Mar 2, 2008

Lift your knees toward your inside shoulder for good cross-overs

A short tip for today, that I'm sure to come back to and elaborate on later.

Good corner-skating technique is a very effective weapon in your Faster Skating arsenal if you can get the hang of it. There are some key points to cover when teaching good corner-skating technique... but I'm not going to cover them today.

Today, something you can take out the door with you right now if you are headed out for a skate

The corner-skating stroke action is of course called the Cross-Over. Its name, for new skaters, suggests the requirement to coordinate the lifting of one long and oddly-shaped skate over the other - whilst balancing momentarily on one skate. Perhaps Cross-Over is too black-and-white a name.

I'll cover this in more detail next post - but for now, what to remember, and what to visualize, to immediately improve your corners THIS SKATE:

The Cross-Over is best achieved while leaning - not before. So head into the turn with your bodyweight already shifting inward (loading more of your weight onto the inside skate - the one closest to the turn).

Then, when Crossing-Over, visualize lifting each knee in turn toward the inside shoulder. That's right, imagine two puppet-strings that run from your back, over your inside shoulder (the left shoulder, if you're turning left) and connect to the face of each knee. Each time you cross-over, the string is tightened and each knee is drawn in turn toward the inside shoulder.

If you keep your hips nicely forward over your skates when cornering, this action will bring one skate over the other neatly, simplify the action, and keep the skate level with the surface - ready for a quick setdown if necessary.

Go try this out!

Feb 26, 2008

Should I skate on 110mm wheels? - Part 2

4- & 3-wheel skates

So, picking up from where I left off in Part 1, the widespread use of larger-diameter wheels on the 4-wheel platform meant frame lengths (particularly for junior and smaller skaters) could be reduced to more manageable sizes without any loss in rolling performance. By 2007, at World Championship-level a wide range of 4-wheel frame lengths from 11.9- to 13.2-inches were being used, and at the beginner end of the sport, 3-wheel platforms emerged to bring further length reduction to 90- and 100mm skates.

With so many lengths available in the 3- and 4-wheel formats, there is a length to suit everybody, and together with larger-diameter wheels, a fast skate proportional to the size and ability of any skater.

Fundamental differences

But today’s ‘big’ wheels have different properties than their 76-80-84mm predecessors. 100- and 110mm wheels are capable of higher top-end speeds, but require more energy to accelerate to those speeds – as well as higher levels of technical discipline to make the most of those characteristics. A stronger skater with good technique can leverage their strength and power to accelerate large wheels up to their top speed, and take advantage of their ability to maintain that speed. A weaker skater may fatigue themselves trying to accelerate the larger wheels, and so not achieve the resultant speeds the wheels are capable of.

Comparing properties

To broadly compare ‘larger’ and ‘smaller’ wheels directly:

Larger wheels:

  • Higher potential top speed (if you have the strength, technique, conditioning to reach it – perhaps repeatedly as necessary)
  • Harder to accelerate
  • Reduced footspeed
  • Increased weight
  • Increased height = more movement to achieve a given angle with the road
  • Larger footprint (contact area with road) = more potential grip, more resistant to turning sharply

Smaller wheels:
  • Lower potential top speed (but easier to attain)
  • Easier to accelerate (acceleration from low speeds is more rapid, and repeated accelerations mid-race are easier)
  • Increased footspeed
  • Reduced weight
  • Reduced height = less movement to achieve a given angle with the road
  • Smaller footprint (contact area with road) = less potential grip, easier to turn sharply

What immediately comes to mind when looking over the above points of comparison, is what the requirements of different types of skating, or event, are. Where some require short-to-medium efforts of sustained high speed, others require extended skating at a variety of tempos with regular accelerative intervals. Depending on the type of skater you are, and the type of skating you do, your choice of larger or smaller wheels can affect whether you find the going tough, or have it easy.

Something to think about

Likewise, it is worth considering (perhaps the subject of another post) what effect, for example, just one skater in an event on 110mm wheels will have, versus what effect half of the field being on 110mm wheels will have. Just as top speeds have increased and times have dropped in recent years, the ‘shape’ of a race can be very much a product of what the skaters can do with the skates they have on. A points-race on a small track may have an up-and-down tempo and pace with a field full of 5x80mm skates (because those skates were suited to such a situation), but if half of those skaters were on 4x110mm – expect a set of frontrunners who want to wind the pace up and hold it there as long as possible, with far less dramatic bursts of acceleration.

…and remember, the speeds achievable on larger wheels are just that – achievable. Skaters need to be able to accelerate up to, and hold those speeds to make use of the skates. It is highly likely that a ‘threshold’ speed exists for each skater on larger wheels. If they skate for too long below that speed, the benefits from their heavier, taller wheels are negated and they just work themselves harder.

...back to Part 1 of 'Should I skate on 110mm wheels?'

Feb 21, 2008

Should I skate on 110mm wheels?

110mm wheels - legalized by the CIC from 2008. There was always going to be, and there has been, a lot of skaters jumping on 4x110mm skates as soon as that announcement came through.

From 76- to 80mm

When speed skating was done on 76mm wheels and 80mm wheels were available, some tried them and found situation-specific benefits from them, some did not. Some of the World's best time-trialists at the time skated on 80mm wheels but would switch back to 76mm wheels for some 300-meter events - believing their acceleration to be more rapid and their stroke rate to be faster on the smaller wheels. This went on even as late as 1995.

Soon after 5x80mm wheels became the dominant platform in speed skating, 82mm wheels were available. A handful of athletes tried these and believed in them, but the majority felt that having moved up to 80mm wheels that speed skating had found its 'ideal' wheel size. Racing changed during that time also, but with an increase 76-80mm of little over 5%, the changes perhaps weren't so noticeable.

From 80- to 84mm

Fast-forward to 2002 when one World Inline Cup team covertly employed 5x84mm as their race platform in the expanding Marathon World Cup. Just a 5% increase in wheel diameter from 80-84mm, but the long, high-speed straightline finishes of the World Cup where skaters were holding top speeds were just the situations to dramatically demonstrate the roll advantage that 5% translated into. When the 84mm secret was out, speed skaters of all shapes and sizes who had 5-wheel skates clambered to get on 5x84s. In the following 2+ years, as National and World Records tumbled, many respected voices in speed skating noted that skaters had 'done them on 84s.'

90- & 100mm wheels, and the 4-wheel platform

But the swing that occurred 2004-2006 toward 100mm wheels was a different one. Where the 76-80-84mm diameter growth had always involved 5-wheel skates and necessarily resulted in frames becoming longer to accommodate it, 100mm wheels provided a roll advantage that could be used in a 4-wheel skate - and the frame length that was 13.3-inches on 5x84 could be 11.9-inches on 4x100 (with the new 195mm mount-separation).

The advantage was twofold: increased roll at top speeds compared with 84mm wheels, and shorter, more maneuverable frames that could be accelerated more readily than their 5x84mm predecessors. With industry-thinking turned on to larger wheel diameters, 90mm wheels were also marketed, and found popular use in the 4-wheel platforms of junior skaters and some senior women - as well as some interest in 5x90mm experimentation.

...on to Part 2 of 'Should I skate on 110mm wheels?'

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