Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How I Tried to Go Skating

Attempt to Skate Foiled
As part of my commute I often take a shortcut through the back of Harvard Yard, and some time around early December a mysterious construction site appeared there. At first I was annoyed to have to go around it. But as the construction took shape, it began to look suspiciously like... Could it be? Oh my goodness yes, a skating rink! One afternoon last week the construction fence was suddenly gone and the rink open. Just like that!

Free Skating at Harvard!
I could hardly pedal fast enough to get close and read the bright crimson sign. And guess what? It is free to skate there, and $5 to rent skates. Technically I still own a pair of skates circa 1995, though sadly I have not been able to find them since we moved to Boston. I can picture these skates vividly in my mind: They were white with jet-black heels and shiny blades, utterly beautiful, and they cost $29.99 at Olympia Sports. "I will buy them for you, if you really think you can do it this time," my mother said. And I nodded vigorously. Oh how I wanted those skates!

Skating Closed Due to Good Weather
Perhaps now is a good time to explain that the intensity of my love for skating is matched only by my utter lack of ability. Born to a set of parents who skated proficiently since childhood and believed it to be the most natural thing in the world, I stunned them with my clumsiness and lack of coordination.

I remember my first time on the ice: It was a crisp winter evening not long before my 4th birthday, and a huge skating rink was set up in the park under garlands of lights. My mother - a slender, elegant beauty in a tailored overcoat - glided across the ice effortlessly with a serene smile on her face... as she dragged her little piggy of a daughter along, who flailed and stumbled and continued to be dragged to the sounds of Tchaikovsky blasting from the park's loudspeaker system. "Don't worry, you'll get it!" my mother would say as she glanced down at me occasionally. But mostly she lost herself in the music and glided, dragging me across the ice regardless of whether I was upright or not.

Skating Closed Due to Good Weather
Attempts to get me to skate continued through that and a couple of subsequent winters, but my skills showed little sign of improvement. The "don't worry, you'll get it!" gave way to "but you're not even trying!" until finally my mother gave up. But my yearning for the ice remained, and every winter I sighed as I watched the figure skaters on television. As a teenager I asked for a pair of skates for my birthday and began to visit a local rink on my own - skating in a slow and duck-like manner close to the guard rail. I was remarkably bad, but somehow I still enjoyed it. I took these skates with me to college, grad school, and beyond, visiting local rinks for more of the same. And now I can continue here!

Yesterday I knew that I would finally have an hour gap in my day, and I made sure to withdraw some cash. I was ready to rent skates and I cycled to Harvard Yard full of anticipation.

Attempt to Skate Foiled
But of course I should have known that it would not be so easy! Just days after the snow storm, the temperature had shot up to nearly 50°F by mid-day and when I arrived the rink was closed "due to weather." So, I have yet to go skating. But at least I tried. And I'll try again as soon as the temperature drops and my schedule allows. 

Cycling past the rink last week, I did notice the skates they were using and was a little disappointed that they were a sort of brownish-beige. I want some white ones like I had before, and am thinking that maybe I should get a new pair of my own. Third time could be a charm, and I might actually learn how to skate... though I'm not holding my breath! 

68 comments:

  1. White skates sound like figure skates. If you want to learn basic skating technique I'd suggest hockey skates as those wont allow you to use the picks in the front to pick up speed (something people who start with figure skates tend to do).
    A good way to learn skating is often to engage in a friendly bandy/hockey game against some friends. Skating is one of those things that are easier if you are not concentrating on it.

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    1. Wait, what? But how do you stop without the picks in the front?

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    2. You turn your blades sideways and angle them to absorb your momentum:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nrscg8fLYqY&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PLE6BA0A347FD466B9

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  2. "don't worry, you'll get it!" gave way to "but you're not even trying!"

    Oh, have there ever been things I've attempted in life that have ended with me hearing that! Dancing for one. I actually wasn't too bad at skating, except for never managing to master the art of stopping.

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    1. I was sent to ballet at the age of 6, but that didn't work out too well either. The teacher dropped me from the class, because I was holding the others back. Oddly I later tried ballet again in grad school at age 23 and did wonderfully. The teacher told me I was a natural and that it was a shame I didn't start when I was little. Didn't believe me when I told her about my childhood ballet trauma! This gives me hope for ice skating.

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  3. BTW I don't know if you have those types of skates in the US, but if you can get a pair of touring skates (långfärdsskridskor) and have boots they will attach to then these types of skates are much more stable and easier for a beginner to use. An other alternative would be speed skates. These types of skates will also allow you to go great distances on frozen lakes in your area though you must have safety equipment like iceclaws waterproof bag with dry clothes and preferably go in a group.
    Most people who are a bit careful never go through the ice but if you do you, are most likely not going to make it without the above items.
    Skating on lakes is fantastic as there is so much room. I am pretty sure someone who likes going on long bike trips would love it.
    Touring skates will suck on that rink though so don't try them there.

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  4. You went skating at aged 4?

    You were lucky. When I were a lad we lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank.

    We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t' mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi' his belt.

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  5. In Houston, where I grew up, they have an indoor skating rink in the center of a ritzy mall- a full sized one.
    I learned to skate there, and on family vacations to Colorado. I was already a big roller skater, and that made the transition pretty easy, although I never went beyond gliding in circles, maybe with the occasional backwards pass.

    My favorite skating story is when I was organizing orientation week for freshmen at Rice, and we rented the skating rink after the mall closed for 100 18 year old kids. One of them had grown up in a little border town in west texas, and I'm sure he'd never seen that much ice before. He gamely pulled on skates, and pulled himself around the perimeter again and again. I remember so vividly the look of joy on his face when he finally managed to pull away and skate a few hesitant yards on his own. I came to learn that he was just a joyful kid, and when he smiled his whole face would crack open. It was really a pleasure to give him the chance to skate, at least once.

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    1. Oh yeah, that sounds like my skating style - I am sure everyone at the rink who sees me thinks "Aw it's her first time on ice!"

      Skating rink inside a mall, wow.

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    2. Very swanky mall no less- the Houston equivalent of Copley Place. Very popular for birthday parties when I was 8.

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  6. I feel like these community skating rinks are now all the rage! Newton has at least three that I know of in three villages. Of course the weather has not cooperated. Sadly the newton one's are more like back yard rinks ( which is fine) but it's a BYOS type of operation so alas we can't really use them. But maybe in years to come. Biking to skating is very appealing to me.

    ( it looks very hard to get to by pub transportation and possibly by bike from you- but you venture futher than me- have you tried Lars Anderson PArk's skating rink in Brookline. Google it- it's a real compressed outdoor rink. There is a fee to skate and rent- but we skated a few weeks ago during a 50 degree day and it was up and running and it's really lovely. I don't skate- but that rink made me want to- reminded me of the rink in Central Park. My 1st grade class used to go out once a week to skate there and that was the only time I skated fairly well and it was a nice throwback....) The Harvard one looks really good too. Knowing you can rent- we might have to take pub transpo on over on a good cold weekend!

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    1. There is actually an indoor rink 5 minutes from my house in the other direction (Veterans Memorial Rink in Somerville), but their hours don't work well for me. It's true that we're lucky and have lots of places to skate around here.

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  7. Don't forget your skating helmet!!! (True story: last time I went skating, I ended up in the ER with ten stitches in my head. I learned two things -- polycarbonate lenses on glasses are a net good thing, and if you can remember the horrifying clunk of your head hitting something you are *probably* going to be okay. Had a nice conversation with the ER doc about choice of large sailboats, and the prudence of using diesel instead of gasoline for auxiliary power -- non-explosive fumes, plus no high-voltage spark to get shorted by the omnipresent salt slime).

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  8. "Delayed open due to weather" has definitely been the story here in N.E. Illinois this year, and for that matter, the past 10 or so.

    In elementary through high school the lake behind my dad's house was a major skating destination for much of my class from December often all the way through March.

    Every now and then feeling nostalgic I'll call my dad asking about the ice. The answer usually is 'Don't even think it's thick enough to support the dog (a dachshound).'

    At least it's warm enough to ride.

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  9. Skating is a great winter activity and good fun. Like you I was a horrible skater when I was young, so bad that I abandoned the whole enterprise in my teens and only started again a few years ago. Since starting to skate again I have found that I am a lot stronger and better able to keep it all together.

    Now, add in a stick, puck, and a couple buddies and you suddenly have an incredible workout opportunity called Shinny - for obvious reasons. But seriously, I would suggest getting a stick and puck. I have found that when chasing the puck around my skating ability improved quickly.

    Or you can simply use the stick to tripod around the ice :)

    Happy Winter!

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  10. I am also not so proficient at skating. I bought hockey skates last year and I have a hard time not falling backwards (since the blade is curved on either end, unlike figure skates).
    The easiest way to really go for it is to be pushing something. Children do it all the time with chairs or plasic tubing. This will give you balance and allow you to go all out without being scared of falling. For adults its a little bit complicated, but you can always push a stroller. Our rink on the Rideau Canal (8 km of skating, oh my!) has these big sleighs that you can push. They're really used to push people/children/gear, but at least its not a chair.
    Good luck!
    Ps: I recommend women's comfort skates...a little pricey, but they have a nice boot with a women's blade (toe pick optional). I wish I would have gotten some!

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  11. Your story is eerily similar to my experience with roller skates. My last attempt was a couple of years ago during which I had an extremely similar conversation (with hubby instead of mom) during which I opted to buy my own skates. I tried - I really did, but I just don't seem to have whatever coordination it takes to glide as others do.

    I hope that your third try will be wonderful and that you're able to enjoy the ice! :O)

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  12. So how was the ride there and back?

    As soon as you buy new skates, the old ones will appear, as if by sorcery. Happens nearly every time for me.

    Patrizia's color is really nice in that light- I still think that's a great shade of green for her.

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  13. Does the Charles Hotel in Harvard Sq. still have a rink ? It looks similar to the one pictured.

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    1. Yes, it is still there. It is smaller, and I find their hours to be inconsistent. They seem to be mostly open on the weekends, and it is always very crowded with families and lots of small children.

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  14. Born to a set of parents who skated proficiently since childhood and believed it to be the most natural thing in the world.

    Hmm, I always thought skating was in your genes :).

    I never skated until a few years ago, and I was surprised at how quickly I was able to do it. That is to say, it was easy to get from the "never skated" to the "can keep myself from falling but with awkward jerky movements". Getting smooth and effortless looking on ice is something I haven't achieved yet. But it's immensely fun nonetheless!

    I would suggest investing in a good pair of skates, even if you're at a beginner's level. The first few times I skated, I rented skates, and they were *awful*. The pinched my feet and didn't keep my ankles supported. Then I finally broke down and bought a proper pair of skates, professionally fitted. What a difference! It very literally made the difference between not being able to skate and being able to, albeit poorly. I've used them enough times now that the investment has almost paid off when I consider how much it would have cost me to rent skates over the past few years. And my feet and ankles thank me! Think of the analogy with bikes-- having a properly fitted bike can make a big difference in confidence level for a beginner.

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  15. Best advice--buy yourself some decent skates.
    Rental skates are hopeless as any ankle support they may have once had is long gone. My nascent skating improved markedly once I got my own skates. Not cheap but at this point you won't grow out of them. If you get good figure skates, they might rub against the ankle bones (remember, they are not worn out)...but you just take them to the lovely lady over at the skate shop at the Skating Club of Boston where she will punch out the ankles for you. Or buy them there. Or if you get hockey skates, have them heat-molded to your feet. In any event, give "comfort skates" a wide berth. They are a skate-shaped objects.

    Ever read Joyce Maynard's essay about skating? http://www.joycemaynard.com/columns-articles/reprints-ice-dancing.shtml

    Skating is pure joy.

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    1. So I take it you don't recommend CCM Pirouettes for $19.99? : )

      Thanks for the Skating Club of Boston advice, will try to visit them.

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    2. There's also Play It Again sports located all around Boston. They have used figure and hockey skates, as well as "comfort skates", which a lot of friends have. I went ahead and got hockey skates which are nice and comfy and suit the level of skating i do with my kids.

      I agree on somervillian's assessment of rental skates. i ditched those pretty quick.

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  16. Oh boy! A whole new set of muscles to strain!

    :0)

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  17. Be sure to get lugged ones and wear wrist guards. And a helmet.

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    1. Actually, The Scientist's one attempt at hockey ended in him coming home with 5 stitches in his chin and a mild concussion. The friend who was trying to convert him to hockey playing ( a 120 lb petite girl) had to stop because she had 3 concussions in 2 years, and was worried about TBI.

      Big difference of course between a decorous swing around the ice and hockey of course..

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  18. Lots of cross-over between track cycling and speed skating. I believe the first athlete to win medals in both winter and summer Olympics was a skater/cyclist.

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  19. @cycler - Rice? What year? Baker, BSEE'82, PhDCS'88 here. Beer Bike '79, maybe some other years, but I can't remember exactly.

    That mall was (is) the Galleria.

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    1. I'm actually a 2nd generation Owl. My dad was BSEE in 1960, and I'm a BArch '97.

      I never did beer bike as a competitor, since I was too scared about the riding fast in a group. I did a lot of transportation cycling- yes in Houston!, so they were always trying to recruit me, just because they needed anyone who rode.

      BTW, I like you blog and have been interested in leaving comments, but it won't let me unless I open a Wordpress account, which seems silly- don't know if that's something you can/ want to change?

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  20. V, if the outdoor rink doesn't work out, there's always the Veterans Memorial indoor rink about a 5 min walk from your house. They have free public skating on Sundays, 2:00-3:50. We skate there with the kids (with whom I can no longer keep up... they kick my a** skating).

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  21. I was one of those jerky middle school kids with hockey skates that would spray high all over the girls to flirt. They loved it though.

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  22. Heh, I feel your pain. The first time I tried ice skating was when I was a senior in college. I was in Quebec, it was an outside rink near the Chateau de Frontenac.

    I fell so much that total strangers would skate up and grab me by the elbow to help steady me.

    The second time I tried to ice skate was when I was in grad school. I went to an ice skating rink in Georgia (yes, really). That time it was a six year old girl that skated up and took my hand to help me.

    I haven't tried since. :)

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  23. "I did notice the skates they were using and was a little disappointed that they were a sort of brownish-beige."

    No doubt rental skates are intentionally ugly to discourage theft.

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    1. That can backfire. Stolen rental bowling shoes were all the rage when I was in high school with the artey types

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  24. Great to hear you are eager to skate again.

    After having skated about 5 times during my entire childhood, I decided this was definitely not for me. But be careful: I went to skate with work colleagues for social reasons at age 36 (!) and within less than half a year I ended up training several times a week in figure skating. You might enjoy it!

    Your love of beauty in sports and sports technology might go well with figure skating!

    Oh yes, and I like cycling too.

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  25. Update: I have now skated and here is a "skate panda" to prove it!

    This rink is insanely convenient. They are open basically all day, and if you want to stop by for short periods of time several times a day, you only need to pay the rental fee once.

    I am even worse at skating than I remembered being. Took me a few laps just to let go of the guard rail! But I stuck to it and skated for about an hour, then left when some rowdy hockey players showed up. This rink is great!

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  26. Oh and the rental skates are okay. The blades are a little rusty, but the material of the shoe part is definitely stiff enough around the ankles and shins. They run big and are very hard, so next time I will wear double socks.

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  27. V, where is this rink? From your pictures it looks like it's on the concourse between the yard and the science center, you know, where the road underpass is.

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  28. Ah, cycling and skating. Think Canadian athlete and all around wonderful person, Clara Hughes. Medalist in both cycling and speed skating.

    I had been an avid cyclist all my life when, in middle age, I married a beautiful Canadian. She bought me a pair of skates our first winter and told me if I was going to be married to a Canadienne I had to learn.

    Having only skated a handful of times as a youth, I accused her of trying to kill me. But through that winter I stuggled several days a week on my lunch hours at the rink.

    Back on the bike the next spring, a younger riding partner commented that I was climbing stronger at the beginning of this year than at the end of last summer. Ah, hah! The skating cyclist's benefit! Really strengthens the extensor muscles. Good luck.

    PS-Later, our young son got me into speed skating in my mid-fifties but that's another story.

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  29. I strongly agree with Anonymous's advice to buy decent skates, if you can fit it in your budget. I love skating even though I'm not that good at it. A friend encouraged me to get something decent and it was a completely different experience. Exactly the same principles apply as those you describe when writing about bicycles.

    There's a bunch of rinks around greater Washington DC and an adorable one I often go to in my hometown of Manassas, Va.

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  30. All right - so are there any specific brands and models you would recommend?.. I am clueless. I also have pretty weak ankles, if that makes any difference.

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  31. Thanks for sharing, this posts like this keep me comming back every day.....very fun!

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  32. At least here, youth hockey clubs will often sell used skates. I'd look there for a pair of cheap ones. Make sure they are sharp or you'll slip around and you can't break as well on non sharp skates.
    Otherwise I am sure a sports store will have some as well, if you have small feet (like below 40 european) go to the kids section and get a pair of cheap hockey skates they should be like the skates for grown ups but in suitable sizes. I know the figure skates are probably closer to your heart from childhood memories, but most girls I know who can skate has learned how to do that by using hockey or touring skates (there was one who could do actual figureskating but she had proper training and didn't use the pegs improperly).
    I don't think you have to go for any special brand, just get the size right, proper ankle support and sharp blades. I like to have waxed laces as well. If you can get your husband or someone else with strong hands to come along when you go skating it helps with getting the laces tight which will be more stable. Get blade protectors as well, that way you can put the skates on where it is convenient without damaging the blades. Oh and do wear a helmet preferably a hockey ar skateboard helmet, but a bikehelmet will work in a pinch. If you can get a pair of used hockey pants for cheap, consider buying them. They have padding if you fall on your butt/tailbone. Not needed really but good to have if you start paracticing harder techniques.
    Were you serious about not knowing how to stop by turning sideways? If you don't know how to do that, concentrate on learning that and speeding up without using pegs. You'll feel much safer if you know you can stop whenever you want. I believe this guy has a series of good youtube vids
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oMKt8uJkeI&feature=BFa&list=SPC260CEFB994447EF&lf=list_related
    on basic skating.
    Once you can push and stop properly you have come a long way. If your balance feels bad bend your knees more, you'll get a lower point of gravity and more power.

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  33. I just checked my skates, V, and they're Jacksons. Jackson is a humongous company in that field, and they sell a wide array of shoes and blades. I splurged on this and for me, splurging was probably in the neighborhood of $300+ for the shoes with ("Ultima Mk IV" blades), and also having the pro shop where I bought them use this form-fitting machine where they stuck my sock-covered feet into some kind of mold that custom-fitted the sole--I had to come back a week later to pick them up. I did this all under the guidance of a hockey-mom friend of mine. This pro shop was attached to a big skating complex. Fun!

    I strongly recommend that kind of guidance whether you go the brand-new route or used. Around Boston it's inconceivable that a friend of a friend doesn't have this knowledge. I'm looking at blades used on Jacksons, online, and I'm seeing everything from $80 to $400+. Someone who knows what they're talking about could steer you to what's good enough to realize the benefits, but again, the tradeoffs are exactly like buying a bike, including thinking less kindly of it when the equipment is too shabby.

    I imagine that good used would definitely be better that crap used and also better than rentals. Other than (comfortable) strong ankle support, it's the sharpness of the blades that blew me away, and I guess with the form-fitting they do end up feeling like part of my feet.

    I've never skated with a helmet and I don't recall seeing anyone skate with helmets, other than kids, and not too many of them.

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  34. So you are a bit clutzy but seem to gravitate toward cycling and skating and ballet anyway and still. Perhaps to acquire grace and balance and not end up like a Charlie Brown character or Gene Hackman. Reminds me of my little brother. He stuck to similar pursuits and ended up playing college hockey. More than I can say.

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  35. I absolutely LOVE skating, well actually I absolutely love the images I've created in my head of me skating. Gracefully upright, hands behind my back as I slip under the trees of a twilit lake shore, or leaned over powering out of a turn with Eric Heiden and Apollo Ohno falling further and further behind as I crush their spirits, or arm in arm with some lovely Swedish Veela as she pinches herself for her good fortune in being with such a marvelous athlete... It's inspiring.

    I grew up in S. Texas but my first year at college in Va. was cold enough to freeze a local pond and people were SKATING! Some of my friends could skate and assured me that it was the best thing going and that if I could ride a bike(I could) they would have me skating in an evening, they were right. By the end of the night I could sort of scrape along, shuffling like a badger after a hard night. And it was AMAZING! I think it's truly the only thing remotely like the best bits of cycling. I bought a used pair of hockey skates and never looked back. In fact it was a while till I could even look to the side, especially to my right. That was 1982 and after messing around with skating off and on for all these years I still love it, still look forward to every winter in the hopes of good ice, still go to Charllottesville to the rink a couple of times a year and still skate like a drunken badger.

    Why the hell can't I get enthralled by golf or bass fishing or Guitar Hero? Sheesh, something besides bikes and skates. Something where when it all goes wrong you don't end up feeling like you fell off a train. At least when you crash your bike the whole thing is over in a couple of seconds and all your crap ends up within arms reach(usually), but on fricken ice the fun goes on and on like a real estate seminar... You have time to roll over onto whatever side you didn't just hurl onto the very cement-like ice, time to try to stop or slow down by vainly dragging your ridiculous claw-less human hands on to a SHEET OF STUPID ICE and time to watch your testicles, spectacles wallet and watch spin lazily away in 4 different directions at thirty feet per second. Time to tire of the whole thing as your bastard friends try to think up a title for the You-Tube video while you glide past them in your cold, wet snowpants.

    The only thing that I'm good at that I'm worse at than skating is water-skiing. At least there my bastard friends wait to see if I've drowned before LTFAO.

    But whenit's good it's so good. I dream about going to Holland or Sweden some year and doing some of the tours you see on the Nordic Skating pornsites. I won't go with any of my friends.

    Spindizzy

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    1. This made my evening. Going to read it again now!

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  36. The weather got freakishly warm after last week's snowstorm in Chicago, too.

    Your commitment to skating is admirable. :) I love the idea of skating, but did it very rarely growing up in North Carolina, so I'm pretty bad, but the lovely free rinks downtown are alluring.

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  37. Renting Skates...
    I am glad I read these comments.
    I have been working in Toronto for two weeks near city hall where there is a lovely outdoor rink.
    I didn't bring my skates because they are too big to pack.
    Every day I've been thinking I wish I could skate at lunch.
    As soon as I read these comments I knew there must be a place to rent them and sure enough $5. So that made my day.
    As to all the comments about poor fitting rentals and cheep skates.
    I am from Southern Ontario and pretty much everyone who was born here has skates and can at least skate around the rink. About half the people played hockey or tried a little figure skating.
    It is easy to find decent rentals and cheep skates ($50) should do you fine if you just want to casually go around the rink.

    BUT when the skating culture is strong there are many choices of cheep skates and even a high school part time sales person should know how to fit you.
    When something is more elite there are fewer choices and very few budget options.
    So that may be why some people had such poor luck with the rentals and lower priced skates.
    Now finding a proper skate sharpener can be tricky. That is an art that few can master.

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  38. I saw you wrote that you have weak ankles.
    One helpful piece of advice that I didn't see here yet is tie the skates really tight.
    I mean REALLY tight.
    Most people who aren't used to skating don't tie them nearly tight enough.
    Cotton laces can help as they don't cut into your hands as harshly as the nylon laces that usually come with skates.

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  39. Not sure if this is helpful, but cheap skates have VERY weak ankles. I've been figure skating on and off since age 3 (similarly to you, I was enamored by my family's seemingly natural talent) and one thing I know for certain is that, in the realm of figure skates, you definitely get what you pay for. A good pair of leather skate boots need to be broken in before you can skate in them because the ankles will actually be too stiff! When I would get a new pair of skates as a child, it would often take about a week of walking around in the boots at home before the skates would be ready to wear on the ice. Similarly, with a quality pair of boots, you'll often find that you'll have to skate for 10-15 minutes and re-tighten them as, many times, skate boots will have a gel interior that conforms to your ankle which softens as you skate.

    The second thing to check is the sharpness of the blades. Most rental skates have REALLY dull blades and I've found that I am usually unable to skate with them (the sensation is not unlike slipping around on butter knives). A well-sharpened set of blades will allow you to hold your balance much better and skate sharpening is usually available for under $4 at most ice rinks.

    Anyhow, I'm not sure how big of a priority quality skates are, but having a good set of skate boots plus well-sharpened blades will make a world of difference. :)

    Have fun on the ice!

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  40. I forgot to mention (for whatever it's worth) that Riedell is a great figure skate brand:
    http://www.ice.riedellskates.com/

    Unfortunately, they tend to run about $300 for the boots new, but a lot skate shops will sell next-to-new (i.e. not broken-in) Reidell skates and blades on consignmnet.

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  41. Re brands--there are a number of good brands...but all the major figure skating manufacturers make everything from $35 vinyl to >$500 skates so I would not go by that. And each company uses different sizing (really) and the fit/lasts are different. The only way to get the right pair is to try them on. And go somewhere knowledgeable. That was why I originally suggested Skating Club of Boston. Small store but they carry a range of decent skates as they cater to a more serious skating crowd. Any other skate specific store with good reviews will also do.

    If you are tempted to buy really expensive skates, you may regret it because with increasing cost comes increasing stiffness and a much longer break-in period (as in...it might not happen in this lifetime with a weekly hour on the ice in winter). They are designed for people who train hard for hours a day, thus they may never stop being uncomfortable. And sizing is not obvious either. For figure skates one is meant to wear thin tights or very thin socks so fit is critical (and one is meant to wear them small and then have them adapt to one's feet).

    Hockey stores are great for...hockey skates! but not the place to buy figure skates even if they happen to sell figure skates. But I would encourage you to buy a hockey helmet and those fabulous shin guards there. That way falling forward (as one should) won't hurt.

    Pin a postcard of the skating vicar to your board and have a brilliant time!

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  42. @cycler - also second generation, plus relatives.

    I think I enabled comments from the unwashed rabble, give it a shot.

    The main hazard of beer-bike is not so much riding the main part of the track, but starting and stopping. (To those who have no idea what we are talking about, beer-bike is a 20-leg relay alternating 24-oz chugs and 1 mile sprints. The sprints start and stop in "the pit", with starts and stops assisted by Persons of Unusual Size. You can get "thrown" unbalanced, which hurts if you go down on the gravel, or you can overbrake as you enter the pit (at 30mph) to try to avoid a full-speed collision with the "catchers". I've seen headers.)

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  43. Thanks for all the suggestions! I've contacted the Skating Club of Boston, and now have a better understanding of the whole thing. The shop that sells skates is in the same building, but is an independent business - called Skater's Landing. I will visit them soon to try on some skates and probably buy a pair. I do not see myself spending over $100 on skates right now; not because I don't think good skates are worth it, but only because there are more pressing financial matters at the moment. Hopefully I will be able to find something nice. I've managed to make it to the rink twice so far and have been really enjoying it!

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  44. I would definitely recommend getting hockey skates too. They have far more ankle support, you don't trip over the pick, and they are more comfortable (padding is your friend).

    As an expat Aussie in Canada I did not learn to skate as a child. So last year, as a 32 year old klutz, I took a beginner adult skating class through the city! It was great - in 6 weeks I went from clutching onto the boards to going forwards, backwards, crossovers and stopping! And then I did hockey over the summer! Amazing!

    Do wear a hockey helmet (falling backwards happens fast!). I also bought used skates from a sports exchange and got really good skates for under $100. Definitely go used so you can get better quality skates!

    Good Luck!

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  45. dr2chase, Dude. Beer-bike sounds SO stoopid. Is this organized(obviously the wrong word but you know what I mean)?

    It reminds me of when I was about 12 and we found a bowling ball(well, found isn't the right word here either, we got it off the front seat of a lowrider what had had it pitched through it's windshield. Sort of a fad at the time). My friends and I created a dumb version of soccer on BMX bikes. The ditches were out of bounds, spray painted lines on the road for goals and anyone moving the ball was fair game. The only good way to move the ball(no heading the ball obviously and there wasn't a hell of a lot of kicking it either)was to get up some speed and try to trap it under the bottom bracket between the sprocket and the left crankarm while you pushed furiously with your right foot. Of course as soon as you stopped pedaling and started pushing you were the slowest guy on the pitch and only seconds away from being T-Boned by somebody on a Mongoose with a deathwish. There wasn't alot of hogging the ball. I remember my Mom remarking that it sounded like distant thunder. I remember it stinking the whole street up with the smell of burnt rubber from the ball skidding around.

    I don't get to check into Lovely Bicycle very often anymore but if V ever runs a post about the dumbest things ever done on bikes I hope I see it. I have so much to share.

    Spindizzy

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  46. I love the comment about tripping over the toe pick. That only happens to those who are used to hockey skates who switch to figure skates.

    If used to figure skates one comes to rely on that toe pick. My first time on hockey skates, muscle memory kicked in and I lifted up on my skates to stop, but they have a curved base and no toe pick so as soon as you lift up you have entered an unstoppable crash... And the T stop does not work on hockey skates either.

    They are two entirely different beasts!

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    1. Yeah, I think if I tried hockey skates at this point it would be a disaster : )

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    2. I have "skated" since I was little but was never very good at it. When I bought my figure skates in university, my then-boyfriend, who was a good skater, suggested grinding off the toe-pick so I wouldn't trip over it. Best of both worlds. I've skated the length of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa on those puppies.

      I still can't stop, though.

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  47. The last time I skated I used rental skates (after years of not skating) and kept falling over. I assumed that somehow my skating skills had deteriorated, and I had weirdly lost all coordination. Taking pity on me, my friend suggested I try another pair of skates. I went back to the booth to get another pair, and lo and behold I could skate! Rental skates suck!

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  48. So last week I was fitted for skates and bought a pair of Riedell 115s. If you have any opportunity to try on skates in person rather than buying online, I highly recommend that. The Jackson vs Riedell skates (the two big names for quality skates it seems) fit very differently. The skates were heated up for me and then I put them on and walked around the store with them until they cooled down. They were also sharpened on-site once I bought them (if you buy skates new online or from a big-box store, you will need to get them sharpened before you wear them on the ice). Anyhow, my skates cost just under $100 and they feel great, no complaints or excuses. My skating is still terrible with the new skates, but at least I am comfortable and sticking with it!

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