As derby skaters, we’ve all seen it (or been the victim of it). That moment during a bout when someone is on the track and their wheel falls off. Or their toe stop comes off. Or some other piece of their skate breaks. I have never been this person (knock on wood), but I still have a great fear of being this person.
Although most of us don’t know the ins and outs of building skates or mounting trucks, we owe it to ourselves to never be the person mentioned above. Although sometimes unavoidable, it can be prevented in most (eh, I’d say 85%) cases. How, you ask? Care about your skates!
Before every practice, I pull my skates out of my bag and look them over.
I check the plates – any cracks? Anything odd? Anything loose?
I check the wheels – all tightened to my liking? Any big chunks missing? Bearings all good? I also usually take this time to pull out any of that pesky hair that appears on my axles (I’m guessing this doesn’t happen as much during men’s derby).
I check my laces – anything look like it will break soon? I am very particular about how my boots are laced. I had my laces break during a bout and it caused me more anxiety than it should have. Solution? Check my laces, and replace BEFORE trouble strikes.
Most importantly, I check my toe stops. I have bionic toe stops, with the word “Bionic” written across the front. I love this because I can easily glance down at my toe stops during a bout to check that they haven’t moved. I’m guessing if I had toe stops without something written on them, I’d probably write something silly like “You Rock!” on my toe stops so I could still easily check if they have moved.
Although my obsessive toe stop checking began years ago, I have the Powerdyne Arius plates (which have been known to have toe stop issues). I used plumbers tape and eventually bought a toe stop nut to keep those suckers on. I would tighten them before every practice (but don’t over-tighten them, this could cause them to get stripped!) and I would bring my toe stop tool with me to the bench during bouts.
When I first started skating on the arius plates, I would check and retighten my toe stops after every jam. It may seem a bit crazy, but I never had a jam where my toe stops inhibited my jamming. It seems like such a preventable handicap, and jammers have it hard enough as it is!
The next time you get your skates out, take a good look at ’em. Admire them. Give them the respect they deserve. And then tighten your toe stops!