From Gains to Jamming

Speed, agility, endurance strength – these are all key concepts to becoming a powerful Jammer. Being able to acquire these tools doesn’t just come from on skates training, but the off skates too. When I first started out as a junior roller derby player, it was extremely easy for me to have these tools right away. I started playing when I was 15, 5’7”, and 140lbs. I outweighed everyone, I was taller than just about everyone, and the sports I played in school made it really easy for me to overpower just about everyone.

It wasn’t until I started playing with an adult scrimmage team named TFR that I realized, I wasn’t the biggest, the tallest, the strongest or even the fastest out there. I needed to adapt. I started out by looking at other well-known jammers I associated my jamming style with. I felt like I was a lot like Micki Krimmel from Angel City and Freight Train from Texas, because they were just such power houses. I had always felt like I used my power/strength to my advantage, but strength and power only got me so far.

I eventually moved out to California from Texas, and joined Angel City. This is where I really started to fully understand what being a D1 jammer looked and felt like. I was skating next to people like Satan’s Little Helper, Laci Knight, Tui Lyon etc. During my first few months here, I felt extremely defeated. I was not, by far, the strongest, the fastest, the most agile, nor could I adapt to their style of playing. I just felt like a failure. I realized at this point, if this was something I truly wanted to succeed at, I had to change something. I looked at all the women I skate with and realized the biggest difference was they all worked out outside of derby.

I hired a friend to personal train me, and help teach me what it meant to be a competitive athlete. I learned I wasn’t feeding myself the nutrition I needed to be able to perform to my fullest. I wasn’t strength training or even running to give me endurance and power I needed to be an unstoppable jammer. I started out slow with all these changes. I worked out twice a week and would try and run short distances every morning. I started carrying around healthy snacks to prevent myself from feeling hungry and wanting to take the easy way out by turning to fast food. I gradually started working out more and slowly didn’t crave junk food anymore. I could really feel the difference in how I felt on the daily and my overall performance at derby was just sky rocketing. Soon enough, I was working out just about every day, meal prepping, and increasing my daily water intake. I had never felt better or more confident. It really showed in my skating and when I tried out for Angel City’s travel team they accepted me.

For the first time, a few weeks ago, I played my first D1 games, at playoffs in Seattle. It was the very thing I had been working so hard and pushed myself for. All the changes I had made, and the time I committed to this sport, were starting to pay off in all the ways I had hoped. Now, I know I’m far from perfect, and have a lot to work on, but I finally feel like I am doing something right.

Hi! I’m Pearl Jam #512, and I skate for Angel City Derby. I started out skating for Texas Junior Roller Derby in Austin, Texas, at the age of 15. This is where I found my love for derby. I then quit TXJRD to join a scrimmage League in San Antonio, Texas, called Heart of Texas Skaters. At this point in my life, I dropped out of school and ran away from home. I then put a hold on Derby and went on a 3 month cross-country bicycle trip. I went from Jackson Ville, Florida, back to Vidor, Texas. When I got home, I didn’t want to go all the way across the country, so instead, got my life together and picked up roller derby again. When I turned 18, I joined an Austin league called Team Free Radicals. During this time, I had gotten an apartment, bought my first car, and enrolled myself back into school to finish it. When I got my diploma, I desperately wanted to get out of Texas. I looked around at all the derby leagues and decided Angel City was the one for me.

I packed up my car and headed west. Joining Angel City helped me discover my passion for fitness and health. Right now, I’m doing group training sessions at our derby warehouse to teach people (who are like me) about strength training and working out outside of derby. The sessions are called Above the Line Athletics and can be found on Facebook. I often write individual or team/group workouts to help people achieve their goals. Feel free to join my Facebook group, where anyone can post videos, ask questions, and help each other grow to become the best athletes we can be.

Protect your best derby parts!

Our sport is in constant evolution. As the sport gains players, experience, and new perspectives, the standards held by athletes shift. When we started, uniforms were mismatched and rock-n-roll inspired. Players wore whatever helmet they could afford, did not overthink the durometer of their wheel, and focused on skating hard and fast. We no longer operate as recreational beer leagues. Roller derby is no longer slapdash, and now our athletes seek out the gear that will improve their game.

Steaks Roller Derby Accessories evolved out of the need of skaters to elevate their gameplay. We saw the game trending away from fast, glancing blows and responded. Many who wear Steaks gear were attracted to us post-injury. They wanted to continue playing the game, but had gained new insight into protecting their body from unnecessary hurt. Steaks provide extra beef on thin flesh areas (like ribs, sternum, shoulders and collar bones) that take all the hits and falls.

Before Steaks, the skaters that wanted to gain extra protection had to look to uncomfortable turtle shell bras, or bulky pads used in football (American and otherwise). They would inhibit motion, or in the case of the padded football shorts, would deaden the wearer’s blocks against opponents. Steaks RDA are designed for roller derby. They are slim-lined so that a player will not lose the power behind a block, but are impact-absorbent enough to protect easily hurt areas like the coccyx, ribs, and sternum.

If you watched the WFTDA International Division 1 Playoffs in Malmo, you would have seen #22 Malou and #101 T Saxelin of Helsinki sporting our newest invention: padded team wear with innovative pre-formed and seamless construction. The Shoulder cap is very hard to cover because of the wide range movement of the shoulder, but Steaks has solved this problem. Soon we will be bringing out the re-invented shoulder padded jerseys both in the ‘Team Wear’ and ‘Ready-Made’ sections of our website.

Steaks are not just invisible padded protection, but it is compression gear as well. Studies have been done (including this one) that show a correlation between the level of compression and the wearer’s tissue oxygenation recovery. “Assuming that increased muscle oxygen availability positively influences performance, compression of muscles may enhance performance especially in sports that require repeated short bouts of exercise” (from study linked above).

Our padded, compression gear is what we’re known for (check out the best sellers, the Basic Crash Shorts and Pro Top), but we are constantly improving and expanding. We started offering custom arm bands, team jerseys, and also have our clothing line.

Our skaters are an international family, including the MVP of the WFTDA International Division 1 Playoffs in Seattle, Falcon Punch, of Montreal’s New Skids on the Block. We also are proud to be represented by Giles of Gotham, Shank of Southern Discomfort, Fay Roberts of Rainy City, Morson of the Glenmore Reservoir Dogs, and Nina Erwes of Helsinki (just to name a few).

We had an amazing time in Malmo, and we are hoping to be at the WFTDA International Championships in Philadelphia this November. Steaks ships worldwide from www.SteaksRDA.com, and if your favorite local shop would be interested in stocking Steaks (or even just hosting fittings), they can contact us at Info.Steaks@gmail.com.

Merry Khaos is a seven year vet and currently plays for Tampa Roller Derby’s Bruise Crew as a blocker, and the Cigar City Mafia home team as a jammer. Khaos has been an on-skates official for 3 years and announcer for two, and has been coaching since 2010.

She runs the KhaosTheoryBlog.com and will soon be expanding her coaching online with friends NoMad and Disaster Chief. She is a member of Team Steaks RDA, Roller Derby Elite, Derbalife, and is also sponsored by Second Knee and Armour Flex.

Mental Toughness Minimum Skills

One skill that I believe all freshies need to master, which isn’t yet part of the official WFTDA minimum skills, is mental toughness. If you’re already a follower of my blog, you might have already seen my eBook, Derby Brain: Mental Toughness for Freshies, so you’ll know how important I think it is. But if not, here’s a quick intro:

Mental toughness might seem like something that’s only for elite athletes at the top of their game performing in high-stakes competitions. But actually, mental toughness is just as important for people right at the start of their derby journey. Learning how to skate and play roller derby is hard. Skills can be tricky to master, drills can be scary and passing your assessments can be frustrating. And you really need to have your brain on your side, working for you, not against you. You need to be able to be able to perform under pressure, not let your fears get in the way of learning and be able to deal with setbacks and failures – yes, there will be failures!

If you can nail your mental toughness minimum skills now, you’ll already be lapping the competition when it comes to actually competing. You’ll already have the mechanisms and strategies for dealing with pressure, defeat, frustration and fear. You’ll already know how to get yourself into the right mindset to perform. Mental toughness doesn’t just teach you how to deal with failure and fear, it gives you the opportunity to really enjoy learning and competing. Being mentally tough helps you appreciate roller derby more and helps you find success and joy in all of it, not just winning.

So, if you’re convinced, here are my five Mental Toughness Minimum Skills that I think a Freshie should master:

1. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

I know its a cliché but its a good one. Things are scary. I’m terrified of everything. But I have a 100% track record of not dying so I might as well just try and do the scary thing. And once you’ve done one scary thing – like attending your first practice or trying a jump for the first time – the next scary thing suddenly seems a little less scary. And then the next scary thing after that seems less scary and so on.

Fear of failure, fear or embarrassment, fear of hurting yourself… These are all things that can hold you back but are also things you can overcome.

Failure: there is no such thing. There is only finding out what doesn’t work and learning from it. Every failure is an opportunity to learn and get better.

Embarrassment: no one is judging you, everyone is here to support and help you, so there is no ‘wrong’. We are all on your side willing your to succeed.

Pain: you will hurt yourself, at some point. But if you learn all the skills properly, believe you can do it, relax and really commit, you will most likely come out completely unscathed. And if you do fall, you’ll get right back up again.

2. Create good habits.

Habits are automatic, they require no decision making or willpower. When you wake up in the morning, you don’t decide to brush your teeth, you just do it. There is no questioning, internal debate or convincing, you just do it. If you can turn things that usually require willpower and decision making into habits, you will be much more likely to do them. For example, if off-skates training or going to practice currently requires epic amounts of willpower and mental energy, most of the time you won’t do it. But, if you make it part of your daily routine, a habit as automatic as brushing your teeth, you are way more likely to get your ass to practice or the gym.

Why am I talking about habits and off-skates training here? Mental toughness isn’t just about coping with stress, it’s also about achieving goals and you can’t achieve goals without putting in work. And that work often involves choosing something non-fun (training, gym) over fun (going out, sleeping in). You need mental toughness to be able to do that consistently.

3. Embrace the suck.

We don’t like being bad at things. We like to do stuff we’re good at because it’s easy. It feels good to be successful. So when it comes to learning new skills, when there is something that is really challenging, we can be tempted to give up. We might feel embarrassed or that this must mean we aren’t cut out for derby, but I want you to push both of those thoughts away.

Sucking is natural, normal and step number one of being good at something. Everyone sucks at something, even that skater who you think is amazing. No one is judging you, no one is expecting you to be perfect today – except for yourself, of course! But you cannot be good at something if you don’t suck at it first, that’s how learning works. So instead of getting frustrated and upset, try to embrace the suck.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Whilst comparing ourselves is natural it’s not necessarily helpful. In fact, most of the time, it’s quite the opposite. When you compare yourself with someone you perceive to be better than you, you end up feeling worthless and wondering why you aren’t as good as they are yet.

Everyone is on their own unique journey with their own unique collection of skills, fitness levels and experience. Everyone has their own unique body shape, talents and rate at which they learn. so it is pointless to compare yourself to anyone else. Instead of comparing yourself to that person, use them as inspiration and treat them like a mentor. You can learn so much from someone when you stop comparing.

5. Choose a growth mindset.

“A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Yes, people differ greatly – in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments – but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” If you want to learn and you want to get better at something, you have to believe you have the capacity to improve.

If you are constantly saying things like, “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never be that good” you’re already limiting how far you can go. However, if you replace those thoughts and words with, “I can’t do that yet but I will get there if I practice” you will giving yourself permission to fail, practice and always improve. Grab yourself a copy of Mindset by Carol Dweck to learn more about the life-changing effects of a growth mindset!

Hi I’m Treble and I’ve been playing roller derby since 2012. I started with Hereford Roller Girls and now play for Central City Roller Girls in Birmingham.

You might know me from my blog where I talk about all things roller derby. From tips for Fresh Meat to mental toughness to fitness and injuries.

Check out my eBook, Derby Brain: Mental Toughness for Freshies https://www.treblemaker909.com/derby-brain-mental-toughness-for-freshies/ . Readers of this blog get a $5 discount off Derby Brain: Mental Toughness for Freshies with this exclusive code: ADT909

Wheels!

Throughout the years, I’ve been asked about wheels more than any other piece of gear. With so many wheels to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to figure out what is going to work for you. Let’s first go over anatomy and care for wheels, then discuss a few factors to consider when choosing your next set.

Anatomy of a wheel

Wheels are basically made up of 2 parts, the outer tire and the inner hub. The tire is made from urethane of different durometers (hardnesses). These hardnesses are represented by a number followed by the letter “a” such as 86a or 92a. Some wheels designate their hardness as “hybrid” or “outdoor,” which means they usually have hardnesses of 84a and 78a, respectively. The higher the number, the harder the tire.

Hubs are generally either made from nylon or aluminum and come in different shapes and sizes.  Some hubs are solid, others are hollow, and a few are removable. These different cores can affect the weight, speed, traction, grip, and agility of the wheel.

Wheels are available in many sizes, ranging from 50mm to 70mm tall and 31mm to 44mm wide; however, most skaters today use either 59mm or 62mm tall wheels that are 38mm wide. Generally, skaters start off with wide/grippy wheels because they feel more stable. After a skater becomes more comfortable on skates, they often switch to slimmer/harder wheels. Slimmer wheels help a skater feel more agile and harder wheels improve speed. As far as wheel height goes, lower wheels allow for quicker bursts of speed yet they take more revolutions to get around the track. Due to this, many jammers or skaters needing help with making their laps tend to go with taller wheels.

Cleaning Your Wheels

Cleaning wheels is super easy, just pop out your bearings (very important!), throw them in a tub with warm soapy water in it, then scrub with one of those green and yellow sponges. I normally use either dish washing liquid or laundry detergent for soap, which has worked for me really well. If the gunk on the wheels is really caked on you can let the wheels soak a bit in some fairly hot soapy water before scrubbing (almost too hot for your hands is usually perfect). Have a towel handy and after you have scrubbed all that dirt and grime off the wheel, take it and smack it against the towel a few times to get as much water out of the nooks as possible. This will allow a faster drying time. I don’t worry about rinsing them after their bath, but it wouldn’t hurt. Another way to dry them off is to use some canned air, or even better an air compressor if you happen to have one handy.

Choosing Your Wheels

What are the factors that go into choosing a set of wheels? Experience, skating surface, weight, and personal preference should all be considered.

As I said previously, beginner skaters tend to want to feel as stable as possible meaning wide, grippy wheels generally work best. Once a skater is more comfortable, the other factors become more important.

At the point where you feel like you are skating through peanut butter? Time to think of some harder or thinner wheels. You may also want to switch to some harder and/or skinnier wheels if you experience shin splints, which can be caused from your muscles having to work too hard.

Slipping out all the time on turns? You can get a grip with softer wheels, but grippier wheels tend to be slower so you sacrifice speed for stability. Wheels with oversized or aluminum hubs can help counteract the loss of speed.

How much you weigh can make a huge difference. Wheels that work great to keep a 100 lb skater on a fairly sticky track are going to make someone like me (a “big girl”) feel stuck to the floor. Don’t feel like just because half the team has a wheel that works perfectly for them, that it should also work for you.

Lastly, everyone has their own personal preference when it comes to what they want to get out of their wheels. I suggest trying as many different wheels as possible before committing to a new set which is why I offer the 2N1 Skate Shoppe Wheel Library. Through this program, skaters are able to check out wheels for 2 weeks at a time before either returning them for a new set or paying the difference to purchase the ones they have. Sorry, this program is only available to skaters in the USA.

That’s a pretty down and dirty overview of wheels. If you’d like to know about a specific brand/model, feel free to contact me at 2N1SkateShoppe@gmail.com.

Until We Skate Again!

Shocker

Shocker Khan has been playing Roller Derby for 8 years and opened 2N1 Skate Shoppe nearly 6 years ago. She has taught and played Roller Derby all over the world and loves helping skaters figure out what gear will work best for them. You can contact her at 2N1SkateShoppe@gmail.com

Combining Wheel Hardnesses

Finding that beautiful balance between your perfect grip and efficient roll is an ongoing battle. Combining your wheels with different hardnesses can be an awesome tool to help you find it. Here is a small guide and explanation for how to.

Introductory Concepts:

Wheels are not about speed, they are about grip. Your wheels will only turn as fast as your bearings allow. If you want more speed, get faster bearings. Your wheels will give the bearings the friction they need to leverage to turn.

The lower the durometer or hardness, the softer the urethane and the grippier the hold on the floor. The higher the durometer or hardness, the firmer the urethane and the less hold available on the floor. Just as we consider wheels on a scale of soft-to-hard or low-to-high, we also talk about grip-to-slide.

When we talk about wheel placement, we talk about ‘your edges’. Your wheels or edges become the parts of your skates you use to create friction and leverage off the floor.  Edges are always in relation to you, not the track or left or right foot. So you have: 

Standard Set Up

Your standard set up has all 8 wheels the same hardness. This is ideal for training and generally is our recommended model. This is going to create the most consistency under your feet day to day and force you to train your technique, instead of relying on your wheels to compensate. There are so many options, it may take a little while to find ‘your’ favorite wheel for your training floor.

Mastery of a skill takes an untold number of hours and repetitions. Many of us never master perfect form. So while we may be practicing with consistent wheels on our home floors, going to an away game is a sure fire way to see all our struggles in balance, foot placement and weight distribution. This is where wheel combinations make most sense. We recommend combining wheels to help you adjust for strange floors in competition situations. In order to get used to combined wheels in advance of game day, try others wheels and switch up your training surfaces.

Speed Skating Combo

A ‘classic’ set up many skaters know, uses 4 softer wheels on the outside edge of the left skate and inside edge of the right skate. This was used primarily in the early 2000s, commonly up to 2012 when most technical training for roller derby was taken from speed skating training. Speed skaters use this set up to gain more grip when going around curves. The rule set and game of roller derby saw more movement from walls and less direction change, so this wheel set up was helpful for many. It has less application now it game play, but can be a good tool for skaters needing extra support on a tricky floor in the MST speed rounds.

In all our photos, purple is harder and white is softer. 

Mirroring Combo

As a blocker, lateral movement across the track is at the center of your game. In order to ensure you move outside as quickly and stably as inside. Skaters who have a strong dig in their plow stops but want a bit more hold when they open their hips, want to put the softer wheels on their outside edges. Skaters who want a more solid plow or stronger push when accelerating laterally, want to put the softer wheels in the inside edges. 

Diagonal Combo

Sometimes you don’t have much time, aren’t interested in switching all your wheels, or just can’t find a wheel solution that is working for you. If you love your standard set up, but just need a bit more grip or a bit more slide, the Diagonal Combo is a good and quick solution. It’s not super nuanced, but not everything has to be. You can make an even and slight adjustment this way by using 4 wheels of one hardness and 4 wheels of another hardness. 

Front / Back Combo

If you are a skater who drives through their heels or spends a lot of time on their toe stops, you may want to consider one of these combinations. Driving through the heel is effective for strong crossovers and strong plows. To gain grip or more stability you can put softer wheels on your back edge. To get extra grip on your front axle agility or toe stop drives you can put softer wheels on your front axles or front edge. 

Individual Wheel Combos

Sometimes while skating on a new floor, you’ll find a corner of your skates that seem to grip or slide just a bit too much. Replacing one wheel is also an option to make a slight correction. 

We recommend finding a wheel you like and having several hardnesses on hand so you can get the feel you want. We train a lot of hours and sink a lot of energy into our skills. Make sure you can skate the way you want on game day! As this varies from person to person, consultation with your trusted skate shop is the best way to get your perfect set up. If you need more info, feel free to contact us at QUAD!

Going into 9 years of roller derby training and playing, Master Blaster specialises in digging out the root of what makes a technique or strategy effective, from the gear up! Playing with Bear City Roller Derby, Team Germany, and the London Rollergirls has provided her a ton of face to face time with other skaters and a variety experience in different places to train and compete. The co-owner and operator of QUAD Roller Skate Shop, she is proud to be a derby business that is committed to skaters as a community with the resources and knowledge to stand by her shop. Going strong since 2011, check out QUAD Roller Skate Shop

Cushions, so underrated…

Let’s talk about cushions! They look like little wine gums, so colorful and yummy! So why don’t we roller people pay more attention to them? Probably because no one ever or talks about them the way we talk about new wheels or skates. Imagine a skater with new wheels, everyone’s like: “Dang are those the new Halo wheels? Sweet!” But no one ever says the same about cushions… So sad, because they can have a bigger impact on your skating than a pair of shiny new wheels.

Cushions are located around your kingpin. Derby skates usually have “double action” trucks, meaning that there are two cushions per kingpin, one above the truck and one below. If the cushions weren’t there and your truck would not be able to move around, your skate would only go forwards. That pretty sums up the importance of these little things, but let me explain how this works.

Cushions make your skates the right amount of stable and the right amount of agile. You don’t want a skate that’s so stiff you can’t go around a corner, but you don’t want feet cramping wobbly-ness all the time either. Cushions can also help you become faster and more agile, if you have the right ones.

So how do you find the right ones? Cushions have a hardness rating just like your wheels, so they come in 72A, 78A, 85A, etcetera.  Sometimes you can’t find that rating, but they are called “soft”, “medium”, “hard” (or “firm”) and “extra hard”.  If you’re a tiny, light weight skater you’ll probably want to go for a soft cushion and if you’re tall and heavy you’re probably better off with extra hard ones.

And how do cushions make you faster and more agile? It works in two ways, they make you faster because you have more grip, so you can go around corners faster. If your cushions are too hard for you, you won’t be able to move the truck and keep your wheels on the ground while doing strides and cross overs, you will end up on your edges too soon and lose your grip. More friction equals more grip. Look at the picture for a beautiful illustration of this.

The other way cushions make you faster is because of the “pop” they’ll give you while skating. You want your skates to do work for you, instead of you doing all the work for them. When you skate and do all your awesome blocking or jamming tricks, you’re constantly moving your feet, so you’re constantly putting pressure on your cushions. They are compressed when you move in one way and when you want to change direction, you want them to pop back to their original shape and then compress in the other way. If you’re cushions are too soft, they won’t pop and you’ll be sluggish and tired, and more importantly, not fast enough to stop that jammer or to out-juke a blocker.

Cushions come in different shapes and sizes. Lots of manufacturers or plates have their own type of cushions. PowerDyne Universal cushions and Sure Grip Super Cushions fit most skates, but make sure you check the type and brand of your plates before you order new cushions. In general, most cushions come in a “barrel” shape or a “conical” shape. Most beginner derby skates have all barrel shaped cushions. More high end skates have one barrel and one conical cushion per kingpin. The barrels are nice and stable but don’t make it impossible to go around a corner. Conical cushions give you more agility without sacrificing the hardness and pop of the cushion, because of their shape they have less resistance when you put pressure on them.

Replace your cushions when they are worn down! There are a few indications that your cushions are worn down:

You get crampy feet

Your skates feel like a ton of bricks on your feet

You can see little cracks or parts of your cushions have crumbled

Most beginner skates (like Riedell R3s and Sure Grip Boxers for example) have really hard, barrel shaped, cushions in them. This is perfect for your first couple of fresh meat practices if you’re not very stable yet, but you probably want to upgrade them really soon to something that fits your body type and skating style better.

You can also play with your cushions a little. By tightening or loosening the nut of your kingping by just a little bit at the time (like a quarter of a turn), you can feel a huge difference already. If you feel like you want to tighten your kingpin so much that the cushions start bulging, you probably want harder cushions. If you want to loosen them so much that there’s a bit of space between the cushions and the truck, you probably want softer cushions. Bulging cushions are bad, because they are under constant pressure, so they won’t respond very well and they will tear down really fast. When your kingpin nut is too loose, there will be play between the kingpin and the cushions and this will eventually lead to a broken truck. No good!

If you’re thinking to yourself, damn I need some new cushions ASAP, I have some great news for you! Cushions are pretty much the cheapest parts on your skates (apart from your laces probably). So the biggest upgrade for your skates is also the cheapest one, f*ck yeah!

Marcie started skating with the Rockcity Rollers waaayy back in 2010 when she was 11 years old. Ok, maybe a bit older… shhh.  She’s played many games and tournaments with Rockcity, Team Schraalski and Team Netherlands ever since.

Finding it really frustrating that all the cool derby stuff had to be imported from America, she and Lotta Havoc decided to start a derby business: Turn Left Roller Derby Shop was born in 2012. Starting as a little shop with just some derby clothing and accessories  and grown into a true “one stop derby shop”.  You can find Turn Left in Eindhoven or online at turnleftderby.com. Get everything from skates and protection, to customized (scrimmage) shirts and everything you need to shred at the skate park, to skate outdoors or for recreational skating.

Skate Maintenance

You wouldn’t believe how many skaters I’ve talked to over the years who have done nothing more than change out their wheels and/or bearings and maybe, just maybe, pulled out all that hair that gets wrapped around their axles (yeah, gross!). Well, there’s a few small items when properly cared for, can make a huge difference in how your skates work.

First, let’s talk about cushions. Cushions (or sometimes called bushings) are the coloured rubbery things that go on your kingpins between your axles. They come in many hardnesses, from about 71a to 95a where the higher the number the harder the cushion. Harder cushions are more stable, which can be great for beginner skaters, but normally skaters will end up with soft to medium cushions which aid in agility, lateral movement, transitions, and crossovers.

 

Cushions wear out over time, so as a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to change your cushions out about once a year. If it’s your first time changing out your cushions, I recommend changing one skate at a time, that way you are able to look at your other skate if you get confused as to how to put the skates back together.

Another thing about cushions: they are not universal. Many plates have specific cushions made for those plates so if you try to use other cushions they may not work. Bionic, Crazy, PowerDyne, Bont. All these have specific cushions to be used with their plates so it’s best to pay attention. Cushions generally range from $15-$20 for a full set of 8.

When changing out your cushions, take a look at your pivot cups. These are the cups where your pivot pin sits and they do wear out over time, especially if you use softer cushions. I’ve seen pivot cups almost cut in half, others worn through to the point they were migrating up the pivot pin. Just like cushions, many plates have their own specific pivot cups that will only fit in their plates. Pivot cups generally range from $5 to $12 for a set of 4.

Cushions and pivot cups are usually the only parts of the plate that you will need to keep an eye on and replace regularly; however, there’s some more maintenance items you can do just to make sure your plates are working at peak efficiency.

First, do an overall wipe down and visual inspection of the plates, this is best done when your plates are taken apart. Check your kingpins to see if they have loosened up, which can happen over time. You want your kingpins to be tight to prevent them from breaking or unscrewing to the point you lose 2 wheels while skating (yes, I’ve seen this happen). Also look to see if there are any cracks in the plates, these generally occur close to the toe stops and some skaters don’t notice them at first. I’ve had skaters come to me complaining that one of their skates suddenly felt strange and usually it is because their kingpins had started to loosen or a crack had formed somewhere on their plate. The kingpin is usually an easy fix, a cracked plate requires the plate to be replaced.

Examining your plates and replacing the parts that wear out can make a major difference in how well your skates perform and I recommend you do this at least a few times a year as preventative maintenance.

If you have any questions or would like clarification on anything I’ve discussed here, feel free to email me at 2N1SkateShoppe@gmail.com

Until We Skate Again!

Shocker

Shocker Khan has been playing Roller Derby for 8 years and opened 2N1 Skate Shoppe nearly 6 years ago. She has taught and played Roller Derby all over the world and loves helping skaters figure out what gear will work best for them. You can contact her at 2N1SkateShoppe@gmail.com

Plate Kingpin Angles: What’s Right for Me?

Physics has real world applications. No surprise there, but even if it wasn’t your strongest subject in school, we can help you navigate the range of plates functionality, starting with the kingpins.

Kingpins are metal rods that stick out of the base of your plate and are the next and most central level of performance.  Without the kingpin, you have no cushions, axles, bearings or wheels. 

Kingpins aren’t just there to hold all the other parts to the base, they also have an effect on your skating depending on their weight, quality and angle.  Heavy kingpins will slow you down and add more weight to each stride. Light kingpins may be made from cheap materials and break.  Generally you get what you pay for.  A less expensive plate will tend to have heavier pins, but be pretty sturdy.  If there is a cheap plate with light pins, beware!  Technologies are improving all the time and so are the types of products.  Fortunately, kingpins get lighter and stronger as time goes on.

The kingpin angle is going to have the largest impact on the feel of your skates and how they handle.  Simply put, the more extreme the kingpin is angled, the more the plate will want to respond laterally (side to side).  Kingpins are commonly found in 5°, 10°, 15°, 16°, 18°, 20°, and 33°.  The higher the number, the more extreme the angle.

5° and 10° pins are going to be very straight up and down. This provides a stable and predictable feel, with the most speed and precision. The Reactor Series from PowerDyne are developed with a several models to meet each budget.

Most plates being developed for roller derby are between 15° and 20°. These are a favorite because they provide a bit of lateral swing without being unpredictable. Pilot, Mota and Roll Line are examples of around 16° and Chaya and Crazy produce plates with 20°.

A few plates are available with 33° angled kingpins, the most popular are the Sure-Grip Avenger Series. Although they say they are 45°, they are actually 33° and are incredibly flexible with a significant amount of lateral pull and push. This hard angle really lets you dig in on an edge and curve toward a line, but is less precise and relatively slow.

You can supplement your plates function with softer or harder cushions. Harder cushions will provide more resistance, so you will get less lateral movement unless you weigh more or push harder. Softer cushions will respond with less resistance for more lateral movement, but will be slower and have less precise forward motion.

There is no right or wrong and no plate that functions better with a specific position. Rather, you want to pick the angle that best suits your skating style, will support your strengths and help you develop your skills. As this varies from person to person, consultation with your trusted skate shop is the best way to get your perfect set up. If you need more info, feel free to contact us at QUAD!

Going into 9 years of roller derby training and playing, Master Blaster specialises in digging out the root of what makes a technique or strategy effective, from the gear up! Playing with Bear City Roller Derby, Team Germany, and the London Rollergirls has provided her a ton of face to face time with other skaters and a variety experience in different places to train and compete. The co-owner and operator of QUAD Roller Skate Shop, she is proud to be a derby business that is committed to skaters as a community with the resources and knowledge to stand by her shop. Going strong since 2011, check out QUAD Roller Skate Shop

From freshie to athlete

So you found roller derby and you whole life changed overnight right? All of a sudden you eat, sleep and breath this amazing new sport, community, and epic bad ass future for yourself as the next up and comer on your team. Or maybe you are obsessed but the idea of actually becoming an all star some day feels really far away. So far away that there is no way you will ever be the one people are screaming and cheering for who scores the final points, makes the game changing block, and saves the day. Regardless of where you see yourself in roller derby, one thing is clear. You love it and you want to get better.

Well, my little freshie friend, I am here to tell you that you can and you will become a roller derby bad ass IF (and this is a big fat if) you are willing to put in the work. Yes, there will be the occasional newbie who shows up to practice who was a hockey player/ice dancing queen/cross-fit beast who makes moving up the ranks look like magic. But the reality is, they simply did (years ago) exactly what I am about to tell you to do. Focus and work hard. There will be no easy button. There will be no short cuts. There will simply be work.

So, that being said, I am here to tell you, you aren’t doing enough. But that doesn’t mean you need to quit your job to pursue your derby dream. Scheduled practices are the minimum. This the the amount of time your league can reasonably invest in you. It will take more time and effort outside of practice if you want to elevate yourself up the ranks in your league at anything beyond a snails pace.

Here are 3 things I learned in my first few years of roller derby that took my game to a whole new level:

1. Your practice time is not your only practice time.

Be willing to do above average work to get above average results.

I began skating outside around my house (and ate shit without pads on and got some major road rash on my shin and elbow…wear pads please). I wore my skates on the carpet and wood floors at home. At my day job as a preschool teacher I would stand on one leg while pushing the kids on the swings to help improve my balance. At my night job I asked my boss at the bar I was cocktail waitressing at if I would wear my skates while I worked. I cross trained 3+ days per week using hockey and football drills I found on the internet (this was before programs like Roller Derby Training Club existed). Where can you get creative in your day and make a derby training game out of your life?

2. Get obsessed with that thing you can’t do yet.

Let it consume you.

But here is the catch, if you aren’t working on it daily, don’t expect it to get better. I met up with derby friends at the rink on Sundays and we practiced specific skills together like backwards skating. I was so obsessed with learning to crossover backwards that I worked on it every week before and after practice and on the weekends for 2 months until I finally had a dream that I could backwards cross over and BAM the next day I could do it. When I tried out for the LA Derby Dolls I wasn’t accepted into subpool because I couldn’t stop. So, I showed up to the track an hour early to every practice and worked on my powerslides. Over and over and over and over. What can’t you do currently that you need to practice every day?

3. See yourself as an athlete.

Your reality is a result of the stories you tell yourself.

From the moment I put on skates and immediately fell flat on my ass I decided I was going to be a roller derby all star no matter what. That story dictated how I showed up at practice. It was the reason everything I did every day was geared towards derby. I told my self a story and I believed it. I am a bad ass athlete. And so I needed to eat, train, and think like one. As a result, I became one.

Whats the story you are telling yourself?

Minimum skills are just that. They are the very basic things you need to know to not die (or hurt anyone else) in a crazy pack of salivating blockers and point-hungry jammers. If you shoot for the minimum thats what you’ll get. If you want to be a derby legend, you have to see yourself as one now and start training like one.

xoxo

Krissy Krash

What’s up! I’m Krissy Krash!

I’ve been in the roller derby world since 2007. I’ve played banked track, flat track, nationally, internationally…ALL THE ROLLER DERBY THINGS! In 2009 I started teaching roller derby players how to be roller derby ATHLETES. It started when I realized that practice wasn’t enough. I needed to cross train and eat right if I wanted to stay in derby for the long haul. I felt better and committed my life to helping others learn how to do the same thing!

Krash Course provides:

Online fitness training for all levels that helps skaters blow past plateaus in my Roller Derby Training Club app and Facebook community group.

Custom nutrition plans for energy, recovery, weight loss or gain, athlete acne, and over all health.

Herbalife bad ass supplement plans .

Coaching on goal setting and reaching, time management, developing an athlete mindset, destroying personal mental barriers.

Beast Mode Activated Webinars which are a single group session of the above mentioned coaching topics.

Mentor coaches and entrepreneurs who want to grow a roller derby or fitness business.

I just LOVE helping people! Oh also, I was in that Whip It movie..

If you want to try roller derby…

Boy, do I remember my first fresh meat practice. Even cycling over there, I was shaking with nerves. I knew absolutely no one there, had no idea where I was even going, and roller derby was a thing I had only seen in the movies. Back then, I thought punching was legal. Standing there, on my skates with a helmet that was at least two sizes too big and a mouthguard that made it look like I had just had my Kylie Jenner lip injections, the nerves refused to go away. I saw people doing things I didn’t even know were possible (turning around? ON SKATES??) while I struggled to even move forward.

I see it all the time, online, and even when I tell friends and strangers about this crazy sport I’m doing.

“God, that sounds so cool! But I’m sure it’s not for me”

“Oh wow, I’d love to try that, but it seems so scary”

“I don’t know if I could even do that”

“But how do you score points?”

Okay, maybe not the last one. But there’s this thing that people tend to do when they hear about roller derby: they love the sound of it, but they’re too scared to try. They’re too ‘fill-in-the-blanks’: too old, too young, too nice, too big, too small, too much of a mom (I’ve honestly heard someone say this).

I can’t blame these people. I had the same kind of thoughts when I strapped on my first pair of skates (which were not made for roller derby, I can tell you that). Coming home from that first practice, I thought: I don’t have enough time for this. I’m not tough enough. I can’t skate. I don’t even know what kind of gear I need. I don’t get skate maintenance.

Well, isn’t that funny, past me, I still don’t understand skate maintenance. Oops.

I don’t know what made me go back after that first hour and a half of pure agony on wheels. I just liked the feeling when I did manage to roll forward, and people seemed nice enough. I stopped thinking about all of these insecureties I had. In fact, I started to celebrate them. I counted how many times I fell during practice and cheered when I had broken my previous record. I enjoyed being the one who always messed up a drill – it made it easier to play around. Slowly but surely, I got better.

If you’re scared of trying out roller derby, or if you’re already skating but you’re scared of trying something new, like a different position on the track: it’s probably because you should try it. And you know it. If there’s just a tiny tiny bit of curiosity in you, then, in the words of the great Shia LaBeouf: JUST DO IT.

JUST.

DO.

IT.

The helmet I was wearing during that first practice, you know, the one that was way too big for me? It belonged to my now fellow co-captain. If she would have told me back then that I would be her teammate and that we would be captains together, I would have laughed in her face and also told her that her head’s too damn big. But I love thinking about that fact, because in three years I surprised myself by just trying without any expectations.

If you want to try roller derby, try it. If you want to try being an official, try it. If you want to try something different in derby, guess what: try it. Just see for yourself. All those little voices in your head will probably never shut up, but you don’t have to listen to them anyway.

Nicole (Magic Mika #323) has been skating for three years and is currently co-captain for Utrecht’s Dom City Dolls A-team (ranked second in the Netherlands). They write about life and everything else on www.nicoleadriaens.nl.