speed skate

Inline speed skating

Inline speed skating is the sport of racing on inline skates. It is often called inline racing by participants. Although it primarily evolved from racing on quad roller skates, the sport is similar enough to ice speed skating that many competitors are now known to switch between inline and ice speed skating according to the season.

The skate

An inline speed skate is a specialized version of the inline skate. The boot or shoe is close-fitting, without much padding and usually made of leather and/or carbon composites. For best performance the boot must conform closely to the shape of the foot, so most inline speed skating boots are heat-moldable, which allows the user to re-shape the boots to some extent when heat is applied.

The frame (sometimes called the chassis or plate) which holds the wheels is made of aircraft-quality aluminum and sometimes magnesium and usually mounts three, four to five polyurethane wheels of between 78 mm and 110 mm diameter. Each wheel contains 2 precision bearings with an aluminum spacer. The three wheel frames are used primarily for smaller skaters and the five wheel frames are not being used near as much. Currently (2007) most speed skaters are using 100 or 110mm wheels.

Bearing sizes have been standardized around the 608 series, though some manufacturers have tried 688 series or smaller in hopes of reducing weight. These smaller bearings have been met with limited success due to frame design issues and the need for proprietary design wheels. Bearing precisions run from ABEC-1 to percision bearings. While the ABEC system characterizes most bearings, some quality bearings do not have an ABEC rating. Additionally, bearings with ceramic balls have been marketed since the late 1990s. These do not have the potential corrosion problems of metal ball bearings and are said to create less friction, but they come at a significantly higher purchase price. Ceramic bearings are also considered more fragile and less durable than metal bearings.

Wheels made for inline speed skating tend to have a higher durometer, so they are harder than recreational wheels but not as hard as aggressive wheels. The higher durometer contributes to less wear and greater speed, but also less resistance, a factor that can increase a skater's endurance. Different wheels types are designed for particular skating conditions, such as indoor or outdoor, road or track, wet or dry, and rough or smooth surfaces, cement or asphalt. Pro skaters sometimes combine different wheels on the same skate in an attempt to achieve the best combination. The recent introduction of a dual-durometer wheel (where the wheel contains an inner layer or urethane with a different durometer than the exterior layer) has compounded to the dizzying number of choices available.

Although clap skate frames similar to those used in long track ice speed skating have been designed for inline racing, they have so far not proven to be superior to the normal fixed frame that inline racers use. In the past, most speed skaters used either four or five 80 mm wheels. Beginning in about 2002, elite inline speed skaters began employing fixed-frame "big-wheel" skates which have recently become the standard. These frames hold three or four wheels that may be from 90 to 110 mm in diameter.

A somewhat different form of inline speed skate uses a monocoque design. The boot and frame are made as one piece of carbon fiber material and offer noticeable savings in weight. They are, however, not widely used because they cost about four to five times the price of a high-quality standard boot-frame combination and require custom casting of the skater's feet, which is a costly and laborious process.

Technique and control

Mechanically, strokes in speed skating are deeper and faster (to a sharper angle, closer to the point of losing traction) than recreational skating but not as deep or as fast as in ice speed skating. This is because of the greater frictional forces in the direction of travel and lesser ability to apply friction without slipping of wheels on a hard surface compared to a steel blade on ice.

Speedskaters may also move each foot across the centerline of travel, leading to the double push method invented by the United States skater Chad Hedrick. The technique literally allows for two pushes in each stroke of the skate. However, it can also be tiring and even pro-elite skaters will often save it until needed, such as the latter stages or final sprint of a distance race. The double push is usually only used for outdoor racing.

Turning is significantly more difficult with inline speed skates than recreational skates because of more and larger wheels, creating a longer wheelbase. The wheel profile, that is, the cross-section, is parabolic, with a sharper shape than recreational or aggressive wheels, allowing the skater to essentially skate on a smaller, and hence more agile, wheel when leaned over in a turn.

Brakes are not generally used on speed skates so various other techniques to slow down are used, such as slaloming (skating s-curves) or v-plowing, where the heels are pushed outward and the toes inward. It is not readily obvious to an observer from a skater's stance that the skater is v-plowing, if it were the skater would quickly crash. The v-plow is often the stop used in situations where there is little lateral and forward room to stop. One technique is the T-stop, essentially dragging one foot perpendicular to and behind the other, however this wears the wheels of that skate quickly. Another stop involves picking up one foot and setting it down quickly and repeatedly somewhat perpendicular to the forward motion while keeping weight on the other foot. Hockey stops are possible on speed skates, but require a very deep lean in order to cause the wheels to lose traction and slide, also the fact that wheels are sliding means that the wheels are also wearing down very quickly. Grass runouts are always a last option, given an adjacent grassy area.

An inline speedskater takes much time to stop and often has still fewer options in an emergency, often taking several hundred feet on a level surface to come to a stop at a full, controlled deceleration. Thus, a skater should be familiar with and proficient in stopping techniques before attempting difficult situations such as heavily travelled roads or hills.

A resource book on inline racing technique and training is Speed on Skates by Barry Publow (ISBN 0-88011-721-4). Although dated because it was published in 1999 prior to significant changes in skate designs, the book nevertheless remains a valuable resource and is the only inline racing text widely available in North America.


Tactics in outdoor inline racing are similar to those of marathon ice speed skating and of road bicycle racing. Skaters tend to form packs or pacelines in which skaters line up behind a lead skater, thereby saving energy by skating in his draft. Sportsmanship requires that skaters in the paceline share the duty as paceline leader. Those who never take a pull at the front will likely find other skaters tacitly working together to defeat them.

During the course of a race skaters may make attacks, speeding up the pace in an effort to weed out the weaker and slower competition. These attacks may include breakaways and fliers, in which skaters try to create new smaller and faster packs or else to escape entirely from the other skaters. Depending on the length of the race and the skills and the cooperative effort of the chasers, these breakaways may or may not prove successful. If a skater escapes a pack in order to join a successful breakaway group, it is known as bridging up.

When skaters who are member of teams participate in a race together, they often have pre-determined roles. One or two would be designated attackers whose role it is to tire out the competition. Another skater may be the designated winner for the team, and he may avoid chasing any breakaways until late in a race, possibly until the final sprint if the lead pack has never broken up.

Race venues and formats

Inline speed skating races are held in a variety of formats and on a variety of surfaces.

Indoor races are most common in the United States, which has a long tradition of racing on skates at rinks. The competitions are generally held at roller skating rinks with plastic coated wood floors and less commonly, a plastic coated cement floor. The track is about 100 m in circumference. At USARS (USA Roller Sports) events, tracks are marked by four pylons set in a rectangular shape, while at NIRA (National Inline Racing Association) events, tracks are marked by multiple pylons that create an oval shaped track. Events, or meets, are typically structured so that members of numerous age groups race in three or four distances. For the more populous divisions, there may be a number of heats in order to qualify for the final race. To some extent, indoor inline races are similar to short track speed skating.

Outdoor races may be held on regular pavement on city streets or park roads, or they may be held at specialized venues similar to velodromes, sometimes called patinodromes. A patinodrome is generally about 400 m in circumference and may be surfaced with asphalt, concrete or similar material. The curves may be banked. Such specialized skating tracks are relatively common in Europe but rare in the United States.

Race formats include:

Time trials: Held "against the clock", each skater races individually or in pairs over a distance of 100 m to 300 m, attempting to establish the best time. Time trials are occasionally held over longer distances, but they are very physically demanding and not popular.

Sprints: Skating in small groups of about a half dozen over a distance of 500 m to 1500 m, skaters advance in a series of heats to a final round.

Elimination races: In these moderate-distance races, also known as last man out, the hindmost skater is eliminated from the competition each time the pack of skaters complete a lap or when they complete certain specified lap numbers. At one or two laps to before the finish, the group has usually been pared down to four or five skaters. At this point the first across the finish line is the winner.

Points races: In these moderate-distance races, the first, second and third skaters to cross the start/finish line at certain specified laps are awarded points. Laps late in the race are worth more points, with the final lap worth the most points of all. It is possible to win a points race without actually being the first to cross the finish line at the end.

Points-elimination races: A combination of elimination races and points races.

Relays: Relay events include teams of two to four skaters each. Indoor meets may include "mixed" relay events in which teams have either one female and one male OR two females and two males, but outdoor relays (usually held on tracks) are usually if not always single-sex events. In a mix relay, it is traditional that a female goes to the starting line as the first skater to race.

Criterium races: Instead of racing a specified distance or number laps, the skaters skate for a certain amount of time, then plus a (small) number of laps. The time is typically between 15 and 45 minutes, after which a bell is rung and the skaters informed the race is over when they skate one or two more laps around the course. The portion of the race skated after the bell is rung is known as the bell lap (or laps).

Distance races: Although events such as points-elimination races and criteriums may cover a distance of 10 to 25 km, a distance race usually refers to a race over a set distance of about 5 km or longer and without specialized points or elimination rules. The event may be truly point-to-point or may held on a repeating course with a circumference of at least 1 km. Distance races are often marketed to the general populace and not just to members of inline racing clubs.

Marathons: Lately there is a new movement of skaters bringing big masses to events, this events are the skate marathons, 42K long or 26.2 miles, the most popular marathons in the USA are: The Northshore inline Marathon The North Shore Marathon and Saint Paul Inline Marathon SPIM This races gain more popularity everyday as skaters form friendships and bonds at this events.

Ultra Marathons: Ultra Marathons draw large numbers, given the time needed to complete such events, one could say that they are the equivalent to a running marathon, this events were very popular in the late 1990s but declined after the year 2001, there is a new movement of people keeping this events alive and bringing them back to the forefront of the speed skating world. There are two very old and popular Ultra Marathons in the USA:
The New York City Skate Marathon And NY 100K The New York City Skate Marathon & NY 100K on its 17th year this event has drawn the best skaters in the world such as Chad Hedrick and Dereck Parra. Athens 2 Atlanta A2A This is the longest running point to point event in the usa.

In the early days of inline racing, sponsors of distance races were often also running event organizers, and the races they organized were commonly the same distances as those of running races, about 5-10 km. By the mid-1990s such events were proving to not be very popular and in the United States, where sales of inline skates were also beginning to slip, there was a decline in participation at races. However, at about that time in Europe, where inline skate sales were beginning to rise, race sponsors began to regularly organize longer events, particularly inline marathons. Such events proved to be enormously popular among fitness skaters, with some events such as the Berlin Inline Marathon and the Engadin Inline Marathon in St. Moritz, Switzerland, regularly attracting over 5000 skaters each year.

In about 2000 American event sponsors followed suit, and inline half-marathons and marathons were scheduled more and more frequently around the country. As in Europe the events proved a big draw with fitness skaters looking for events which would give their training a focus. However, by 2005 this surge was tempered as some major events were either postponed for a year or cancelled permanently. In the United States the most popular inline marathon has continued to be the NorthShore Inline Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota.

In 1999, a team of six British men lead by Paul Robinson skated from Land's End to John O'Groats, a distance of 886 miles. This is the only known long-distance skating event held in the world to date.

Dryland triathlons: Occasionally organized by triathlon sponsors, these events substitute inline skating for the swimming component of the race. These event were infrequent even during the mid 1990s boom in inline skating participation. Today they are rare to non-existent.

Downhill races: An event most popular in the Alpine countries of Europe, these races are timed events down a steep course. Racers usually skate alone and the event commonly uses the best time of two heats to establish the winner. Downhill inline racers usually wear skates much more like "regular" inline skates than inline speed skates, along with extensive body covering and protective gear, and strong helmets. They may reach speeds of up to 130 km/h.

Olympic status

Attempts by the world governing body for roller sports, the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS), to gain Olympic status for any of its disciplines were distinctly insufficient in the closing decades of the 20th century. Most notably, it failed to capitalize when rink hockey (a form of roller hockey) appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Efforts by FIRS to obtain Olympic status became more coherent in about 2000, with inline speed skating promoted as the roller sport best suited for the Olympics. However, the federation faces competition from approximately 20 other sports also seeking entry into the Olympics, while at the same time the president of the International Olympic Committee has expressed a desire to reduce the size of the summer Olympic Games.

Because inline racing does not have Olympic status, a number of inline speed skaters have switched to ice speed skating in order to have a chance at attending the Olympics. The first of these was KC Boutiette, who made the switch in late 1993 and skated at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. This migration to ice proved successful in 2002 when three former inline speed skaters from the United States won five medals in long track speed skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. They were Derek Parra, Jennifer Rodriguez and Joey Cheek. In late 2002, American inline champion Chad Hedrick similarly switched to ice, and in February 2004, he won the World Allround Speed Skating Championships. He was the first American to win that event since Eric Flaim in 1988. In 2006, Hedrick and Cheek also won one gold medal each at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

USA Roller Sports is the official American national governing body recognized by the US Olympic Committee.

World records


Distance Skater Time Date Place
300 Andrea Zanetti 24,297 23/07/2007 Estarreja (Portugal)
500 Luca Presti 40,088 25/07/2007 Estarreja (Portugal)
1000 Luca Presti 1:21,719 24/07/2007 Estarreja (Portugal)
1500 Giuseppe De Persio 2:07,770 01/08/1980 Finale Emilia (Italy)
2000 Roland Klöss 2:54,560 28/08/1988 Inzell (Germany)
3000 Giuseppe De Persio 4:21,764 01/08/1980 Finale Emilia (Italy)
5000 Mirko Giupponi 7:34,938 29/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
10000 Diego Rosero 15:10,630 25/08/2002 Zandvoorde (Belgium)
15000 Diego Rosero 23:06,120 25/08/2002 Zandvoorde (Belgium)
20000 Paolo Bomben 30:52,792 29/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
30000 Tomasso Rossi 47:42,820 29/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
50000 Tomasso Rossi 1:20:17,736 29/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
Udpdated November 2007

Distance Skater Time Date Place
300 Nicoletta Falcone 26,213 23/07/2007 Estarreja (Portugal)
500 Simona De Cesaris 44,404 28/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
1000 Barbara Fischer 1:27,060 28/08/1988 Inzell (Germany)
1500 Marisa Canafoglia 2:14,644 27/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
2000 Nicola Malmstrom 3:02,025 28/08/1988 Inzell (Germany)
3000 Marisa Canafoglia 4:38,464 29/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
5000 Marisa Canafoglia 7:48,508 30/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
10000 Marisa Canafoglia 15:58,022 30/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
15000 Brigitte Méndez 25:14,298 04/09/2004 L'Aquila (Italy)
20000 Annie Lambrechts 32:53,970 28/06/1985 Lovaina (Belgium)
30000 Annie Lambrechts 49:15,906 28/06/1985 Lovaina (Belgium)
50000 Annie Lambrechts 1:21,26,942 28/06/1985 Lovaina (Belgium)
Updated November 2007


Distance Skater Time Date Place
200 Gregorio Duggento 16,209 06/09/2006 Anyang (Korea)
300 Gregorio Duggento 23,681 02/08/2000 Barrancabermeja (Colombia)
500 Joey Mantia 38,660 07/09/2006 Anyang (Korea)
1000 Ippolito Sanfratello 1:17,757 17/06/1999 Padua (Italy)
1500 Chad Hedrick 1:57,698 17/06/1999 Padua (Italy)
2000 Derek Downing 2:40,658 17/06/1999 Padua (Italy)
3000 Fabio Marangoni 4:18,379 17/06/1999 Padua (Italy)
5000 Arnaud Gicquel 6:43,900 30/07/2003 Padua (Italy)
10000 Joey Mantia 13:46,801 06/09/2006 Anyang (Korea)
15000 Chad Hedrick 22:11,960 02/08/2000 Barrancabermeja (Colombia)
20000 Joey Mantia 29:01,955 07/09/2006 Anyang (Korea)
30000 Dino Grotti 48:42,179 28/08/1997 Grenoble (France)
42195 (maratón) Roger Schneider 58:17 --- 02/08/2003 Abano Terme (Italy)
50000 Mauro Lollobrigida 1:21:29,102 28/08/1997 Grenoble (France)
84390 Luca Presti 2:14:37,000 03/11/1999 Santiago (Chile)
Updated November 2007

Distance Skater Time Date Place
200 Jennifer Caicedo 18,27 30/08/2007 Cali (Colombia)
300 Andrea González 26,791 26/07/1999 Winnipeg (Canada)
500 Jennifer Caicedo 43,478 07/09/2006 Anyang (Korea)
1000 Marisa Canafoglia 1:28,014 28/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
1500 Marisa Canafoglia 2:14,122 28/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
2000 Luz Mery Tristán 3:07,040 12/11/1990 Bello (Colombia)
3000 Francesca Monteverde 4:55,506 29/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
5000 Simona Di Eugenio 7:40,530 30/07/2003 Padua (Italy)
10000 Julie Brabant 13:28,00 ?/07/1998 Toronto (Canada)
15000 Sheila Herrero 24:57,820 02/08/2000 Barrancabermeja (Colombia)
20000 Alexandra Vivas 32:18,177 07/09/2006 Anyang (Korea)
21097 (1/2 maratón) Adelia Marra 35:02,930 28/08/1987 Pamplona (Spain)
30000 Marisa Canafoglia 52:38,640 28/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
40000 Sheila Herrero 1:18:01,000 03/10/1999 Santiago (Chile)
42195 (maratón) Alessandra Susmeli 1:10:43 --- 02/08/2003 Abano Terme (Italy)
50000 Marisa Canafoglia 1:28:16,852 28/08/1987 Grenoble (France)
Updated November 2007

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