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Introduction to Skating/blading

The first recorded Rollerskating was in a play in 18th century London. After initial experiments with various designs, the first widely adopted roller skate was a quad skate, with 2 wheels side by side in front and back. It was not until the 1980's, when the Rollerblade company developed and promoted Rollerblades, that inline skating (now also called Rollerblading) became an internationally popular alternative to the traditional roller skates.

The 1990's saw explosive growth in inline skating — there are approximately 50 million people worldwide who do it. The original inline skates (Rollerblades) had four wheels all in a line, attached to a hard shall boot. Since then, many other manufacturers have created their own inline skates. Today, a wide variety of skates that are specialized for different styles of skating are available.

The various styles of skating include speed, fitness and recreation, aggressive, and artistic.

Aggressive skating is a style that involves advanced skating maneuvers, such as grinds, airs, and slides. It includes a variety of tricks that are performed on obstacles outside of skate parks — "street skating" with tricks performed on railings, benches, ledges, and so on.

Artistic skating is figure skating on inline skates instead of ice skates.

Speed skating is just that — it takes advantage of skates with a longer wheelbase and no brakes.

Recreation and fitness skating is the most popular form of inline skating, and participants engage in elements of all three other styles. Many recreational skaters enjoy the aerobic workout that skating provides. A 155 lb person will burn about 350 calories per hour skating at 8 mph, and 750 calories per hour at 12 mph. You may want to look up your calorie consumption.

Skate construction

The components of a skate are the boot, the frame, the bearings, and the wheels.

Boots

The first inline skate had a hard shell for the boot, with an inner liner. The hard boot provides good ankle support, and provides better control of the skate, which makes it ideal for hockey and aggressive skating. The soft boot can be more comfortable, which may explain why they are now the most popular type of boot on fitness and recreation skates. Speed skates have a lower cut to the boot, which provides less support but greater flexibility at the ankle.

Frames

The frame can be built of high grade plastic such as polyyurethane, aluminum, magnesium alloy, or carbon fiber. The length of the frame can vary from 230mm for a 4 wheel recreation skate, to 325mm for a five wheel racing skate.

Bearings

Each wheel of the skate has its own bearing. The ABEC rating provides a measure of bearing quality, on a scale from 1 to 9. Moderately priced skates typically use ABEC 3. ABEC 5 bearings are a step up and not much more expensive. ABEC 7 bearings are used by racers, and can be quite a bit more expensive. The ABEC rating does not consider what quality steel is used in the bearing, but it is a measure of the overall quality of the bearing. Recently, ceramic bearings have entered the market — they are made of silver nitride, which does not rust, and requires minimal lubrication.

Wheels

Wheel sizes vary from 44mm to 110mm, with most recreational skates using 72-90 mm wheels. The larger wheels make a skate faster, but more difficult to get going, and less maneuverable. Wheels made of harder materials are faster but have less grip on the road. Softer wheels have better grip and ride more smoothly (and wear out faster). The elliptical profile is faster, but the oval profile, with its flatter surface in contact with the ground, is more stable.

Brakes

Most inline skates have heel brakes with pads that wear out. A line indicates when the pad needs replacement, so check your brake pad for the wear line, and replace the pad before it wears past that line.

Inline skating at all ages

Inline skating is a wonderful sport for people of all ages. It is particularly good for those in middle age who look for a low-impact sport that protects their joints. However, it does require that you are steady on your feet, and have good balance while standing on just one foot. Also, you will fall, so you should have no difficulty in getting up from the ground by yourself.

Because you are likely to fall, it is important to know that your bones are not unusually weak. Women over the age of 45 might want to consult with their doctor to find out if they are at increased risk for hip or wrist fracture after a fall.

Consider taking lessons from an International inline skating association ( IISA) certified instructor, it will reduce your risk of falling and losing control while learning. Also, don't forget that wrist guards and padded shorts/hip pads reduce the risk of wrist and hip fractures. Most important, learn how to fall forward onto your wrist guards and knee pads, not backwards onto your relatively unprotected backside.