Sunday, May 22, 2016

What killed inline skating? A new suspect.

I like inline skating. I started in the 90s a year or so before it peaked, and I’ve watched it decline since. I still skate, as does my #2 son.

It’s fallen a long way. The last time I skated I noticed young children staring in amazement, some asking their mothers what I was doing. Our lovely night skate expired five years ago.

Sports have fashions of course, and inline skating has issues. It needs dry conditions and smooth surfaces; bicycles are far more versatile. If you don’t wear wrist protection, and you skate often, you have a good chance of breaking your wrist (wrist protection drops the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it). Pavement is not kind to skin. Head injury risk is probably higher than with non-peleton road biking.

So it’s not hard to see why it might fade. Skateboarding has many of the same issues, and it’s not doing well either.

On the other hand, inline skating (“rollerblading”) is fun. To me it’s a cross between downhill and nordic skiing — two great sports. It’s no good in the rain, but it doesn’t need snow. It’s an easy way to get around; when I dropped my car off for tire repairs today I skated home from the garage. It’s painful when you crash every few years, but it’s easier on the knees and hips than running or even mountain biking.

I think there’s another factor.

I blame sealcoating. Sealcoating is the application of a mixture of petroleum products and fine stone to asphalt road surfaces. We didn’t always do sealcoating, it grew rapidly in the 80s and 90s. Now most streets undergo sealcoating every 8 years in Saint Paul MN.

Sealcoating has environmental issues, but it does extend the lifespan of city streets and trails. It’s not a problem for cars or bikes.

It’s a problem for inline skates though. Sealcoated surfaces are miserable to skate on for at  least 1-2 years. They get tolerable after 4-5 years, but then they get coated again.

Once sealcoating became universal it got much harder to find smooth and fun surfaces to skate on.

I think sealcoating is what truly killed inline skating.

See also.

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