Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spit or Swallow?

Spring Green SISU Mouth Guard
When I first started skating, I had an el cheapo mouth guard that had a strap attaching it to my helmet, that way I could spit it out as often as possible and not lose it.  The mouth guard was so thick it was impossible to be understood, and sometimes it even messed with my breathing and made me gag.  I would spit out the mouth guard any time I didn't need it because it was so uncomfortable.  I thought there must be something better out there.

My league got a dentist as a sponsor and we were able to get professionally made mouth guards for a nice discount and when I started wearing that guard, I thought it was the bees knees.  Yet it was still fairly expensive, thick enough to make it difficult to understand me when I spoke, and still made me gag once in a while.  That all changed when I  went to RollerCon a couple years ago and found the SISU (formerly Protech Dent) mouthguard.

Forming a SISU Mouth Guard
The SISU mouth guard is different from any other mouth guard on the market.  It requires very hot water to mold to your mouth, it comes completely flat and has little holes in it, it comes in adult and youth sizes, and you can choose from 2 different thicknesses.  There are spots in the middle that don't have holes where you put your teeth while forming the rest of the guard around your teeth with your tongue and upper lip.  Once you have it in place, you suck until it's hard (hee hee).  If you can flip the guard out with your tongue, you will need to do it again and suck harder.  If you mess up, all you have to do is put it back in hot water to soften it up and do it all again.  SISU has a great how-to video that helps first timers a lot.

Unlike other mouth guards, the SISU guard is hard plastic which has been scientifically proven to protect against concussions better than their competitors.

Here are the pros and cons that I've experienced with the SISU 1.6 mouth guard over the past 2 years:

  • Super thin so it is easy to communicate without spitting everywhere
  • Cheaper and more comfortable than professionally made mouth guards
  • So comfortable I forget I have it in my mouth
  • Can easily drink without taking it out
  • Wide range of colors to choose from
  • Lasts longer than soft mouth guards
  • Can be difficult to mold correctly (took me 2 times to get it right)
  • Takes a little while to get used to the hardness
  • I would love to see some glitter or swirly colors

Some skaters have had an issue with the plastic taste of the mouth guards, fortunately SISU listened and created the LYFT flavor spray.  Don't let the tiny bottle fool you, all you need is a tiny spritz from about a foot away and your mouth guard will smell and taste like peppermint for about 2 weeks.  I didn't have an issue with how my mouth guard tasted, but now that I've tried the LYFT spray I'm hooked.  The mint flavor isn't too sweet and I have a feeling my little bottle will last about a year, even with me going around spraying my teammates' mouth guards.

I rate the SISU mouth guards so highly that they are the only mouth guards I carry in my shoppe.  I'm convinced that you will love them too, so I'm offering my readers an exclusive $5 off coupon when you order a SISU mouthguard, LYFT flavor spray, and Shock Doctor mouth guard case.  Just add at least one of each of these items to your order at www.2N1SkateShoppe.com, then use the offer code "gspot" when checking out.  This offer only lasts until February 14th and while supplies last!
Shock Doctor Mouth Guard Case

Just a reminder that we will be giving away a few pairs of socks to one of our blog subscribers, so if you haven't already, enter your e-mail address into the little box on the upper right hand corner and you will be entered into the drawing.

Until We Skate Again,

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Vacation for Your Bearings

Before I get into this week's product review, I'd like to show what happens if you mistreat your bearings...
Photo courtesy of Matt Powell
Note how the metal dust covers are bent inward on these otherwise brand new bearings.  I would bet $100 that the person who owned these used something other than a Bones Bearing Tool or other proper device to put the bearings into or pull them out of their wheel.  Then they wondered why these brand new bearings aren't helping them go faster.  Now, these bearings were salvageable, I just had to remove the metal ring and pop out the dust covers and now they are working just fine, but I couldn't put the covers back on so I'll have to clean/lube them more often than if they still had the dust covers on them.  Which brings us to our featured products:

The Happy Place for Bearings

I used to clean my bearings in a mason jar...not anymore or ever again!  I recently discovered the Qube Bearing Spa and I'm never looking back.  What makes the spa different from using a mason jar or other bearing cleaning devices?

Well, the first major difference is that the spa cleans all 16 bearings at once, which is super convenient for us roller skaters.  The other difference is that the spa comes with Qube Bearing Wash Cleaner which is environmentally safe and you only have to soak bearings for about 5 minutes before agitating them to get the gunk out.  The spa fits either 7mm or 8mm bearings and comes with easy-to-understand instructions complete with nifty pictures.

The instructions say to remove dust covers from the bearings prior to cleaning them, but I've found that many times, even when you are super careful, it's pretty easy to bend the dust covers.  Sometimes they bend so slightly you don't know anything is wrong until you go to change out your bearings after doing a half-hour of suicide drills and end up burning your fingers on your super-hot-due-to-friction bearing (yes, this has happened to me).  If your bearings are sealed with dust covers on both sides, I recommend you remove one of the covers (doesn't matter which one), clean them, then install the bearings in your wheels with the dust cover side facing out.  If, after cleaning them once, they are still making strange noises or not spinning as they should, take the other dust cover off and repeat the cleaning process.  If you still have some unsavory bearings after doing all that, I recommend tossing them...Or, you could always send them to me to make ShockerKnot jewelry.  Usually, if they are not working well after 2 cleanings, it's going to take a lot of work to get them to the point where they are worth putting in your wheels.

When your bearing wash gets nasty, all you have to do is filter the wash through a coffee filter or toss it and purchase more cleaner.  Each time you clean your bearings or filter your solution you will end up with less cleaner than before, so eventually you will need to purchase more cleaning solution anyway.

Moto Bearing Oil
After cleaning your bearings, just put them on a towel and pat them dry.  If you're impatient, you can use some canned air or an air compressor to dry them quicker.  If you live in a humid area, I don't suggest letting them drip dry as it will take forever and rust is highly likely.

I like to spin them at this time just to see if there are any that may need further attention then place ONE drop of lube in each bearing and give it a quick spin.  I like using Moto Bearing Oil because the needle applicator doesn't get lube all over the place.  After lubing up each bearing, I let them sit for a few minutes before giving them another spin to make sure they are all good-to-go (clean again if not).

I recommend cleaning your bearings about every other month, but if you have taken your dust covers off or skate in an extra dusty environment, you will need to clean them more often.  Proper care of bearings makes them last longer and work better.  In the long run, it costs a lot less to purchase a bearing tool, wash/spa, and lube than most sets of bearings.

If you were anxious about cleaning your bearings for the first time, I hope I have given you the tools to be able to tackle this task with confidence.

Until we skate again!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Consumption Most Conspicuous

This week, Elektra Q Tion and I decided to collaborate on complimentary blog posts about personal beefs in Roller Derby and how it affects what you purchase.  If you've been anywhere on FaceBook in the past few days, you've likely seen Atomatrix's recent post apologizing for her role in "transfergate" and how, to some skaters, it soured them on her brand.  It got me thinking about what drives a skater to make a purchase.  Does conspicuous consumption, aka "keeping up with the Jonses" have anything to do with it?  Do you purchase your equipment because everyone else has that product?  Or do you research gear and try items on before throwing your money at a dealer?  Check out Elektra Q Tion's blog post on this topic and many others at http://elektraqtion.blogspot.com/

We've all seen the brand new skater who walks in with a pair of $700 skates and the top of the line everything, only to quit 3 weeks later.  Back when I rock climbed we called people like this "Gold Card Climbers."  They would have all top of the most expensive equipment, then barely know how to tie a figure 8 follow through and didn't care to learn more about the sport.  They just wanted to look good and show off their ability to swipe a card through a slot more than clipping into a carabiner while lead climbing.  Now I'm not saying that anyone who goes out and buys the best gear before strapping on skates for the first time isn't going to last, but when I see a person do this then quit soon after it makes me sad.  It also shows me that it isn't necessarily the gear that makes the skater; great skaters can take what they are given and make the most of it.  That being said, let's look at some gear that is really worth the extra dough and some that can save you money and not affect your safety or skating skills.

S-One Helmets Before Flying Off the Shelves...gotta get them when you can!
Let's start off by taking it from the top.  Your brain is pretty important and although it is protected by a thick skull, it can get jostled around fairly easily when it connects with the track, wall, or other skaters.  When looking for a helmet, I suggest getting one that is at least CPSC certified.  You will see the certification on a sticker inside the helmet.  CPSC stands for Consumer Product Safety Commission and they do tests to determine how safe products are which includes some pretty extensive testing on helmets.  My favorites are the S-One Lifer helmets which come in a great variety of colors as well as some with artist's designs on them.  They are one of the only CPSC certified helmets I have found that come in orange and are a sponsor of the WFTDA which makes them.  Another reason why I love S-One helmets is because once they are damaged from protecting your noggin, you just send back the damaged helmet with $25 and they send you a new one.

The Last Mouthguard You'll Ever Need
Since we started at the top, why not just move our way down to mouthguards.  When I first started skating the only mouthguards we had available to us were el cheapo ones from a sporting goods store made for sports where apparently speaking, hydrating, or breathing heavily were not priorities.  Then came the dentist made ones which were 100 times better, but unless you got a dentist to sponsor your league, you were going to have to pay a pretty penny for one.  If the SISU mouthguards hadn't come out on the market I would say that the extra money at the dentist is well worth it; however, SISU is here and is the best mouthguard ever.  Not only is it super thin and forms exactly to your mouth, but they are 30% stronger than conventional mouthguards and retail at only $25.  SISU also came out with the LYFT spray which keeps your mouthguard minty fresh for only $7.  One tiny spritz keeps your guard fresh for up to 2 weeks and a tiny bottle will last a LONG time.  Those of you who gag on your mouthguards or just hate the taste of them need to try this stuff.  It's a game changer.

Silicone Strips Make All the Difference
When I first started skating, the only elbow, knee, and wrist protection we could find locally were cheap and fell apart pretty soon after using them.  They weren't made for Roller Derby, rather for skate boarders taking a tumble once in a while.  Now we don't use our elbows as much as our knees, but when you get laid out flat and happen to land on one, you will really appreciate your elbow pads.  There are quite a few on the market so instead of me listing a bunch, I'll just tell you what to look for.  Elbow pads should be very snug when you first put them on, they will stretch out so if they feel perfect you probably need to go down a size so they don't fall down after they break in.  Look for pads that have a nice hard cap to protect the elbow.  My Atom Elite elbow pads are perfect, except the hard cap could be a little harder and guess what...they are coming out with some exactly like that very soon!  I hope they keep the silicon strips on the top and bottom of the pads, my pads never slip because of them.

T8RD-Snug and Protective
Onto wrists...the new Triple 8 Roller Derby wrist guards are a wonderful improvement over the little strips of metal bars on the old style guards.  These new ones were made specifically for Roller Derby so they are sturdy, snug, and the wider metal bar protects more of the palm/wrist area.  The neoprene wrapping around the wrist gives a lot of comfort and makes skaters feel very protected for $30.

Atom Palms are Airy and a Huge Bargain
The other wrist guards on the market that I can't get over are the Atom Palm Guards. These guards are unique in the fact that they don't have a protective strip on the back of the hand like other wrist guards; however, the protection for the palm area is the best I've found.  It covers the complete palm up to the wrist with a nifty strapping system.  Not everyone likes the feel of these and I don't recommend them for freshie skaters, but for only $15 they are one of the bargains more experienced skaters can count on.

Smith Scabs Really Deliver
Now for your knees...these get the most pounding than any other body part, especially when first learning to skate.  There are quite a few different brands and styles of knee pads out there, but most of them were designed for skate boarding where they don't practice things like double knee falls (that I know of).  One brand that I've found to be compatible for Roller Derby are the Smith Scabs knee pads which come in three fabric patterns to choose from and cover more area below the knee than any others I've found and they are a steal at $70.  The drawback, they only come in two sizes so if you have legs that are slimmer or plumper than average, you're SOL.

Finally a Knee Pad Just for Us!
The other knee pads that are flying off the shelves are the new 187 Roller Derby knee pads, and for good reason-they were specifically designed for our sport!  Not only do they come in some pretty colors, but they also offer a wide array of sizes.  These new pads are slimmer than the old 187 Killer knee pads and they have fixed that pesky Velcro adhesive issue, so if they feel right for your body they are definitely worth the $90 price tag.  While that may seem pretty hefty, when you compare it to how much a knee surgery costs there really isn't anything to say.

The last knee pads I'd like to talk about are the Atom Elite ones.  They are not for beginners; however, there is good news!  Not only is Atom coming out with new elbow pads, but knee pads as well and they look sick.   They will have the more common butterfly strapping system instead of having to pull them on like a gasket.  I can't wait to try them out!

Skates are so diverse that I can't really just point to one and say here is the end all be all of roller skates.  This is where you will have to do some reasearch, get to know your body, and try on a ton of boots to see what is going to work for you.  I will say that getting a pair of $30 skates from Sports Authority is pretty much throwing your money away.  I would rather see someone cut out some circles to tape to their sneakers and run around the track like that until they save enough moolah to get a decent pair of starter skates (usually in the $200 range).

Tons of S-One helmets, Smith Scabs knees, SISU mouthguards, and Atom wrist guards for these Ragnarok Rollers!

For my closing statement, I would just like to give a shout out to the companies who are dedicated to bringing us equipment specifically designed for what we do and who we are.  Companies like Atom, Crazy Skates, and GrnMnstr are all about Roller Derby, and others like Riedell, The 187, and Triple 8 have evolved some of their products to fit our needs.  When you are ready to drop some dough on new equipment, try to purchase gear from a company that is supporting Roller Derby so they can continue to bring us amazing products to protect our fragile parts while not hindering performance.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Getting the (Right) Boot

High arches, wide heels, monkey toes, and weak ankles...yeah that describes my feet pretty well, which has made my pursuit of finding the perfect skate boot pretty difficult. I've found a few that come close though, which is good enough for now. I'm not going to go over every boot style available out there because this is a blog post, not a novel. What I am going to do is go over a few foot “issues” and what to do that might help you to find that perfect boot for you.

But before we get to those pesky problems, let's talk about how a boot should fit when you try it on. Leather boots stretch, but usually the stretching is done along the width, not the length. Boots will usually feel pretty snug around the ball of your foot, but your toes shouldn't be scrunched up on the end.

Tip: wear thin athletic socks or nylons when trying on and wearing boots.

Narrow/Wide Feet
There are quite a few boots on the market made for narrow feet. I've heard pretty good things from narrow footed skaters when it comes to Riedell's 265 boot as well as the Antik AR1 and MG2 models. Personally, I don't have narrow feet, I had to get my Antik's in wide for an extra fee. Some boots will come in a wide style for free, but usually these aren't stocked so they can take a while to receive. Riedell 965 boots are made for a wider ball but still have a pretty narrow heel.

One of the best things you should do when looking at getting new boots is measure your feet. For some reason there are a ton of women out there who think they have wide feet that, at least in the world of roller skating boots, are completely normal. Another reason to measure your feet is because not all boots are sized the same way, so knowing exactly how long your foot is will help ensure you're getting the correct size.

Monkey Toes
You're probably asking what the heck a monkey toe is...well, it's what I call my second toe which is longer than my big toe and makes it easy for me to pick things up with my toes, thus the name monkey toe was born! If you are also lucky enough to have these, you probably have also experienced getting a blister and callous on the first knuckle of that longer toe. It happens a lot from wearing shoes that would be a perfect fit when measuring to the end of your big toe, but that monkey toe ends up pressing against the end of your shoe (or skate) and pushes that knuckle to the top where it is perfect to be rubbed into redness.

High Arches
Those of us with high arches know how annoying it can be to constantly have to unlace and lace back up boots because we can't just slip our feet in and out of them, but when you find something that works it is worth the trouble. If you wear orthotics/insoles because of these inflictions, take your inserts with you when trying on boots because these can make a world of difference when making your selection, especially in the size arena. My insoles make my overly stretched out size 8.5's absolutely perfect, without them my feet are sloshy messes.

Bunions/Bone Spurs
Do you have little horns poking from the sides of your feet that are impeding your ability to skate, pain free for any decent amount of time? One solution might be to get that specific area of your boot pressed out so it doesn't rub the offending appendage. I've heard of people doing this with a hair dryer, heat gun, or even a nice bake in the oven at a low temp before molding the area out with the handle of a screwdriver. You can also see if your local boot store stretches areas of your leather skates.

Weak Ankles
Whether due to not exercising enough or genetics, weak ankles can be a huge problem in roller derby where we use them for everything from cutting to knee touches. There are plenty of exercises to do, but the best thing out there is a balance board (or something similar). Start off standing on one foot for a minute, then switching to the other one. Once you master that, do the same thing on a pillow or couch cushion. After that is too easy, it's time for either one of those half ball things or a balance board. There are a few different balance board designs, but the best ones to get allow for 360 degree movement. Mine is a board that has a small soccer ball under it so it moves forward, backward, side to side, and everywhere in between. If you get one like this and find it difficult to stay on it at all, try letting some of the air out of the ball. Using a balance board also helps you work on your derby stance. There is a huge difference between standing straight up and bending your knees and you will definitely feel the difference. Stay on the balance board for as long as you can, then try to beat your time the next time you use the board. If you are doing this 4-5 times a week, you should see improvement fairly quickly.

If you are doing the above and don't see any improvement, you may have genetically weak ankles, which totally sucks. Antik boots are great for this because they provide extra support but don't constrict movement.

There is no substitution to actually trying on a boot to know if it is going to work for you. If you don't have a local derby store where you can do this, see if there is a boot camp or tournament you can attend where roller skate reps will have models to try on. Another option, although usually more limited, is to try on fellow skaters' boots if you can find anyone with the style you are interested in and approximately same sized feet. Barring those options, ordering online isn't the end of the world.

If you have found a boot that is a good fit or something to avoid for a certain type of foot, please post in the comments to save your fellow players with the same ailment some time and money. You could win an S-One helmet for your troubles!