At the beginning of 2018, roller derby was on my mind most of the time. When I wasn’t helping with team fundraisers or hanging out with the girls, I was watching an endless number of youtube videos, researching skates, wheels, bearings, and gear.
My starter skates weren’t really roller derby quality. Chicago Bullets, basic recreation skates you can pick up at places like Big 5 are an okay investment if you don’t know if you’ll really like roller derby and just want a pair of skates. But for the type of skating required to become a decent roller derby player, they do not work.
To start with, the stock bearings are poor quality, the wheels are very basic, but the biggest issue is the toe stop. Hard plastic toe stops absolutely don’t work. The mark of a decent roller derby skate is easily removable toe stops. Bonny, our team captain, and I skated on Bullets for a few months. We were comfortable with them, and were on a budget. We even considered replacing the toe stops with rubber ones, but the selection and upgrades were so minimal.
I started searching the Facebook Marketplace, where I and soon found an entire set of derby gear for a mere $30. The skates were Sure-Grip Rock GT-50s, and I got a set of used wrist-guards, gloves, Airwalk kneepads, elbow pads, and a helmet. It was a pretty darned good deal for all that gear, even if it was well used.
I skated on them for maybe a month before my dear friend Haute Donna found a pair of Riedell Wicked skates with a Dynapro plate in my size for only $70 on the Marketplace. They were white, which I wasn’t entirely thrilled with, but I couldn’t pass up the deal. They were $400 new, and while not perfect derby skates, they were a massive upgrade for me and an absolute steal. I had to borrow money, but I got them and they’re the skates I love and use to this day.
I was soon pulling apart skates, wheels, and bearings. I created my own bearing washer and taught the other girls on the team to clean their bearings since we often skated outside and in a variety of settings. While I hadn’t spent nearly as much on my skates as other on my team, it was still an investment and I wanted all my gear to last as long as possible. And purchasing used gear meant it needed extra attention, love, and care.
I donated my original Bullets to the team, but my GT-50s fit my son. As did all the pads I had gotten from that set. Little did I know at the time, but I actually had been investing in my son’s future passion in roller skating. By handing those skates down to him, I gained a skate partner who is game anytime, anywhere. He was soon skating with the team during warm-ups, and we became regular rink rats at Roller Towne despite the 45 minute drive.
Roller derby became so much more than just something I do for fun with friends. It hasn’t just taken over MY life, it has become a family affair.
Interested in Roller Derby and curious about what kind of gear you might need? Check out this post I wrote for the Sin Cal Derby Vixens website. Different teams will suggest different brands, styles, and types of equipment depending on their practice location and level of competition.