And you can in-line skate in Rollerblades, for sure. That’s exactly what I was doing a couple years ago, in Rollerblades designed for a bit more intense urban skating, for a few laps around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, when I was spotted—or scouted, or something. I’d stopped to guzzle some water from a fountain on the side of the loop path when three guys in skintight speed suits, each of them wearing the distinctive, shoe-like speed-skating boots atop three large wheels that I’d seen on the feet of the skaters in the pelotons that whooshed by me on weekends, rolled up to me and introduced themselves. “Come skate with us,” one of them said. I asked them where they were going, how far. “Well, we started in Sheepshead Bay [in outer Brooklyn], and we skated to Central Park and did a few laps, and now we’re going to do a few laps here and then head back to Sheepshead Bay.” NB: This total trip is somewhere beyond 50 miles. (A local skater group, the Empire Skate Club, meanwhile, recently organized a multi-day skate from Manhattan to Toronto.) I begged off, blaming my non-speed skates and muttering something about just trying to shake off the cobwebs. “No—we’ve been following you; you’re good,” one of them replied.
I blamed my schedule, my fitness, something, anything, another time, maybe. I said goodbye to my new friends—and then I went home, carefully measured my feet, got myself a pair of Bont Jet speed skates, and started putting myself through glorious hell.
If the casual skater probably starts on Rollerblades, the entry drug to speed skating is often the Bont Jet, a short boot built of carbon and fiberglass hand-shaped around memory foam and epoxy resin. Advanced skaters match their own hand-picked boots with specific frames and wheels; I went for the whole kit and kaboodle as Bont assembled them.
Here’s the weird part: When the skates show up, you unscrew the boots from the frames, preheat your oven to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake the boots for 15-20 minutes. Take them out, put them on your bare feet as soon as you dare, lace them up nice and tight, wear them while standing for five or 10 minutes, et voila: You’ve now got custom heat-molded speed boots literally shaped to fit your exact feet.