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 :)


  1. You are amazing!
    Excellent article!!!!

  2. Awesome blog, I was really hoping someone would make something like this. I look forward to more excellent articles on the various technical aspects of roller skating and derby.

  3. This is VERY helpful info, thanks!