Speed skates for everyday recreation are surprisingly reasonable, but they are only sold in specialty stores. The recreational versions are significantly toned-down from the $1,500 Olympic-grade clap skate designs. They do have the same seriously long blades, but the blades are attached to the heel like normal skates and the price typically runs between $150 and $300.
Speed skates are a world away from hockey skates, the default option at most local sporting goods stores, at least for men. The problem is that hockey skates are made for quick turns and short sprints in a game. But what if you want to glide at high speed on a frozen lake or river? What if you’re in the mood for a fun cardio workout in the winter air, with friends, on thick, glassy frozen water?
Your best option may be some recreational speed skates. The recreational side of the sport is little-known in the United States, but interest is growing. Speed skate blades are often around 20 inches, compared with typical adult skate blades of around 12 inches. Because the carbon-steel blades are longer and shaped differently, the skates go much farther and faster than typical short-bladed models given the same push. They also handle bumpy and/or snowy ice a lot better than the conventional ones do.
If you try these skates out in public, there are bound to be pesky questions from lookieloos. Just tell ‘em you’re training for the Elfstedentocht. (That’s the 120-mile race in Holland in which athletes careen through waterways at breakneck speeds of up to 20mph.) Or tell them you’re waiting for your kevlar suit to arrive in the mail (an outfit that promises to protect certain “specific areas” from carbon-steel stab wounds). Or just skate away in a cloud of shavings. After the jump, we’ll outline affordable skate options to get in touch with your inner Ohno.