Wheeling on the Outside
A friend of mine, Makalii, recently asked me about wheeling outside. German wheel takes a lot of space, and it can be space that is very illusive to locate (believe me I am extremely familiar with the annoyance of not having space to wheel). So sometimes you may be tempted to use an outdoor space. In a limited capacity, this can be done; a paved driveways, asphalt, even very smooth brick is possible for a single session/demonstration. However if you want to regularly train on a rough surface you will quickly burn through the soft rubber coating around your hoops. This is replaceable, but it’s not the cheapest and if you are trying to DIY it can be tricky to get it lying right the second time. So what can we do? Here are a couple of options.
Pipe insulation. This method is best if you want to do a parade or something where you will be rolling around outside a lot, but not necessarily doing high skill level tricks. There are many kinds of pipe insulation, so make sure you think about what you need. The thicker/harder it is, the more life you will get out of it. The easiest/cheapest option is the soft black foam stuff. It will make you feel like your wheeling on pillows, so don’t expect a super steady ride, but it will turn your wheel into a pretty impressive off-road vehicle. Just make sure you get the right diameter so it fits all the way around the wheel. (Either measure it or bring a piece of the wheel with you). It should come split along one side so you can simply and easily wrap it around your hoops, then use duct tape to bind it. Try to minimize the tape touching your hoops because it will leave a sticky residue that you will have to scrub it off (isopropyl alcohol will help). Also, you can get fancy colored tape and make some designs. I used this method to take my wheel to Burning Man and it worked fine. Here is a pic of me teaching on the playa. It was pretty hot so I look a little run down. 😉 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dooma/6206507540/ It works great, the wrapping kept that extremely alkaline dust away, and rocks and hard playa floor at bay. Spiral is possible… but be careful; the slippery surface of the tape gives little grip and the squish of the soft insulation will make it difficult to “feel” the wheel. You also may notice the wrap can twist along the outside of the wheel which will feel very weird. I don’t recommend this option for heavy training or real performance. If you need that, then you gotta break out the big guns.
Marley flooring. If you have a hard backyard area you need to convert to a wheel space (assuming it is level) then all you need to address is the roughness of the floor. You can buy rolls of the stuff, I did a quick search and found some for $23 a square yard. This is a more expensive option of covering the wheel, but it will allow you to wheel at a much higher skill level than the foam covering. Obviously this would not really work for a parade. J Although it would be pretty hilarious to see one person wheeling and a team of 4 just moving Marley around them.
This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyways: Be careful out there, wheelers. The enticement of training by yourself whenever you want in the comfort of your own backyard is tempting. But as a general rule it is a bad idea to train completely alone, you never know, and if something goes south having a friend nearby can make a life or death difference. Also, it is easy to training yourself into crazy habits when you don’t have another human being who can watch from the outside. Plus its more fun to train with people you like, you’ll find you get better faster.