Sunday, October 25, 2009

Polished Cement and Other Slippery Surfaces: How to Deal

So last night my team and I skated against Port City on their notorious home turf- slippery, glossy, polished cement. Ugh! As a team that is blessed with an almost perfect skating surface, we were all dreading taking on the floor, especially after watching video footage of two other very skilled teams sliding around on that same floor. I, of course, took this situation as a personal challenge and used this game as an excuse to order a full set of the new Atom Stinger wheels. They are supposed to be the new wheel that will grip on un-grippable surfaces, so naturally I couldn't resist.

When choosing a wheel for any surface, you have to take into account the position you play, your weight, and your comfort zone. I both block and jam, weigh in at about 160, and prefer to have more grip in my wheel. Some girls like to skid and slide, I don't. On our floor, I prefer to skate on 91As-93As, usually with an 88A pusher to help me grip on the corners when I jam. Most of my team wear similar wheels, with the exception of the Smack Dahlia, who likes to rock her 94A narrow Heartless for speed, and Juicy K. Tore, who will cruise around in all 88As for the endurance practice.

For this bout, most of the team skated in G-Rods with either Sure Grip Sugars, Atom Stingers, or Atom Trackers as pushers. I did a few laps with all Stingers and a few with Stingers and G-Rods. Wow. You will never feel the difference between changing out four wheels as much as on polished cement. When skating on the Stingers, it was almost like being back on my own rink. I was able to cross over on the corners with minimal sliding and was still able to get up to my normal speed. When I switched over to Stingers and G-Rods, I was all over the place on the corners. Needless to say, I skated the game in all Stingers.

Now, I still slid, especially as the night went on. I ended up mostly jamming, and it was very difficult to try to sprint and take hits on a slippery floor. Even though my team was actually wearing grippier wheels than Port City, those ladies were used to skating on that floor, and had adapted their skating style to take the surface into account (not to mention they are an awesome team). We had had one practice where we all skated in our baldest wheels to get a feel for sliding around, but we probably could have used more practices like this.

So anyway. Best advice when bouting on a slippery floor?
  1. Be prepared. For some people trying new wheels is like jean shopping, but wearing the wrong wheels will cost you stability and speed, which will throw off your timing, lessen the impact of your hits, and cost you seconds when jamming. All of these things can cost your team points and increase the likelihood of injury, so unless you are used to skating on slippery surfaces do yourself and your team a favor and change your freakin wheels!
  2. Don't look at the other team's wheels. They are used to the floor, and will be able to wear harder wheels because they have adapted their skating style. You will need to go grippier and skate wider and lower than you're used to to compensate.
  3. Practice being unstable. Skate on bald wheels as much as possible before the bout. You will need to get used to sliding and learn how to adapt your hits, jukes, sprints, etc.
  4. Try out different wheels. Borrow different wheels from your teammates and take them to any slippery surface you can find. Bring multiple sets to the bout and get there early so you can try them out.
  5. Remember: if you are a tiny girl, you will need grippier wheels than a heavier girl. If you jam, you don't want to go so grippy you wear yourself out. You need to know what your individual needs are.
Need a place to start? Here are some good wheels for grip. Keep in mind that you can go softer (Skoot skated on super soft skateboard wheels last night) or harder (some of the Portland ladies were on all 94As), depending on your preference, but this is a general guideline:

*** Note: I have noticed that Atom wheels tend to be a little bit more grippy than other brands of the same durometer (hardness).

80As (holy crap grippy. Pushers for tiny girls or for anyone who likes a shit-ton of grip).
  • Radar Shadow (I don't know anyone that has tried these yet, I'll get back to you)

85As (pushers or all 8 for tiny girls)
  • Sure Grip Sugars (good when paired with G-Rods or 92A-93A Fugitives). These are awesome wheels, especially as pushers. My team has used them on everything from our floor to sport court and polished cement, and we love them.
  • Atom Centuris (also good with G-Rods, Fugitives, other standard width wheels)
  • Heartless Voodoo (86A). VERY narrow. May cause stability issues if you aren't used to them. I tried a set of Heartless and had serious issues staying upright, but some girls love the crap out of these.
88As (pushers or all 8 for middle weights or girls who like a lot of grip)
  • Atom Stingers (standard or narrow width. Narrow is good with narrow G-Rods, Omegas or 91A-93A Zodiacs. We love these wheels, especially with the G-Rods.
  • Atom Trackers (Pre-2010 models only. Good with G-Rods, Fugitives, other standard width wheels.)
  • Gray Fugitives (good with G-Rods, Fugitives, other standard width wheels ). Fugitives are great all-around derby wheels that are reasonably priced, long-lasting, and come in a lot of different colors so you can customize your look a bit more.
  • Radar Mojos (narrow width, good with narrow 93A Dubz, narrow G-Rods, Zodiacs, Omegas). These are aluminum hubbed like the Zodiacs, which means more weight but less flex in your wheel. I like them but have had some issues with warped hubs, so try to get these on your skates and spin them to make sure they don't wobble before you pay for them.
  • Radar Flat Outs (standard width with the Speed Groove thing, good paired with Tuners or other grooved wheels like the Radar Revolver and Speed Ray or the Sure Grip Interceptor)
  • Radar Flat OutRageous (narrow width, no Speed Grove, good with narrow 93A Dubz, narrow G-Rods, Zodiacs, Omegas). The narrow G-Rod with the Flat Outrageous is one of my favorite combos, and the Flat OutRageous are very reasonably priced.
  • Heartless Stalker (VERY narrow)
  • Backspin Trackstar (89A, standard width)
90-93As (all 8 for heavier girls or girls who can handle sliding, paired with pushers for girls who need more grip). These are also all-around good wheels for most surfaces.
  • 2010 Atom Tracker (91A, standard width)
  • Atom Dubz Slim Red (93A, narrow width)
  • Atom Queen Bee's (91A, narrow width)
  • Atom Tantrums (93A, standard width)
  • Radar Revolver (Red: 92A Black: 91A, standard width with Speed Groove)
  • Atom Omega (narrow width, 93A)
  • Atom G-Rod (White: standard width, Pink: narrow width, both 93A). This is one wheel most of the girls on my team keep coming back to. It grips well on almost every surface without compromising your speed. Probably my favorite wheel.
  • Radar Devil Rays (Black: 91A. Standard width, Speed Groove)
  • Backspin Remix and Remix Lite (93A, standard width)
  • Radar Gamma Rays (Blue: 93A, Red 92A, standard width)
  • Radar Speed Rays (same as above, only with Speed Grove)
  • Radar Tuners (same as above, only with a plastic hub)
  • Radar Zodiac (Black 91A, Red 92A, Blue 93A, all narrow width). See the Mojos.
  • Sure Grip Power Plus (all colors 93A except for purple and green, standard width)
  • Sure Grip Interceptors (same as above only with a speed groove)
  • Heartless Chaser (92A) and Creeper (90A), VERY narrow width, may cause stability problems if you aren't used to a very narrow wheel.
  • Backspin Scribble (91A, standard width) and Blueprint (92A, standard width)
  • Sure Grip Fugitives (red, blue, black, and pink are all 92A, standard width)
  • Hyper Shamans (green 92A, standard width)
Hope this helps get you started! Don't let a floor get you down :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Evolution of the wheel: Changes in the Atom line for 2010

We all know and love Atom wheels, and they have responded to the undying love of the derby community by adapting and expanding their line of wheels for 2010. Anyone that knows me knows I love THE CRAP out of Atom wheels, and no, they don't pay me, but they really should.

Anyway. Here's what's new for 2010:

Trackers: Used to be pink, then purple 88As, now orange 91As. Good wheel for those girls that like a lot of grip but don't want to skate on all pushers, or for girls that want a slightly harder pusher.

Centuris: Used to be hybrid 88As, now 85As, probably to compete with the popular and amazingly awesome Sure Grip Sugar, which is only available through Sin City Skates.

Omegas: Now come in two colors and builds.

  • Green: The origional. 93A, tri-spoke hub, narrow profile.
  • Purple: Still narrow and 93A, but the hub is hollow core instead of spoke, which is a little more expensive but the hollow core doesn't flex as much as the spoke, so your wheel doesn't absorb as much of your force (meaning: you can go a little faster). If you're a lighter girl (120 or less), than you probably won't notice much of a difference but for sturdier ladies this can make a difference. I prefer to skate on hollow or aluminum hubbed skates.
Stroker: Comes in slim and standard, this is one hard-ass wheel at 98.5A. If you want something harder than the 95A D-Rod but aren't ready for this level of hard, you can try the Fusion, which is nestled in the middle at 97A.

New Wheels for 2010

I admit that I almost soiled myself when I saw the new Atom lineup. They have almost every base covered when it comes to hardness, width, and materials. Here's a breakdown:

Stingers: These are the new 88a pusher/slick surface wheel, similar to the old Tracker but with a hollow core for more roll and less flex (and they also cost twice as much). A few of us have been rocking these as pushers paired with the G-Rods or Dubz (tell you more about those in a bit), and we LOVE them. They are white like the Gs and come in both narrow and standard width. I will be trying all eight of these on the slick, polished cement of Port City's floor, I'll let you know how it goes.

Dubz: These are the new Mac-Daddy wheels that rock the new plastic/aluminum HYBRID core that Atom just unveiled. The idea is to just put aluminum where it will make a difference (the outside of the outer hub) for the strength and keep the rest of the core plastic to reduce the weight. These babies come in wide and narrow 100As (silver hub) and narrow 93As (red hubs- we've only tested the 93As so far). As a girl who loves her aluminum but hates hauling a million pounds of metal on the ends of her feet, I had to have these wheels. So far, when paired with the Stingers they feel about the same as the narrow G-rods (and are $150 to the G-Rods $100), but I am planning to try skating on all eight and have a few other girls of different sizes and skating styles to try them out too. For a wheel like this, you'll be able to feel the difference better with all eight, especially if you are coming from a full set of solid aluminum core wheels, like me. I'll keep you posted. As for the 100As, I'm gonna have to work my way up to those. I'm a grip girl, and those triple digits scare me. I'd love to hear from anyone that has tried them! Please include your weight range (it does make a difference), skating position, and skating surface.

Lanzini Rocket: This is basically an aluminum/plastic hybrid core D-Rod (95A) with a limited-edition custom painted red hub by Mitch Lanzini. It comes in standard width only and runs about $145. The Lowboys and Lowboy Slims are the same hardness with the same core minus the cute rocket graphics, come in two widths, and are a little cheaper ($115 ish). The D-Rod is also 95A, but with a solid plastic hollow core, making it slightly cheaper at about $100.

Superfreaks: Still sound steep? Never fear, in a nod to the shitty economy, Atom has introduced a tri-spoke version of the popular D-Rod (same hardness, more flexible core) that costs around $70. Now only if they'd do that for the G-Rod....sigh....

Wanna read more about Atom technology or drool over the pretty wheel pictures? Check out their online 2010 catalog here.

Confused by all this talk of narrow vs. standard width, grip vs. roll, hollow vs. tri-spoke vs. aluminum core? Tune in soon for my Wheel Basics blog :).

At your Servix,


Heads Up on Helmets

We all know what a helmet looks like and what it's supposed to be for. Unfortunately, those of of us without prior sports or skateboarding backgrounds (ahem) end up buying helmets based on color or price (like that sweet freebie you found in your brother's closet) and miss the mark on safety and function. A good helmet should fit properly, provide adequate protection, and be an appropriate color and material for the individual derby girl.

The Basics:

1) A good fit. Your helmet should be snug but not uncomfortable (a red dent around your head is a bad sign) and should hit you at above eyebrow level when placed on your head at a level angle (sitting straight on your head, not at a jaunty angle). The chin strap should also be snug, with no more than two fingers worth of slack. The length of the chin strap can be adjusted and the two little straps that come together to form the chin strap can be fiddled with where the two combine to make sure the helmet is sitting on your head properly. Adjusting these changes the angle of how the helmet sits. Tightening the front piece will pull the helmet forward, the back one will pull the helmet backwards. You'll have to play with it a bit until it is secured squarely on your head.

2) Providing adequate protection. First of all, it's not the hard part of a helmet that is gonna protect you from getting a gnarly concussion. It's the padding inside the helmet. You want a helmet with thick padding to protect your brain, and some derby helmets even come with removable, washable (hand wash, air dry), terry cloth lining to reduce helmet funk.The Triple Eight Sweatsaver and the S1 OG DLX both come with this feature and as a bonus, you can just replace the lining after taking a few hard hits. With standard helmets you want to replace the entire helmet after taking one hit to a few hits, depending on the certification of the helmet. If your helmet is CPSC certified (it will say on the box), then you should replace it after a single hard blow.

If it's ATSM certified, you probably have about 3 in there (depending the severity of the fall), but should err on the side of caution when concussions are a possiblity.Considering that the helmets that we use range from $20-$50, being able to replace the liner for $15 is a pretty good deal. The following brands (in addition to those listed above) all have replaceable liners: S1 Damager, S1 Trian, Protec Classic, Protec B2, Protec Ace, Sure Grip. Personally, I like the Triple Eight Sweatsaver and the S1 OG DLX- the lining of both of these is very plush and absorbant, so I don't get as much sweat in my eyes.

3) Color and material. Helmets made out of the gummy matte material may make it harder to get jammer and pivot panties on and off, so if you regularly play these positions you may want to try someone's out before buying one. I haven't had any problems personally, but it's a preference. Some teams want all of their girls to have matching helmets, and some girls just really love the color pink, but keep in mind that the color of your helmet may make you stick out in a bad way. If you are the team's hardest hitter, you are going to be a lot easier to target if you are the only girl on your team wearing a bright yellow helmet.

Hope the info helps, ladies! Remember, derby is a mental game, so protect your noggin.