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I’m approaching my 1 year anniversary of skating with Fierce Valley Roller Girls, and about to take the plunge into buying new skates. It’s a bit of a touchy subject for me as I refuse to buy new Roller Derby kit simply because I want to, only when I absolutely have to.

Because there is a huge variety of easily-available equipment online, you could find yourself buying new pieces every other week if you had the money. I, however, do not. So before I begrudgingly take the plunge into buying new skates, and everything that goes along with them, I thought I’d reflect on my purchases so far and why I decided I needed them. Hopefully you’ll find this useful!

After my first Fresh Meat session, off I popped to KickFlipBoards.com and bought my Roller Derby Starter Pack (Reidell R3 skates with Anarchy pads). Those were simpler times, where the complete package of skates and safety equipment came in a neat little package and tied with a bow. No questions asked.

Riedell and Anarchy Starter Pack from KickFlip

Riedell and Anarchy Starter Pack from KickFlip

As I’d spent close to £160 on this kit, I was in no rush to spend any more on extras or upgrades. But then I’d noticed the front of my skates getting scuffed, so I bought some pink SureGrip toe guards from eBay – at just under £10 they were much cheaper than buying new skates! A few months down the line when I found out that the tongue-style toe guard wasn’t actually protecting my skates any more, I just took it off and used the always reliable black duct tape for a few more layers of protection

Duct tape

The faithful Duct tape

When we were doing drills to improve our balance and the use of our toe-stops, the standard rectangular-ish toe-stop that I was using kept spinning and getting in my way, so I added round Riedell toe-stops to my birthday list (thanks Sis!). A lot of the other skaters use Gumball toe-stops, but I over-looked these in favour of the Riedells after reading reviews of both products online, based on what I wanted at the time.

A couple of months into skating with Fierce Valley, I was hearing more and more of my fellow skaters talking about upgrading their wheels. I was still skating on the Radar Caymens and didn’t have any problems with them so didn’t see a need to upgrade. As the training focus started to shift from learning skating skills to actually playing roller derby, I was immediately aware that my Caymens just couldn’t give me the grip I needed to stay tight on that inside line when skating at speed. After trying out the wheels of my teammates, in October last year I bought the SureGrip Fugitive Mid (slim) wheels (Purple 87A, and Yellow 93A – £34.99 for a set of 4 from Billy’s Bikes & Skates). The topic of wheels is a different thread entirely, and one which I still don’t properly understand!

Suregrip Fugitive Mid Wheels

Suregrip Fugitive Mid Wheels

After that, I refused to buy anything else unless it was to replace something that was actually broken. It’s amazing the self-restraint that comes with taking out a mortgage! Admittedly, I could do with cleaning my bearings more regularly and replacing my threaded nuts and bolts with new ones, but I can live with that for now. My skates are starting to look a bit sorry for themselves, but hey – they still work!

Roller Derby skates

My less-than-shiny Roller Derby skates

So right at the beginning of this post I said I want to buy new skates. “Why?”, I hear you ask since I’ve been preaching, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Well during my last few training sessions, I’ve been finding my toes are cramping up really badly since I lace my skates so tight – after years of ice-skating, I have a crippling fear that loose laces mean broken ankles! Carnage from Dundee Roller Girls has suggested a new method of tying my skates – with two sets of laces instead of one – so I can have my skates both loose at the toes and tight and the ankles. I’ll definitely try this out!

Aside from the tingly toes, the arches of my feet get really sore when I skate, and even for a couple of days afterwards. From my experience of buying proper running trainers, I found there was an exact science in finding the right trainer by first finding out what kind of ‘foot’ you have. Knock-turnal from Fair City Rollers recently got customised skates from Lead Jammer Skates, where they provide an additional service to scan your foot and make the skate to fit. This sounds extremely appealing, but of course I’ll have to do my sums first.

So that’s where I’m at for now. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be trying to decipher the lingo around skate boots, trucks, plates, wheels, bearings – and pretty much everything else – in my quest to find the skates that are right for me. As always, comments and advice are always welcome!