Slide bites or how to spot a rower walking down the street . . .
Ok, picture this – it’s summertime. You’re walking downtown and ahead of you is a girl (or guy – you choose): tall, bronzed, lean, athletic-looking . . . she’s looking good and you cast your eye downwards to the flick of the hem of her skirt (he’s wearing shorts), down the back of her legs . . . and ah-ha, there marring this piece of perfection, there sparking that burst of recognition, there they are . . . the scars, the scabs, perhaps even the gaping wounds of the slide bite. Definitely no calf skin protection used.
It’s a good phrase that: slide bite, giving a good picture of a bit of the boat attacking you and doesn’t it just feel like that sometimes? You shove that seat back, push your legs out to full stretch, put all that power into your stroke and . . . aaargh! Jab! Right on the back of your calves and there are how many more strokes left in your training session? And how many times will your coach be telling you that you need to push your legs harder?
Fixing the slide bite problem
You can fix the problem in two ways:
- Rail system
- Calf protection
Your short term solution could be to move your foot-stretcher closer to the stern or to raise your feet but then your coach would probably have words about your shorter stroke or the angle of your catch . . . Next time, you might remember to wear long socks, calf skins or bring some tape to wrap around the offending edges, or a pair of cut-down socks to slide up your calves.
In the meantime, just as it was for those blisters you’ll need to make sure that both your wounds and your slides are kept scrupulously clean. Leave them open and on display when you’re out of the boat but keep them covered and padded when you’re rowing – let’s hope your programme calls for a mix of boat types so that you’re not always hitting the same places.
What’s biting you?
Let’s take a look at what’s biting you. You have a metal extrusion that’s been cut into lengths to make up the slide; it has a channel for the seat to run in and is slotted underneath to enable you to adjust its position on the deck. Its end has been plugged with a plastic stop designed to stop your seat coming off the end; if you’re lucky the stop has also been shaped to go around the front edge of the slide. If not, then there’s nothing coming between you and that sawn-off metal edge.
Back in the days when time wasn’t worth quite as much money that sawn-off edge used to be filed smooth and the runner underneath chamfered back so that it sloped away from the front-stop. You even had it coated with lacquer to make sure there were no rough edges. Have a look at your boat now; run your finger . . . careful . . .across the front of your slides – have they been cut square or are they shaped? Are they rough or smooth? Does the front-stop fit the channel; does it have a tongue wrapping round – could it be changed to one that does?
So onto your backside
Rower’s bum is another painful condition that only comes about because equipment and soft body parts come into close contact. I first experienced it when Janousek changed their seat design about 15 years ago and I found that because I slump at the finish and my ‘tailbone’ drops downwards, this rubs against the slightly higher seat back.
It happened again with a Filippi single seat a few years later but this time at the front where the back of my thighs pinched against the front of the seat. Equally painful. I struggled on trying to get used to the seat, but eventually went back to the agent and he replaced it with a padded-top seat. After which, no problems at all.
The treatment is based around careful application of micropore tape. Tear a short strip and bond it onto the skin at least an hour before you row so it has a chance to stick on firmly. By the way, it’s incredibly hard to stick tape onto your own derriere – try looking in a mirror backwards or looking upwards back between your legs. Just like Twister! So ask a friend if you need help!
Boat design improvements are needed
But this is fiddling round the margins. Isn’t it time to hand this one back to the boat-builders? We’ve been rowing on sliding seats for how long and they still haven’t worked out that legs get pushed down onto the ends of the slides? Yes, in small boats you do run out of stateroom but fours, eights? Let’s move those slides apart so they are wide and mounted on the sides of the boat so and your legs fit flat between them. It’s been done before [such as in my Filippi wing rigger single] but it’s an idea that doesn’t seem to have lasted – why’s that, do you think?
Tell us about YOUR experiences with slide bites and rower’s bums, please.