Two posts in as many days, well aren't you lucky?
Last night as I was reviewing my haul of derby prezzies, I started thinking about my gear. My current set up is: riedell 195 boot with powerdyne triton plate (with some sure grip yellow cushions snuck on!), bones reds bearings, carrera toe stops and heartless creeper and breaker wheels.
A lot has changed since I first laced up a pair of skates way back in April: back then I thought skates were just skates. Y'know, big boots, huge toestops...I had no idea there was any variation. I felt the same way about my gear...a kneepad is just a kneepad, right?
The first thing I noticed was the boots: low cut, black speed boots. My rio rollers were like donkeys next to a thoroughbred racehorse when compared to those bad boys. And the speed boots had plates with trucks you could adjust! So you could turn! It was then I first heard the magic word: Riedell. Since roller skating has never been as popular in the UK as it is across the pond, I had never heard of this brand before, but basically riedell have been making skates since the dawn of (skating) time. They have one factory over in the USA and each boot is crafted to high standards. Unfortunately, this comes at a price. The mark up on Riedells over in the UK is pretty much scandalous, with the 'entry level' R3 still weighing in over the £100 mark. Not exactly within budget for most people, especially if they still want to work out whether they want to keep skating or not. And the sizing is strange - they are sold in 'men's sizes', so as a rule of thumb it's best to go down a size. They should feel a little too tight (like rock boots). I was pretty much ignorant of all of this when I bought my first pair of speed skates. I wanted R3's. Sadly, my size being pretty damn popular I couldn't find them anywhere. Being super impatient, I ended up ordering sure-grip rebels. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise: they came with nice toe stops (carreras) and decent wheels (black fugitives, which I still think are awesome 'all purpose' wheels.). I had a pretty good run on them...but I hated the boot. Really, really hated it. The high ankle wasn't for me, and I had been eyeing my coach's skates for a while: Riedell 195's. Beautiful, all-leather, and low cut around the ankle. I tried them on (with three pairs of socks as BB has bigger feet than me) and fell in love. Luckily for me, this coincided with getting my bond money back from my old house...guess what I ordered? I almost died of excitement when they arrived: they were so beautiful! I still remember my first session on them...they hated my feet. really, really hated them. My old rebels were cushy and padded...no such luck with these! By the end of the first session my feet were raw, with a lovely blister where the arch counter rubbed my feet. Yeowch! So, being the stubborn bugger I am I was determined to make them love me back. I started wearing them all the time, even around the house while watching TV or doing the washing up. I taped no end of gel pads to my arches and tried pretty much everything to prevent the dreaded arch blister forming. Slowly, they broke in and stopped hating my feet. I invested in some 'ezeefit booties' and have suffered no blisters since. The best boot for you is as much about your skating style as your budget. There are amazing skaters in my league who love their R3s and are awesome on them. Many like a high ankle, and the 125 and 265 are popular choices. Personally, I LOVE my 195's. I like the flexibility of the low ankle, and the fact they lace all the way to the toe allows for my wide feet. My boots should last me a good few years yet, but when they eventually die (not for a long, LONG time, fingers crossed) I will go for the same boot. There is more to derby skates than just riedell (bont, labeda, vanilla ect) but the craftsmanship you get is second to none. The only thing that could tempt me away from my 195's is the Vanilla Brass Knuckles...and that's simply because they are pretty!
So, we've covered the boot. Now for the things that make them go: wheels!
My first decent derby wheels were the black sure-grip fugitives (92a) that came with my rebels. Decent wheels, they're good for almost any surface: grippy without being slow and hard(ish) without sliding out on the corners. However, when I was brand new freshmeat (and was utterly rubbish) I wanted more grip. I wasn't confident enough for hard wheels, and ordered some sugars in the belief that they would help me feel more stable. When they arrived I was so excited to try them out...and was thoroughly disappointed that they made me feel like I was skating through mud. Fail. I'm the first to admit I'm a total gear geek, especially with wheels. I love to experiment, and it's taken me some time and extensive trial and error to work out what I want in a wheel. To my surprise, I like a harder wheel. I currently skate on a 90/94a combo, and prior to that I was on 94/96a. The 96a's were just a little too hard for me though, and I would slide out no end on corners. The 90a pushers seem to suit me fine, and I imagine I will go for a similar combo when I've worn these ones out. I also love, love LOVE narrow wheels. I'm not the most agile of skaters, but I find I feel more 'hoppy' on the narrow wheel...and it pretty much eliminates wheel clipping when skating in a tight pack. My advice to anyone looking for new wheels is experiment! Try new things, and see what works for you. Sadly, wheel collecting is an expensive hobby so don't be afraid to ask other girls in your league what they skate on, ask if you can loan them and give them a try.
Last but not least: always use protection. Derby is a contact sport, and good protective gear will stand you in good stead to avoid injury. My advice? As soon as you know derby is something you want to keep doing, invest in the best knee pads your money will buy. They ain't cheap, but a knee injury is not only super painful, it could even put a massive crimp on your derby career. If you're on the heavier side (like me), chances are when you go down you will go down HARD. I started off with cheap anarchy brand pads, which were just fine while I was learning to stay upright. But as soon as we started repetitive falling drills my knees were starting to hurt in a serious way. After reading various forums and reviews, I splurged £60 on some Smith's Scabs knee pads. The first time I wore them provided me with a steep learning curve: they stuck out so much they made crossovers three times as hard! Eventually I got used to it though, and now I couldn't even imagine wearing a small knee pad. I even have some super cushy gladiator gaskets to provide extra protection (and to keep my pads from sliding around when I hit the deck!). Here are my top knee pads that are worth splurging on if you plan to stay in derby (in no order):
1. Smith's Scabs. They may be sized a little weirdly (S/M and L/XL...and they run SMALL) but they fit around the knee beautifully and feel like falling on clouds. They also open at the back so you can put them on after the rest of your gear! However...they are on the long side, so if you have teeny tiny legs you may be better off with a shorter pads. The caps are also riveted to the pads, so less chance of losing a cap but more hassle to replace if you do break one. It's not happened to me yet, and fingers crossed it won't.
2. 187's. These are endorsed by Tony Hawk (even though they don't pay him to, he just really likes them!) and provide awesome protection. They are on the short side though, so probably best for shorter legged skaters.
3. Rector Fat Boys. These run small too, and again they are quite a long line pad. A few girls on the league have them (including our coach). They also stick out less than the scabs...and if they're good enough for Suzy Hotrod..!
4. Pro Designed. These are the daddy of all pads, and also come with the price tag to match. They are custom made to your measurements, so if you have weird sized legs they are guaranteed to fit you like a glove.
So, enough of my rambings...what gear do you guys love and why?