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Old April 27th, 2007, 09:16 PM   #1
Ken Roberts
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Default skate Alpe d'Huez (France)

On Thursday I skated up the road to l’Alpe d’Huez in France, the famous “tough climb” for road bicycling, often included in the Tour de France race. I used ski poles to help me climb (actually “rollerski” poles), and that made it faster and more fun. I’m sure other skaters have climbed it before and without using poles.

I skated up the whole climb with no pauses or rests, and still felt pretty strong when I arrived in the ski resort town at the top.
That road climbs roughly +1050 meters (or more?) in a distance of roughly 13 kilometers (or about +3450 vertical feet in 8 miles), for an average steepness around 8% grade.
So then I rolled back down it on my skates. Most of the way I used T-stop braking to control my speed, but sometimes I used “forward” T-stop braking on some steeper segments or when getting close to reaching one of the 21 hairpin curves. A few times I used heel-braking with assist from a Gatorleash -- usually on steeper segments when a car was behind me.
I did pause several times on the way down to rest my braking muscles, since in my normal skating I almost never do non-heel-brake stops because I love my wheels, so some of those muscles don’t get much practice.
While climbing up I got some “thumbs up” signs from the car and truck drivers (though the bicyclists didn’t seem to know how to react to a skater doing their famous mountain climb). It was an excellent opportunity for me to practice coordinating pole-pushes and upper-body moves with my leg-pushes -- still pretty complicated even though I’ve been working on it for more than four years.

Late April was a nice time of year to do the climb because there was still lots of snow on the mountains all around it which made it prettier for me. And it was cooler than in summer -- good thing, since I finished my climbing at 10:30 in the morning and my headband was soaked with sweat.
Unlike most of those famous big mountain road climbs in Europe (e.g. Mont Ventoux, Stelvio/Stilfserjoch) this one from Bourg d’Oisans up to l’Alpe d’Huez is open all year long, because it goes up to a ski resort -- though I would not try it with weekend traffic during the main ski season.
Ken

P.S. Does using poles really help? One report of the Mont Ventoux skate-climb this year said that somebody tried to use rollerski poles but abandoned them midway. My experience was the opposite -- no doubt that poles helped me climb and I wanted to use them as much as I could all the way to the top -- and again on future climbs. My suspicion is that using poles requires well-practiced coordination technique and lots of specific training to exploit the arm and other upper-body muscles to help in skating.
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Old April 28th, 2007, 09:50 AM   #2
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Default Awesome!

What a great and scenic adventure! What skates did you use?

It makes me think about similar roads here. I would not have the courage to do the downhill for that distance with traffic; but, as I visualized and thought about what you did, I realized that I would be totally happy to do a similar uphill here and have my bike and shoes hidden at the top and ride back down.

Thanks for the great food for thought!
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Old April 29th, 2007, 12:21 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaurieFlood View Post
It makes me think about similar roads here. I would not have the courage to do the downhill for that distance with traffic; but, as I visualized and thought about what you did, I realized that I would be totally happy to do a similar uphill here and have my bike and shoes hidden at the top and ride back down.
It's funny - for me it's the opposite. I'm fine with doing big downhills in traffic (unless the edges of the road are unskatable), but climbing I feel like I'm "in the way" unless there's a bike lane or a wide shoulder lane.

----Scott
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Old April 29th, 2007, 05:54 AM   #4
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Default The Mess on the Sides

Quote:
unless the edges of the road are unskatable)
Therein lies the problem- pine cones and needles, large gravel, often fist -sized rocks. It is probably somewhat better up the Alps, because it appears to be above tree line. I'm below treeline here. The vehicles clean up the majority of the road by driving through, but guess where it all goes... When I am bike riding, I have to be somewhat in the lane of travel on the downhill, because the edge is sure wipeout. But this is great for me to do just the uphill, because I'm a cardio addict, not a speed freak. And I bet those poles make it all go up better.
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Old April 30th, 2007, 02:47 PM   #5
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Default

There are big skatable climbs in USA also.
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Originally Posted by LaurieFlood View Post
It makes me think about similar roads here. I would not have the courage to do the downhill for that distance with traffic; but, as I visualized and thought about what you did, I realized that I would be totally happy to do a similar uphill here and have my bike and shoes hidden at the top and ride back down.
(but I normally do not broadcast publicly where the good hills are around home, because I don't want car drivers to start complaining about too many skaters and then getting rules made against it.)
Yes I've used the strategy of leaving a bicycle at the top several times (e.g. east side of Col de la Croix de Fer). More often Sharon and I are doing uphill training together, so we take turns driving the car to the top. A couple of times I've been in a hurry and ended up walking down a long steep hill, which resulted in my legs being sore for a couple of days. On my steeper but shorter local hills, often I'm comfortable handling the downhill with Gatorleash and heel-brakes.

I don't think tree-line is the only important factor in determining debris on roads. Because there's lots of road hills in the northeast U.S. below tree-line with little debris problem most of the year. It also depends on the kinds of trees and time of year (e.g. like autumn is bad) and weather (e.g. wind and heavy rainstorms) and how much the trees overhang the road, how wide the road, and traffic patterns of cars to naturally shove debris off the road.

which Skates?
I used my regular road-touring skates: Salomon Pilot Pro 2 with 100-84-100-100 wheels. I've heard some people say big wheels are supposed to be difficult for climbing, but I've never noticed it for myself.

Ken
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Old April 30th, 2007, 03:54 PM   #6
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Default Awesom Post and Pictures

Ken, An awesome post that I enjoyed reading and visualizing. I really have enjoyed your pictures you posted in other places too. Thanks for sharing.

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Old April 30th, 2007, 08:38 PM   #7
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Default Good Point

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(but I normally do not broadcast publicly where the good hills are around home, because I don't want car drivers to start complaining about too many skaters and then getting rules made against it.)
That is a really good point. I hadn't really thought about how they could make it illegal. There are quite a few really good climbs here. I have just always ridden my bike on them, so I never really considered that they could do that. That is a good point to remember, be discrete so it is not made illegal. Hopefully, just doing the uphill will be one way to keep it discrete. Also, not on weekends, because it is less safe due to more traffic (especially when they pass you going 65 hauling a 5th wheel), and the tourists would see and try. Then, there would be tons of them out there. I'm going to have to look into CA law on skating on the street.

Thanks. Your account and information are really helpful.
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Old April 30th, 2007, 10:55 PM   #8
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Default rules + enforcement patterns are different in every place

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I hadn't really thought about how they could make it illegal.
Keep in mind that many interesting large hill roads in the USA are (partly) on some sort of Park land (county, state, or federal) -- and that Park authorities often can make up rules which are different from normal public roads. Anyway in many jurisdictions the legal status of skating on the public roads is ambiguous. But that might not be the important thing ...

I've skated several times in a European country where some people inside and outside the country have told me that skating on the roads and streets is technically illegal -- but I just do it politely and respectfully and wave to the police and they wave back. And I've skated often in a U.S. state where the obvious interpretation of the statutes is that road-skating is explicitly permitted -- and there I've been stopped and warned by police (who either didn't know that part of the law or had a different interpretation of it).

Generally I'm happy to privately show somebody a special interesting road or route if they're actually going to skate it with me. What I worry about in broadcasting it publicly is that a group of skaters will arrive and get into a power-confrontation with local drivers or pedestrians -- who will then appeal to their law enforcement people to "do" something about the perceived "problem".
(Now in some cases a direct confrontation might be a deliberate political strategy used by the local skating community. I'm not debating that -- just trying to avoid accidental ones that don't help things.)
Generally my strategy is focus more on being respectful of other users rather than about being "discreet" -- but seems like lots of other road-skaters do not put much work into that strategy.

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Old April 30th, 2007, 11:33 PM   #9
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Default

I'm trying to remember which ski access road I skated up and back down near the northeast shore of Lake Tahoe back in '99. Squaw Valley, perhaps? (I'm guessing that Tahoe is in your neck of the woods, Laurie.)

Anyhow, I recall the pavement being really nice and debris-free. Aside from a truck that came the other way near the bottom and threw off my parallel turns, it was pretty much perfect!

----Scott
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Old May 1st, 2007, 06:16 AM   #10
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Roberts View Post
There are big skatable climbs in USA also.
(but I normally do not broadcast publicly where the good hills are around home, because I don't want car drivers to start complaining about too many skaters and then getting rules made against it.)
Ken
Funny I guess this is the half full half empty aproach that can be used to everything, I like to tell people where my favorite training places are, I figure the more skaters out there skating the easier it will be later on down the road to fight against laws that prohibit skaters, I believe that if we have a lot of skaters skating all over the place, then the sport will be more publicly known and therefore easier to deffend in a court of law.
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Old May 1st, 2007, 07:19 AM   #11
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Default Truckee River Trail

Quote:
I'm trying to remember which ski access road I skated up and back down near the northeast shore of Lake Tahoe back in '99. Squaw Valley, perhaps? (I'm guessing that Tahoe is in your neck of the woods, Laurie.)

Anyhow, I recall the pavement being really nice and debris-free. Aside from a truck that came the other way near the bottom and threw off my parallel turns, it was pretty much perfect!

----Scott
Yes, Scott, there is a really nice trail that leads along the Truckee River and then along a highway going between Tahoe City and Truckee. It is a great place to skate, bike ride, etc. in the summer when there is no snow and the night-time freezes have ended. It is an hour and a half from me, so a bit of a drive that I do once in a while in the summer. South shore has a more extensive trail system that is only an hour away. I will spend more time there once the night freezes have ended. These are both swept by crews on a regular basis. Here, in Pollock, though, the options don't include such nice, well-kept trails and the roads are steep, in really bad shape, and are swept once a year. There is a trail a half-hour away in Placerville that is more of a year-round deal - 3.5 miles of gradual, consistent uphill. The bad road that I will likely skate uphill on and bike on frequently is just a mile from my house. It is a 3,000 foot gain in about 11 miles. Yes, if I drive, in the summer there are two really good options, but right here is more limited and requires more creativity.
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Old May 1st, 2007, 12:15 PM   #12
Ken Roberts
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Default lots of times publicity is good, but

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I like to tell people where my favorite training places are ...
I generally agree with "telling" people informally about good places -- it's a few cases of writing about them where I hold back. Though actually I've done lots more public writing than most people about specific places to skate, like lots of detailed reports about road-skate tours in New York and New Jersey on Skate Hudson Valley -- and detailed reports on lots of places in France + Italy on newsgroup rec.sport.skating.inline and www.roberts-1.com/skate/v. And potential off-street places in NY to consider for skating.

It's only a few tricky special cases that I hold back on writing about publicly.
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Originally Posted by excelsk8 View Post
I figure the more skaters out there skating the easier it will be later on down the road to fight against laws that prohibit skaters, I believe that if we have a lot of skaters skating all over the place, then the sport will be more publicly known and therefore easier to defend in a court of law.
I happen to think that's not how the American political system works in lots of cases. More often it happens that people who do work for + give money to political campaigns (and spend time nicely communicating with + doing favors for bureaucrats) who have more influence on rules + enforcement patterns. I've done some of the political campaigning stuff, including delivering literature door-to-door on skates.

I think it just happens that excelsk8 lives in the midst of two U.S. states where some people once did the organizational work to get laws put on the books that provide some explicit permissions for skating in public places. But I think in one of those states local city + county governments still have the authority to ban skating on specific streets if they choose. (A web search will find the relevant statutes for NJ + NY -- also see www.skatecity.com/nyc/law)

Sometimes getting lots of people out skating is good, but I think also sometimes first quietly laying some groundwork of relationships works better in the long run.

Ken
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Old May 1st, 2007, 08:52 PM   #13
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Default Industry?

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Sometimes getting lots of people out skating is good, but I think also sometimes first quietly laying some groundwork of relationships works better in the long run.
You would think the skate manufacturers would support efforts to preserve and extend rights to skate. It is certainly in their financial interests. Manufacturers in other sports band together in industry groups to do this, but I just get the impression that this industry does not really do much to get more people interested in skating, let alone advocate for access rights. Am I wrong on this? I would like to be.
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