the vehicle traffic lanes (but also have to be ready for sections with cobblestones that can appear suddenly -- especially around major intersections)

  • much less motor vehicle traffic later in the evening.

  • some key streets have a traffic lane which is restricted to buses and taxis (and fewer of those on my evening)

  • beautiful buildings lit up at night (and the Eiffel Tower looks way better at night than in daytime)

  • lots of bridges over the main river are open for skating.

  • lots of sidewalks have reasonable smooth pavement, or tiles with non-vicious joints between them.

  • bicyclists riding slowly in the evening -- which I could easily overtake.


  • some of the dedicated narrow bicycle lanes have rough pavement.

  • lots of cobbles in the area around the Arc de Triomphe (and at Place de la Concorde, and some other places)

  • skating on the streets, and skating at night both have special risks and dangers, so it's really only for expert street-skaters who understand the risks they're taking on and how to manage the situations.

My Tuesday night skating route:

Started near the Latin quarter, crossed the Seine river to the Louvre, made a visit to Place de l'Opera (major rest stop for Friday night skate back when I did it). Found a nice street and skated a ways straight west, and after some random turns, up to the Arc de Triomphe. Around the Eiffel tower, then to Gare Montparnasse (start-point of the Friday night skate), and finished on Boulevard du Montparnasse -- the first street I ever skated on in Paris, after I came up the stairs from the Port Royal RER station a couple of years ago.


Philadelphia to New York

posted to 06jun23:

Subject: Philadelphia to New York on skates

I've now skated every mile from Philadelphia to New York City. Not continuously -- on different days during different months in the last year or so, when my schedule and the weather were favorable. I took advantage of the excellent public transportation in this region by skating from train station to train station along the "Northeast Corridor" line.

I wouldn't recommend it as a total route. The whole point of my approach was to make it easy to select just a section to skate one-way, and use the trains to connect to or between finish and start. And every section had roads on it with significant vehicle traffic and tricky traffic situations -- so they should only be considered by expert road skaters who understand and can manage the special risks and dangers of skating out on roads in a variety of complicated situations.

I put summary info + links to reports on each section on this page:

My favorite section was Philadelphia PA to Trenton NJ, for lots of good pavement, easy navigation, variety of scenery. The section I've skated again the most times is between Linden and Newark NJ with long stretches of good pavement with fewer tricky traffic situations -- except the last few miles on the northeast end getting to the Newark Penn station get tricky with some more difficult pavement. The hardest section is between Newark and New York City (via the George Washington Bridge), though I've done it three or four times because I find it an interesting adventure.

I tried to choose my roads to avoid bad pavement and difficult traffic situations (though for some places I have not (yet) found a way to avoid them). This approach has surely resulted in a more complicated route with more different roads and turns than a skater just trying to "get through it" would want. But my idea was to try to find roads that I might want to skate again sometime.

I've also skated Lake George NY to Albany NY to New York City using a similar approach, and from NYC to the Jersey shore. I'd say Phila to NYC had a lower percentage of difficult pavement than the others, and definitely less hilly than Albany to NYC.


Travel to European cities with skates

posted to 06jun2:

Subject: Re: Traveling with inline skates

aaJoe wrote

it must be amazing to see American and European cities via skates.

I nearly always bring my skates when I travel. And I've had some great times exploring European cities on skates.

I've also had some disappointing times. I don't think you can just randomly pick a European (or American) city to visit and expect to have a fun time skating. And some cities have a few nice streets that are fun for a couple of hours, but then what do you do for the next two days?

I find it helps to do some advance research on the web. Sometimes local skaters publish the streets of their favorite skating routes. My first choice is to try to join with the group skate. But lots of times I'm not there on the right night, or find they cancelled it that week. Still their route makes a good starting point for my exploration -- then along the way I see other interesting streets and go off and get lost for a while. Second best are bicycle routes which can be gotten from a local tourist office or newsstand or website (though often I find that bicycle routes and paths have sections on bad pavement or dirt -- an opportunity to get creative?)

I've also found some delightful skating out in the European agricultural areas -- like this skating I did together with Sharon on her bicycle:
But out in the countryside is much more of a gamble, because there's fewer choices of roads and longer distances between choices. So the misery of getting jiggled and pounded on a rough road, and then another, can go on for long time. So for skating in the countryside, lots of times I try to scout the area in advance by car or bike -- and sometimes that leads me to decide not to skate there. But sometimes I have an instinct that an area is going to be good -- and I just go out skating thru the farms and vineyards (with a very detailed map).

I think if you're going to make finding great skating the major focus of a vacation trip, it makes sense to have a rental car. That way if the skating in one city does not work out, you can just drive to another one. Or much easier to hit the Monday night skate in one city, the Tuesday night some other city, then the Wednesday night skate ... (though of course I do not drive _into_ the city, at least not very far -- find a parking garage or public transit station near the edge). If you have people with different interests and abilities, a rental car offers a lot more flexibility so everybody is not forced to do the same skate -- not to mention more options on the second rainy day. Part of the cost of the car rental can be offset by using it to get to a cheap camping spot -- or some nights I just sleep in the car.


P.S. It doesn't make sense to head out into vehicle traffic situations and types of skating terrain in a foreign country, if you haven't practiced getting comfortable with similar situations around home. And it doesn't make sense to explore a foreign city or countryside on skates if you would not first feel comfortable exploring that same foreign place by walking.

skate Rhône-Alpes (France mostly)

posted to 06apr2:

Subject: skate Rhone-Alpes: Annecy Chambery Lyon Geneva (France mostly)

I've been exploring the Rhone-Alpes region on my inline-skates (when I'm not skiing), and I'm finding some good places:

  • Lac d'Annecy -- the most spectacular loop tour I've skated anywhere.

  • Chambery -- narrow pretty lanes thru farms to SE of city, cycle paths in + out of city.

  • Lyon -- lots of well-paved sidewalks + streets, some nice paths along the rivers.

  • Geneva -- delightful cycle path on southeast shore of the big lake.

I'm just a visiting American, so I'd be most glad for corrections and suggestions from local skaters, or more experience visitors.

Details below.


Lac d'Annecy

("lake of Annecy") The most spectacular skate loop tour in the world I've found so far which is all on decent pavement without ridiculously steep hills: great views of water and mountains -- like this: The loop is about 40km / 25 miles around a lake set in the midst of steep mountains. I did it clockwise starting from the ancient city of Annecy on a weekday afternoon: first skating on the motor-vehicle road on northeast side of lake (D909A) to Doussard: I remember about three significant climbs and a steep descent with tight curves. Then I got on the bicycle path on the southwest side of the lake to return to Annecy. It is now finished into the city, has several crossings of motor-vehicle roads. There were some sections of somewhat-coarse-stone pavement. Perhaps next time I might try it in the opposite direction, so I can take that steep hill with sharp curves as an uphill climb. I noticed that about two-thirds of the cyclists were riding the loop counter-clockwise.

Chambery region

They keep adding more cycling paths and routes in and out of the city, but my favorites are the narrow lanes through the farms and vineyards southeast from the city, which can be reached from the "Avenue Verte Sud" cycle path out by Challes-les-Eaux and St Baldolph and beyond -- with great views of three different mountain groups of the Alps. My introduction to these roads was the "Lac St Andre" bicycle route (marked with signs), but since then I've found variations with more fun skating and better views. Some older sections of the cycle paths have somewhat-coarse pavement, and some older sections of the motor-vehicle roads have coarse pavement -- so I'm glad I've switched to 100mm wheels. Anyway I think enduring some bumpy sections is worth it for the quality of the touring and views -- and someday they'll get repaved.

Lyon city

One of the largest cities in France. Good skating city, very pleasant when Sharon and I visited on a Sunday -- lots of well-paved sidewalks + streets. Paths along the Rhone + Saone rivers have some nicely paved sections (and other sections which are under construction, and others which remaing as dirt + gravel for bicycles and walkers). We started by following the 1st loop ("Randonnee Caranavale") from the website -- which had a lot of streets that we liked. Then we tried part of the 2nd loop ("Irigny") which started off good for us, but then not, so we turned around. Then we tried on some random streets on the east side of the Rhone river, and then random streets on Presqui'Ile, and found more fun skating, as long as we avoided the obvious hilly sections and a few ancient streets on west side of Saone with cobblestones.

Geneva / Geneve city

(in Switzerland, very near France) -- Decent skating city: Many of the sidewalks are OK, and some of the path on the north shore of the Rhone river -- but the city itself is not very big (at least before I ran into substantial hills that didn't seem fun for skating). The skating jewel of Geneva is the path on the southeast shore of the big lake (east from the city) -- views across the lake, and the Jura mountains beyond had snow on them in March. I did it out and back to Vesenaz (and a little further out on the vehicle road to Collonges). If doing it one way, I'd suggest trying to get public transportation out to Vesenaz and then skating back -- because of the hill and because the lane in that direction is closer to the lake for better views. Part of the path on the northwest shore of the lake was also good for me.

more . . .

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