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Rollerski Buyer’s Guide

As I’ve perused the internet and social media sites over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that many people are interested in buying rollerskis but don’t know where to start. With this in mind, I have created a Rollerski Buyer’s Guide. From local shops to international dealers, there are all sorts of options when it comes to rollerski equipment.

We are going to start off with the most important piece of equipment: the helmet. When rollerskiing, it is ALWAYS necessary to wear a protective helmet. One key component of a good helmet is MIPS technology. This is a concussion-preventing slip panel inside the helmet that helps reduce the chance of serious brain damage. There are many quality helmet brands out there, but for rollerskiing, you’ll probably want to gravitate towards Giro, Bontrager, Rudy Project, and Bell. You will also want a standard, lightweight, “bike” style helmet. This design will help keep you cool and protected on long summer rollerskis. In general, these helmets range anywhere from $30-$200 depending on what you are looking for.

The next step is the rollerskis themselves. The most common rollerski brands are Marwe, Swenor, Fischer, Pursuit, Swix, and Hjul. You can’t really go wrong with any of these. Swix and Fischer are the big name brands and tend to be a bit more expensive. Clayton Keim, owner of Rollerskishop.com and Pursuit Rollerskis, wrote a fantastic article about how to pick out rollerskis which you can find by clicking this link. In general, if you are looking for a skate specific rollerski, you will be spending roughly $200-$500 while a classic rollerski might be slightly more. The lower end of this price range gets you a slower, heavier ski while the upper end of this price range tends to get you a lighter, faster ski (much like picking out nordic skis). The difference between a skate and classic ski is the wheel bearings in the back wheel of the ski. A classic rollerski will not allow the ski to roll backwards. This gives the user the opportunity to practice a “kicking” motion. The speed of the ski depends on the wheel. Wheels come in different sizes and materials which are explained in Clayton’s article. If you are looking for a race rollerski, you will obviously want a faster wheel. If you simply want to train on your rollerskis, I would recommend a slower wheel to provide more resistance, which can make you feel faster once you get to skiing on snow.

Poles are the next order of business. Basically, you can use the same poles you use while snow skiing. The difference is the tip of the pole. You will want to put on a rollerski ferrule with a hard metal tip to reduce wear. These tips cost anywhere from $10-$25 roughly. It is quite simple to exchange pole tips, click this link for a step-by-step tutorial. If you happen to have Swix poles with the Triac Basket System (the screw system), all you have to do is unscrew your snow basket and attach the rollerski ferrule in its place. I would recommend not getting a full-carbon rollerski pole. Yes, they are lighter, stiffer and more efficient. However, this stiffness could lead to elbow and shoulder issues if used long enough. I would suggest a composite pole in the $50-$80 range. Swix, OneWay, Fischer, Excel, KV+, Rossignal, Salomon, and Leki all make fantastic poles both for use on snow and pavement. 

To tie everything together, you need boots and bindings. Similarly to poles, you can use your winter ski boots for rollerskiing. The only issue with this is rollerskiing tends to be hard on boots. They wear out much faster in the summer than they would in the winter. I typically use an older pair of boots for my rollerskiing endeavors and keep my nice, new boots in storage until the snow flies. The most important part of your boot experience is that they fit properly. If they don’t fit, you could get blisters which are no fun at all. Make sure the boot is snug on your foot, but not constricting. You don’t want your foot sliding around within the boot as you are skiing along. The second most important part of your boots is the bindings. Make sure you have the same bindings on your rollerskis that you have on your snow skis if you want to use the same boots in the winter and summer. There are two major binding systems in the nordic world: SNS and NNN. To see the difference, click here. There are rollerski specific boots from companies such as Alpina and Fischer that are $150-$400 give or take a bit. These, however, are not necessary for rollerskiing. They just tend to breathe a little bit better. 

Now that we have the essentials down, there a few miscellaneous items that I would highly suggest getting:

  • Water bottle and water bottle belt
  • GPS watch
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Knee/Elbow pads
  • Bandaids
  • A rollerski brake (yes, this is a thing and can be quite handy. Check this one out from Rollerskishop.com)
  • Gloves
  • Reflective Clothing

None of this stuff is “essential” per se, but will make your rollerskiing experience much more enjoyable. 

You can get a majority of this equipment at your local ski shop. For example, Pioneer Midwest (owned by 2009 Birkebeiner Champion Matt Liebsch), sells a rollerski package that comes with Hjul rollerskis, poles, pole tips, and bindings for $250. Other shops have similar offers as well.

With this information in mind, it is time to go out and get some spring/summer skiing in! Remember to follow your local traffic laws if you are headed out on roads. Take it slow and steady and work your way up if you are just beginning. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at jordan@northshoreinline.com.  I can’t wait to see everyone’s summer training pay off at the NorthShore Rollerski Race in September!