“Last year (at the age of 54) I started playing hockey on inline skates (after a break of 25 years from skating). I have had my wheels configured at 80,80,76,76, but I have played around and find that 76,80,80,76 is much better for spins and turns but not very stable. Do you have any advice and what configuration you recommend and which you prefer?” – Mick from Canada
Great Question Mick.
Firstly I’m loving your story of getting back into skating after some serious time off. No doubt your body is remembering some things and you will progress much faster than totally new adult learners.
Let’s talk about rockering. By shortening your wheel base you increase your manuverability by having fewer wheels touching the ground at each time. You asked me to compare the High-Lo rocker (80, 80, 76, 76) and the Banana rocker (76, 80, 80, 76).
The Banana rocker is more extreme and will provide even tighter turning circles than the High-Lo rocker, but as a consequence, that higher back wheel can produce some instability moments.
The High-Lo is a great set up for Hockey I think as it will push your foot forwards into the skate and reduce the backwards instability. But really the only way to know which you prefer and which works best for you is to try both, but for a week at a time. Don’t keep swapping every 5 minutes, give your body a chance to work with the new set up and then see which feels better and improves your skills the most. Don’t take my word for it!
However, most people are surprised to learn that I personally do not skate with a rocker (ever) and yet I still manage to do some nifty footwork, transitions, pivots, spins etc. I believe there is too much reliance placed on rockering (to produce manouverability) and not enough on good technique, which should be the bedrock of your skating. With good technique you can do pivots and even one footed transitions (Three-Turns) using a flat set up. Rockering should be the icing on the cake which then makes everything flow, but if your technique is dodgy with a rocker, the rocker wont solve everything!
If you experience instability moments with a Banana rocker then it may be an indication that your weight is not on the correct part of your foot. See if you can bend your knees until you feel your weight on the balls of the feet in each movement. This will increase your stability and stop those backwards wobbles.
I think skaters who spend a lot of time slaloming are absolutely correct to rocker their skates and they should. The problem lies if you then want to go for a street skate (fast) after your slalom practice. Will you change your rocker? You could move one wheel around to bring the banana rockered heel wheel down to increase safety at speed? Or do you slalom on some days and speed/street skate on others? There are solutions to it all but it is worth testing each option and working out how to manage your preferences either by adjusting your equipment, improving your technique or scheduling your different types of skating for different days.
Hope that helps.