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
($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

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.