Beginner Harvard University Skate, Sunday July 9, 2017

Jun  will lead a short skate for beginners on a mostly flat terrain around Harvard University Campus and streets.  This skate is intended to be a gentle introduction to beginner inline skaters who’d like to venture beyond skating in courts and rinks.  We’ll start and end at the newly renovated plaza in front of the Harvard University Science Center.  Skate will be cancelled if it rains.

Date: Sunday, July 9, 2017
Time: 9:00 AM
Location: We’ll meet at the circle of stones in front of the Harvard University Science Center in the newly renovated plaza.
Distance: About 1.5 to 2 miles.
Prerequisite Skills: Participants should already be comfortable with basic striding and stopping.

Getting to the Skate

If driving, you can park on most streets since metered spots are free and there are no resident-only parking restriction on Sundays. For example, Broadway, Cambridge St, Prescott St, Quincy St, and Massachusetts Ave (adjacent to Cambridge Common Park) are all good options. (Click on map below to see larger version.)

If taking the T, take the red line subway to Harvard Sq, then walk through the main Harvard University campus (toward Cambridge St) to get to the plaza area. (Click on map below to see larger version)

Beginner Harvard U Skate Meetup Location Map

My Favorite Skate

Xsjado JC Rowe!

Update (Oct 14, 2017): Unfortunately, I recently found out that the Xsjado brand is being discontinued. They’re currently only selling their “2.0 Farewell” skates in all sizes. All other models are only available dependent on existing stock (which are being heavily discounted). On the bright side, Doop skates, which are the recreational cousins of Xsjado, are still available.

Back in 2011, I got a pair of skates that was radically different than any other skates I had tried.  Those skates were the Xsjado JC Rowe.  They wrapped around my sneakers so no matter where I skated, I could always “unwrap” them if I needed to be back in sneakers.   As you might guess, this made them extremely practical, and for this and other reasons, they quickly became my favorite skates.

Since then, I’ve gotten other excellent skates — Seba FR-A, Powerslide Hardcore EVO II, and USD Aeon 72 — but my old JC Rowe continues to be my favorite, and a mainstay of my daily skating.[1]

Practical

Although my JC Rowe are aggressive skates [2], I primarily use them to get around town, so they’re customized with bigger 84mm wheels on Rollerblade Fusion 84, 255mm USF Frames.[3]  The fact that Xsjado skates are designed as a combination of a “footwrap”  (sneaker) and a snowboard binding-like boot (that wraps around the footwrap) means you always have your shoes with you. That makes them extremely convenient for running errands, commuting, and traveling.

Comfort

Perhaps due to the fact that I’m in sneakers when riding my Xsjado, I’ve found them to be the most comfortable skates I’ve ever worn.[4]  Also, perhaps due to the wide forefoot binding/buckle that keeps the skates feeling firmly wrapped around my foot, it is the first USF framed skate where the frame has felt laterally balanced under my feet.

Style

How could you not love a skate with these flairs? 🙂

Xsjado JC Rowe's animal spirit

Insole design

Snowboard boot-like binding

About the only thing I could suggest is for them to be lighter.  Mine weigh about 4 lbs 8 oz per skate & foot wrap (size US 8), which is, on average, about a pound heavier than my other skates.  Xsjados also aren’t as precise feeling as specialized, one-piece skates like Hardcore EVO or Aeon, but given the constraints of their sneaker + binding design, I think they’ve made excellent tradeoffs.


Notes

  1. I’ve used my JC Rowe so much over the years, I’ve had to replace various parts multiple times (e.g., buckle, cuff, strap, etc.).  Thankfully, just about all of the parts on a Xsjado are easily serviceable.
  2. For those who want the sneaker-binding combo of an Xsjado skate, but aren’t interested in aggressive skating, I recommend getting Xsjado’s recreational cousins under the Doop brand instead.  Unlike Xsjados, Doop skates come standard with bigger recreational frames and wheels.  Doops also allow lateral frame adjustment, changing size w/o tools, and are a little lighter.
  3. If you can’t find Rollerblade Fusion USF frames being sold separately, another good option are the new Ground Control aluminum free skate USF frames.
  4. Although not required, I recommend using Xsjados with an Xsjado footwrap (i.e., Xsjado’s skate sneakers). Xsjado has tuned their foot wrap with a dense sole, which transmits more of your push/power on each stride.  I’ve tried regular skate sneakers (e.g., Puma) with my Xsjados, and the difference is noticeable.  Non-Xsjado sneakers I’ve tried didn’t lock into the binding perfectly and their squishier soles made striding feel sluggish.  Having said that, if you don’t use an Xsjado footwrap, you can remedy the sluggish response by removing the heel pads.

Note: I do NOT receive any compensation from any skate manufacturers or resellers mentioned in this article.  My recommendations are based solely on my experiences and preferences.

Skate Buying Tips

Skate Variety

Although inline skating isn’t as popular as it was in the 1990’s, the current variety, quality, and technology of skates are even better.  This is a good thing, but can also make choosing the proper skates more confusing.

The main goal is to choose a skate that fits snug and comfortably.  Try to go as snug as possible, while still being comfortable.  For basic recreational skating, a little wiggle room inside your skates is ok.  However, if you’d like to try more advanced skills, even a little movement inside your skates can throw off your execution.  The more advanced the skill, the more you’ll need your skates to feel  “one with your feet.” (I usually go down a whole size from my normal shoe size.)  When you first buy your skates, the liners of the skates are new and haven’t broken in (i.e., conformed) to the unique shape of your feet.  As you wear and sweat in them, they’ll start to break in and you’ll find that what might have initially felt a tad too snug, will eventually feel perfectly sized.

Related to proper sizing, each skate manufacturer uses a different last (shoe form/mold), so for a given size, each company’s skates may fit differently.  Therefore, if you can’t find a proper fit from one manufacturer, try another.

Make sure to get skates from companies dedicated to making skates (e.g., Powerslide, Seba, Rollerblade, K2, Roces, etc.).  Please do NOT get no-name, store, or non-skate brands.  They may seem comparable for a lower price, but these skates do not work well and are a waste of your money.

If your budget is limited to around $100 and/or you only need skates for infrequent, recreational skating, a low end model from one of the name brand skate companies is perfectly fine.  They typically come with mesh/suede boots which are comfortable, and plastic frames with all-purpose, 80mm outdoor wheels.  On the other hand, if you can spend more and plan to skate often or learn more advanced skills, I recommend considering higher model skates, where you’ll find many more choices.  For these models, there are additional features and considerations:

  • Lateral frame adjustment: When you’re rolling forward on your skates, your frames should feel perfectly centered and balanced underneath your feet, so your ankles are naturally upright and feel supported.  If they don’t feel centered, better skates allow you to shift your frames sideways, which is a crucial feature to prevent your ankles from supinating or pronating. (Supinating/pronating in skates is uncomfortable and will severely hamper learning more advanced skills.)
  • Boot type: For general urban skating, my preference is an all-plastic boot since they’re more supportive and durable for the urban environment.  Mesh/suede boots are lighter and more pliable to your foot shape, but not as supportive or rugged. (Btw, if you’re willing to do some customizing, you can mold or “punch out” plastic boots to better conform to the shape of your feet.)  Good skates with all-plastic boots and aluminum frames generally cost between $200 to $300. (Btw, at the very high end, you’ll also find boots partially made from carbon fiber.  These are expensive, but also lighter, stiffer, and heat moldable, allowing for more precision at advanced levels of skating.)
  • Wheel size and hardness: For general urban skating, wheel sizes between 76mm to 84mm provide a good balance between maneuverability/nimbleness and ease of skating over city distances (anywhere from just a few miles to as much as 15 or 20 miles).  Smaller wheel sizes are more nimble, but require more work for longer distances.  Larger wheel sizes allow longer distances and greater speed with less effort, but aren’t as maneuverable.  As for hardness, 80A to 85A is a good range for outdoors.  Lower number indicates softer wheels while higher numbers are harder.  (I mostly skate 84A or 85A, but occasionally switch to 80A or lower for better traction/grip if skating on wet pavement.)
  • Type of frame: Related to wheel size, you’ll also want to consider the type and length of the skate’s frame.  Aluminum frames are stiffer and more precise than plastic frames. (However, plastic frames are de rigueur for aggressive skating due to their suitability for grinds).  Shorter frames are more nimble, but require more effort to skate further/faster.  Longer frames allow more speed and greater distances but aren’t as nimble.  I prefer frame lengths that are no longer than they need to be for a given wheel size.  For instance, if your skates have 80mm wheels, an ideal frame size of 243mm is JUST big enough to fit four 80mm wheels inline.
  • Bearings: Most bearings are rated using the ABEC scale from 1 to 9, with the higher numbers indicating better precision/roll.  Just about all current adult skates come with bearings rated at ABEC 5, 7, or 9.  With Rollerblade and K2 skates, you may also see ILQ and SG ratings, that use the same number scale.  Higher end bearings may also have rubber shields on the outer side (for better protection from contaminants) and an open, inner side for easier cleaning.  One of my favorite bearings is the Bones Swiss Bearings.  These are higher end, aftermarket bearings that roll better than just about any others I’ve tried.  Although they’re more expensive, they pay for themselves by their longevity; with periodic cleaning, mine have lasted over 10 years. (And are still going strong!)
  • Lastly, inspect how the components are held together.  If components such as frames and buckles are held together with standard screws and nuts then you can service/replace individual components as they wear out. (Thereby, extending the life of your skates.)  If they’re riveted, glued, or not discrete parts, then you can’t replace them (at least, not easily).

Where to Buy

With all these considerations, I highly recommend going to a local store where you can inspect and try them on in-person.[1] (When buying locally, you’ll also be supporting your community. 🙂 )  If you can, try to find a dedicated skate shop in your area.  In my area (Boston), I get all my gear from an excellent skate shop called Thuro:

https://thuroshop.com
362 Boylston St – Rt 9
Brookline, MA 02445
(617) 501-6389

They have a knowledgeable staff of experienced skaters who can give expert guidance in getting a proper fit and model.  They’ve also done a great job curating the best selection of skates and equipment, many that aren’t available anywhere else locally.  And beyond the initial purchase, their expertise and stock of parts have been so helpful in fixing or customizing my skates.

If you don’t have a dedicated skate shop in your area, the next best option for in-person purchase is Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has many locations nationally.

Summary

If your budget is limited to ~$100 or you only need skates for infrequent, recreational skating, several name brand skate companies offer low end models, which are perfectly adequate.  From $100 to $200, look for skates with aluminum frames that are laterally adjustable (at least on the front end of the skate).  Making sure that your frames feel perfectly balanced under your feet (so your ankles don’t supinate or pronate) is crucial to being comfortable in your skates and learning new skills effectively.  If your budget allows skates in the $200 to $300 range and you plan to skate often, learn more advanced skills, or simply need more ankle support, I recommend getting a hard plastic boot model.  These models are snug, supportive, and versatile, and come with even better features and components — making them excellent for learning high level skills, such as those in slalom and freeride skating.


Notes

  1. When trying on skates, make sure to wear high quality socks. I prefer light to medium weight, crew length socks with smooth seams, made with mostly synthetic, wicking fabric. As you wear more snug fitting skates, even small creases or bumps in a pair of low quality socks can be quite uncomfortable.

Note: I do NOT receive any compensation from any skate manufacturers or resellers mentioned in this article.  My recommendations are based solely on my experiences and preferences.

Beginner Harvard University Skate, Sunday Oct 9, 2016

Jun  will lead a short skate for beginners on a mostly flat terrain around Harvard University Campus and streets.  This skate is intended to be a gentle introduction to beginner inline skaters who’d like to venture beyond skating in courts and rinks.  We’ll start and end at the newly renovated plaza in front of the Harvard University Science Center (or at Darwin’s on Cambridge St. if we decide to get snacks and refreshments after the skate).  Skate will be cancelled if it rains.

Date: Sunday, October 9, 2016
Time: 9:00 AM
Location: We’ll meet at the circle of stones in front of the Harvard University Science Center in the newly renovated plaza.
Distance: About 1 to 2 miles.
Prerequisite Skills: Participants should already be comfortable with basic striding, and stopping on a mild incline.

Getting to the Skate

If driving, you can park on most streets since metered spots are free and there are no resident-only parking restriction on Sundays. For example, Broadway, Cambridge St, Prescott St, and Quincy St are all good options. (Click on map below to see larger version.)  Please leave extra time since there might be street closures due to the HONK! parade and Oktoberfest in Harvard Sq. at noon.

If taking the T, take the red line subway to Harvard Sq, then walk through the main Harvard University campus (toward Cambridge St) to get to the plaza area. (Click on map below to see larger version)

Beginner Harvard U Skate Meetup Location Map

Cambridge SkateFest Freeride Contest Rescheduled, Sunday Oct 11, 2015

Cambridge SkateFest

For anyone interested in coming by to watch (or compete), the Cambridge SkateFest’s  Freeride contest (that was cancelled due to weather) has been rescheduled for Sunday, October 11, 2015.

For more information, see: http://cambridgeskatefest.com/2015/09/23/freeride-contest-rescheduled/

Note: If driving, please leave extra time for delays due to street closures for Harvard Square Oktoberfest and HONK! Festival happening on the same day. (Come watch the skate contest first :-), then check out Oktoberfest festivities around Harvard Square!)

 

Jun's Inline Skating ("Rollerblading") Lessons in Cambridge / Boston