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How to skate on Rough Ground



Many of the uphill tips will also work to make it easier to skate over rough surfaces. If you live in London, you'll know all about rough road skating. If you live and skate elsewhere, chances are you'll only think you do. LOL, sorry, I couldn't resist that after travelling to the continent and seeing so many skaters struggle to deal with what for us London skaters was actually pretty easy and smooth terrain. It is a double-edged sword though, some of our roads are very rough and not so pleasant to skate on, but it's great for our skating ability.

I'd recommend treating rough road with great respect, as there's a very high chance of falling, with a corresponding increased risk of injuring yourself. If you have to skate over it, then I hope these tips will help make it a little easier and safer for you.
Wiggly toes

Here's how to do wiggly toes: Stand still in your skates, bend your knees more than usual, and then subtly shift your weight back towards your heel, but not so far that you fall over backwards. You should be able to lift your toes and wiggle them, or play an imaginary piano with them. Bring your weight forwards towards your toes, and you should feel your toes press into the bottom of your boot. Notice the difference?

You want to have wiggly toes pretty much all the time you're skating forwards, but especially when skating over rough ground. This is the single most important tip as your skates will deal with rough surfaces much more easily now that the toe is lighter than the heel, since it helps your skate to pop up and over bumps in the road. It has some other important effects as well - it helps to make your stride more efficient, and makes your skates much easier to steer and control. Lastly it also reduces the chance of getting speed wobble at high speeds.
Shorter strides

Shorter strides are great because your skates don't get as far away from your centreline at the end of every push. When skating rough ground, often your skate gets slowed by hitting an especially rough patch or a bump towards the end of your push. The shorter stride means you're less likely to be torqued off balance and towards that skate because it's not so far from your body and doesn't have as much leverage over your balance.

It's also good for your street cred if you can avoid that arm flailing when trying to keep your balance if this happens to you, LOL!
Higher cadence

Having a higher cadence will help your recovering skate (the one that's in the air and being brought back under your centreline ready for the next stride) come underneath your body more quickly. If you do lose your balance on the other skate, at least this skate is now under your body and ready to catch you.

Secondly, quick changes in weight from one skate to the other also make it easier to swap feet if one skate gets caught on something.
More knee bend

Again gives you better balance and helps to keep you on your feet and ready and prepared. If you watch any action sport such as rugby, football, etc., you'll notice that at the start of play players stand with plenty of knee bend. Not only do they have good balance in this position, but they can move quickly and powerfully in almost any direction. That's equally useful when skating over rough pavement and having to quickly manoeuvre through other skaters, manhole covers, etc. Lighter feet and quicker steps can do marvels for going over gatorback.
More Speed

Going a little faster is almost always better than going too slow since the vibrations start to affect your balance and skate control much more at lower frequencies. Keep the speed medium-high and your skates will average out the vibration much better, a little like driving a car on a gravel road with corrugations.

At all costs avoid slowing down so much you end up having to "walk" in your skates, since this is often more likely to cause a fall than skating over at speed.
Practice

More practice on rough ground will also help. Some skaters start out life skating indoors, and then have a rude awakening the first time they skate, even if that's on a reasonably smooth road. Don't go straight for the roughest most badass surface you can find to practice on, but rather try something that's only slightly more challenging than what you're used to skating on normally. This way you aren't as likely to fall, and yet you still get to work on your rough surface skills and improve.
Bigger wheels and longer frames

The rough stuff is much easier to deal with if you have larger wheels, 5 wheels, and/or longer fitness frames. All of these reduce the effects of gatorback and make life much easier than going over it in hockey skates, for example.

Depending on your weight and skating wheels, it may also be worth trying different wheel hardnesses. Since I'm a fairly lightweight skater, I tend to like softer wheels, but those may not work for a heavy skater.
When it gets really rough?

Hope you have enough speed to make it to the other side! Stop striding and scissor your skates just as in one step of the how to heelbrake stop here. This will give you great fore-aft stability and make it that much safer. If you feel unsafe, then by all means take your skates off and walk in your socks/shoes until you get back to safe ground again.

Be aware that scissoring to cover a short patch of rough ground is great, but it won't help if you have a longer stretch. Then you'll have to either skate or walk if it's too bad to skate on.
Be careful!

Don't forget that rough ground is a significant hazard, so treat it with great respect. Also rough ground tends to reduce the available traction, and even more so when wet. Be careful out there!

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