Derby Gear For Roller Derby Players and Referees
Roller skating can be dangerous and even deadly. It is essential for anyone on roller skates to wear safety gear, ALWAYS, even if just street skating or skating for fun in the driveway. Roller Derby is a full contact sport on roller skates. New roller derby player and referee recruits can expect to invest a few hundred dollars into their initial purchase of skates, safety equipment, and other derby gear. The minimum equipment required to play or referee the sport of roller derby is quad roller skates, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmet and mouth guard.
Tips for first purchase of roller derby gear:
Quad skates come with a high boot or low cut speed skate. Skaters with weak ankles like the extra support of the high boot but nimble skaters who like to get low or do quick moves prefer the low cut boot. Roller derby skate sizes are not unified and vary from one manufacture to another. Some only size skates in Mens sizes so be sure to read the size chart and measure your foot if you are not able to try on the skates in person. Look for skates with adjustable trucks to be able to effectively turn and play roller derby, do not purchase fixed truck skates. Roller skates must be adjusted right out of the box and as they are used. Learn how to adjust your roller skate wheels and trucks using one of the videos posted below.
The Reidell R3 skate is the most popular economically priced starter skate for beginner through advanced roller derby athletes. R3s skates come with a nylon plate which can support skaters up 200 lbs with no problem and can handle weight up to 230 lbs. For skaters over 200lbs skates with a metal plate are recommended when playing roller derby to offer support and to take the force when jumping and doing other roller derby skills. Nylon plates will bend under heavy weight offering less stability and may even break in half when coming down hard on the plate, like when jumping.
Invest in a good pair of knee pads since in roller derby you train to fall forward onto your knees. When first learning to roller skate you want knee pads that have thick padding to absorb the energy of your falls. When first learning to skate or play roller derby falls are practices a lot and poor quality knee pads can lead to knee injury. Knee pads can strap on or slide. The slide on knee pads require the skates be removed when putting the knee pads on or taking off. Strap on can be easily put on or taken off anytime with or without skates. The 187 Pro Knee Pads are strongly recommended because of the thick foam padding and larger knee shield. Second choice is Pro-Tec Drop in Ramp knee pads, Pro-Tec Park or Triple 8 Street knee pads. Please note Triple 8 has an 8 ball line of pads which do not offer the protection needed during scrimmage and bouts.
Once a skater is more experienced and begins playing roller derby the thicker knee pads may get in the way during game play and it may then be beneficial changing to the 187 Killer Pads thin knee pad.
Skateboard helmets are what roller derby skaters wear. Try on different styles and pick what fits your head the best. Some helmets go down lower in the back offering extra spinal column protection. Look for a helmet that is Multi Impact Resistance Certified. When choosing a helmet in person hold the helmet between both your hands and push together. If the helmet easily flexes this is not good protection for playing roller derby. Choose a helmet that does not flex when squished for best protection of your brain! The helmet must fit the head securely but not squeezing the head. Adjust the chin strap so the helmet sits on top of the head and protects the back of the skull, not sliding forwards or sitting loosly. No more than 2 fingers are allowed to fit between the secured helmet strap and the chin.
Derby tip: wear a bandana under your helmet to absorb sweat and prevent the sweat from running into your eyes during training. The bandana also helps keep the helmet from slipping.
Mouthguards are required in roller derby when doing contact drills or when playing. Aloha City Rollers used to require mouthguards for anyone on roller skates at all times. This got players in the good habit of wearing their mouthguard and keeping it in their mouth rather than tucked in their helmet or bra strap. During scrimmages and bouts players will be sent to the penalty box for not wearing their mouthguard during game play. There are many types of mouthguards to choose from. Aloha City Rollers recommended SISU mouthguards which are lightweight and thin making it easy to talk and drink water with it in but it is super strong offering excellent protection. Mouthguards are easily custom molded to your mouth by placing the mouthguard in hot water then biting down on the mouthguard and pushing it against your teeth to mold it until it hardens. If you mess up just put the mouthguard back in hot water to soften and try again.
The harder the wheels the faster you go, the softer the wheels the grippier they are to the track. The most popular wheels used by Aloha City Rollers skaters for track skating is Radar Flat Out 62MM 88A or Fugitive Sure Grip 62MM 88A. 62MM is the size of the wheel and 88 is the hardness of the wheel. Hybrid wheels are good on most surfaces. Outdoor wheels are medium softness and give better grip. Indoor wheels are the hardest wheels and can increase speed because they have less grip. Indoor, Outdoor, and Hybrid wheels can be worn when skating on any surface depending on the performance you want out of the wheels.
Bearings make a difference in your speed. Each wheel uses 2 sets of bearings so your two skates use a total of 16 sets of bearings. Some bearings are sealed, some are open and get dirty faster. Sealed bearings are strongly recommended. Bearings need to be cleaned and lubed often to perform to their best ability. Bearings can be cleaned with orange oil based cleaners. No water based cleaners or water should ever be used to clean bearings, it will rust them! Don’t pay big bucks for bearings. You can’t skate fast enough for the pricey bearings to make a difference, the cheap ones work great at roller derby speeds.
Stopping and falling techniques require you to drag your skate toe which will wear it out if not protected. To protect the toe from wearing out leather toe caps and guards or plastic toe caps are easily attached to the front of the skate. A generous application of several layers of duct tape can also be used to protect the skates toes, laces, and sides from slide damage.
Round Toe Stop vs. Square Stop
Your skates will most likely come with a square toe stop. Some people like this stop, some people find it twists to much providing inconsistent performance and can cause tripping. Some people prefer a round toe stop which keeps the same shape even when it twists for a more reliable performance.
Speed Lube and Cleaning Wheels
When your wheels get dirty the bearings do not perform to their capability. You will need to remove the wheels and do a full bearing cleaning at least once a month if not once a week depending on how fast you want to be. Between cleaning speed lube can be added to the bearings to increase your wheel speed. WD40 and other household oil lube will also work to keep your bearings lubed. There bearing cleaning kits to make cleaning easy and less messy. Below on this page are links to instructional videos on how to clean your skates below.
Wrist Guards and Elbow Pads
For new skaters wrist guards and elbow pads like Smith Scabs, 187 Killer Pads, Pro-Tec Street, Pro-Tec Park or Triple 8 Street are recommended. Please note Triple 8 has an 8 ball line of pads which do not offer the protection needed during scrimmage and bouts.
If your skates or protective padding starts to wear holes you can do a repair with duct tape or medical tape. Duct tape is also great for covering laces during bouts to ensure your laces wont get scraped and break during the bout. A generous layer of duct tape is often added to the toe area of skates to help protect the boot from wearing a hole in it when the toe gets dragged on the ground. You can also add leather toe guards or plastic toe caps to your skates to help protect it.
Below was the Aloha City Rollers recommended equipment for Fresh Meat:
R3 skates with INDOOR Radar Cayman wheels (they are Mens sizes)
187 Killer Pro knee pads
Pro-Tek wrist guards or 187 Pros wrist guards
Smith Scab Elite elbow pads
Plastic Toe Caps
Round Toe Stops
Impact Certified Helmet
Skate Bag or Rolling Duffle Bag
Resources For Maintenance of Gear
Roller skates and safety equipment require cleaning and maintenance. Knowing how to take apart skates and clean or replace their parts is important for keeping ready to use. When skates get wet they must be cleaned or the bearings will rust. Dirty bearings or rusty bearings can cause the wheels not to turn efficiently and requires more effort. Safety gear will start to stink from sweat and body fluids. Knowing how to properly clean and repair safety gear will give you extended use.
Keep The Stink Off Your Gear Between Washes
Between washings of your pads you can reduce the stink by spraying your pads, helmet, and inside of skates with Lysol disinfectant spray after each use. Pads, helmet, and skates should also be allowed to air out after each use to dry off. Do not leave your gear stuffed in a duffel bag or in your car between uses. Not airing the equipment out after each use will cause metal parts on the skates, helmet, and pads to rust and reduces their longevity. Leaving skates in the car between uses is strongly discouraged. Cars can heat up to a high temperature when sitting in the sun and this can cause the glue that holds the skate boot together to soften. We have had more than one skater ignore this warning and have their skates come apart.
Washing Your Gear
Elbow pads, knee pads, and wrist guards should be washed at least once a month or sooner if they get too stinky. Germs and bacteria can grow on gear and the stink is a signal it is time to wash them for your health and safety. It is safe to wash elbow pads, knee pads, and wrist guards in your washer machine with active wear laundry detergent. You can also hand wash them in the sink with detergent or Pine-sol. If you hand wash it is good to put the pads in the washer and run it on a spin cycle after washing to get out as much water as possible.
DO NOT DRY YOUR SAFETY GEAR IN THE DRYER! Gear tends to fall apart when put in the dryer. For best results air dry your pads after washing them. It usually takes 1-2 days to fully dry after a machine wash.
Keeping mouthguards clean is easy by using Efferdent or another denture cleaner. Just drop the mouthguard in water with a denture cleaner and in 15 minutes it is clean and disinfected.
Roller Skates Maintenance Instructional Videos
Intro to roller skate maintenance – what you need to do when you get a brand new pair of roller skates, how to adjust the skates and basic maintenance.
Anatomy of roller skates: parts of the roller skate and how to adjust factory settings to customize your skate to your preferences.
Anatomy of the roller skate: how roller skates are made, the parts of the skate, and tools used with skates.