Inline skating in the capital
Inline skating is a workout honed for city life: you can learn in a crowd, exercise on the pavement and get fit on the way to work. Time Out glides through the moves
Heads turn and mouths gape as a couple of hundred skaters and a very loud boombox hurtle through the streets of central London. This isn’t a one-off stunt but a weekly event, the flagship of the city’s skating scene which, on a broader scale, encompasses a fan base of devotees from smooth speed skaters to annoyingly fearless kids.
There are plenty of benefits to becoming an inline skater. The sport – practised on skates with a single line of wheels – offers a low-impact cardio workout (vigorous skating burns 350 calories per half hour), is fantastic for toning legs, bums, backs and shoulders. Plus it improves core stability – all that balancing effort means you’re constantly making small muscle adjustments to remain vertical. It’s also a ton of fun. Gawpers watching the lessons organised by Andy Kolattek – founder of Citiskate, Europe’s largest skating tuition company – confirm what you suspected all along: that skating is pretty damn cool.
The best outdoor venue to take a course has to be Hyde Park. It’s exhilarating to swoosh up and down on a hazy summer’s evening, gliding past city folk. Private lessons are an option, but unable to resist the chance to humiliate myself in front of a crowd, I chose a four-week group course. On Monday nights, Citiskaters stretch across Serpentine Road, from the east side to the boating house. Contrary to popular misconception, skating isn’t just for teenage thrillseekers: the diverse, sociable course I took was attended by people aged twentysomething to fortysomething, with jobs ranging from teachers to company directors. You’re assigned to one of four groups according to ability (absolute beginners to show-offs) and you get to keep your rental skates for the duration of the course, so you can practise in between lessons.
Once you’ve achieved some kind of elegance, there are plenty of friends to be made. ‘The great thing about skating in London is you have access to all these free skating events,’ raves Kolattek. ‘No other city has that, it’s one of the huge benefits of skating here, and all ability levels are catered for.’
The next four-week Citiskate course in Hyde Park starts on Aug 6 (020 7228 2999/www.citiskate.co.uk) Hyde Park Corner tube. £145 with skate rental, £105 without.
Essential inline skating tips
You will fall overNot so much a tip as something you have to accept. Followed by You will get up.
Do the Air ChairBend your knees as if you’re sitting on an invisible chair, which lowers your centre of gravity, increases stability and makes all moves easier.
Slow downIf 80 per cent of learning to skate is bending your knees, slowing down is the rest. It’s invaluable for developing muscle memory.
Don’t look at your skatesChin up!
Make a scissor shapeStart with skates parallel as you roll along, then slide one skate slightly ahead of the other. You’ll enter your next move (braking, turning) more smoothly.
Try not to think about itCitiskate classes incorporate games like playing tag and racing to take your mind off the fact you’re perched on eight weeny wheels.
Wear wrist guardsOne-handed typing when you shatter your wrist will look a whole lot dumber than wearing protective gear. Same goes for knee and elbow pads. Kolattek points out, ‘People who wear protective gear feel they can push it further and take more risks, so it’s one way to improve your skating.’
Keep your heel brakeThis is the rubber brake that pairs of skates have on one foot. People who’ve mastered T-stops (braking by dragging one leg behind you) often get cocky and remove the heel brake, thinking it makes them look more advanced. Retaining the brake, however, gives you the safety of an extra stopping option.
CommuteSkates are a lot cheaper and easier to store than a bike and pedestrians will hate you less than they hate cyclists.
Go on the group skatesIt’s a real buzz to whizz through the city in a swarm of 150 (in winter) to 400 (in summer) skaters. They’re a completely free, sociable way to exercise, with a built-in learning curve as you have to negotiate hills and different terrains.
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