Introduction to Inline Skating

Introduction to this inline skating content, and to inline skating in general.


The development of the inline skating content here spans a decade. Andrew has been a life-long avid local skater, back to teenage weekends at Rainbo Roller Rink (RIP).
Andrew began inline skating in about 1994, and by 1998 published the "Virtual Skate" slideshow, and extraordinarily detailed Chicago lakefront path maps online.
In 1999 Andrew launched the (now retired) domain.
Then in 2000 Andrew created the ChicagoSkater Yahoo group.
In 2009 Andrew launched, a NING powered social network, but then merged that into the larger "Meetup" group.
The Yahoo group still persists, but all inline skating website content has been returned here.

Andrew is a former skate commuter, local anti-automobile activist, deeply involved with Chicago Critical Mass and other major local bike/skate events.



If you're not sure you want to get into blading, rent some a few times. In warm months go to the North Avenue beach house or to Navy Pier. Note that good inline skates are much better than rentals.


Plan to spend as much as $200, possibly more including safety equipment. A good inline skate may last many years. A cheap inline skate will be so frustrating as to make you quit. Good used inline skates are an option if you're REALLY strapped. Stick with name brands until you know better. Be aware now that serious blading will also incur ongoing expenses in brakes, wheels and bearings. Buy only at professional sports stores.


The bearing is the heart of the inline skate. Turn a inline skate over and spin a wheel. Count the seconds it keeps spinning. Good bearings will spin maybe six seconds, and excellent bearings longer. Inline skates from Target stop spinning almost immediately. This determines the feel of the blading, the ease of maneuvers and coasting. ABEC 5 is the best commonly available, but there is some argument that beginners should start with the slower ABEC 3 for their own safety.


I've had great results with inline skates that feel as if they are my feet, not something I'm wearing. The hard shells have pivoting joints making them almost like space-age exo-feet. They make hard blading easier and keeping the inline skater's ankles almost invulnerable. The few times I've tried soft shell inline skates they've felt almost unusably mushy.


This may not be an option, but 72mm can be frustrating for distance blading. In my experience larger wheels (up to 80mm on most inline skates) seem to make distance much easier while effecting maneuverability (turning radius for example) acceptably little.


Really! Reading in advance about the basic move will save you from some stupid first injuries and kick start your first blading. A good book should cover stopping, several basic strokes and turning. Understand these moves before you try to inline skate! Ideally, go out with a good inline skater friend to tutor you.


An inline skater earns the right to wear less gear. Not wearing it as a beginner is just stupid. Sorry, but you've got to spend another $30-40 on wrist, elbow, and knee guards and a helmet. If you have money to spare, also buy a good shoulder bag for your inline skates.



Or you WILL hurt you wrists at some point. Always wear them every time. When a person falls they naturally use their hands to stop the impact. Wrist guards make this safe.


Do not hunch over and definitely do not lean forward. Bend at the knees, body slightly tipped forward, like a skier posture. Bent knees give you less distance to fall, better balance, and best of all your knees act like suspension springs. Typical first time inline skaters standing stiff upright are as sure to fall as a pencil balanced on it's eraser.


This is my single best, most real hint. Most great inline skaters I've spoken with agree. Though parts of new tricks can be learned, taught, or watched, there's no magical get good quick secret (unless you're under 20 and brilliantly fit to begin with). There's no shame in practicing a maneuver (a figure eight for example) over and over again.


Or you will loose some skin at some point. If in shorts, consider wearing knee guards. If in short sleeves consider elbow guards or two thirds length sleeves. Even if you don't always use them, you should own a complete set of wrist, knee and elbow guards, and most will say a helmet. I sometimes use cut off socks over my elbows, and/or elastic knee supports. These provide some protection without the restriction of motions.


Unless it is empty, or you are a good inline skater and it is almost empty. It's just not safe. Even experts should wear a helmet whenever blading in the street where ANY cars may be present. Also obey traffic signals. Wait at yellow lights just in case. Car drivers (and especially SUV owners) can be UNBELIEVABLE ASSHOLES and cannot be trusted AT ALL. Often, blading in recreational areas or on Friday or Saturday nights, I believe a large percentage of drivers to be drunk. One can't afford even the tiniest contact with a car. Also, pavement quality has many dangers. Watch out for gravel, sand, cracks, holes, tar, oil, and moisture.


Memory Snaps
A closure mechanism which once adjusted can be simply snapped open or locked. Older snaps are a simple plastic rachet band which must be readjusted every time the inline skate is put on.

"Active Breaking Technology", the Rollerblade brand patented braking system, whereby the brake shoe pivots down through a lever/rod when one bends the right ankle. Theoretically one can keep all wheels on the ground while braking. This is as opposed to a fixed brake where one must tip one inline skate up, lifting the front wheels off the ground.

The grading system for bearings. In the middle of each wheel are two disks filled with ball bearings, one disk on each side of the wheel. The are separated through the wheel by a hub. The wheel mounting bolt passes through this hub. The surface of the ball bearings must be perfectly spherical to a fraction of a thousandth of an inch. Smoother bearings cost more to make. A complete set of 16 of the commonly available best bearing, ABEC 5, is under $50. In my opinion, Killer Bees are fine, but not great. Don't bother getting serviceable bearings (can be opened). Cleaning is not worth the work, and they're never as good as new. A good inline skater does however own bearing cleaner and lubricant.

##mm ##A
The wheel diameter in millimeters, and the hardness rating. Different wheel brands and formulations feel different even at the same durometer rating. Wheel diameter is discussed above. I feel that durometer ratings of 74 or below wear out too fast, but may give better traction on a wooden floor for example. Ratings of 82 and above are hard to find except in the tiny aggressive wheels. I have tried 86 and found them very strange, like solid plastic. I've therefore pretty much settled on 80A.


I bought my first skates in 1994, inspired by a girlfriend. They were RollerBlades (I don't remember the model) rehabbed used rentals for only $79 from Rainbow. In 1996 I graduated to new RollerBlade Aeroblade, a hardshell with three non-memory snaps, ABT brake and ABEC 5 bearings. I think it was marked down from $295 to $199 due to end of season/model year. The boots have pumps for inflatable fitting, but I never used them and one side stopped working. They held up well (until stolen) through maybe five bearing replacements, and maybe 30 wheels replacements. I typically use wheels around 80mm 80A range. I've tried K2, Rossignol, and others, but RollerBlades remain my favorites, despite great annoyance with the overly gimmick laden 21st century models.


Travel light.
Things in pockets can cause injuries. Backpacks or even fannypacks ruin one's balance. Always bring money and maybe a skate tool, optionally a protein bar and a bandage. If blading the Chicago paths you don't need to bring water, there's plenty of fountains.

Don't skate drunk.
I love drinking, but have found that more than one beer and I have a 50% chance of hurting myself.

Stay hydrated!
I stop at most water fountain.

NEVER get sand in your skates!
If even a little gets into the bearings they will be destroyed. Bring a hefty sack if going to the beach. Water saturation (such as skating in the rain) will also destroy bearings promptly.

Don't over-tighten wheels.
There's a delicate balance between tight enough to not fall off and loose enough to not inhibit the wheel. Keep them fairly tight, but not the tightest they can be. Also, watch which way you insert axles versus bolts. There may be a preferred orientation.

Wheel Rotation:
My pattern is not what is shown in most manuals, but it's what I now believe works best.
  1. Skate about 20-30 miles.
    The wheels should be visibly worn on one side.
    On each skate simply flip the wheels over.
    Keep them in the exact same spots. Simply face the label the opposite way out. Make sure to get the bolt/axle in the right way. On mine the bolts go on the in-facing side.
  2. Skate another 20-30 miles.
    The wheels should now be worn back to even.
    Swap the wheels to the opposite skate.
    Optionally re-order them swapping the most and least worn. I've found this whole method best because it's the only way to keep an even edge. Changing the order at every rotation as typically advised causes uneven side wear, causing a wobbly skate. If wheel diameters have worn to be too dramatically different one can compensate by flipping some of the spacers (if the skate has this feature).
  3. Repeat.
Other great tutorials:

RollerBlade Maintenance web pages. Detailed coverage of all maintenance, even has videos.

IISA's Blade Maintenance web pages. Good basics, easy to use, well linked.


Andrew's (sorry if too cryptic) personal checklist / quick reference / naming of basic to advanced inline skating moves, for personal skills inventory development:
Forward strokes:
 Basic stroke with lift return.
 Gentle stroke w/o lift.
 Stand on toes.
 Coast on toes.
 Heel toe glide.
 One toe?
 Coasting squat, touch ground w/ hand.
 One foot dip.
 Curb step up.
 Curb step down.
 Curb skate off.
 Curb jump off.
 Sideways skip.
 Two foot height jump.
 Two foot distance jump.
 One foot skip.
 With feet folded under to the side?
 Steps down.
 Steps up.
 Steps leap?
 Jump on/off bench?
 Half pipes?
 Stroked curve.
 Two foot in line.
 With crossover.
 Two foot tight weave.
 One foot.
 Two foot slallom.
 One foot slallom?
 One foot tight weave?
 Deep, scraping side of skate.
Feet facing 180 degrees:
 Wide curve?
 Tight circle?
 Sweep reversal.
 Two pivot reversal?
 Jump reversal.
 One foot reversal?
 Fish tail stroke.
 Basic stroke w/o lift.
 Basic stroke with lift, return.
 One foot?