NorthShore Blog

Trail Etiquette

This excerpt comes from FITNESS ON SKATES, how to teach trail fitness. Find a Certified Skate IA instructor near you to learn how to skate with efficiency, power and speed.

There are a few rules that allow for the trail to be used by numerous skaters and are designed for the safety of everyone on the trail. Most of this etiquette is used for speed skating, such as races and training for power, speed and efficiency.

  1. Stay right. Stay as far to the right of any trail as possible. It may feel like you will be pushing off the side of the trail. This is okay, you won’t. Share the road/trail.
  2. Single File. Very few trails are wide enough to allow skaters to skate side-by-side. Skaters, unlike cyclist, move from side to side and we need a fair amount of the trail to complete our trails and so it is not appropriate to skate side by side. Also, because of the skater movement, it is more likely to hook skates when skating side by side. Finally you need to leave sufficient space on your left for cyclists to pass on the left as they come up from behind you. Finally, being single file you can see hazards ahead of you.
  3. The single file method is designed for races, etc, and is not necessary for social skates such as Big Apple Roll, Skate Boston or Skater Migration. The pace is usually a bit slower (at least behind the speed demons) and you are encouraged to meet and chat with new skaters. Skating side-by-side allows for community skating.
  4. Look. Part of training for a marathon, or simply skating for distance is learning how to BOTH look at the ground below you and to anticipate what is ahead: stop signs, small kids on bikes, dogs, potholes, cars, etc. You need to learn to manage close and away at the same time. It takes practice and skating by yourself, or far enough away from a second skater will allow you to develop this skill. Develop it! It’s key to your safety.
  5. Pace Line. A pace line is a group of skaters that skate with little distance north and south between them so skaters can enjoy the value of the aerodynamics of skating behind others. What you need to know is it is best to match the strides of the person in front of you. Also, the closer you are to the person in front of you, the less work you need to do. I suggest that you choose the skaters in your pace line wisely, poor skaters, or skaters with poor striding will not allow you the safety and joy of a pace line. Also, if you have inefficient striding, don’t jump into a pace line, learn to skate well and earn the right to the pace line.
  6. Pull your weight. If you are going to be in a pace line, you will need to share in pulling it from the front and it takes much more work to be in front, so rest and then take a turn. Its hard work to pull the whole pace line, but everyone needs to take a turn. Everyone.
  7. Skate well. The better you are, the safer everyone else is, in the pace line. Keep your distance until you can skate well enough to be in a pace line. Also, learning what striding is and isn’t, is key. Most skaters cannot see their own challenges. Videotaping your striding and have those that are qualified, can assist you in improving in efficiency and power. Issues include: toe flicks; imbalanced striding (more on one side than the other); not fully using outside to inside (COE/Change of edge) for power; upper body movement; recovery foot; pushing too far out; and not creating arcs for efficiency and power.
  8. Share the signs. Those at the front of the pace line will shout out hazards, stops, concerns. Pass them on to those behind you by repeating them. People will also come up from behind, share those details as well (“Bike Back” means a cyclist is coming up from behind and passing on the left. While “Bike UP” means a cyclist is coming towards the pace line) Both hands up means we are coming to a stop. Listen for the commands and repeat them so those at the back can hear them.
  9. Encourage and meet new skaters. You can make the difference for another skater, if they are struggling find out why. Maybe water or a GU will make a difference. It’s more fun to keep the pack and/or assist other skaters in doing their personal best.