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How to choose a skate

choosing inline skates can be scary

Inline skating is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors, get some exercise, and have loads of fun. However, to make the most of your inline skating experience, you need to choose the right pair of skates. Whether you're a newbie eager to hit the pavement for the first time or a seasoned skater looking to upgrade, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential factors to consider when selecting the perfect inline skates.

  1. Skate Type:
    The first step in choosing inline skates is determining the type that suits your needs. Inline skates come in various styles, including fitness skates, aggressive skates, freeride skates, and more. If you're looking for a comfortable ride around your neighbourhood or local park, fitness or freeride skates are the way to go. On the other hand, if you're an adrenaline junkie who enjoys tricks and stunts, aggressive skates are your best bet.
  2. Size, Fit, and Boot Design:
    Getting the right size is paramount for a comfortable and enjoyable skating experience. Begin by consulting the manufacturer's sizing chart to match your shoe size with the appropriate skate size. It's crucial to remember that inline skates should fit snugly but not be uncomfortably tight. Additionally, consider the boot design, which comes in various styles, such as hardshell, softshell, and hybrid. The choice between these designs largely depends on your personal preferences. Hardshell boots offer exceptional support and control, making them ideal for advanced skaters. In contrast, softshell boots are often more comfortable for extended rides, offering a bit of flexibility for those who prefer a more relaxed fit. We’ll leave carbon boots and integrated liners out of the picture here, since these are mostly used by people who know what they are looking for, but feel free to ask more info about those in our store or by email.
  3. Maintenance:
    Educate yourself on how to maintain and care for your inline skates. Regular maintenance can extend their lifespan and keep them performing optimally. Basic maintenance tasks include cleaning, tightening bolts, and replacing worn-out wheels or bearings. For example, if you skate through the rain, you might want to consider special wheels and bearings that are optimised for those conditions since normal bearings aren’t made for wet conditions and may show signs of rust after only a couple rides through the rain.
  4. Closure System:
    Don't forget to consider the closure system, whether it's traditional laces, buckles, or Velcro straps. Ensure that the closure system not only offers a secure fit but is also easy to use, allowing you to adjust your skates quickly. Here you want to think about how much patience you have to put on shoes (or in this case, skates), if you lack the patience to tie your shoelaces for example, you might want a simpler system compared to people disciplined enough to take the time to properly adjust their laces every time.
  5. Frame and Wheel Configuration:
    The frame and wheel configuration on your skates can significantly impact your overall experience. For beginners, a longer frame with larger wheels provides better stability, making it easier to maintain balance. Additionally, consider the material of the frame, whether it's aluminium, plastic, or another type, as it can affect the weight and durability of your skates. For most people, the sweet spot here is an aluminium frame, which offers performance and durability. Mind that these exist at different price points and qualities.
    As for wheel sizes, 80mm is the sweet spot for allround, but you of course don’t have to limit yourself to the basic option. Look at what wheelbase feels natural for you and the compatible wheel sizes with that length.
  6. Wheel Hardness:
    The hardness of the wheels on your inline skates is measured on the durometer scale. Softer wheels (with a lower durometer rating) provide excellent grip but tend to wear out faster, making them suitable for indoor or smooth outdoor surfaces. On the other hand, harder wheels (with a higher durometer rating) are more durable and perform well on rough outdoor terrains but may feel less forgiving on bumpy roads.
    The sweet spot between durability and comfort lies somewhere around 85A here. Keep in mind that it is advised to not go any lower than 82A if you want to ride outside (officially 80A, but that’s a load of I’m not finishing that). Harder wheels, like 88A and above are mostly used for aggressive skates because they slide easier.
  7. Brake and Extras:
    Consider whether the skates you're interested in come with a built-in brake or if you'll need to purchase one separately. Additional features like shock absorption, ventilation, or interchangeable frames can also enhance your skating experience, so weigh these options based on your preferences.
    My advice is learning how to stop properly without a brake as it gives you more control than using a brake. But some people feel safer with a brake for some reason. Add-on brakes are therefore also more recommended than built-in ones, as they will allow you to start out with a brake and allow you to grow once you have built up the confidence and necessary skills.
  8. Budget:
    Inline skates come in a wide range of prices, so it's essential to determine your budget before shopping. While it's tempting to go for the most affordable option, it's wise to invest in a reliable and durable pair that suits your skating needs. Quality skates can be found at various price points, often starting around €150 for aggressive and freeride. Most (higher) midrange quality skates can be found around the €200-250 price point. Slalom and other more specialised skates often start around €270 and up.

In conclusion, selecting the right inline skates is a crucial step towards ensuring a safe, enjoyable, and satisfying skating experience. Your choice should align with your skating goals, personal preferences, and skill level. If you're unsure, consider seeking advice from experienced skaters or consulting with professionals at a reputable skate shop like Sliding Tiger. By carefully considering the factors outlined in this guide, you'll be well on your way to choosing the ideal inline skates for your needs, resulting in countless hours of outdoor fun and fitness.

Most importantly: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Skaters are often more than willing to talk about their favourite skates and they are, honestly, one of the best communities to be part of. I promise it isn’t biassed because I’m part of it.

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