Thursday, December 14, 2017

Last Minute Gift Ideas!

If you're anything like me, right about now you're starting to panic because you realize there's only a few more days til Xmas.  Well, I put together some packages any skater is sure to appreciate and can ship them out within 24 hours of the order being placed!  These are also great for birthdays, anniversaries, or just to show someone you appreciate them.

First is the Derby Essentials Kit which includes hardware, bandages, hair ties, spare bearings, lip balm, and laces.  It comes in a cute metal container with the skater's name and number on the top. 

Another great option is the Skate Maintenance Kit, featuring a wheel bag, nylon axle nuts, hardware, bearing cleaning kit, bearing oil, skate tool, KT Tape, and a microfiber towel which you can have personalized.

Don't forget about your referees!  The Referee Starter Gift Pack includes 2 whistles and 2 lanyards, and there are options to upgrade the whistles or add the 2018 Bro-He-Can calendar to make this extra special.

I put 4 Referee Gift packages together that include different referee themed toe guards in addition to 2 whistles, sunglasses, and a lanyard.  Options to upgrade the whistles and add the calendar are available with each package.

Lastly, if you haven't seen the 2018 Bro-He-Can calendar yet, you should check it out.  It's definitely the most unique Roller Derby related calendar I've come across so far...

Hope that helps with the gift ideas! 

Until we skate again!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Riedell Solaris Boots

Solaris Boots

I started hearing about the Riedell Solaris boots about a year ago and boy have they taken the derbyverse by storm!  When I finally got my hands on some, the first thing I noticed was how amazingly light they were, which is saying a lot since I had been skating with some very light carbon fiber boots.  Like many other skaters, I'm skeptical when new products are introduced and the $349 price tag was a little more than I wanted to spend at the time.  So instead, I watched as more and more skaters switched to these boots and listened to their feedback.

Solaris boots are made with high quality leather, heat moldable counters, and have a rounded toe box which helps them fit a wide range of foot shapes. They also have an antimicrobial perforated microfiber lining with moisture and odor resistant treatment, a huge plus for barefoot skaters such as myself.

Example of Custom Colors

For skaters who prefer a bit more flair, Riedell offers a pretty impressive array of custom color options for an extra $90.  You can even change the color of the ankle straps!

After selling about a dozen pairs of these boots and receiving mostly positive feedback, I ended up getting a pair for myself and so far I'm quite impressed.  For the past few years I have had to deal with hot spots, calluses, toe nails that don't want to grow right or end up falling out, and discolored parts of my feet, but the Solaris boots have given me hope that my feet will be pretty again!  They are unbelievably comfortable and there was no break in period.

The first time I skated with these boots, I had an issue with my heels slipping, almost wanting to pop out of the boots.  Solaris boots feature a narrow heel and V-Lock Strap around the ankle, so I didn't expect my heel to move at all.  I did a little research and found this video featuring Jackie Daniels which shows an interesting method for engaging the V-Lock Strap.  I started lacing my boots this way and no longer had any heel slippage.

Aside from heel slippage, I did end up switching out the insoles, but I've had to do this with all my previous Riedell boots as well.  Years ago at RollerCon, I complained to a Riedell employee about how crappy their insoles were and he said skaters end up throwing the insoles away so Riedell doesn't see a need to improve the quality.  I thought this was a strange response but I didn't pursue the issue further.  In any case, it didn't surprise me that I needed to change out the insoles, many other skaters may need to as well.

Quite a few skaters ended up buying (or wish they had bought) boots a half size smaller than what they normally wear.  This is likely due to the C/AA width which provides a wide area for the ball of the foot.  Feet tend to lengthen when squeezed so it makes sense they would be a tad smaller in a roomy boot.

Developing a blister/hot spot on the inner arch of the right foot happened to a handful of customers and one customer had it develop on her left foot.  In most cases, the blister healed and didn't return; however, some skaters ended up needing to wear eZeefoot Ankle Booties or something similar to prevent it from reoccurring.  All the skaters with this issue said it was a minor inconvenience and that they still loved the boots.

Other than that, I have only heard positive feedback, which is pretty amazing!  For about a year after the Solaris boots were introduced, they were selling so quickly that customers had to wait 6 weeks to get them.  Fortunately, Riedell has been able to catch up and many sizes are in stock and available now.
Solaris Sport Package

Solaris Boots $349

Solaris Sport Package $479

  • Plates: PowerDyne Reactor Fuse Nylon
  • Wheels: Radar Pop
  • Bearings: KwiK Zenith
  • Solaris Pro Package
  • Toe Stop: PowerDyne Jupiter

Solaris Pro Package $699
  • Plates: PowerDyne Reactor Pro Series
  • Wheels: Radar Halo
  • Bearings: KwiK Zenith
  • Toe Stop: PowerDyne Jupiter

These are just a couple skate package options but you can always mix and match to create your perfect setup.  I'd love to hear feedback on what other skaters think about the Solaris boots and what kinds of boot/plate combinations you are using.  Feel free to e-mail me at with any comments or questions.

Until we skate again!

Monday, November 20, 2017

PowerDyne Arius Platinum Plates

Young man on the Edvard Petrini's
pedaled roller skates known as Takypod in
Sweden, circa 1910
Did you know that roller skates have been around since 1743?  I had no clue until I started researching the history of skates for this article.  A few years ago a family friend gave me a pair of antique roller skates complete with  metal wheels and a skate key which I now proudly display in my shoppe.  It's crazy to imagine people skating in them and actually enjoying it, but they must have because roller skating never really went away.

In recent history, creative innovators have advanced the design, performance, and functionality of roller skates.  Many of these changes involved using new materials, tweaking angles, or shifting the placement of different components; however, the mechanics pretty much stayed the same...until the Arius plate was created.  

About 5 years ago, PowerDyne introduced Arius Red plates and boasted that they were "lighter, stronger, more stable, more powerful, more maneuverable, more durable, and more efficient than any other plate, hands down."  That's right, they used the word "more" 5 times in that one sentence.

To PowerDyne's credit, Arius Red plates really were quite impressive.  They were unbelievably light, could take a beating, and performed well, but the most surprising aspect of these plates was the absence of a kingpin!

PowerDyne Arius Red Plates
Now, as we know for all other plates, kingpins hold cushions and trucks in place and are adjusted by tightening/loosening the kingpin nut for optimal performance.  Well, with the Arius plates, the axles press the trucks against specially designed Butterfly Cushions...eliminating the need for a kingpin.  Once you find the cushion hardness/combination that's right for you, there's no need to make further adjustments.

Arius Red Butterfly Cushions
I have talked to quite a few skaters who used/still use Arius Red plates.  Many said it took a bit of an adjustment period, from 1 practice to two whole weeks of skating, before they felt comfortable.  Finding the right cushion hardness by trying different combinations seems to be key; however, most said that after they got everything set up they loved how the plates performed.  As a dealer, I got to know the plates fairly intimately when mounting them to boots or working on them for customers and I found them to have a couple design issues.

The first was that the original toe stop screw was difficult to tighten enough to firmly hold a toe stop.  PowerDyne ended up coming out with a new toe stop screw that helped with this issue, but you still had to tighten it down hard to get the toe stop to stay put.  The second frustrating design was that the cushions were held in place by tiny screws, 1 on each side of the cushion which meant 4 tiny screws per plate, 8 total for the pair.  These screws were a pain to remove/install and were easily lost.

Apparently PowerDyne listened to their customers because, in 2016, they introduced the Arius Platinum plate.  This version featured the same innovations as the original Arius model, but also included a couple upgrades making them not only perform better, but easier to work with.  You can see in the pic below that the toe stop screw is now located toward the front of the plate instead of behind the toe stop, the new design makes securing the stop much easier.

Arius Platinum Plate

New Split Butterfly Cushions

PowerDyne also redesigned the trucks and cushions, eliminating those 8 tiny screws altogether (yay!).  Unfortunately, the new Split Butterfly Cushions are not compatible with the old plates and vice versa, but it's a small price to pay for making the cushions so much easier to replace/swap out.

A couple months ago, I ordered myself some Arius Platinum plates mounted on the new Solaris boots (my next article will cover Solaris boots).  The first time I tried the new setup, I encountered ran an issue that I wasn't expecting... I couldn't control my feet!  I felt like my skates were moving in and out on their own and I didn't feel comfortable lifting my wheels off the ground to do a simple crossover.  I must say, I freaked out quite a bit on the inside but tried to remain calm.  I changed out the cushions out for harder ones, which seemed to help somewhat but I could tell something else was wrong.  After trying the new skates out twice without much improvement, I grabbed my old skates to compare my plates...the axles on the Arius plates were spaced an inch further apart than my old Venus plates! According to the Arius plate size chart, I should need a size 8 plate for my size 8.5 boots and that is the size Riedell mounted on my boots before sending them to me.  I ended up removing the size 8 plates and mounted size 6 instead, which only had about a quarter inch larger axle distance.  The next time I tried them out I was able to skate like I had with my old setup, the difference was like night and day.  I'd definitely recommend comparing the wheel distance of the Arius plates with whatever you are currently skating on to see if you may need a size other than what is suggested.

Now that I've been able to skate with the correct size Arius Platinum plates for a few weeks, I can say I really do like them.  They feel different than plates with kingpins...I feel more stable yet jukey/agile at the same time.  I haven't had any issues with my toe stops, the screws tighten as expected and don't loosen on their own.  Playing around with the different hardnesses of cushions has been interesting, the plates come with 4 sets of cushions so you shouldn't need to purchase separate cushions right away.  PowerDyne offers 9 different cushion hardnesses for the new plates which means it's likely there is a combination for any skater out there.

Custom Solaris Boots with Arius Platinum Plates
(Pic courtesy of Jules Hannah)
You're probably asking yourself, "if these plates are so great, why doesn't everyone have them?"  Well, the $349 price tag is definitely a little steep.  One option that isn't going to be around for very long is to go with the Arius Red plates currently on clearance for $199.  Very limited availability on these!  These are no longer available. 

If you end up purchasing the Arius Platinum plates, they could very well be the last set of plates you ever need to buy, which isn't a bad investment.

As always, feel free to send comments/questions/feedback to me at

Until We Skate Again,