After skating on nylon plates since I first took up derby in 2009 I decided it was time for a change. Finally. Now, deciding it was time for a change and making the change are too different things. The world of derby and derby skates and all that go with them is a pretty specific market. It’s definitely challenging to try gear before you buy it, especially when it comes to skate plates.
So, of course I turned to the Internet to get some kind of definitive answer about plates… And discovered this is a bit like turning to “Doctor” Google when you have a headache and then become convinced that you are clearly about to die from an aneurysm. There is a whole whack of information out there about skate plates. So, the research began…. And then at derby events this past season I spent much downtime between games talking to different vendors and skate techs to get some input. This of course just showed me that if you ask three different people then you’re still getting three different opinions. Not much consensus on the whole and still not leaving me with any kind of clear decision or even a clear direction.
I had figured having skated for a couple years now on the nylon plates that I’d have a pretty good idea of what I wanted in a plate- and on one hand I do, but on the other hand before making the investment into plates I wanted to be able to try them. At the end of September I got that very opportunity.
I went to the Sugarbush Showdown in Essex Junction VT- WFTDA’s East Region Playoffs with U Kent Do That to enjoy a weekend of good derby. Pretty much watching the pros of the sport. Between games we wandered the vendors, and I started up with questions about plates. And what we found was that one of the booths, Crazy Skates (http://www.skatesus.com/store/index.php?cPath=91), actually came equipped. They had Crazy skates in all sizes with the Crazy Venus plate mounted (http://www.skatesus.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=91_107&products_id=351). Excitement to no end. The rep, Malice B. Stopless (http://www.facebook.com/people/Malice-B-Stopless/100001748125994), was awesome. U Kent Do That and I visited that booth repeatedly. We tried on the same skates over and over. Asked endless questions. And even brought in our own skates–because who leaves home without their skates?–and so I would wear one of my skates and one of the Crazy skates and do a direct comparison. Trying out transitions, turns, even the eagle. Malice answered all our questions and was more than patient with both of us every time we came over.
The funny thing to me about the Crazy Skates booth was that they were set up as a part of the Bruised Boutique (http://www.bruisedboutique.com/) store which is where I actually originally purchased my current derby skates a couple summers ago.
By the end of the weekend my decision regarding plates was made. Now, this wasn’t solely on just having been able to try them, there was a little more to it than that- hence all the questions and why I repeatedly tried the skates on. It’s much harder part to describe exactly why I went with these plates. It comes down to a few things like skating style, the positions you play in derby, what you want out of your skates etc., plus the nuances of how I skate and then in a sense the more abstract pieces, like the way that I walk, so the way that I balance myself. I have for most of my life walked on my tippy toes so that was a factor in picking plates and then what size of plate and then placement of plate. Just when you think you’ve got one piece of the plate puzzle figured out, up comes another…
A little DIY surgery, and a lot of patience
This Thanksgiving Monday I gave thanks by buying my Crazy Venus plates from the lovely Georgia W. Tush of Neon Skates (www.skateneon.com). Neon was also a vendor at Sugarbush Showdown and Georgia let me and U Kent Do That know that her store would be carrying Crazy Skates stock. And on Monday she found herself in Ottawa working on the soon to open in Ottawa Neon Skates.
For the actual drilling and physical mounting of the plates, I really have to give the full credit to U Kent Do That. The placement and positioning was certainly a team effort and for that I knew what wanted but the actual mounting was a whole other story indeed….
Of course I went back to the Internet to find out more about positioning and mounting. My best resources for mounting were this derby girl’s 2 blog entries on the topic- http://diaryofarollergirl.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/diy-big-kid-customization-part-i-selecting-roller-skate-plates/ and http://diaryofarollergirl.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/diy-big-kid-customization-part-ii-installing-roller-skate-plates/ plus Sin City DIY plate mounting http://www.sincityskates.com/images/downloads/sincity_diy_plate_mounting.pdf. These resources really gave me good handle on what needed to be done, and so I decided to also document this experiment.
So, the before pictures… skates sans wheels, all ready for surgery…. And clean wheels and clean bearings for afterwards…
My set of supplies
Pencil to mark where the position of the nylon plate
Rules to measure and find the new centre line
Polish to shine up my skates
Polyfilla for the holes
The next step was to trace the position of the original plate.
Then the removal of the old plates.
Four bolts on each skate holding in the plate. A screwdriver and a wrench as tools for plate removal. Plate off the first skate, no problem. Last bolt holding in the plate of the other skate would just not come off. Stripped the nut and the bolt in this struggle, before getting a Dremmel to just cut the bolt off. If you wind up with this problem- safety glasses are a must!!
Finally, the old plates were off and the skates actually cleaned up. Polyfilla in to fill the existing holes and give us a ‘blank’ canvas to work on.
Now came the time for the placement of the new plates. First was determining the centerline for my boots. Best resources for that- http://quadskating.com/skates/centering-plates.htm. Basically, it comes down to where the space between your second and third toe are. So, out came the ruler and the markings. We fine tuned my centerline by measuring between two points of where the old plates were and then joining up those two points with a centerline offset by the centerline between my second and third toe.
Next, the position of the mount. After much talking and reading I had come to the conclusion that I might (would?) benefit from a forward mount.
I’d’ve chosen a short forward mount- essentially getting a plate that’s smaller than what you would normally skate on and then mounting them more towards the front of your boot to force you to stay on the balls of your feet. However, since I was already on the smallest plate this wasn’t something I could do. In effect there wasn’t all that much space to play with.
So, in that respect I had it a little easy, I have little feet, therefore little skates, and therefore the smallest plate available so less agonizing about whether of not I should do a forward mount or a short forward mount. Even with a forward mount, it’s not too dramatic and there isn’t that much empty space at my heel ultimately.
A little information on where to mount plates-
We taped my new plates in place- trucks, wheels, stopper, and all. And I stood up and pranced around trying to get as best a feel as I could. Up on my toes and all the rest. So far, so good.
I honestly thought that at this point the hard part was over and that drilling the holes and fitting the plate was going to be a quick job. Hahahahaha, goes to show what I know!
Ultimately, it just comes down to the mounting hardware and probably not ever having done it before. U Kent Do that and I dove right into this. I held the skate steady while he drilled and then it came to trying to fit (aka shove) all the bolts through the new holes and fitting. The one good thing was that all the holes in the skate boot were properly aligned with the holes in the plate (yay!).
More difficult was getting the hole just wide enough to get everything all the way through so the plate could actually bolted to the skate. Out came the Dremmel again to widen the tops of the holes.
Now, the mounting hardware that came with the Venus plates included shorter bolts than what typically come with mounting hardware for other plates. Crazy had wanted make life easier for people who would mount plates and so had cut down the bolts already thus hopefully saving people from having to saw off the extra bit of bolt with a Dremmel or other bolt saw. And I’m sure the bolts are a perfect size for a Crazy boot, but I have a Riedell 265 boot. So, unfortunately, this meant that the bolts had to be just so if we wanted to fit the washer and the bolt on and actually finish the mounting. And this is where U Kent Do That very patiently went about the small adjustments to make the bolts fit just right.
With one skate pretty much done and mounted we called it a night for mounting. My suggestion on this was before going at my other skate the next day that a trip to the hardware store could save us (and by ‘us’ I meant my skate tech…) a little frustration. But a longer bolt that’d still fit the plate and then use the Dremmel to trim off the extra at the end…
And the next day U Kent Do That was back at it. A little under the gun by me since we had practice in Rockland that night… eeek! No luck on getting a longer bolt so right back at the skate the same way as the day before. But with yesterday’s knowledge the assembly went better. Both skates all ready for practice.