Let me preface this post by admitting that I’m not really a downhill skater. Not even close. I’m not a complete spaz — I’ve gone down hills before, but it has never been my thing.
That being said, yesterday I took my new downhill board out to a nearby neighborhood and skated some hills. Nothing too steep, but around here the streets aren’t nice asphalt. They are somewhat OK concrete, with a lot of patches and seams between the sections. Since they are neighborhood streets, of course there are cars parked against the curb, so you’ve gotta keep you wits about you. Don’t want to get doored by someone as you pass by at 20mph. That could hurt.
Now, I think I probably only got up to a max speed of 25, and was probably at 20mph most of the way on these runs of about 1/4 mile each. The 2nd run I scouted out has ends in a T-bone intersection, requiring a 90 degree turn one way or the other. Luckily there is room to see if there’s a car coming. I figured if I spoted one I could just put the slider gloves down and skid to a stop.
Like many such intersections, the pavement there is pretty choppy. They tend to dig things up and then do bad patch jobs. Having walked the hill first, I knew it would be at least a little challenging to not lose my line turning through that spot. No matter what you are riding — even on a great downhill board with big, grippy wheels — If you are turning on choppy pavement you are going to drift and bounce a bit.
At any rate, the first part of that hill was fun. I carved back and forth to control my speed and just enjoyed the flow. But on crappy surface, when you reach a certain speed, carving can be a little harder due to the aforementioned drifting. So at that point I just pointed the nose toward the bottom and picked up speed.
The bottom turn came up a lot faster than I expected. I spoted an SUV down the street I was going to turn into, but it was plenty far away. When I saw that bumpy-ass surface down there, I actually thought about foot braking, but decided to man-up and just plow through. The new board was rad — it did drift a bit, and I wondered if I was about to go down. So I dropped my stance just a bit for a lower center of gravity through the frontside turn, front hand ready to slide if need be.
I shot through the turn, passing the SUV and waving to the driver, who looked a little freaked out.
This was probably the first real surge of adrenalin and fear I’ve felt skating in a long time. Downhill is no joke. Looking back to that crazy bottom turn, I think I could have picked a much better line to set up for the turn. Streets like this, with 90 degree turns, are not the ideal place to learn, but you work with what you have, eh? I have a lot to learn about this kind of skating.
Oh — yes — I did have a helmet on.