Category Archives: Equipment

Wikko Skates

Okay I’m a bit late to the party here, but I just had to re-post a link to this article on Rollin’ News
(Quick preview, there is a custom skate manufacturer in Helsinki who makes THESE:

wikko9

And these and these and these…)

You can also find out more about Wikko Skates on Facebook.

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Skates do not a skater make

pedal-skates-classicMy year of saving, training and researching is up – I finally have new skates! It’s exciting, it’s enthusing it’s, well… it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster actually.

Ever had that feeling where you get some new equipment, (camera/running shoes/skates etc) and you suddenly go from being elated and excited at all the new things it can do, to feeling kinda overwhelmed and like you now have to live up to your gear because EVERYONE CAN SEE YOU HAVE FANCY NEW SKATES and goddammit you better be good enough to rock them, or everyone will judge you?

Yeah. That.
(I should add that this was all dialogue in my head, not a thing that happened.)

Don’t get me wrong – I adore my new skates, now that I’ve had 2 months of getting to know them. But it was pretty different at first. Good different, in a lot of ways – metal plates respond fast. But also pretty challenging; I went from being able to pull a sharp, loud, instant-stopping plow on my old skates to just …not. My plows were completely broken – and subsequently my whole derby skating style was screwed. A bit of research and some excellent Facebook help suggested that technique was likely at fault, and suddenly I was back to square one. It made me realise two very important things: 1) Not being able to stop is awful and scary (Fresh Meat, I have a whole new load of respect for you – I’d been forgetting what it felt like to be honestly scared for your life when learning stops from speed) – and 2) pretty much every useful derby technique involves an element of plowing.

I also learnt pretty quickly that high-end equipment does not necessarily fix problems, although it can emphasise strengths once you’ve nailed a technique.

Anyway, fast forward through 2 months of quiet frustration and trying to convince myself I hadn’t wasted loads of money…  After a difficult closed bout and a session of tripping over *everything*, I was sprinting out my frustration when a little glimmer of magic happened. My plow made a tiny squeak. And then it squeaked a little more. And then my plow on my right foot started getting decent bite and holy crap I was stopping. My plow’s not quite back yet, but I have newfound confidence that determination and ruthlessly practising WILL get me there; I have to stop being scared of failing, scared of people judging me, scared of my SKATES, and just keep skating.

So that’s my lesson for today: even if it takes over 50 hours of training time to get just one skill back, a little bit, stay positive, keep trying, and goddammit, keep skating!

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Bushings – or, how you can revolutionise your skating for under a tenner.

Equipment snobs. We all know one. I am sometimes one, unwittingly. But this isn’t a post about having awesome skates with mithril lining and adamantium plates. Nope, this is about bushings, or, how one small (cheap) change to my skate equipment hugely affected my rate of learning and style of skating, from completely raw meat until now, a year and a bit later. (I should point out here that I have basically zero disposable income, so anyone looking for expensive solutions to their skate troubles, look away now or get gored by the Narwhal of Frugal Skate Maintenance.)

narwhal

About 4 weeks into my fresh meat I realised I’d made a brutally persistent enemy. CORNERS. I’d built up sufficient balance to go forwards at a decent pace, but corners were terrifying – I just couldn’t get enough turn to go round them without risking flying off track. I didn’t even realise this was the problem until coach Isy kindly took me aside and loosened my trucks. Within 2 hours of training, my skating style changed from apprehensive-robot to wobbly-humanoid. And within two sessions I could plow and sticky-skate pretty much out of the blue. No expensive equipment, no new wheels, just a few turns of the truck nuts.

A year later, and I’ve learnt lots more about skate equipment, including the missing link in my skate frustration: bushings.

Just like wheels, bushings come with durometer ratings: e.g. Suregrip ones range from 72a (real soft) to 93a (hard). The colour corresponds to the hardness, but the colours differ across manufacturers.

Bushings (also called cushions) are the little rubber cylinders that go between your skate plate and trucks. Their job is to flex as you lean on your skates, which allows your axles and wheels to tilt, enabling you to turn left and right. As you might expect, the more flexible or ‘squishy’ the cushion, the more easily your skates will turn. Stock skate setups (particularly for beginner/intermediate skates) will typically ship with freakin’ hard bushings, because they are more stable and can give you the feeling of greater control. Ace, right? Well, sort of.

Let’s take this stock setup, and analyse it. You can go fast in a straight line, and your wheels are always facing forwards, allowing them to turn continuously. Little weight shifts will not really turn your skates to the left and right. Cool. Stable.

Now think about a roller derby track. It’s oval-shaped. You’re turning like, all the time. So you have a few options. You can keep these hard bushings, and lean like fuck to turn round corners, just so you can be stable on the straightaways. Except every time you hit a corner you have to sloooooow right down so you can turn enough. Second option: loosen your trucks a little bit. Just a few half-turns of the nuts on the bottom of the trucks can give you the turn you need to make those corners. Problem now is that the ‘snap’ you get coming out of corners is reduced, and it’s harder to get back to your usual skating stance on the straightaway. Your trucks can also feel a little ‘wobbly’ underfoot.

This is actually a skateboard truck, but the idea is the same.

This is actually a skateboard truck, but the setup is the same. A common setup option is for each truck to have a cylindrical cushion (nearest the boot), and then a conical cushion as its partner (nearest the floor, with the point of the cone pointing at the floor, and the smaller cushion cup (^”top cup washer”) also on the side nearest the floor.

Which is where bushings come in. Softer bushings have a similar effect to looser trucks, except without the wobble and the rattle. And they spring you back again after a corner. Just like wheels, bushings come with durometer ratings: e.g. Suregrip ones range from 72a (real soft) to 93a (hard). You can also get ‘conical’ bushings. These are apparently better for the ‘snap’ after corners, and will typically make a pair with a cylindrical cushion. (<< see image for explanation). And just like wheels, it is common for heavier skaters to prefer harder cushions – but like everything in roller derby, it’s a) relative and b) personal preference.

bushings1Anyway, this is all great for going round corners and all, but my favouritist most magical thing about softer bushings is how they can revolutionise your stopping power and agility on track.
Imagine you are skating in a straight line, leaning on the insides (arches) of your feet. Your weight is pressing on your 4 inside wheels, which squishes your bushings and turns the axles so your toes are pointing inwards. Hey presto, you’re making a plow. Now imagine this on ridiculously soft bushings. The tiniest little lean inwards will give you a plow with minimal effort. Now expand the movement. Go fast and do a big, wide plow shape, pressing down on your 4 inside wheels. The super soft bushings are forcing your trucks to push your wheels into the exaggerated position below, with minimal effort. Now this wheel position just so happens to be great for stopping without a) sliding like a motherfucka, or b) throwing you to the ground…

bushings2

This is totally meant to signify two skates doing a plow, but it’s 3am and Photoshop won’t start up… Apologies.

Mega soft bushings might be a little too much to start with, but they exaggerate the point. A lot of people don’t actually like the ‘squirrely’ feel of suuuuper soft bushings, which is why it’s a good idea to try out different ones to see what suits, or taper down through them slowly. (At £10ish for a full set it’s not a major expense, unlike, say, new plates etc, which can often be the temptation if you want ‘more agile skates’.)

Speaking of which, agility. Whilst skate style is immensely a personal thing, it fair to say that agillity is largely centred around being able to jump around, stop, and change direction quickly. And, as you can imagine, being able to turn your wheels with minimal effort has an effect on your agility. Not just turning, but tiny plows when you’re juking or dancing through a pack. And not just for jammers! Blockers need to be great on lateral cuts and blocks – guess what, they help with that too. Minimal lean for maximum turn. I am by no means saying that soft cushions will solve all your derby problems, or that softer is right for everyone, but they made a massive difference for me – and are a good first step before spending a whole load of money on new plates or wheels.

P.s. while I remember, if you get conical bushings, ALSO BUY SMALL CUSHION CUPS! They are the metal washer things that sit on top of your bushings. If you’re changing from the manufacturers cylindrical cushions to the bottom 4 of your cushions being conical (^^see the skateboard truck pic) no-one ever tells you that you also need 4 of the smaller cushion cups too! They’re like, £3 for a set but really annoying to wait for in the post when your conical bushings have arrived without them.

Bear in mind you can also mix and match cushion hardnesses for super-customisable turney-ness. Typically, the softer cushion would go nearer the floor, but that’s not bible, just seems to make sense that the bit near your foot is more stable.

72a = soft = SUPER TURNEY

93a = hard = SUPER STABLE AND STRAIGHT

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtleboobs

bras50Ever wished you could have SOLID boobs? No? Me neither actually, but for the sake of boob safety everywhere, I present to you the Turtle-Shell bra.

I’m pretty picky regarding protective equipment – discounting kneepads, it’s gotta be small, light and comfy – basically like you’re not wearing it – and this looks pretty spot on. I wish I knew about these when I did martial arts! (And last weekend during the fall-boob-skate-entanglement fiasco.)

If any derby girls have tried these I’d be really interested to find out if they work, and above all, if they’re comfy. So, uh, leave a comment if by some miracle you own one of these and can recommend it for skating!

In other news, look what else I found today:

tmnt

JOY. Creepy, starey turtle joy! More here.

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ALL THE THINGS.

Ah man, I haven’t posted in like, a million years. Which is bad because two million things have happened in the last month and now you have a massive post to wade through 🙂

After the somewhat demoralising oh-look-more-minimum-skills-‘kay? situation, Bath had the delightful news that we have more scrimmages and shared training coming up! Our first full practise scrimmage is tomorrow with Devon Clotted Screamers, and I’m 100% excited and 101% terrified.

I totally stole this from Roller Derby City who are printing our shirts.

I totally stole this pic of our shirts from Roller Derby City who printed them for us.

But wait, what’s that you say? SCRIMMAGE KIT? In SUNSHINE YELLOW? With logo and derby names and numbers?! Steady breathing now.
I am SO excited – roller derby awesomeness aside, I’ve always always wanted a shirt with my name on the back – ever since I was a 6-year-old football-obsessed tomboy and my Mum banned me from having my name on my Arsenal shirt in case I got abducted or something. And not only is this one named and numbered, I ACTUALLY GET TO WEAR IT FOR MY ACTUAL TEAM. 😀  The shirts are currently sitting in Hannah’s house waiting for tomorrow, when we will put them on and I suspect never ever take them off.

Next in the two million things that have happened lately: BRDG are opening up the doors to Fresh Meat in a mere 20 days! Really looking forward to meeting all the new skaters; we’ve already had lots of interest from people wanting to skate in the league, but also refs and NSOs. Delight!

Finally for now (as it’s bedtime and I refuse to be tired for tomorrow’s scrim), about a hundred years ago back in April, some of us skated the new Two Tunnels route between Bath and Midford. About 5 miles in total, starting at Linear Park and going all the way through the tunnels to Midford and back. It’s all brand new tarmac so it’s smooth as hell, and being an old railway line it’s flat flat flat and straight. Sorta feels like you’re going downhill both ways. I’ve put some photos below, but what they don’t show is the awesome darkness and ambient music that plays as you go through the two long tunnels. Also it’s considerably less blurry and grainy IRL, even when you’re on skates and using a camera phone as your eyes. 😀

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New wheels and feeling good

I got new wheels! (No, not the VW Shorty I so clearly need) – but these beauties!

Heartless_VooDoo.1

Heartless_Chaser.3

setup

 

 

 

 

 

After my confusion about which wheels to buy I decided to gamble with a mix and match set, largely because I wanted my skates to look like wasps. And also because at 92a and 86a, they will apparently stick me to the track like Spiderman.

I sort of feel like changing wheel setups shouldn’t make much of a difference as a rookie, but after trying these for the last two weeks I can safely say that the difference is noticeable. At first I was slightly unstable on the slimline footprint, but they definitely feel more maneuverable, and after today’s session (where I figured out I can actually jump and weave), I am totally in love with them.

spider-man-climb-cartoonI like the size as well; they are the same diameter as my Fugitives (a healthy 62mm), so logically fairly fast, but they are also super-slim. From a physical perspective I guess this means I’m not adding needless floor-resistance, clumsiness or extra weight. Yay!

And to make today even better, I just got told I only have hits, speed and the written test left to check off for minimum skills. I’m so happy right now I could burst into flames 😀

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Sewing with Pokemon – Or how not to make a bandana

In the traditional sense, I’m rubbish at being a girl. I can’t sew, I’ve never cooked a roast, and I sweat like a ham when I skate. Nice. Tired of stinking up my derby helmet with sweat I decided to take drastic measures… I DID SEWING.

Sorry Ash, but this is a sweaty emergency.

Sorry Ash, but this is a sweaty emergency.

As I’m utterly broke (and probably can’t even afford roast-able ingredients anyway) I raided my old fancy dress box for something that I could make into a helmet liner, or bandana as it ended up. Cue Pokémon fabric!

Now I’m pretty sure eHow writers are massive liars because “one of the easiest sewing projects” took me almost two hours and more than a little unpicking. (This clearly had nothing to do with me abandoning the instructions and deciding I wanted a triangular one instead, with mitered corners all over the place). But my gamble paid off, and now I have TWO triangular bandanas for the price of one, and it’ll be cooler because it’s just one layer. And also because it has Pikachu on it. And mostly because even if it’s worse than no bandana I’m going to convince myself that it’s amazing, because this is my first sewing project that’s ever actually sort of worked, and to admit that it’s useless would be…well…sucky.

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Mass wheel confusion!

Plow stops are driving me mad. I just don’t get it, one week I can stop on concrete and not sports hall, the next week I can’t stop on either, or I’m just sliding laterally on my wheels. I’m certain that my technique is almost entirely to blame, but I’m also very aware that I’m losing a lot of energy/speed on crossovers due to sliding, and not gripping enough to push out on corners.

I’m really keen to start experimenting with new wheels and formations but I’m so intimidated by the amount of a) wheel types, b) information available and c) wildly different wheel reviews, I have no idea where to start.

So far I’ve managed to glean that the things affecting wheel choice are: skate surface, weight, skating technique and personal choice. But I don’t really know how to define any of these with enough certainty to blow £50 on a set of new wheels. I’ve read that half and half (i.e. grippy on the inside, speedy on the outside) might be the best choice to begin with, but ARGH where to start?!

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Helmets: read if you are “not a hat person”

Helmet catHelmets do not suit me. At all.

When I first tried on my derby kit and skates, I felt amazing – my skates stopped my legs looking short, and all the pads meant that I got away with my blinding-white skin in shorts. Even the gum shield was alright – it looked kinda badass. And then I put on my helmet. Even my oversupportive boyfriend laughed, it looked that bad.

Now, the ‘look’ of a helmet really shouldn’t matter, right? But given the choice, you’d obviously choose one that suited you. Having bought mine online I didn’t really consider that there’d be other types of derby helmet that would look different – so for any newbies out there who are still to get a skate helmet, I present to you:

THE VERY RUBBISH AND LIMITED GUIDE TO DERBY HELMETS BASED ON LOOKS AND LITTLE ELSE: 

– If possible, try on a helmet before buying it. I wish I had! Your helmet will be in every derby photo where you can see your face. (i.e. most of them). If your head looks like a mushroom sitting on a potato then you will always fixate on that, rather than the awesome moves you’re pulling in the shot.

– Get a helmet that suits your face shape. Don’t get a tall/wide helmet if you have a round face or a tallish head, or this happens:

This is the Bullet helmet. Now where's my horse?

This is the Bullet helmet. Now where’s my horse?

Pro Tec Classic Helmet

Pro Tec Classic Helmet

(Note: The Bullet helmet is not a bad helmet at all. It’s comfy and protective in all the right places. I just happen to look crap in it.)

– Shorter-fronted helmets are great for weird-shaped heads. The Triple-8 Brainsaver, Pro-Tec Classic, and S-One Lifer helmet all appear to be small, super-protective, and look, well, skater-ey.

This >> is the ProTec Classic helmet which is fairly easy to get in the UK, but is apparently colour-limited to black or white. I can’t guarantee the shape or colours of the Brainsaver or the Lifer, but based on Youtube product reviews they are very similar. And by that I mean equally flattering to the round-of-face-and-tall-of-head.

The SFR helmet is also supposed to be quite short and sit low, but I’m not certain that it has the same CPSC safety rating as some of the more expensive ones. This may be wrong – but I can’t find a straight answer online with limited mobile internet!

I think that concludes my rubbish guide. If it can be called a guide. I think what I’m trying to say is partly ‘get what suits you, and is comfortable and safe’, but also ‘get something that makes you feel badass’, because I truly believe that self-confidence is the first step to being fearless and awesome on wheels.

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A rookie’s experience of toe stops

When I first started skating indoors I was so daunted by the slipperiness of the floor, I didn’t give a thought to how my toe stops would interact with the surface. However, after just a few sessions I found that I was using my toe stops loads, especially for starting off from standing in order to build up momentum. I assumed that toe stops were toe stops, and the only thing that really mattered was the distance they sat from the boot. That was until I tried someone else’s toe stops. Going back to my stock ones afterwards was horrible – they felt altogether the wrong size, shape and stickiness to stop me smoothly and reliably every time.

SureGrip_ProbeCarrera

Carrera toe stops. So-so.

I have Suregrip Rebel boots. The standard Carrera toe-stops aren’t super-rubbish or anything, I think it’s more that the new SureGrip RXs are just really good. They stop me perfectly every time (where user error is not involved!) They don’t stick and jolt me forwards like my old ones did, and the size of them makes them easy to walk on (though the curved surface takes a little getting used to). They seem hard-wearing too – they’ve been on my skates now for about three months (skating at least 4 hours indoors each week) and the logo is still just about visible, suggesting that they have tons of life left in them.

SureGrip RX Toe Stops

SureGrip RX Toe Stops

I haven’t ever tried Gumball Stops (they apparently don’t fit on Suregrip Probe plates) but I hear the RXs are the equivalent of Gumballs for Suregrips. Pretty much everyone in my old league had the Riedell/Gumball or the Antik/Gumball combo and almost everyone I spoke to said they were the best they’d ever tried. Without trying Gumballs myself I can’t compare them with the RXs, but one thing I would definitely recommend to all fellow newbies is to try different toe stops, because it’s made a huge difference to my skating (and the ability to land a derby stop!)

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