When I started derby earlier this year, I started off with skates from the local sporting goods store. Those quickly became inadequate. On weekend trip to Houston for a John Mayer concert, made a quick stop to Montrose Skate Shop. He hooked me up with a nice starter pair of skates. I started off with Riedell 126 boot, Powerdyne Triton plate (stock cushions), Qube 8-ball bearings, and Radar Flat-Out wheels (88A). This set up was great, starting out. I was just learning how to skate and stay up, they gave me enough support/grip to build confidence. Since then, I totally wore out my wheels. They had ZERO grip and I was slip and sliding all over the place. I was limiting my speed around corners because I couldn’t stay on my skates otherwise.
I’ve been researching wheels and really skates in general for months now. I’ve learned a lot from SkateLogForum.com. If you need any of your skating/derby/equipment questions answered, check them out. There are peeps from all over the world on there that really know what they are talking about! (not all of them though) There is a forum on there that has questions you can ask Doc Sk8, the king of all things derby skate. 🙂
After lots of research online and asking chicas on my league, I made the purchase a couple weeks ago. I ended up buying Atom G-Rods (93A). These have a higher durometer rating (harder urethane) and sport a hollow core. So far I am VERY happy with them. I’ve skated on them 4 times and one bout last weekend. They are a lot faster than the Flat Outs and grip like crazy.
First night I skated on them, I was happy to feel the grip was not a sluggish kind, still rolling very fast. Then I got to the turn… WoW! I have not been that sore in a long time! See, with the old wheels, I had to moderate my speed and do a lot of gliding in the corners to keep from going horizontal (not an ideal derby position). These suckers just stuck to the ground and waited for me to command them to go faster! Well, because of my really lame conditioning, allowing my legs to just chill for a couple seconds on those turns with the flat outs really hit me hard. My legs were screaming at me, “Where is my two second break!?”.
So, yeah, I have some work cut out ahead of me. The good news is that equipment is not hindering my progress, just my muscles. I can work with that, build more strength, endurance. I know its really bad, but I’m already thinking of the next wheels I’ll get. I think I might go up to 98A… not sure yet. Maybe narrow wheels? We’ll see! 😀
Part two of the skate makeover consisted of a somewhat functional yet admittedly vain upgrade. I ordered some toe guards from BabyBitch on Esty. She has a really fantastic design and does custom work. Basically, she has a design that wraps around the entire toe of your skate, then
goes up functioning almost as a lace cover. I liked this design for a couple reasons. Most toe guards, including my old monkey home made toe guards, will shift at times exposing the toe or side of skate to the floor. Also the old design does pulls on the first few lace loops causing friction and ultimately wearing the laces in that spot to the point of breakage. The new guards connect with laces up higher, close to your racing strap (if you have one). The amount of friction and pull on that area of the laces is minimal. She also makes her toe guards with nice thick leather that is super reinforced in the stitching. These suckers are not going anywhere! As far as the design, she’s really talented. I sent a pic of my helmet and asked if she could do something along the lines of what I already had. She blew me away by creating a simple but cohesive design that was bright, fun, and really spot on! So happy with the workmanship and service. I highly recommend her!
Ewww!! Right?! Yeah, saggy pads are not only really gross sounding, but completely ineffective in protecting your knees/elbows. Sure, you could whip out your duct tape every time you strap your saggy suckers on. You could even pretend your legs are sticks and strangle them by pulling your straps around twice. You could buy new pads. I opt out. After talking to a derby friend, Mazzy Scar, I think I’ve got a solution that is not only easy and quick, but really super cheap!! This method probably works on all pads, however, for this post, I’ll be addressing the 187’s specifically.
First, figure out what you’d like your saggy straps to feel like. Measure by how much the strap is overlapping the Velcro. Now get a straight pin. Use that same measurement and apply it to where the strap comes out of the pad (beginning of the strap). Now pinch the excess and try to attach the Velcro. It may be a little too tight, let a little slack out. Replace your straight pin. Get your trusty sewing machine out or thread needle duo. (or go find your grandma/mom for you domestically challenged) Sew a straight line closest to where the pad/strap meet. Before you do, make sure you are leaving the extra strap material on the inside of the loop where it will be hidden when you secure the pads. (or not, if you want to start a really ugly fad) I went over it twice on straight stitch then twice over with a medium zig-zag. Optionally you can secure the extra flap material with a simple single stitch. You can use this extra elastic to dangle charms, special place for your mouth guard, or just ignore it.
Why not just cut it and re-sew it? Well, as my very clever friend, Mazzy, pointed out, you may not always own these pads. They may go to fresh meat some day, and they might need or want the extra elastic that they can gain by a simple unstitching. Congrats! In just under 5 minutes or so, (unless you are making your grandma do it) you have new fitting 187’s that will last a long time. If your pads ever need to be tightening again, just take out the stitching you did today, remeasure, and restitch. 🙂
Earlier this year I blogged about making your own custom leather toe guards. I’ve really enjoyed my little monkeys but they need to be retired here soon. They were simple to make and held up VERY well considering the abuse derby players put on the toe part of the skate. The only issue I had with them, as with the Riedell toe guards, they slide from side to side and can wear your laces (to a breaking point) and also leave the very area you want to protect vulnerable. The later was a minor issue I fixed mostly by tightening the laces up front to have a better, tighter fit.
After realizing I should replace these little tired dirty monkeys, I started shopping… I planned to make my own again. I ran into Derby Vixen’s Esty store and liked what I saw. Then I found 13aby13itch on Esty. LOVE them! Her toe guards come all the way up also functioning as a lace cover of sorts. Her guards cover all three sides of the toe area and are constructed very well. She does custom work, so naturally I contacted her for my next set. I sent her a few pics of my custom helmet (that my bro Tim painted for me). She got back with me with a super fun design. She’s keeping me updated on the progress, I’ll keep posting pics as I get them. So excited to get these!!
Benefits of watching derby… well, duh! LOTS! Since it’s regionals time, I’ve been getting my fill of live derby action. It got me thinking… what’s the benefit? For one, its better than watching football. It sure beats doing chores. I also think it keeps me out of trouble?! Ok, for real. I’m learning TONS! Every team and every region has a different style or ‘air’ to them. It’s very interesting to see these come together.
The basic concept of DNN is to provide live web coverage of bouts around the country. Mostly these are video streaming (low quality) through their website. ( derbynewsnetwork.com ) These are sometimes coupled or substituted with live textcast. I’m not a huge fan of the textcast, I’m more of a visual learner. Both methods are very popular and draw in huge crowds of derby fans throughout the world.
Derby is a highly competitive, contact sport that is very entertaining to watch. Just that alone is enough to get ESPN or other networks to pick it up, but for the fellow player, it’s very very very educational and energizing. When else can you see all of the top 40 leagues of the country (and Canada) compete with a suicide seating view? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Watch. You will not regret it.
Never been on the travel team before… of any sport really. Don’t think the varsity high school swim team really counts. What’s really taking me by surprise is the amount of pride that comes along with being part of an all-stars team. I’m not sure if it’s just bc I’m starting out or what, but I don’t have pride. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it. It’s just an alien concept for me. I do take pride in what I do, however to be prideful of a position or group is very strange for me. I must be in the minority. That being said, I’m sensitive to other’s pride. I’d like to keep up a good image/reputation for the sake of the ‘greater good’.
So how does this play into the travel team psyche?? Well, it has EVERYTHING to do with it. When you get on the track, you leave it all there. You finish what you started. If you are not doing your part you are failing the team, not just yourself. Now, that’s a lot of pressure, right?! Yeah. Roller derby is part mental, part athletic, part strategy. I’m lacking in all areas, but mostly mental. I over think things and find myself focusing too hard on one concept. This makes me a weak player, and over all undesirable for a team. What’s important for me to remember is: I’m just learning. I’m doing my best. I cannot just let go and let the game ‘happen’ if I dont know what’s supposed to happen. I also can’t get caught up in the possibility of failing my team. Failure or not, I must try my best, know that no matter what, I know I did MY BEST.
Another aspect to the mental part of the game is something I touched on in another post, knowing your worth and playing like it. So, in theory, like the bout where I played well because I KNEW I was better than some others, I should embrace my strengths. I know how to skate. I know how to hit. I have pretty good balance. Instead of going into a game thinking about all your faults and how to keep from exposing them to the opposing team, dwell on your strong points. Exploit them. I will have good form. I will hit hard. I will not fall unless Godzilla is delivering a death blow.
So, there is a time warp in the derby world called off season. What to do? Focus on skills, strategies, endurance? Recruit? Go on vacation? Become a couch potato? Quit? All of these are valid options, well except quitting! I think it’s definitely important to use this ‘down time’ as a refocusing, growing, learning, strategizing time. This down time is actually a valuable gift for your league. Plan for it before it arrives. Then take advantage of it! Hold fresh meat training sessions. Take all skaters to the next level. Condition yourself so that when bouting season comes with the new year, you are ready! Now… I should go for a run. 🙂