Friday, May 11, 2012

Hating My Gear

Ow, rink rash.  Ow, my pad slipped.  Damn, this is the four hundredth time I've tightened my toe stop!  I know that derby is a young sport, but sometimes our gear really lets us down and at all the wrong moments!  Here are a few of the problems I've encountered with my gear.  I'm sure you have had similar problems, and I would LOVE to have a company take our sport seriously enough to design gear just for us.  And by the way, please skip this blog if you don't want to read a lot of griping. 

1.  Toe stops come loose.  I don't care what kind of plate you have, what kind of kind of toe stops you have, they come loose.  You can keep on top of the maintenance, use Locktite or whatever, but it still sucks that they seem to have a mind of their own.  Speed skaters rarely even have toe stops, jam skaters definitely don't, so derby is putting a lot of stress on toe stops. And maybe it's too much for the present design.  I don't know if this could be fixed, but I'd like someone to look into it.

2.  Skate laces fall apart.  I know it's mostly an eyelet issue on your skate.  You do enough one knee drops, and you drag your foot the wrong way and the metal eyelets become razor sharp.  They cut through your laces at the worst time.  I know, "Get hockey laces!"  Blah.  I have filed my my eyelets down with sand paper, and they still cut through the laces every once in a while.

3.  Knee pads slip and fall.  Nothing messes up your knee quicker than a knee pad slipping off out of position and then you land on the same knee.  I started wearing gaskets and Pro-tec knee pads when I was a wee newbie, but I quickly found out that they weren't protecting my knees the way I needed them to; I switched to the 187s, and felt like I was wearing armor, that is until they slipped when I was jamming in my first Dorton game.  I was lucky, because I just got hideous rink rash because my gasket managed to protect my knee.  As my derby thighs grew, and my knees stayed the same width, my 187s began to slip more and more.  I traded up to the Smith Scabs, and within the first month, the top Velcro strap just fell off.  Awesome.  Also. I've had the left knee pad slip down on me and I bruised my knee cap because it took the gasket with it too.  Perfect.  I'm looking into Pro Design knee pads, but at this point I'm just annoyed with derby knee protection.

Dear Smith Scabs, please stop making pads that fall apart in a month.  Sad face.

4.  Elbow pads slip, and the Velcro never stays put.  This happens to me a lot and I end up duct taping almost all of my pads so they stay put and the Velcro doesn't get a chance to attach to someone else during scrimmage or a game.  At first, I had the Pro-tec elbow pads, which seemed to stretch really fast and start sliding down or twisting out of place, so then I got the 187 elbow pads.  I thought they were perfect until I fell on my elbow and it actually split the skin open.  Ever want to know what the inside of your elbow looks like?  It's pretty gross.  I'm now using Triple Eight branded elbow pads, which seem to fit better, but the Velcro is still an issue for me.  By the way, duct tape ain't cheap either!

5.  Wrist guards have all the issues.  I used my Pro-tec wrist guards for a long time, but I have narrow wrists and the velcro has always been an issue for me.  Sometimes it attaches to random people, sometimes it just attaches to my uniform and slowly destroys it.  Sometimes the "leather" around the bottom brace rips and the brace falls out.  Triple Eights I have now seem to be doing ok, but the Velcro still has a mind of its own.  I've pondered the Atom Gear wrist guards, but they don't have the top brace on them, which means all of the small bones in your wrist are at risk.  Since I'm a designer by trade, I kind of need to be able to use my hands to make my living, so I'll stick with the Triple Eights for now.  But dammit...they aren't perfect!

Don't get me started on helmets...that really is its own blog.

I will probably get a few replies to this post from people who are absolutely in love with whatever gear they have right now, and I am happy for you!  Really!  Please share what works, because we all have different body types and skate differently.  I'm just sharing my frustrations with gear.  I understand that we are pushing this gear past what it was designed for, but that's why I wrote this blog.  I want companies to look at derby as the unique sport it is.  You can't expect to get the best protection from gear that wasn't designed to take the beatings we give it.  On this note, I've decided to approach the Industrial Design School at NC State to see if the professors and grad students would be interested in taking on this challenge;  I think it's going to take experts to really investigate the design of our gear.  Wish me luck!


  1. I think approaching the design is a great idea, hopefully they will tackle the challenge. I have the same issues with the wrist guards. The triple 8 pair I'm currently wearing is slightly too big in the wrist but there is enough Velcro to get them sufficiently snug despite the small bunching of the neoprene sleeve.

  2. Well Girl I totally understand the frustration! So I have resorted to getting the sewing machine out and adjusting the side seams of all my gear to fit me. It has lasted 18 months so far and thats with changing shape, materials stretching and monthly washing! Get a group of you together and help each other out with measuring, pouring drinks and dancing in the lounge ; )

  3. I came to derby after years of playing ice hockey. As much as I love derby, I was appalled at the gear I was buying was really meant for skate boarding, not derby. It wasn't until I learned more about the sport and how young it was that I realized why that is, but I still agree that something needs to be done. Single impact skateboarding helmets aren't good protection for anything derby related, and most players don't replace them after a strong impact. Either because they don't know to, or just don't choose to. And I have the same complaints as you with the rest of the gear.

    Rumor has it Bell is working on a new helmet design specifically for derby. Hopefully it's true and other companies will follow suit. I'd love to see some of the bigger hockey manufacturers get behind the sport as a side line.

  4. WRIST GUARDS, BOOOOOOO!!!!! They all SUCK. Suck Suck Suck. Fall apart at the stitching, the "leather," the velcro. Haven't found an actual durable brand. Agree about the atoms. All about low profile but not at the potential expense of the longevity of my skating career. Didn't grow up a "rink rat."

  5. I have yet to find a knee pad that doesn't slip down and have the straps break, bust, or fall off. Come on people its a knee pad not rocket science!

  6. I still have normal knees, but massive derby thighs and calves. The 187 pads I used to love slide all the time, even with gaskets. I was hoping someone had an answer for that!

  7. My problem with my wrist guards (I'm on the Triple 8s), because I have issues with them too, is that I have now twice landed on the side of my wrist, spraining it. Now, maybe I should just learn to not karate chop the ground. That's a nice thought, but it only happens when I fall backwards on my ass and to protect my tailbone, I twist a little, which leads to karate chopping the ground. The reason that my wrist gets hurt is that the Triple 8s don't have any side protection, and I think they should, at least on the outside.

    Oh, and the 187 knee pads: They slide all over the place, but mostly left and right when I land on them. It is like the pads are worried about breaking their tailbones.

  8. Check out the NEW Triple 8 wrist guards!! I like them way better, and they're designed "for" derby. Wider protection and they slide on instead of velcro.

  9. FML! I just bought scabs because the straps on THREE pair of 187 Killers broke within a month. Grrr. At least I didn't waste my money on Atom knee pads and fuck my knees up further.

  10. Wrist guard velcro behavior tip (for dainty wrists): put wrist guard on, put a wrist sweat band OVER the entire wrist guard, covering the velcro straps. Works better than duct tape, can be reused, and if you have to take your wrist guard off to use the bathroom (in a sanitary way :P) you don't need to re-do all the doing of tape...

  11. from a design and quality stand point, pro design seems to have the sturdiest, most protective wrist guards on the market. K2 seems to make decent wrist guards too. personally, i like the tiny knee, elbow pads, and wrist guards (Hyper and Atom's small line). derby vixen toe guards have saved me from having to replace lots of shoe laces... check those out.

  12. I have Revenge plates and in almost a year, I have only had to tighten my toe stop once. Notice I didn't say toe stops. Seriously, the toestops tighten in with a small little allen wrench, and they stay put. I'm so glad I made that plate upgrade. I usedto wrestle with my toe stops ALL THE TIME.

    My Triple 8 Pro knee pads fell apart really quickly. Replaced them with Scabs with gaskets. I have used my sewing machine to make small repairs to the bottom strap of velcro on the Scabs, but other than that, they are holding up nicely. It seems like quality is very inconsistent in the Scabs, as some of the girls I know have a great experience and others not so much. My first pair of Scabs gaskets fell apart almost immediately. My second pair (given to me by a girl in my league who bought them and decided she didn't like the feel of gaskets), are hanging in there.

    I recently purchased the Atom Elite elbow pads. I like them so far. I had 187s before,and they held up nicely.

    I am 100% with you only I want to take it one step further. I want gear built for derby AND women. Something is wrong when I have to buy large knee pads, and I wear a size 6 in pants. I'm tired of gear that was made for boys with toothpick legs. Aren't you?

  13. I have a set of wrist guards by Anvil and I actually love them! The only part of my entire kit that I have never wanted to throw in a bin and set on fire. :-) They're sturdy and quite long, splinted top and bottom and have saved me on more than a few occasions (including downhill/outdoors).

    The rest of it, yeah - same problems as everyone else has mentioned (I get the sewing machine out when things get baggy, and have modified my Triple 8 kneepad straps in several different ways) but MAN I love my wristguards!

  14. Rip the duct tape strips in half to get more use out of less tape.

    Apparently my image of my body size is way off. I'm just realizing that my Medium elbow pads and wrist guards are too big. Also, I purchased a replacement pair of Pro Tec wrist guards after wearing out my first pair. Third practice with them, I went down hard and a hole formed. In the seam between the neoprene and the "leather." So now I have one of my first pair and the other is from the new pair. I like that the Pro Tecs have the middle, wraparound strap that's elastic whereas the Triple 8s have a nonstretchy middle strap. I'm also wary of any of the wrist guards that slide on and only have one strap.

    I need new elbow pads, but I am too sweaty to consider the closed inside design. My gear stays in my bag more than it should, and I like it when my elbow pads actually dry. I've thought about the Destroyer elbow pads. But their knee pads are awful. One strap is too long, the other won't go around my thigh.

    I went from Pro Tec to 187 when I started bruising the underside of my knee. I thought about the Scabs until one of my teammates said she was having the same problem with her Scabs. I like my 187s and they only occasionally move from where they're supposed to be.

    (Maybe I have a future blog post in the same vein.)

  15. I love love love my Pro Designed knee pads. They stay on - the only ones I have had that didn't slide down , they are easy to skate in, and they have always protected my knees. My captain gives me shit for them for some reason, because she assumes they are crappy, I guess because they look slimmer than more commonly used pads. However, I have a history of knee problems in both knees, a large amount of tissue missing from my right knee, and fall straight down on my knees a bunch (blush), but I have never injured myself in them beyond some very slight bruising. Once. The padding might be starting to break down after a season and a half with machine washing, but I think they will last the rest of this season - longer than I really expect gear to last anyway. And there are still no other problems with stretching or seams ripping or anything like that (other than where my dog chewed them). The only real problem is that they are now too big due to weight loss. I wouldn't necessarily recommend them to someone who is still changing body composition rapidly since they are expensive and would be hard to resell since they are custom sized.

    Also, I got the Atom wristguards recently and I love them too. The brace is wide and shaped/molded rather than being a straight line. It completely eliminated my palm bruising issues. And since the brace is riveted on, it can't fall out (another thing I always had problems with). I was a bit wary of the lack of a second brace, but after wearing them I really can't imagine a scenario in which I would get hurt because of that.

    Moll Adjusted #301.9
    Charlotte Roller Girls

  16. I think I can complain about all these things.

    It seems like I am having the hardest time finding stuff to fit right. I went from Pro-Tec knee pads to the Smith Scabs. Recently I cracked my knee pad and had to replace them, which I didn't mind because they slid all the time when I would fall and take my gaskets with them. So now I have the 187 Pro's. So far I like them but they are slightly on the small side (I even measured myself and everything!) My wrist guards are okay I guess. As for my elbow pads, they slide and just don't fit right. I went from the Pro-Tecs to the 187s to the Triple 8s. Still haven't found one that I REALLY like. As for toe stops, every time I do a double-toe stop my right one loosens a little more and more.. >:0 I would try the Atom gear but I am a short and hefty chick so I worry about protection! I hate my helmet. Period.

    Hope they start making gear that fits all of us ladies in all of our sizes and is derby quality because it is definitely high impact/high wear.

    1. Try the Nutcase helmets...I love mine.

  17. Try Kevlar laces! I've had mine for a whole season and they are still holding strong! I will never buy regular laces again.

  18. Where do you buy them...just curious.

  19. Our local skate shop carries them (Milwaukee), but you can also find them on Amazon. They are KG Kevlar Boot Laces. Mine are over a year old, and I love them!