Gearing Up for Roller Derby
In roller derby, pads are not for if you fall, but for WHEN you fall. Keep this in mind as you pick out your first roller derby gear.
Having the right safety equipment is a prerequisite for even entering practice. Your gear will be checked to make sure you're wearing all the pieces and that it's all on correctly. Missing equipment means that you don't get to skate.
Being a sport that not just everyone knows about, it takes a little bit of research to figure out what to buy, how to buy it, and where to buy each item. Here are a few tips to get you started.
What to Buy: Roller Derby Gear List
Here is the gear you need before you can set skate in a roller derby practice or fresh meat program:
Guiding Principles for Buying Gear
How to Choose: What to Look For in Roller Derby Gear
You're looking for roller derby skates, not inline skates or artistic roller skates. Roller derby skates usually have a lower boot than the skates roller skating rinks have for rent. Derby skates are typically sized in men's sizes, and for women, buying 1 size smaller is recommended. Here are few popular skates for fresh meat (roller derby newcomers) that run about $100-$175 : Reidell Dart, SureGrip GT-50 and Reidell R3.
Since concussions are prevalent in roller derby, getting a quality helmet is important. Helmets used for roller derby are not the same as bicycle helmets. Typically a skateboard helmet or hockey helmet works. Measure your head, and use those measurements to make sure you purchase the right sized helmet. A helmet will probably be at least $30. Triple 8, Pro-Tec and S-1 are frequently purchased brands. Personally, I got the Triple 8 Helmet with Sweatsaver Lining.
You can pick up a sports mouth guard at a drug store or big box department store for under $10. Many roller derby skaters grab a mouth guard by SISU. They are lighter weight and you can drink and speak more effectively with one in. These may run around $30 and come in a variety of fun colors.
You need a set of elbow pads with hard plastic on the elbows. Popular brands are Triple 8, 187 and Pro-Tec. Make sure they fit snugly on your elbows. When talking with derby folk about gear, many people have strong preference on nearly everything--except elbow pads. I went with these Triple 8 Elbow Pads.
You need a set of wrist guards that have braces on the fronts. (If you see roller derby skaters clapping, they are usually hitting their wrist guards together.) Ideally, wrist guards should have a brace on both sides for additional stability and protection. I own two sets of Triple 8 wrist guards--one pair of slide ons and one pair that wrap around. It's pretty much personal preference.
Knee Pads: Spend Your Money Here
In roller derby, falling is inevitable, and I almost always fall on my knees. There are also several skills that require you to land on or tap your knee pads. Consequently, knee pads are a good place to buy better gear right away.
Personally, I started with low end Triple 8 knee pads , and I quickly upgraded. I went with 187 Killer Pro Knee Pads. While I ended up spending about twice as much on the nicer knee pads, not damaging my knees is worth way more than that. Some people don't like how far the 187s stick out, so try out different brands or talk with other skaters to see what they like. Pro-Tec, Smith Scabs and Deadbolts are just a few other brands to check out. See the Learn More section for a link to an article including knee pad reviews.
Where to Buy New Gear
Ideally, you'd get a chance to try on gear before you buy it. Be sure to see if there is a roller derby shop in your area. In the Twin Cities, check out Wheels on Wheels. (The owners are involved in roller derby and work by appointment.) General sports stores, or skateboard shops, may have some equipment, but not necessarily the best derby specific gear.
For beginning derby skates, you may want to check out the pro shop at your local roller skating rink. The selection is typically not huge, but you may have a chance to try on skates.
Online, there are approximately 4 bijillion places where you can buy derby gear, including Amazon. In addition, here are a few derby specific shops:
Where to Buy Used Gear
Be sure to check with other skaters. They may have gear that they want to get rid of that can get you started.
Facebook also has several different groups to buy, sell and trade roller derby gear. Here are a few:
What Do You Think?
What are your roller derby gear preferences? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Please note that I'm not receiving incentives from any organization to promote or suggest one product or website over another. These are just my personal opinions, for your consideration. Here are places where you can learn other people's opinions:
I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, health advocate, & skating nerd.