Buying Right: Pavement Protection

Outside magazine, March 1996

Buying Right: Pavement Protection
By Andrew Tilin

The potential for skin to mix with pavement when you're skating is worth a few ounces of prevention. And nowadays, we really are talking ounces: Wrist guards no longer swallow half of your forearms, pads have been trimmed, and helmets continue to be punched full of holes for lightness and ventilation.

When buying that breezy helmet, make sure it's been certified crashworthy by a testing organization such as Snell, ANSI, and/or the ASTM--like all the lids mentioned here. Because in-line skaters are much more likely than cyclists to fall backward, the skate-specific Bauer Deluxe ($52) extends more than an inch farther in back than in front to cover the vulnerable occipital bone. Likewise the Rollerblade Advanced ($35), a bargain in head protection. Sleeker yet are the Bell Image Pro ($80), with a plate-and-strap retention system that securely cradles the rear of your head, and Specialized's Headlock($90), with a similar but push-button-adjustable system. Giro's Helios ($130) is the best-looking, the coolest (21 vents), and at 9.5 ounces the lightest helmet in this review by an ounce.

Wrist-guard bulk is inversely proportional to a skater's confidence level. But even very secure skaters should opt for plastic that extends over the top of the wrist to avoid hyperextension. One of the most protective is Rollerblade's Advanced Wrist Guard ($35), an oversize, fingerless glove made of leather and nylon mesh with a strip of rigid plastic on top. Rollerblade's City Gear Wrist Guard ($22) sandwiches your hand in mesh and plastic; its minimalism makes it my favorite. The Lazzy Legs Cool Flow ($22) is made of durable, nonfraying mesh with plastic above and below the wrist and leather under the palm. CDS Detroit's Road Racing Glove ($23) is little more than an airy bike glove outfitted with a small, palm-mounted skid plate.

Knee and elbow pads are the most confining of all protection and therefore the first items to go as abilities rise. If you can't arrange for hand-me-downs, choose Rollerblade's City Gear Knee Pads and Elbow Pads ($22 per pair). They're contoured for right and left joints. Other decent pads are made by Lazzy Legs and Bauer ($16$25).

Additional asphalt armor comes in the way of the Andiamo! Anti-Shock Short Liners ($30). This cotton/spandex base layer has unobtrusive foam pads for protecting the hips and tailbone. An ideal over-the-liner layer is the Louis Garneau Supplex In-Line Tight ($50), because it's softer than most nylon-spandex tights and doesn't have stirrups to stuff into your skates.

Thin, moisture-wicking socks are the best bet to avoid chafing and fabric-bunching. Wigwam's In-Line ($7.50) and Thorlo's Pro Skater ($12) are lightly padded and made predominantly of wicking CoolMax.

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