Scratching the Surface
A Guide to Coping with Different Floors
'Tis the season to change venues. At least in Ottawa, this is the time of year when suddenly appropriate space for roller derby becomes abundant and we have access to all of the hockey arenas and curling clubs that take their ice out during the hot weather. However, changing venues and changing temperatures can often mean a change in surface conditions. Cold, dry concrete is pretty different than warm humid concrete for instance. So here is a quick guide to what to do if your new location feels like quicksand or makes you skate like Bambi on ice.
Change your wheels
If you have the luxury of a bottomless bank account, sometimes the easiest thing to do is change your wheels. The general rules are as follows:
1. You are sliding: get softer wheels (lower durometer number).
2. You are sticking: get harder wheels (higher durometer number.
Other dynamics that can help are the width of the wheel and the rigidity of the hub. The thinner the wheel, the lower the resistance, resulting in more slide. The harder the hub, the lower the flex and again, the less surface area in contact with the ground, so more slide.
Use your weight
Coach Red, is an engineer and he tends to explain things in very scientific/mathy ways. He uses the fancy term "apparent weight" when teaching stops. I'm going to get all "Red" on you for a moment, so here's the definition according to our good friend Wikipedia:
"In physics, apparent weight is a property of objects that corresponds to how heavy an object is. The apparent weight of an object will differ from the weight of an object whenever the force of gravity acting on the object is not balanced by an equal but opposite normal force."
Got it? Good. Just kidding. Imagine you are standing on a scale and then drop suddenly into a squat. Your weight will register as heavier momentarily when you reach the squat. What this means is that you can use your vertical movement to adjust your apparent weight and therefore your stopping power. If you drop into your stops, you will apply more friction and stop faster. The same can be said for the opposite. If you lift into your stop, you will slide more. How do you use this on different surfaces?
- You are sliding: drop into your stops.
- You are sticking: lift into your stops.
Adjust your trucks
I love me some loosey goosey trucks. All responsive to my weight distribution and movements, awwww yeah. Having loose trucks actually means that your wheels will maintain the surface contact for longer when you lean before going up on the edges. Just imagine if you had super tight trucks, no movement in your wheels, so leaning would put you up on your wheel edges right away. More surface area means more contact which means more resistance.
So on a sticky floor, loose trucks can be a problem.
- You are sliding: loosen your trucks.
- You are sticking: tighten your trucks.
Yup, surface conditions and dirt can change the way you skate. On a really dusty surface, you may actually feel a lot more slippery than if it were clean. Sweeping a floor can have a huge impact and if you are able to, mopping it can may make it stickier. I've seen a surface go from requiring a hybrid low 80s wheel to a low 90s wheel just by giving it a good wash.
If washing the floor isn't an option, then actually cleaning your wheels can make a difference too. Having a damp cloth (along with towel for drying) on the bench at practice or in games can affect how well you can maintain your adhesion.
- You are sliding: clean your surface and wheels
- You are sticking: let your wheels get a bit dirty.