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Speed Skating Forum Most of the discussions in this forum will be about inline speed skating but discussions about ice speed skating and quad roller speed skating are also welcome.

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Old January 3rd, 2011, 01:32 AM   #1
PBLsQuad450
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Default Road or trail skating?

Hey all, just wondering about how may folks skate on the open raod vs. trails. Seems like mostly trails. I have a few good options for trail skating, so I am kind of lucky, but honestly, I want to do more road skating. I am almost exactly 11 miles from home to work. Great skate each way right? I'm lucky, I work for a University and double lucky, our new (brand new, this year) athletic center (4,200+) has a gym, showers and the like readily available, so that is covered with some good planning anyway... I do get worried that I have my back to traffic and most of my trip is really excellent, but I have one long bridge and a stretch of very narrow road (about 2 miles) and no rear view mirrors! Cyclists at least are narrow, in a classic or DP I am usinig a lot of lateral space.

If anyone has stories or experience or tips or warnings or opinions on road vs. trail skating please send along. I realize I'm not the first post on this subject, but it is a valuable point of discussion, at least for a newbie like me, to hear from the more experienced...

Thanks all, PL
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 01:52 AM   #2
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I skate on both, although I prefer the trail over road for the same reasons or concerns you're raising (back traffic, a relatively broad "zone" needed to push, plus potential frequent stops are no fun at all).

I often skate to a nearby park that has a decent trail, than do my main workout on the trail, and than skate back. I end up doing less that five miles on the road, roundtrip. Oh, I work for a university, too, but never skated to work.
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 01:55 AM   #3
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Tempted? Ya gotta be? Not in my conference I hope NEC.
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 02:25 AM   #4
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Tempted - very much so. But I work with students at a pretty close proximity, and the busy traffic around the campus prevent me from doing so. Perhaps some day.
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 06:45 AM   #5
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Default If you have to road skate...

...I would suggest getting one of those small rear view mirrors that you attach to your helmut. They are invaluable when you have your back to traffic. You can find them in cylcing stores or on cycling websites.
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 07:26 AM   #6
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I usually do both but more trails and parks got used to skate even on a less decent surfaces if needed. Most of the training for me self i do in the park or empty parking lots. On roads it's only with the skating groups where you have more skaters and your not invisible. rarely train on roads alone it's to risky and here there are to many crazy dumb ass drivers. only at night when there's less traffic it's mostly better.
There is a great place where cyclists train awesome road but very hard 30 k"m of ascents and a few descents, you do that very early at sunrise where there almost zero traffic and a great weather. you work hard but it's worth it .
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 09:03 AM   #7
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I skate in my gated community. The open roads here suck, traffic sucks, and there are no trails.

Luckily, the loop that I do is smooth and has little traffic.
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 12:30 PM   #8
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This year we skated roads almost exclusively for our summer training, despite having a massive trail very conveniently located. If you're racing outside on a road course, you simply have to train on similiar terrain. The bulk of our training was directed towards our team's participation in A2A which is all hills. You can't train adequately for hills on a flat bike trail.

For road skating, my general feeling is that it strictly depends on the road and time of day. There are tons of roads around here that I won't even ride my bike on, much less be caught skating on. Just too much traffic going way too fast. I think it's important to bear in mind that there is already a fairly decent prejudice amongst drivers towards cyclists. My sentiment is that skaters are even more likely to incite their rage. Why? Skaters are slower, take up more space and just different. If you go out there alone I think you become a much bigger target for, um, everything. I absolutely do not ever skate roads alone and I sternly advise my team to do the same. We have an awesome network of country roads that we skate and ride on regularly, but solo is a no-no for us. I feel roadskating alone makes one a much bigger target for random acts of stupidity and the times I have wound up alone during A2A are a perfect example. Way more honking, dirty looks and nasty behavior. Folks in the city may have a different experience so let's hear it, but for us it would be a crazy idea to roadskate alone. I'm sure there are plenty of folks that aren't bugged by it in general and if you feel safe, have at it. I think some states it's actually against the law, so check that out.

I'd cycle your route a few times and try to get a feel for it. There are plenty of drivers out there that are consistently reluctant to move around things like cyclists, the postman, etc. If your route is one that aggravates this condition regularly AND you're doing this in busier traffic times, you're likely to encounter a much higher percentage of road rage. Not good.

Developing a sense for cars passing is clearly vital for safe road skating. The mirror is a good idea, but making sure you can hear clearly is critical. Generally speaking, we shorten up our strides and/or close stride altogether and coast to allow cars to pass. This is also a gesture of courtesy that may not always be acknowledged, but it doesn't hurt. If you're crawling up a hill with traffic building up behind you, it's a good idea to step off the road altogether. One thing that is critical for managing your road space is that you do not yield the road while in motion without a clear continuous path ahead unless you are prepared to stop. Case in point, if your route has shoulders of varying widths and it widens at the point of a driveway and you step onto that wide part, the cars are going to fill the vacuum of the space you just vacated and you won't be able to get it back until an opening occurs. Being in traffic is one danger, entering and reentering the flow is another. Try to minimize these occurences. It's better just to stay in traffic sometimes than to try and zig in and zig out. This is critical for cyclists as well because of the debris on the road that could cause a flat. The closer you get to the edge, the more likely you are to encounter a hunk of something that could give a cyclist a flat OR cause a skater to trip.

Make yourself visible. A headlight and a blinky for your backside would be a part of my regular accoutrements if I was going to skate commute. We don't use them on our country roads for skating, but on the bike we are regularly pushing the limits of daylight and it is a must.

I can't emphasize enough how critical it will be to make a few dry runs on a bike before you hit it on the skates. Cars communicate if you're listening. If you are getting more than 1 in 4 giving it the "standing on the accelerator" as they pull around just to let you know how urgent their trip is, then it might be too busy of a route to skate on. If someone buzzes by you closer than they need to and your spidey instincts are telling you that they did it on purpose because the road was clear enough for them to give you a wider berth, then they were likely doing it on purpose. It happens a lot on bikes. If you're getting frequent honks, not good. There are different honks on the road. If you get the light "toot toot", that's usually some one with some measure of decency politely letting you know that they're passing. Without turning to look, I generally try to give a wave to acknowledge the toot and as a gesture of courtesy. Courtesy typically begets courtesy and we all could use a little more of that. On the other hand, if you hear the blaring, "look out I'm an a$$hole, but I want to make sure you know it in plenty of time so I'm laying on the horn", then you can bet the farm that this person truly is an a$$hole, at least behind the wheel.

Just some food for thought. It's all I got for now. Good luck and be safe. For commuting, I'd weigh heavily the value vs the benefit of skating and would encourage biking instead as a rule of thumb.
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 11:39 PM   #9
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Some advice I'll give based upon years of skating both roads and trails:

Trails are usually a better surface than the roadways, as they are not subjected to the loads of cars/trucks driving on them. But skating on trails brings in some considerations that you may never have to use on the roads.

Most trails I have ever skated on have been between 8 and 12 feet wide (2.4M-3.7M). Whether you skate with a DP technique, or a classic technique you will easily be using 6 feet of the trail width (1.8M) as you skate along. On trails you will likely be sharing the trail with walkers, runners, and even cyclists. To stay safe, you need to announce yourself as you approach walkers and runners, as you will be moving considerably faster than they are, and you will be moving relatively quietly. I always carry a referee's whistle with me when I am skating. As I approach walkers or runners, I can toot the whistle a couple times to forwarn my approach. The whistle works very well because it will register with walkers/runners who have their iPods plugged into their ears. The whistle also works when skating on roads to get the attention of drivers as you approach a corner, but for that situation you have to blast the whistle to be sure the driver hears it.

One other thing to be very aware of when skating on trails are walkers with dogs. Two things to keep in mind about dogs: 1) a dog that would be considered good natured, calm and friendly, may want to give chase after you because you are moving along reasonably fast. Just as you should announce your approach to walkers, runners, cyclists, it is very important to do this to walkers with dogs. This is the second reason- if someone is walking their dog and they have a Flexi-lead or a long leash on the dog, that dog might dart across the trail in front of you just as you are about to pass. By announcing your approach, any responsible dog owner will make sure their dog is under control, and the leash is not long enough so that the dog could dart across the trail in front of you.
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Old January 4th, 2011, 12:26 AM   #10
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Some advice I'll give based upon years of skating both roads and trails:

Trails are usually a better surface than the roadways, as they are not subjected to the loads of cars/trucks driving on them. But skating on trails brings in some considerations that you may never have to use on the roads.

Most trails I have ever skated on have been between 8 and 12 feet wide (2.4M-3.7M). Whether you skate with a DP technique, or a classic technique you will easily be using 6 feet of the trail width (1.8M) as you skate along. On trails you will likely be sharing the trail with walkers, runners, and even cyclists. To stay safe, you need to announce yourself as you approach walkers and runners, as you will be moving considerably faster than they are, and you will be moving relatively quietly. I always carry a referee's whistle with me when I am skating. As I approach walkers or runners, I can toot the whistle a couple times to forwarn my approach. The whistle works very well because it will register with walkers/runners who have their iPods plugged into their ears. The whistle also works when skating on roads to get the attention of drivers as you approach a corner, but for that situation you have to blast the whistle to be sure the driver hears it.

One other thing to be very aware of when skating on trails are walkers with dogs. Two things to keep in mind about dogs: 1) a dog that would be considered good natured, calm and friendly, may want to give chase after you because you are moving along reasonably fast. Just as you should announce your approach to walkers, runners, cyclists, it is very important to do this to walkers with dogs. This is the second reason- if someone is walking their dog and they have a Flexi-lead or a long leash on the dog, that dog might dart across the trail in front of you just as you are about to pass. By announcing your approach, any responsible dog owner will make sure their dog is under control, and the leash is not long enough so that the dog could dart across the trail in front of you.
sharing the trail in Seattle was always burdensome. Runners hate the skaters, cyclists think thought they were superior(self accused), walkers could not control their dogs. Trails were a haven for trouble during peak hours and all summer long.
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Old January 4th, 2011, 12:33 AM   #11
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.... and no rear view mirrors! .....

Performancebike - mirror.
This one worked best for me. Using it for years. Helps with road crossings. Also if I'm pulling a paceline I can tell if I'm losing anyone.
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Old January 4th, 2011, 03:33 AM   #12
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A rear view mirror is helpful in many situations. However, risk on the road is really high! It takes a split of a second for a driver to get distracted with tasks as simple as changing a station on the car radio, let alone talking on cell phone (and trying to take notes), or texting, or reaching for things on the passengers seat, and hit a skater.
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Old January 4th, 2011, 03:59 AM   #13
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sharing the trail in Seattle was always burdensome. Runners hate the skaters, cyclists think thought they were superior(self accused), walkers could not control their dogs. Trails were a haven for trouble during peak hours and all summer long.
Not to mention in Seattle you can get a ticket for "toy vechicle in the road"
Just ask Steve!
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Old January 4th, 2011, 05:57 AM   #14
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...Trails are usually a better surface than the roadways, as they are not subjected to the loads of cars/trucks driving on them...
Trails are smoother, roads are cleaner of debris. Our largest trail is mostly tree lined and debris is always an issue. The vast majority of falls outside are due to debris on the trail despite constant vigilance.

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...One other thing to be very aware of when skating on trails are walkers with dogs...
I'll take the leashed dogs over the loose dogs found road skating any day of the week. With the leashed dogs, it's imperative that you give a clear and early warning of your approach while being sure to keenly observe a reaction from the pet owner. No reaction, say it again louder, more forcefully. Same thing w/parents and little kids and packs of gabby people. No reaction to your callout and you better be prepared to slow or stop. Don't be afraid to calmly and politely remind the citizenry that the trail is a two laned road and they are blocking both lanes.

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Trails were a haven for trouble during peak hours and all summer long.
It's always a challenge to get a good rhythm going on a trail with more than two people. For a nice early morning solo skate, it's hard to beat. Definitely very few serene moments on the road.

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However, risk on the road is really high!
This remains the single biggest concern for road skating. I've never worried about becoming a grease spot on the bike trail.

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...I always carry a referee's whistle with me when I am skating. As I approach walkers or runners, I can toot the whistle a couple times to forwarn my approach.
I'm not a fan of the whistle on the bike trail. Nor am I a fan of the cyclists that use just their little ding bell to alert folks of their presence. I think it's an impersonal way of communication when a voice will not only work, but work better if done properly. Whistles or bells just force the other user to make a much bigger reaction because it isn't clear what the noise is about, not to mention that people don't like having noises projected at them. On the road, I think the police whistle is a great idea and I've seen is used extremely successfully at A2A by one of the Roadskater.net people, maybe Mark S.

For years, a clearly yet firmly announced, "coming up on your left" with plenty of warning has served me extremely well. A subtle "thank you" with a little wave as you pass is always a good idea. Whatever works for everybody, I guess, but I vote for friendly interaction on the trails, not noises that make it more like being on the street.
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Old January 4th, 2011, 04:26 PM   #15
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I'm in a mostly-rural community with lots of farms, commuters and summer tourists. Since the nearest trail is the better part of an hour away, road skating is an essential part of building the distance I need to hack through A2A. Here are my self-inflicted rules for road skating:
  1. Never Skate Solo if:
    • You have a definite time of arrival - Gotta-get-there-itis can be deadly
    • You haven't scouted the entire route on bike at the same time of day and week - A road that's less traveled in the evening can be crowded Sunday morning. Fixed gear is best for scouting - it tells you about both up and downhills.
    • It's a holiday assocaited with enforced family contact and/or heavy drinking. -Too many folks with their "heads in the cockpit"
    • it's before daybreak, or after dark.
    • You don't have a bailout plan Cell phone and some to call, safe houses en route, quarter for the bus, etc...I've used them all...
    • Away from the winery after a "rest stop"
  2. Be visible and predictable
  3. If you can skate as fast as the cars, you must
  4. Never follow skaters crazier than you are.
  5. If a dog chased you last week, don't worry about that one this week Loose dogs don't last long on the roads.
  6. Respect traffic signage, Obey traffic signals, Fear traffic circles.
  7. No music, no peeking at the GPS on the road
    And finally:
  8. If you're going to skate on the road don't skate on the sidewalk, crosswalk, parking spaces, etc.

For trails:
  1. Respect pedestrain control signals at road crossings Cars don't expect people to pop out from the trail at speed. That's where I really worry about watching one of my skating partners end of a grease spot.
  2. Pass cleanly and quickly or not at all The trail's always too narrow to rotate pulls.
  3. Accept that good form isn't going to happen Trail's too narrow for a full DP
  4. Sight the distance before sprinting

Where I live, if you're going to stay in shape, then you're pretty much going to have to use the roads. Fortunately there's enough of them that go somewhere slowly or have shoulders to put together a few real distance and hill courses.
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Old January 4th, 2011, 05:52 PM   #16
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,,,If a dog chased you last week, don't worry about that one this week. Loose dogs don't last long on the roads.
They do up round these parts. For at least three years, we've had one stretch that has a nasty german shepard on one side and then about a mile later an entire fleet of mutts and dogs that are fairly reliable. They boxed me in a few years ago, but then didn't know what to do with me. I've learned to have fun with them. I call it "stringing along the dog". You can do it with cyclist wannabees as well. Just as the pursuers begin to peak with their effort level, you slow down just a tad. With a dog, they will typically not be able to resist the instinct to keep chasing. Here's the rub: You're actually giving the dog a better workout and helping him get in shape! It's more fun with humans because they can grasp the "eff you" in your statement. Just be careful with the humans; what goes around, comes around.
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Old January 4th, 2011, 08:26 PM   #17
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Some good stuff JT, and Jeff.

Around here road skating is not an option. I live in an area where folks just don't cotton to cylists let alone skaters. The roads have debris...gravel and loose dirt and all it would take is one distracted driver or an untimely slip and skating is over...permanently. I'm not taking that chance.

Trails. on the other hand are great in this area. My local trail is 3 miles away and is swept every Friday. Debris can still be a problem after high winds but I'll take road rash over death any day. The trail is plenty wide enough for a ful stride and rarely busy enough that I can't skate as fast as I want to. If it is busy I just slow down. Dogs are a potential problem. Many dog owners seem to think they are entitled to the entire trail.

I don't really care for the whistle idea either. I think Jeff got it from the big guy from Ohio that used to skate at the Silverdome. I just call out politely as I pass.
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Old January 4th, 2011, 10:55 PM   #18
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For years, a clearly yet firmly announced, "coming up on your left" with plenty of warning has served me extremely well. A subtle "thank you" with a little wave as you pass is always a good idea. Whatever works for everybody, I guess, but I vote for friendly interaction on the trails, not noises that make it more like being on the street.
Agreed. I should have explained myself a bit more thoroughly. I prefer to "call ahead" and announce to walkers/runners/cyclists that I am "passing on the left".

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I'm not a fan of the whistle on the bike trail. Nor am I a fan of the cyclists that use just their little ding bell to alert folks of their presence. I think it's an impersonal way of communication when a voice will not only work, but work better if done properly. Whistles or bells just force the other user to make a much bigger reaction because it isn't clear what the noise is about, not to mention that people don't like having noises projected at them.
I really only use the whistle in two situations: 1) on the road when I am approaching an intersection and there are car(s) at the intersection. 2) When I am approaching a walker/runner/cyclist who has an MP3 player or iPod on. I watch for the white wires bouncing about the shoulder area. If I see those wires, I whistle - they're likely not going to hear any vocal announcement short of a full yell. Quite frankly I don't give a crap what the walker/runner/cyclist may think about getting startled by my whistle. I don't take any gambles when it comes to my safety while skating or cycling.
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Old January 5th, 2011, 12:03 AM   #19
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Quite frankly I don't give a crap what the walker/runner/cyclist may think about getting startled by my whistle.
That's an option. For me, I live 2 miles from two different access points on the trail and certain years, I'm down there all the time. This is part of my community, regardless of their activity. I'm regularly handing out cards and trying to ingratiate myself, my team and my sport with the rest of the world. We just don't seem to get mindless people that are all over the trail. I watch the people that I'm passing and if they haven't shown any inclinations to beebop all over the trail in the time I've approached, then it's fairly safe to assume that they won't regardless of ipod. In that case, I don't make any unusual provisions for passing.

Your description makes it sound like you blow your whistle at every person that you pass that is wearing an ipod. Is that accurate? FWIW, my ipod wires are black and are held close to my face and neck by the helmet straps.
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Old January 5th, 2011, 04:11 AM   #20
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I think that in the right situation, road skating can be as safe or safer than trails. During the last 4 summers I skated 90%+ of my miles on roads, solo, and felt very safe and my only issue was road rash, once. The road I skate starts on the edge of suburbia and heads out into rolling horse farm country, has wide shoulders and a moderate to light amount of traffic. I can skate on the shoulder and pay attention to but not worry about traffic. Every once in a great while someone will yell something at me but I have never had a seriously aggressive driver. Probably because I am not blocking "their" road.

One other thing that makes my local road enjoyable is I can go 6.5 miles one way without a stop sign or stop light. No stops! Most trails are not like that! You do have to watch for occasional cross traffic, but the drivers almost always see you. Just like on a trail, you have to have a bail out plan "just in case".

When on vacation, I have had no problem daytime skating on country roads with minimal traffic. Out in the country cars are used to having to pull around slow moving vehicles, tractors, etc. Not that a skater is as large as a tractor (although this time of year sometimes I feel like it), but we do have arms and legs flying around enough to be fairly visible.

I have skated on busy roads with no shoulders with lots of stops required and that can really bite, so I get where some people are coming from. That kind of road is not very safe and not as fun as skating should be. And maybe I am biased having grown up biking two lane highways with no shoulders and quite a bit of traffic. In comparison, road skating like I am doing seems very safe!
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