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!

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,

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Smith Derby Knee Pads

There are quite a few knee pads on the market ranging from about $35 to over $100.  Smith Scabs Elite knee pads have been an extremely popular option for years and I personally used them for about 5 seasons, so when I heard that Smith came out with a Roller Derby specific knee pad I was excited!

I noticed a few things right off the bat:

  • At $40 for a set, they are at the lower end of the knee pad price range.  The other knee pads in this price range I've tried didn't hold up well to the rigors of Roller Derby, so I was a bit skeptical.
  • They wrap around your knee with a butterfly type enclosure (like the Smith Scabs Elite or 187 Pro Derby knee pads) which is a huge plus!
  • They come in a wide range of sizes, from Small to XXL for adults and 2 junior sizes.

 I've been using these knee pads for a few months now.  So far I really like them and would recommend them for skaters who have a season or 2 of experience.  For newer skaters, I'd recommend going with the Scabs Elite or 187 Pro Derby knee pads for extra protection.

Like many knee pads, these start off fairly stiff but after a couple practices they relaxed and felt more comfortable.  The padding isn't as nice as higher-end knee pads, but it took me falling on my knees pretty hard before I noticed a difference.

The only issue I have found so far with these knee pads is that the sizing runs fairly small.  Be prepared to go up at least 1 size than with other knee pads.

Overall, I definitely think Smith Derby Knee Pads are worth trying if you are in the market for new knee pads.

Until we skate again! Shocker

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Halo Wheels, Straight From Heaven!

Radar has done it again, revolutionizing Roller Derby wheels with their newest offering: Halo Wheels!

Halo "H" Shaped Hub
Halo wheels were designed with an oversized hub which is shaped to have more urethane in the center and less on the edges.  Radar claims "this makes it easier to perform stops and offers excellent response. The middle of the hub has room for more urethane, which offers grip, increases control and improves ride."  And you know what?  It's absolutely true!

I tested the Halo 93a (pink hub) wheels and was super skeptical.  I'm a heavier skater so for the last couple years I preferred to skate on aluminum hubbed, 62mm wheels.  Every time I've tried to go to nylon hubbed, 59mm wheels I felt the wheels flex and felt sluggish.  However, the Halo wheels surprised me.  I absolutely loved them!

I felt no flex with the Halo wheels, felt no loss of speed, and they were very responsive.  On top of all that, they are super lightweight at about 10.6 oz per 4 pack.

Image may contain: shoes

Halo wheels only come in 59mm, which is a bit of a bummer for those of us who prefer taller wheels but the range of 6 hardnesses makes up for it.  The grippiest Halos are 86a and the hardest are 97a.

Image may contain: shoes
New Solaris Pro Package

I've had many skaters purchase these wheels or rent them from my wheel library and have gotten almost all positive feedback and most wheels were purchased after being checked out.  Some skaters have had to try a couple different hardnesses before finding the right balance between speed and grip and one skater had an issue with chunking (in this case Radar replaced the wheels, no questions asked) but other than that skaters seem to love these wheels.  If you are looking to try something new, I'd definitely recommend getting some Halos.

Until we skate again!