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

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.


  1. I'm glad to see the recommendation for CPSC certified helmets.

    The Athlete Recovery Fund recently put out a video comparing certified and non-certified helmets in a testing facility.

    They were there with BMX bikers, but the data is still valid. From a 1 meter free-fall the non-certified helmet was 816 G's, which will kill you. The certified helmet reduced the impact to 159 G's, which would hurt, but you'd be alive.

    Stay safe.

    1. Just witnessed a skater fall back and hit her head twice...hard. I inspected her helmet and it was cracked, but as far as I know she didn't get a concussion. There is a really good reason to have a CPSC certified helmet as she is probably willing to attest to now.

  2. When I started last year, before I could afford the proper pads, I used construction worker knee pads (you can imagine, they didn't work well). I still have a helmet that is rated for skate boarding. Not even sure if it is the proper protection, but I just dropped money on new knee pads! I also have the SISU mouthguard, and it is fantastic. No more windburn on my lips because I can close my mouth around it (not that I do, I shout all the time during practice). Anyway, well written and informative. Thanks.

    1. Your helmet should have a sticker on the inside if it is certified, unless you took it out.

  3. I just got the new 187's and really like them. I had the Smith Scabs before and have used them for a year without any problem but they just finally stretched enough that I had them slip down during a fall....OUCH! I went kind of lower end gear when I first started a little over a year ago because I wasn't sure how long my "derby career" would last so I'm finding it's time to start replacing some of it. I try to go by word of mouth from my teammates and others. I don't think you need top of the line gear to be good on the track though.

    1. Ive only heard good things about the new 187 Roller Derby knee pads and the fact that I can't keep them on the shelves with no returns means a lot. They are a bit pricy at $90 for a pair, but that's nothing compared to having to get a torn ligament repaired!

  4. I just discovered your blog and devoured every entry! Super informative and useful stuff, especially for a freshie like me. I'm shyRAMasaurus Wrex, playing for the Dam City Rollers, part of the West Kootenay Roller Derby league in BC, Canada. Cheers and thanks for the useful data!

    1. Welcome! Now the pressure is on to never disappoint you...and I truly will do my best. I'm testing out a bunch of equipment for the blog during the next few months, so if there is something you are interested in please let me know so I can add it to my repertoire if it isn't already in the queue.

  5. I'm definitely a "Replace As Needed" girl, but I am very much looking forward to the new Elites. I like my 2.0s, however, to get them to go over my calves I had to get Medium, which is just a bit too big at the top so I'm experiencing some frustrating and annoying sagging. The caps are staying where they need to, but I'm going to be all over the newer version as long as they're still a low-profile pad.


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Until we skate again!