Cornwall Roller Derby (CRD) Guide to buying your first kit.
This is Madame Warfare’s opinion, please feel free to ignore
You’ve tried roller derby, you love it, and you need your own kit! Here are some answers to the questions we get asked the most!
If you’re on a tight budget then ask around your league to see if anyone has any kit they want to sell or give away. This helps you save on postage and others clear out cupboards full of kit. Everybody is a winner!
If nobody in your league has anything to sell or give away then the Facebook group Roller Derby Recyclables is full of second hand skate kit going cheap, you just need to request to be added to it, but it’s worth it. It’s also great for selling your old kit on afterwards; things get snatched up quickly though so you have to be on the ball!
As a league we will never suggest you buy a second hand helmet as you just don’t know its history and it is the most important bit of protection you will own as head injuries are not fun. You can get adjustable helmets cheaply from Decathlon. Buying helmets online can be dodgy, fit is everything! Try league members’ helmets on to get an idea of size in brands.
If buying kit second hand, please look out for the following things:
- Check the price of what you’re looking to buy if it were new. Buying something second hand should be considerably cheaper than buying new.
- Save on postage by seeing if the seller is attending any bouts you’ll also be attending soon.
- Be aware that there is no guarantee on your second hand purchases so if you break it you can’t send it back!
- Pay it forward and sell your kit on if it is in good nick and you don’t need it anymore!
With all this in mind, what kind of stuff should you look out for?
Kneepads/elbow pads/ wrist guards
These are all fine to buy second hand, just check pictures posted for wear and tear and again, check around your league if anyone can let you try on their stuff before you buy so you know what size to get. Buy the best knee protection you can afford because when you’re learning you may fall a lot and knee problems really suck. General advice is that for standard knee pads you would want to change them every 3 months or so, while a set of scabs or similar would last more than a year. This is all personal preference, if you do not fall on your knees much, then the life span of pads is greatly increased. Personally I would not buy second hand knee pads, but would happily wear second hand elbows and wrist guards. Knee gaskets are also a great investment, as they will keep your ligaments and tendons in place while falling (the pad will protect the impact and bones, but the gaskets prevent twisting).
Scabs, TSG Force 3 or above (very good price on eBay from Europe), and 187 killer pads are all great knee pads. Some skate / ramp kneepads are good but won’t hold up under regular falls.
With wrist guards, try to get double splinted. As a personal preference, I would avoid ones with a bump in the palm area as they tend to bruise your hand when you fall. The SFR ones are my favourite.
Avoid if too expensive – I always found wrist guards like this to hurt where the plastic is on your palm, as it jabs in. I’ve had many a thumb bruise from these! They still protect your wrists though so if they are going cheap buy them.
Awesome. Cheap and cheerful, and comfy, never had a problem with wrist guards in this style. The Velcro can pull off, but is easily fixed with a needle and thread!
Elbow pads just need to fit, you will rarely fall on your elbows!
These protect your teeth and protect against concussion. You can get them cheap from a sports shop or you can get custom mouth guards from your dentist. A lot of our skaters use SISU mouth guards as they are thin, you can talk, breathe and drink in them, and they have lots of colours. PLUS they are re-mouldable, so if you have a filling or something you can just re boil and re-mould J. I would not ever go back to not having an SISU mouth guard. However, a cheap mouth guard that fits is better than a fancy one that doesn’t. Your mouth guard has to fit you or it isn’t safe so if you aren’t sure, ask your friendly ref crew as they perform kit checks before scrims and bouts all the time.
Wheels (by Kneefall Weapon)
This is a minefield. There are so many wheel options and makes and hardnesses to think about that it can take months (it took me years) to find the right ones for you. Basic wheel knowledge:
Size: Wheels come in a variety of sizes but for roller derby the options are generally as follows;
2 diameters; 62mm (tall) and 59mm (short); It doesn’t seem like a lot and early in your career it won’t make a great deal of difference. 62mm wheels tend turn smoothly and roll easier and so keep your speed up once you’re going. 59mm wheels are more responsive and quicker accelerating and decelerating but will require more input to retain your momentum.
3 widths; wide (43mm) narrow (38mm) and extra narrow (35mm). Width is again a point of personal preference with CRDs skaters using a broad spectrum of widths. Generally speaking wider wheels offer a lot of stability and are great platform for hits and pushes. Narrower wheels are more manoeuvrable.
Durometer (AKA hardness:)
Hardness is measured by a system of numbers known as the durometer scale. It is expressed as a number followed by the letter “a” (XXa) and for quad skates ranges from around 75a up to around 101a. The bigger the number the harder the wheel and the less grip it will have, but, it will be quicker. It is important to consider the surfaces you will be skating on when choosing a wheel. You are normally aiming to strike a balance between grip and roll. As a guide, most of the skaters using the Treviglas dome use wheels in the low to mid 90s (91a – 95a.) at our Truro venue, which is slippery wooden floor they tend to use very soft wheels (~84a -88a.) Durometers below 84a are normally for outdoor use.
There are many other options available to the obsessive wheel purchaser and literally hundreds of wheel choices. Here are some good options to get you started:
Poisons by Atom: almost everyone in derby has a set of these hybrid wheels; large stiff hub with a soft 84a “tyre” gives excellent grip and good roll and absolutely brilliant wheel which will see you through from rookie to battle hardened veteran. Available in wide, narrow, 62mm and 59mm
Jukes also by Atom: a short wheel available as a narrow only, a very popular wheel for jammers and blockers alike available in 92a and 94a it boasts excellent manoeuvrability and is a good wheel to learn and bout with.
Heartless by GRNMNSTR: A very narrow wheel available tall or short. It has a hollow core so is extremely light and comes in a wide range of durometers (86a – 98a) extremely good for derby as they can be mixed and matched for different surfaces and have both brilliant grip, good roll and superb manoeuvrability. Highly recommended.
You can start learning the basics of roller derby on ANY quad skate. I started on the rio rollers. It took me about 1 month to realise that they were not good enough for derby. Mostly the wheels (being skinny and rounded at the sides) were not great for t-stops, and the toe stops are not great for derby stops.
There are many kinds of skates out there that say they are good for roller derby. For example, the anarchy Mayhem – has the right boot and wheels but the toe stops is the same wedge style as the Rio Rollers.
I would suggest spending the extra £20.00 and getting something that really is suited to it, like the Anarchy
Havoc. If you are going to spend £45 on Rio rollers, you may as well wait a bit longer, save an extra £30 and get Anarchy Havocs. Things to look for in a roller derby skate:
Boot cut: The lower ankle is more suited to roller derby than a high ankle. Personal preference.
Toe stop: The rounded rubber on an adjustable screw thread is best for roller derby. Nice and adjustable, and interchangeable too.
Wheels: Flat wide ones as opposed to skateboard style. Wheels will probably be the first bit of your skates you will upgrade or change.
Anarchy Havoc. This is a good boot, better for roller derby than the lower versions by Anarchy. Check this review here: http://www.online-skating.com/articles-2786-test-anarchy-havoc-roller-derby-quad-skates.html
I have seen them for £65.00-75.00
Riedell R3s are a great starter skate and are very popular in our league. They are hard wearing and will last well – some of our skaters used the R3s for 2 years or more before upgrading. These tend to suit people who have narrow feet better so if you’re not sure what size to go for, shout out and you’ll find people in your league who don’t mind letting you try on their gear for sizing. Be aware – the wheels they come with are very basic and you may want to upgrade them straight away. Riedell R3s are around £100.00
Suregrip Rock GT-50 are also popular starter skates and along with Riedell R3s you find lots of these on the Roller Derby Recyclables Facebook group. I’ve heard they tend to be wider than the R3s. Plate is better and so are the wheels. £100-125
If you get in to roller derby then you’ll probably start lusting after other models such as Antiks, higher end Riedells, Vanillas, Luiginos and Bonts. Don’t leap in to making an expensive skate purchase until you have done your research and seen what type of skate set up will fit your skate style. It really pays to take your time choosing your set up in the first 6-12 months of playing derby no matter how much the pricey skate may make your heart skip a beat. Ask around the league too, we are mostly more than happy to let you try our stuff if we have the same size feet, and, in the case of bonts and others, have not heat moulded the boot!
Bont hybrid skate starter package. Bonts are lightweight and the derby world loves them. Quoted: “Get ready to out skate the competition with the Bont Hybrid package. Most entry level packages are made with old construction techniques using cardboard and wood. The Hybrid has a fully hand-made fiberglass base and it is heat mouldable to your feet and from under £170. This package comes without wheels though.
As a league, we tend to advise new skaters to avoid the cheapie, cheapie skates e.g. Riedell Volts or the ‘Roller Derby’ Viper as we’ve found they don’t stand up to the use they will get playing roller derby – as a newbie you will most likely fall a lot, plus we will make you kneefall etc. If the skates you’re looking at are good but second hand (and so cheap) the money would be better spent than on the aforementioned models. You will probably want to invest if some toe guards and some gaffa or hockey tape to protect the noses of your skates, as this area will take the brunt of most of your falls. As with everything, “If you buy cheap, you’ll buy twice”.
If you are not sure about anything to do with kit then ask us!
Full kit starter packs:
This site has some GREAT starter packs, with upgrades available on some options (I would definitely upgrade the mouthguard)
(Skate Attack give 10% off to our league – I’m not sure if that counts on a deal already in existence though… Worth asking. If you call or email skate attack, ask for Von Bitch, tell her Madame Warfare (Emma Wright) sent you…)
No mouthguard in this set.
Remember to ask around to try on other people’s kit to see what size you are, you may be surprised!
Already got skates? Check this out for a deal: http://kickflipboards.com/roller-derby-elbow-knee-pads-helmet-pack.html
The knee pads that come with both these deals are designed for ramp usage, and continuous falling will mean they need to be replaced more frequently, but they are a great start.