When I was competing in triathlons, I got to see some incredibly amazing road bikes. Some were worth more than my car (and probably lighter than my shoes). Although it was fun to “ooh” and “ahh” the bikes as I prepared for my own race, these bikes also reminded me of one of the most frustrating aspects of triathlons. These bikes not only looked fast, they were fast, and they provided somewhat of an advantage.
Sure, I might be able to keep up on the swim and hold my own during the run, but I did not have the nicest bike. It wasn’t that I didn’t want one – I just didn’t have an extra $4,000 lying around.
Sometimes, after a race, I used to think, “If I had an all-carbon frame, ergonomically designed triathlon bike, I would have done much better.” It became rather frustrating to show up to a race and know you already had a disadvantage and could most likely not win – all because of your equipment.
When I went to triathlons, having a nice road bike implied one of two things:
(1) you really love triathlons and you have tons of money sitting around to spend.
(2) you have invested serious time and energy into being a triathlete and your investment in a bike is just part of your athletic investment.
I have learned that these same principles apply to roller derby, but on a much smaller scale. For road bikes, the price difference between a nice bike and a not-so-nice bike is thousands of dollars. However, you can buy a somewhat nice skate setup for only a few hundred dollars more than a not-so-nice setup.
When you start roller derby, the skates on your feet don’t really matter. You are just learning the basics, getting comfortable on skates, and building confidence on the track. However, there has to be a point where you decide to make a serious commitment to the equipment you own. Once you’ve grown as a skater, you don’t want to be held back or frustrated by the skates on your feet. Your equipment should make you confident and help you play your best, not worry you and bring you down.
Feeling confident on your skates does not mean spending $1000 on a skate set up. It just means you should do your research, try out different skates, plates, toe stops, etc. and find out what type of setup works for you. Ask to try on your teammate’s skates. Look for skate shops near you. Read reviews, watch videos, and take the time to find what you want. Even though your skates may not have a huge influence on your skating ability, having skates that are comfortable just means one less thing to worry about on the track.
So if you’re at a point in your derby career where you are ready to invest in new skates, figure out what makes you comfortable, confident, and happy on the track. Although staying mentally strong in derby is difficult, it becomes just that much easier when you aren’t being held back by what you have on your feet.