In the wake of the tragic death of Willie Neal earlier this summer, there has been quite a bit of discussion of roller ski safety. Long-time New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) board member and LL Bean CMO Steve Fuller spearheaded a project to bring a low-cost, highly functional reflective vest to market. The purpose of this vest is to provide a “no-excuses” option for high visibility training clothing. Even cheap reflective vests usually cost around $25, and many are too hot, fit poorly, or fall apart quickly. With feedback from other NENSA board members and various coaches, in just a matter of weeks, Steve was able to get a new product on the market.
The Brooks® NightLife™ Mesh Vest, available from LL Bean comes in two different sizes and features a combination of reflective and high-visibility materials. And best of all, this vest is sold at-cost for only $10. LL Bean does not profit from the sale of this item, and you will be hard-pressed to find a cheaper option – especially one of this quality. The excuses have been eliminated.
This vest can be purchased here
Wearing a reflective vest is just one aspect of safe roller skiing. Always wear a helmet, be familiar with the terrain, and ff you ski at dusk or later, be sure to have a flasher.
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Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.
July 16, 2009 at 1:14 pm
Ah great initiative!
Still, I’d rather see some common sence applied to rollerskiing.
Lack of brakes on most models, doesn’t require elaborating.
Also, rollerskiing, as a training sport for XC skiers, just doesn’t seem to “match”. It is MUCH harder to do, crashes usually hurt, or worse.
The tiny, usually narrow wheels (rollerski rules demand these, but I’m talking training here), require paved, and more specifically asphat roads. Speeds gets end up higher than on snow, crashes little less scary than crashing a track bike with not only feet, but also hands tied to the bike. No-where to go.
I’ve been extremely disappointed by the off-road worthyness of commercially available wheeled skis. Skikes are a real hit in Europe, they are affordable, come with brakes, work on rougher roads, and are easier to deal with. Still, they’re only the tip of the iceberg in terms of technical potential.
I dara say, that should rollerskiing become more like mountainbiking, and less like speed skating with poles, we will see more people doing it, leading to greater strength of the XC Ski sport, but also much milder crashes, with less traffic involvement. The business could also use the exapnsion. Rollerskis are cheap and need little maintenance. Great for people who do it, but being more expensive never hurt MTB’ing. It’s super safe, and lots of fun. Easier to do as a recreational athlete also. Rollerskiing is all but impossible to for them (as am I).
I hold some designs I cannot financially bring to prototype stage, which would turn your typical XC center’s fire roads into a summer ski center. The trick is to use something better than wheels. Catskier has something, but so far I’ve not seen their rumored skating model. I think I have a few ways to ski, at snow speeds, even over sand, marbles and general grass/pine soil, and can imagine how great it must be to hear the birds’ songs on a training outing, rather than honking motorists rightfully cursing the weirdo’s on rollerskis. If this sport would dare to aim higher, and believe in the power of off-road skating like it should have been from the beginning, we’d soon be in a different place.
I see XC centers making extra money organising summer biathlon and XC. Not the runnin kind, but over their winter’s courses. Maybe mildly groomed (groom taken litterally here), a low-cost, low-effort way to host great events. Competition would be just like on the snow.
Let’s dare to dream, to make Willy’s untimely death that much less pointless?
Thanks for your patience if you made it this far,
July 17, 2009 at 6:18 pm
Another safety idea: Consider using speed reducers or brakes on your roller skis. Yeah, they cost extra to put on your roller skis. But think of using speed reducers on downhills as a roller skiing insurance policy. How much “expense” have you put into getting your fitness to where it is now? Well, that investment in fitness will have a serious crash if you have a serious crash because you can’t stop on a steep downhill and a car pulls out of a driveway and doesn’t see you.
Note from experience: If you are doing long hill repeats, say a climb of a mile or more, V2 speed reducers for the 900 series skis will eventually overheat and fail when coming down such a hill. The solution is to put speed reducers on the front AND back wheels of each ski. Then the speed reducer bearing races will not be overworked. The V2 Aero speed reducers have two bearing races, so they don’t have the overheating problem.
Another good reason for using speed reducers or brakes on roller skis is to keep roller skiing on roads from being outlawed in your area. As we have seen in AK, laws are a bit murky about what forms of transportation on roads are legal (folks in Fairbanks can vouch for this based on some law enforcement vs. roller skiing turmoil 5 or so years ago). It seems that roller skiing sneaks by as being legal, even though roller skis don’t typically have brakes. Injuries or deaths due to roller skiers not being able to stop have the strong possibility of causing a safety ordinance backlash with local politicians … and roller skis to be lumped in with skateboards as illegal brake-less devices to use on public roads. So – be safe, behave (when roller skiing), be cool.
July 21, 2009 at 7:37 pm
What Willie’s death should point out – don’t use or fiddle with, or worry about your cell phone, or anything else, when you drive.
Tell your friends his story. Tell your parents. Tell your ski friends.
When you Ski, Ski with full focus. When you Drive, Drive with complete focus. The life you save could be your teammate’s. It could be our country’s next medal.
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