I’ve gone and done it again. Yes – I switched skates and plates at the start of 2015!
I have changed my skates a little since my last this is how I roll post, and I have gone through three sets of skates in my derby career so far. I really like my current set up and I have seen many ask about reviews and opinions on my wheels and boot – the plate is widely used so I will only pop up a short “I really like these” note. I have posted before to show that I use particular brands and products, however I haven’t actually reviewed the one thing that should really get a review (especially as I can’t actually find a proper review anywhere!) – the Suregrip Isis boot.
So way back at the start of 2014 I finally got my hands on some Juice wheels, they weren’t readily available in the UK so I ended up purchasing from overseas. I am glad to say that you can now get them in the UK – I personally favor Harlots sponsor and place where most of my money goes – the Derbystore in Sheffield where the owner has even tried and approved Juice Martini wheels himself! And as of this year, we even have our own Juice using rep in the UK – #247 Eves-Ormai of Lincolnshire Rolling Thunder!
Since my original post talking about getting the wheels, I haven’t had chance to actually post a review of these. So here goes!
Wheels : Juice Martini Cosmo 93a
I have struggled to find wheels that work with me and not against me, when I read a blog by Shocker Khan in 2013, on the release of Juice Martini wheels I instantly fell in love with them. At first I wasn’t able to buy them due to an already fresh wheel purchase, however later on I figured I may as well take a leap or I’ll never know! So I did. I couldn’t help myself – a wheel which compressed and worked with your body was an impressive idea, when I found out about them they weren’t readily available in the UK so I had to track some down overseas and have them shipped over. And I was not disappointed!
As soon as I had them in my grasp they felt so well made and different to every other wheel I’d come across. On my skates? Beautiful. The Martini Cosmo wheel is so reactive and allows you to take all the power and energy stored during skating and use it when you need it most. It almost gives you a boost! As a mid sized wheel, it is ideal for anyone who often blocks and jams. As a blocker they give you added strength to your stance and powerbox allowing you to really dig down whether in a wall or giving/taking a hit, as a jammer they react to every lean, every turn, every crossover – the difference they make when you are juking and using quick footwork is unexpectedly incredible!! The best part of the compression of the wheel is that you do not sacrifice your speed for grip. You can continue to skate while the wheel moves with your body to help your stay with (usually) all 8 wheels on the ground!
I am genuinely 100% impressed with this wheel, it really does put a spring in your skate and does everything it says on the pack and more! The only downside? I can’t afford to buy more in the other durometers and versions! The near £60 price tag for just a 4 pack of wheels is fairly steep, I will admit this, however this wheel is worth every penny and more!!
After skating on these for nearly a year, I have barely seen any wear or tear – admittedly having to take in to consideration the 3 months of non skating due to my ankle break! But these have held up so well and I am doubtful I would want to go back to another brand of wheel.
The only thing I would question, is whether or not I should have gone for the 91a Sapphires instead of the 93a Cosmos. As a 5 ft 3 female who tends to vary in weight from anywhere between 9 – 10.5st – it is difficult to judge the set up I should be skating on most of the time. Maybe I will end up with some Sapphires at a later date, but the Cosmos definitely do their job!!
Juice offers a small but great range of wheels as below:
The Martini series – with a dual pour radial core, available in 91a, 93a, 96a – sitting at 59x38mm. Price range: £59.99 @ Derbystore
The Spiked series – with banded edge technology, available 91a, 93a, 96a – sitting at 59x38mm OR 62x38mm. Price range: £49.99 @ Derbystore
The Jolt series – a hybrid wheel, available in 80a, sitting at 59x38mm OR 62x38mm. Price range: £29.99
The Java series – a high performance and durable wheel at a more affordable price, available in 86a, 88a, 90a, sitting at 59x38mm. Price range: $39.99 @ 2n1SkateShoppe
I was so impressed with Juice wheels, I entered a competition to win a set of the new Juice Java wheels – somewhat a similar style to the Suregrip Fugitive Mids but in my honest opinion, a much higher quality even just to touch! I won a set of 86a Javas – woopeee!! Thank you Juice wheels!! The level of faith I have in this brand led me to blind purchase a set of 90a Javas from 2N1SkateShoppe to match! The way the Martini wheels work removes the need to use a pusher set up if you used before (which is fantastic!) – but as the Java wheels do not compress the way the Martini’s dual-pour radial core does, I chose to put together two sets of Java wheels which would still give me that advantage on a much slipper floor where I really needed a lower durometer for grip, again without sacrificing speed!
I have yet to fully bed these in so I may end up writing another review on the Juice Java wheels – especially as I would probably say due to the difference in price that these are more their wallet-friendly range of wheels – but this does not mean at any point they are not good quality!
The more I type, the more I feel like I need a set of Martini Sapphire wheels though.. one day!
So I may be a little obsessed. I admit to having a wheel problem. Hopefully this review will have helped others who are considering Juice wheels to take the plunge!
The last few months I have been pretty much ignoring the existence of this blog, complete radio silence since my last blog announcing the break. I thought about blogging maybe 2 or 3 times? But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now I feel up to it, let’s go back to where it began. If you haven’t read my previous blog, you can read in the previous post or I’ll do a brief catch up now – 13th July. Last scrimmage practice before my first bout as a Harlot. Warm up 4 wall drill with an active opposing jammer. I was blocking in the 4 wall. Something happened, I fell forwards then some how backwards and onto my toe stops/ankles and as I went down I heard a cracking noise. It was painful initially and I knew something didn’t quite feel right. Usual protocol was followed, checked over, skates removed, help to stand – I realised I couldn’t comfortably put weight on it… hopped over to a chair with aid and then sat there for two hours watching the rest of scrim thinking that it was just a sprain. Hours later in A+E… verdict? Broken. Backslab and then finally got a proper cast (and some pretty horrible ankle/leg manipulation..!) on the 17th July. I returned to work a week and a half later after another visit to the hospital and consultant to check that no operation was required and everything was healing and bonding in the right place (with many lifts in and out, a disabled toilet key and a desk on the ground floor until I could return to my own marketing office!) Didn’t need to see me until my cast came off.
I think I was definitely on an incredibly positive level (or just drugs in the system) when I posted my last blog post. I have been on one hell of an emotional and physical roller coaster since July 18th. I wanted so badly to watch practices whilst I was out, keep up with drills and where the team was at, NSO on Scrimmage Sundays. It was set in my mind that I would do all the things! But when it came down to it? It was too much for me to handle. The pain of watching my league skate, partake in drills, scrimmage, along with knowing that other skaters were missing practice/scrimmage (for various reasons) when I would have given my other ankle to be on track… it broke me into pieces. I knew that physically being broken would be tough, but I don’t think I originally quite grasped how tough it would be mentally. There have been so many low points in which I thought – screw it. No-one will notice if I don’t come back, no-one will miss me on track, why am I even bothering when I know I wasn’t actually a good player/skater, I think I’ll just sell my skates. Screw it. I hit a major low, I felt alone, isolated and just overall rubbish. I reached out a few times, and it is difficult because the world doesn’t stop when you are broken which means no-one else does either, and many people have a full week of roller derby, have commitments relating to family or friends, have heavy work commitments or just generally ridiculously busy schedules. And when you reach out, you always have to remember that if you don’t see people, it’s not because they don’t care, but because they are busy and have lives, and it is incredibly tough. I have spent a lot of my broken time feeling very alone and isolated. And maybe I should have done more to see people (which in retrospect, relying on lifts is bloody hard!) but there was a large part of me that didn’t want people to stop what they were doing just to see me. I felt like a burden and I did not want to put that on anyone, especially with the large amount of negativity I was dealing with. The hardest part of this experience was the way in which I had previously looked after my body, MECFS and made sure I rested etc, simply was not possible. The physical and emotional strain of breaking my ankle made dealing with the previously under control illness, so incredibly difficult. I was drained and exhausted, physically and mentally. I had bouts of depression and in some parts let this affect relationships in my life. Thankfully everyone has been wonderfully patient and put up with all my broken and tired crap, now I’m through the other end and he is still looking at getting his skates on! I will also note that I sang/performed at two shows with my band Little Mammoth whilst sat on a rather Westlife-like bar chair! Dedication to the cause! Even though my ankle bone/fibula is now healed and I am just working on the muscle/tendon/ligament strength etc, I am still mentally/emotionally struggling. I NSO’d again last week during a friendly scrimmage with another team. And when I sat in my car post-scrim to go home, I broke down. Everything hit me. Everything was real again. It felt like as I was walking, dancing, driving and my ankle was healed, that I should be on track skating with my teammates. I felt so many emotions rushing around at that point. I managed to put myself together, start driving home, but had to pull over about 2 minutes later from just feeling sick and breaking down again. At which point a teammate pulled over and just really saved me from myself. I really owe her for sitting there with me, talking through everything with me and just being there in general. Everyone needs a Charlie! Never underestimate the power of a friendly face and positive/supportive words!! Another integral part of my Ohana has been looking after me from overseas, as well as kicking my butt when giving up was mentioned. Mika has been a big rock, even though she has not been here in person she has been there, offered me advice, supported me and otherwise just let me rant and get everything out of my system. I can only hope that I can be of as much help when she needs my support! She is coming to visit soon and I cannot wait to see her, so much excites! A big turning point in terms of support, came in a strange form. Lanny – who had initially helped me out of the hall into the car the day I broke – was also off skates due to injury and operations, was so fantastic in offering me a support point and texting me to check in. She made me feel like I was not alone. And I still owe her a coffee date! But she added me to a group on Facebook which I am oddly proud to be a part of. The UK roller derby crips – in association with Team Metal Legs. A group of broken and fixed skaters, some with metal parts, some with non metal parts, but a group who when put together created a beautifully strong bond and had so much hope for everyone around them. These people encouraged everyone to have hope and be positive, gave them support when they felt down, or just made jokes and put a smile on your face. They also had the serious side covered, where you could reach out to people with similar breaks and get an idea of the healing process, especially as a huge part of this is not only physical healing, but the mental/emotional healing you need to do. Through this group I have found a new strength, I have found new friends, people who I have my own little link to, people who are going through the same or often worse with surgery and the likes, some who have returned to skating, some who have yet to return to skating and a few who have been waiting an awful long time. But these people? They are filled with determination and hope. And this strength, hope and resilience that all these skaters share is just inspiring. I am proud and honoured to know & be friends with these people. I went to watch some previously broken skaters skate in a bout known as Team Metal Legs (returning injured skaters to derby) versus Team Crazy Legs (skating out for invisible illness) – both teams of which I resonate with very strongly. But to stand in my plastic splint as I watched this group of talented skaters bout, I felt proud and I felt a strong sense of hope. This group of women had battled through injuries to return to play a fantastic game. I had wanted to skate for the Harlots and do them proud before, I wanted my spot on the team – after watching this I wanted it even more.
In my last post, I wrote about whether I’d be able to return to skating. Whether I would be able to do full contact? Would I just find solace in the world of Zebra? Would I be forever Team Grey? And at this point in time, the answers to all the above is still unknown. I hope it will be that I do get back on skates, continue to hunger for a spot on the team and play alongside my brilliant league mates. I am full of so much determination to skate again, scrim again, bout again. I want this. So what about returning to skate? The hospital refused to give me physio. I heard the immortal words from my consultant when the cast came off and she gave me the news on how long it would be until I could skate again and the refusal of physio…. “It’s only a sport!” Commence the floods of tears. Again. When I look back, I know how lucky I was to be given 6 weeks until I could try to skate. At the time it seemed like the kiss of death to my derby life. I was to immediately weight bear, with a plastic splint for two weeks, then without for the final four weeks. I Googled alot in a bid to find some sort of physio help, thankfully there is quite a bit of ankle rehab information out there and it is all essentially the same. So I started working on my own physio. Whilst I’d been in a cast, I had been trying to work on my core strength (which sometimes caused my leg to respond in the general fashion of “What. The. Hell. Are. You. Doing.”
In the last week of September, everything seemed a lot closer. The six weeks until I was allowed to skate was flying by and everything was so much more real. I spoke to my teammate who had undergone operations on her knees, returned from injury and still kicked much butt on track – Rosie has an incredible wealth of derby knowledge and experience, is a force to be reckoned with on the track and has gone through serious derby injury and returned to skate at a high level. She is also a fantastic person which has made having her there as a form of support just incredible! She had spoken highly of her physio who had managed to guide her and work with her on her return and so she passed me her number and I went to see the mystical derby physio Jen! This was probably one of the best decisions I have made. Jen was so understanding and with the knowledge of what derby demands of you physically that she had gained from working with Rosie amongst others meant the advice she gave was ideal and I felt comfortable and safe with the exercises she was giving me and where to go from there. I will be seeing Jen again at the end of October to see where I am at and what the next steps are! The key things from my physio trip was that Jen told me I would definitely be allowed to return to skating this week and that for my own sake & my body, I needed to. My body is protecting my ankle, even though it is healed, it is protecting it from stretching/moving where it needs to go. By strapping on my skates, my body will relax and allow me to continue improving. Under her advice, I purchased a soft Mueller ankle support (£18 clearance sale from SportsDirect – bargain!) which will softly support my ankle in the initial stages and help with my confidence whilst starting back at skating, and I will build up to a neoprene support, then eventually… no support!
I have been NSO-ing and supporting Team Grey. I won’t be able to scrimmage for a month or so yet, so I will continue to honor and support Team Grey! This allows me to catch up with NSO’s, continue to be involved with the league and keep an eye on what the team is doing so I am prepared for returning to full contact.
So tomorrow is D-Day for me. Tomorrow I will be putting my skates back on properly and having a pootle around the hall. I did a small living room pootle on Friday night to test that my support fitted under my boot ok, and to overcome any initial nerves, and I did a thousand times better than I thought I would! T stop, plow/plough stop, crossover….!! I am really hoping more than ever that 20 years of skating will mean that my muscle memory totally has my back! I know it will be tough, both physically and mentally, I need to get back my strength, my stability and above all my confidence. I have come out the other side of a broken ankle, and I have come out fighting. I will continue to fight and I hope I continue to have amazeballs support around me!
Today I am full of determination and hunger. I want to return to skating, I want to get my place back on the squads, I want to finally claim my spot on the team. I am determined to push hard, do everything in my power and prove myself as a skater and as a Harlot. At the end of the day, I will do this. I will not rush this, I want to be safe, I want to be as strong as I can be, have my strength and stability back in my ankle. And then I will work my butt off and get where I want to be.
My ankle break timeline.
13th July: I broke my ankle (fibula)
17th July: Got a proper cast
28th August: Cast was removed
14th October: Back on skates
A serious problem.
I bought more wheels. Things that happened today mean I now own the entire Suregrip Fugitive Mid range.
However it is also sad as I recently found out when trying to purchase my final mixer set, that Suregrip are no longer going to produce the Suregrip Fugitive mids (fugi mids), they are however using the “Rollouts” as a replacement. Pretty similar however ever so slightly different in size. And it is sad they are changing the wheels, I’m sure it’s with good reason and maybe they have improved them, however I have the Fugi mids and I like them. I admit I would love a set of Radar Diamonds…. but sadly the fugi mids are much more in my price range – especially as there were few mid/slim wheels available at the point I bought.
My obsession with Suregrip Fugitive mids started when I spoke with a friend. TurboPete of Southern Discomfort and had a wealth of knowledge. So I bugged him for help and advice and thankfully he helped me out instead of telling me to do one. Turbo happened to be playing the Big O tournament in the land of derbygoodness and so we arranged for him to bring me back some wheels, under his advice and guidance we agreed that the Fugi mids would be ideal for my skating style and ability. I got them, I loved them. However I had chosen the 90a duro which did not feel quite so helpful where I could do with less grip…
So late last year I ordered a full set of 96a and a half set of 93a. I realised my mistake more recently in ordering the 93a, generally the idea with pushers is to have atleast a 4 duro difference for the mix to be effective.
Now, I don’t want to rock the boat with the whole pusher/anti pusher debates. I do feel that pushers/mixed durometer can be felt working. I do however feel a skater should be more than competent skating on a full set of wheels. This is my reasoning for having the full sets I do, and the half sets I do.
- Grippy floor = full set of 96a
- Slippy floor = full set of 90a
- Also a half set (4) of 93a
I have felt a little bit of sliding on my 90a as of recent since coming back from the Christmas break and I do feel as though our floor has been cleaned within an inch of it’s life to have lost a little grip. So today I chose to order a half set of 87a bearing in mind the state of some of the floors in the UK I figured it is best to err on the side of caution and have a sticky wheel available to mix with a harder wheel to avoid losing speed as a jammer – I have experienced a problem in which sometimes I push too hard coming up to corners thanks to my figure skating background so having just a small bit of stickygrippy really can help when leaning into a corner.
So now I am able to mix:
- 96a/90a mix
- 93a/87a mix
So welcome to the family my half set of 87a purple Suregrip Fugitive Mids! I hope these will arrive before Thursday as I would like time to be able to bed them in as Saturday… wait for it…..
Yes…. Saturday 15th will see me playing my first bout with Mansfield Misfits. We will be playing against Barnsley Blackhearts and will also be joined by the Inhuman League and Lincolnshire Rolling Thunder for a mens roller derby bout! I am sure I will write a bit more about this at some point this week!
Oh and my Suregrip Isis boots? Doing well! I went to Rollerworld Derby with my derby wife and our lovely Jevo for a free skate and lovey derby night out. I was taken out by a small child who decided to just stop infront of me with no warning or looking behind him whatsoever. Ninjasmallpeople. Cut up my knee which sucks as it is my prefered fall knee. But on the plus side, no blisters! Working with Compeed plasters, two pairs of socks and the power of unicorns!!
Today I’m talking skates. Bear with me, it is easiest to start this from last night!
Last week I was back blocked pretty damn hard at a bit of an odd angle which twisted and injured my lower back and shoulder blades. So instead of putting my skates on and causing further injury, I went along to help out at last night’s practice – which I have lovingly nicknamed “scrimmage Sunday” (as opposed to “Train hard Thursdays.) At one point I spoke with skater/coach Little Miss Chief who on Saturday made the move to new Reidell boots and Avenger plates. Originally she was looking at Roll line plates based on the store owners opinion – now I love speaking with derby store owners as they impart so much wisdom on you, however I have mixed feelings on Roll Line due to feedback from other skaters. I have heard a variety of opinions, most relating to Roll Line plates being generally better for figure and artistic rather than derby, whilst they are sold as being pretty “reactive” they are also sold with a hefty price tag. I must note that I have never tried a skate which uses a Roll Line plate so my opinions on this are subject to change or validation if/when I ever try them. What I have tried however are the Suregrip Mag Avengers – a plate I recommended to LMC based on experience. For whatever reason, LMC ended up with Mag Avengers rather than Roll Lines. Last night was her first time using these and when asked how she was finding them the reaction was exactly the same as my first. Whilst they felt good, something didn’t quite feel right. The problem? The plates had been mounted perfectly, but neither the store or LMC had changed how the DA45 trucks sat in the pivot cup. The way in which you are able to alter the seating of the pivot on these plates is fantastic! And this is something LMC did not know as she wasn’t expecting to get them so did not really look into. After sitting down, looking at and explaining how she can alter the plates to suit her, LMC was up and chuffed with the difference the slight alterations made, the ease in which she could do this said it all for her first real impression on the plate. The main impression it makes is that it is light, reactive, responds really well to your movements and really adds to agility. I had to explain to LMC that when I undertook 27 in 5 for the first time on these plates, I cramped up so badly. Why? I didn’t realise the difference in the level of work you have to put in on these plates compared to the standard probes. I was working myself so hard to get round on the Probes which essentially kept my feet flat and didn’t follow my skating on corners, whereas on the Avengers they reacted so quickly and kept up with the movement of my feet meaning I didn’t need to push as hard as I did on the Probes. I have found them ideal for my skating style and so I thought I would share my skate setup with you all!
I use a Suregrip Rebel boot in black (size 6) with an Avenger Mag plate (plate size 2). I upgraded from the standard Probe plates to the Avengers – awesome early xmas/birthday gift from MamaCidal/PapaCidal – the Man was wonderful and mounted these for me, whilst they are a standard mount they do sit slightly further into the boot than they probably would, but this was done to suit my weight distribution in the way I skate.
Wheel wise I am a mid wheel girl. I currently own
– 8 x Suregrip Fugitive Mids – 90a
– 4 x Suregrip Fugitive Mids – 93a
– 8 x Suregrip Fugitive Mids – 96a
– Blue Zeronuts and Bones Reds bearings
– I also have custom toe snouts from Derby Vixen
I originally started on R3s which were too narrow for my feet, then I picked up some Suregrip Rebels in standard form. I got rid of the original Fugitive wheels and went to Atom Poison Slims. I liked these but felt they weren’t quite right and figured I’d go for full on mid wheels. When I made the move to mids, there was not a huge amount of choice. Luckily the Man introduced me to one of his friends and generally awesome skater/person – Turbo Pete of Southern Discomfort. Turbo Pete has been invaluable for derby knowledge and has always helped me out without qualm – when playing the Big O tournament I spoke with him in regards to the wheel situation. As he was in the US and was surrounded by derby galore – we arranged to get some new wheels, based on his opinions and knowledge the decision was made to get the Fugitive Mids. From research it would appear quite a few overseas skaters use these, whilst most of the UK girls use Atom as a “go to” brand. Main reasoning for this? It turns out no-one really stocks the Fugitive Mids over here. This sucks. I find this kind of sad because these wheels are fantastic. The quality of the mid is much higher than that of the standard Fugitive wheel (some belief surrounding this is a higher quality material or better mapped out process), and to quote a something I saw on Skatelog forum the Fugitive mids have “much more bang for the buck” (or something along those lines.) I started with the 90a mids which I instantly took to, over time I felt with my skating style and weight etc I required something harder and I called upon Turbo Pete again to figure this whole thing out. I had previously mixed my Poison slims with my 90a as pushers, which were too soft and the mix was not ideal and probably a bit naughty – still it worked. I got rid of the Poisons and purchased more Mids, this time in a full set of harder 96a and a half set of 93a to be able to mix and match to suit the different floors we would encounter. Best move ever. (Well. It’s neck and neck with the Avenger plates.) The 96a suits our practice floor much better (our practice floor = pretty dreamy for derby) and the 93a help me out as gentle pushers when I feel I need a bit more support and grip. But when it came to visit Northampton for a training session and friendly scrim – my 90a mids were my saviour! There is a huge part of me which wants more and more wheels (a common illness in the derby world is “Wheelitus” – which is the over powering desire to buy more and more wheels) – I have heard very positive things in regards to Radar Diamonds for instance! But until I win the lottery this will have to wait. I WANT ALL THE DERBY!
When speaking with fresh meat about what they want to buy, I have highly recommended getting sturdy pair of boots to start with as they are fully able to upgrade the plates and wheels as they find their feet and figure out what kind of skater they are. The best thing about a huge majority of leagues is the fact we all have a variety of wheels, whether brand/hardness/size, and we are always more than happy to help other girls (spend money) try out our wheels for size.
The difficult thing to get across is the general idea that just because it works for someone else, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. You can spend days (even months) researching kit and speaking with various people but you have to remember that some brands have a bigger following than others whilst some brands are easier to get a hold of here and so become the norm. If I had listened to everyone else I would have gone out and bought some Atom Jukes or Heartless – both brands have their pitfalls, increasing feedback about wheels chunking too easily or wheels wearing down far too soon. But I listened to Turbo Pete and took a risk on a wheel which maybe wasn’t so loved – I don’t feel loved is right turn of phrase exactly, I would say that it is a wheel which isn’t so known and is sitting in the wings when it could be centre stage. Biggest isn’t always best. But again – this works for me, maybe you derby person sitting there reading this may go and try a fugitive mid and have your mind blown, or you may laugh at the idea of using a Suregrip wheel that isn’t the very much used Zombie wheel.
Kit wise I have a mish mash of pads – I would love to have matching pads but this is just not realistic! I have Scabs Pyscho knee pads, Anarchy elbow pads, some other wrist guards and a SFR helmet with awesome stickers. Also a variety of mouth guards (none of which ever seem to fit properly) and a team colour water bottle complete with stickers.
Kit bags – make sure your kit bag is big enough for what you need it for. But not too big that you can’t carry or pull it along. Pockets and sections are dreamy – separate your clothing/scrim tops from your kit – separate your skates from your pads where possible (you don’t want the sweat and condensation to mess with your bearings/plates).
My last bit of kit wisdom? Wash your kit. Air your kit. Love your kit. It will make it last longer and you won’t stink out your teammates the way I do – I will wash it… after our last session on Thursday. Promise Misfits.
Stinky pads award hands down.
Little Blue x