Custom fitting your roller skates

Bont semi-custom hybrids, closed toe, durolite skin with black leather strip and tongue. Size 1 Avenger plates.

Bont semi-custom hybrids, closed toe, bumpers, metallic red and silver durolite skin with black leather lace cover and tongue. Size 1 Avenger plates.

The slipper-feel of perfectly fitting skates can elevate your play by allowing you to become hyper-responsive. The absence of your feet shifting in your skates allows you to move and react without compensating for slippage in the boot, compared to when your skates don’t fit perfectly. The more control you have over your boot, the more control you have over your edges, which makes you a more responsive skater.

Finding that perfect boot to fit the unique shape of your foot can be challenging. Once you find that perfect pair, the fit may still require some tweaking. That’s what I found when I received my semi-custom skates this spring. Ordered in two different sizes to compensate for the half-size difference in my feet, I found the length in my larger right foot was perfect, but the right heel cup was also larger and didn’t quite fit my heel compared to my smaller left skate. Because my skates were semi-custom, I was unable to return them. I had to find a solution.

I use the sport inserts for my skates. Lifting your heel in the skate can eliminate heel slip in your boot.

I use the sport inserts for my skates. Lifting your heel in the skate can eliminate heel slip in your boot.

Before I tried my own modifications to the boot, I contacted my boot manufacturer rep to make sure I did the heat molding process correctly. TIP: always contact the boot manufacturer or where you purchased your skates first if you are having issues. They will have the best and most up-to-date information for you. She confirmed that heat molds could not get the heel tighter and recommended I fill with padding around the heel.

In my search for options to tighten the heel of my skate, I found a thread on Skate Log Forum that gives several suggestions to make your skates fit better. I highly recommend you check out all the advice and resources on the thread if you are having the same issues.

One of the suggestions, according to poster ‘okie,’ is to raise up your heel to help lock it in place. Okie suggests to add a pad in the heel under your liner. This forces the heel up into the upper cup area of the boot and can sometimes fix this problem.

Neoprene booties. Very comfortable to wear. Highly recommended.

Neoprene booties. Very comfortable to wear. Highly recommended.

I already use sport inserts which lifts my heel so I decided to look for the next idea.

Posters ‘graphixgurl’, ‘KMA’ and others suggested neoprene booties. Their thickness helps your heel stay in the boot and grips it to the inside of the skate. There are several thicknesses to choose from, depending on the kind of fit you are looking for. After trying a pair, I’m kicking myself for not making these booties part of my regular footwear sooner, though they can make your feet a little hot. I love how these feel in my skates, but I still wanted a bit more of a custom interior fit.

Going back to okie’s forum post, he also suggests using Gorilla Tape in layers on the heel cup to customize your fit.

I figured I give it a try. Below is my ‘how to.’ Click on thumbnail photos for larger photo. (Opens in new window).

What you need:

Gorilla Tape

Gorilla Tape

  • Gorilla Tape
  • Scissors
  • Skates with laces and insoles removed.

According to okie, Gorilla Tape is a good choice for this project because it is thicker than duct tape, is cloth-backed, the glue does not come off with moisture or movement and it sticks to itself. You can find it at major hardware stores, usually in the paint aisle with the other adhesives.

Step one: Determine the areas that need a bit more interior support.

The plan: Put tape along the sides of the skate, but not the back of the heel.

The plan: Put tape along the sides of the skate, but not the back of the heel.

The length of my skate was perfect. Therefore, I decided to put tape along the sides, not the back of the skate, to tighten the heel cup.

I chose to make the lengths long and place them just off-centre from the back of the heel to just before the ball of my foot. By ‘feathering’ out the tape, my hope was I wouldn’t feel odd shape transitions within my skate.

Step two: Cut and notch tape lengths

Notch the tape to help it form around curves without overlapping or wrinkling

Notch the tape to help it form around curves without overlapping or wrinkling

To avoid wrinkles in your tape as you mold it around curves and corners, notch it at various intervals on one side. I decided to start with one layer of tape cut lengthwise, then I used the full width.

Considering how grippy this tape product is, it was surprisingly easy to work with. Pulling up the tape was a breeze if I didn’t position it quite where I liked it.

Step three: Layer tape in problem areas.

You can see the layers starting to build. Be sure to try on your skates after every layer.

You can see the layers starting to build. Be sure to try on your skates after every layer.

I started layering with pieces cut lengthwise, then moved up to full width pieces. After each layer, I laced up my skates and jumped around in them to test how they felt. I did this until I had no heel slippage. It didn’t take long for me to start feeling the difference. This tape is much thicker compared to duct tape.

Keep adding until you are happy with the fit.

Step four: Finish the edges.

Putting a layer on top of the tape edges keeps it from from getting caught on your foot.

Putting a layer on top of the tape edges keeps it from from getting caught on your foot.

There is potential for your heel to catch the edge of your layered work if you have several layers. I finished the job with a layer over the top edge of the tape to give it a smooth finish. I also put a single piece at the back of the heel to cover the ends of the tape going down the side of my skate.

Helpful tips

Folding the tape before positioning makes it easier to work with.

Folding the tape before positioning makes it easier to work with.

Positioning the tape: Fold tape in half, sticky side out when inserting it into the boot. Position the middle section onto the boot, unfold the tape and press down to the ends.

Wrinkles: If you feel a wrinkle forming on your layer, pull up the tape and cut a notch where the wrinkle happened to allow for space for the tape to mold around the boot. Don’t allow any wrinkles in your tape job.

Using the notches: In the photo on the right you can see how the notched tape looks when it’s sitting in the boot. Put the notch-side of the tape on the side that has the most need to be flexible. For example, on the inside edge of the boot, I put the tape on notch-down so it would easily bend around the instep area. On the outside edge of the boot, I placed the tape notch-up because the upper area of the boot had more curves to work around.

*****

Hopefully this helps some of you who have skates that aren’t quite perfect. Do you have other techniques to customize your skates for better fit? Please feel free to post below. Also, see my post with a great link to lacing techniques that may solve some of your fit issues.

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Lacing your roller skates

Display shoe lacing technique.

Display shoe lacing technique.

Check out this amazing website on all the different ways you could lace your roller skates.

Ian’s Shoelace Site –  Shoe Lacing Methods

Right now I use the display shoe lacing approach. But I’m interested in trying the lock lacing approach to help with my heel slip issues.

If your skates have a loop in the back, you can also try this lacing method to lock your heel in place…

Here is an alternative heel lock method used on running shoes. But if your skates have the appropriate holes, you can try it too!

How to fix the toe stop threads in your roller skate plate

While toe stops are not required equipment on a skate, having a toe stop pop out and not realizing it during a game, often leaves the skater with comical falls and a couple of failed attempts to get up until they realize it has happened. If you’ve ever had a toe stop pop out of your plate during a game, it can sometimes do some serious damage to the threads of your toe stop and within your plate.

This happened to me at my last game. Luckily, because of my homemade toe covers, my toe stop did not bounce all over the track on its escape from my plate. It stayed with me and flopped around limply at the end of my cover. If you want to see how my covers kept my toe stop from becoming a hazard on the track, check out my post on making your own toe covers.

Depending on your plate, you either use a wrench or hex key to tighten your toe stops into your plate

Depending on your plate, you either use a wrench or hex key to tighten your toe stops into your plate

There can be a couple reasons why your toe stops fail. One is you didn’t tighten them enough. I’m not a fan of the small toe stop tools skaters often carry around because you can’t get enough torque with the small handles. I like using full-size wrenches or a hex key with a vice grip to help ensure their tightness so they won’t jiggle loose with the bumps and friction skating brings.

The other reason is your toe stop may be near the end of its life and you’ve turned it out too far out for the stem to support your weight and activity. RollerGirl.ca created a great video talking about this very thing. Check it out below.

Looking inside, you can see the damaged threads

Looking inside, you can see the damaged threads

I suspect the later is what happened in my instance because the damage appears to be only about a 3/8” down into my plate. Plus during the game I was forcing the toe stop back in and re-tightening so I could keep playing. (You don’t realize how much you use your toe stops until one is gone.) So there was a lot of damage in the first few threads as a result.

Instead of shelling out hard earned dollars for new plates, you can attempt to fix the damage by using a tap and die set. The tool will allow you to fix your plate AND your toe stop, if you think you still have life left in the toe stop and want to keep using it.

Calling in help from a handy friend who has handy tools, I set off to do a DIY fix.

Before you try and fix it yourself…

Contact the shop where you bought your plates to see if the damage can be repaired or the plate replaced under warranty. If not, and you’re lucky enough to have a roller skate shop in your local town that does repairs, I would bring it to the experts first! Your skates are an investment and not something to mess around with!

What you need…

set

A tap and die set

Someone you can borrow tools from, which  include:

  • A vice to hold your skate and toe stop (I suspect you could have a friend hold your skate with a wrench, but it would be tricky)
  • A tap and die set containing a 5/8” with 18 NF tap and die. This is the toe stop stem size and the thread size. *These sets are expensive. This is where having a handy friend is… handy! Or you may be able to buy individual bits at your local hardware store.
  • WD-40 or oil

Because I had never done tapping or die-ing before, I found a great video (below) that explains the process. The video starts out showing how to re-thread a bolt, which would be the equivalent of fixing the threads on your toe stop stem. Then he shows how to tap a nut, which would be the equivalent of tapping the female portion of the toe stop on your plate. It’s a great resource and he explains the process very well.

The video also talks about a thread pitch gauge, which you don’t need to worry about, as I’ve listed the thread size above. But if you ever need to rethread your plate hangers or any other bolt around the house, that is the tool you would use to figure out the pitch of those threads.

As my friend was helping me fix my plates, I took some photos so you can get an idea of the process…

This is the tap. It is used to cut the female portion of the threads. AKA inside your plate.

This is the tap. It is used to cut the female portion of the threads. AKA inside your plate.

With the skate in the vice, be sure to insert the tap exactly square so you don't cut into the threads crooked.

With the skate in the vice, be sure to insert the tap exactly square so you don’t cut into the threads crooked. Work the tool back and forth to clean out the damage.

Before and after tapping.

Before and after tapping.

Using the die tool on the toe stop stem

Using the die tool on the toe stop stem

The fix took about a half hour and after watching my friend do the job, I’d be pretty confident to take on the task if I had to do it again (if he lets me borrow his workshop).

Have you had to go through the process of re-threading your plates or toe stops? I would love to hear your experience or any further tips and tricks you can share!

UPDATE Sept. 12, 2013 – after skating on the re-threaded plates I’ve noticed my toe stops aren’t able to stay in tight with just the hex key adjustment (applicable for the Avenger plates). So I’ve had to add a washer and nut at the base of my plate to help hold it in there. So while I have extended the life of my plates with this fix, it’s not perfect. Re-threading will make that connection looser than what it once was – something I was initially worried about when I set out to do this DIY and now confirmed.

Available at auto supply stores, like Canadian Tire

Available at auto supply stores, like Canadian Tire

ANOTHER TIP: Grand Poohbah wrote in the comments below to add white lithium to your toe stop threads to prevent corrosion and to help avoid them getting misthreaded or seizing up. He also reminds us to not put our toe guards in between the plate and the nut of your toe stop as the toe guard material will compress and the nut will not sufficiently lock down your stopper. See below for his full explanation. Great tips!

DIY roller skate toe covers

Cost: potential for as low as $10
Time: 2 hours

If you have roller derby venues like ours, some of your floors may be rougher than a cat licking sandpaper. This can be devastating on beautiful leather skates. I used to heavily tape my toes to protect the leather from the abrasiveness of knee falls, only to cover them with more tape as it wore down. It created a bit of a problem because I also like to take apart my skates. Having to tear layers and layers of encrusted hockey tape was not only annoying, some of the leather finish of my boot came off with the bottom tape layer.

IMG_3303I was never a fan of the snouts or single straps to help protect my skate from getting scuffed, because the materials weren’t thick enough. Our rough floors and skating outside had me burn through them quickly. When I changed my roller skate plates over a year ago, I came up with a DIY solution for toe stop covers, which I have been wearing with no need for tape or replacement since I first installed them.

You’ll see from the photo that it’s made from a belt and in three separate pieces. The only thing that’s holding the pieces in position are my laces and the toe stop. I worried the laces wouldn’t be strong enough to hold the side pieces in place, but have seen no evidence of shifting after skating on them for a year. (More photos of the toe protector are at the end of this post.)

I did a couple of things accidentally-on-purpose that has made this construction stand up to over a year of abuse.

  1. The toe stop holes were cut smaller than the toe stop stem width so the leather pieces had to be threaded onto the toe stop nipple. This keeps them from flapping between your skate and toe stop. Also, if your toe stop pops out unexpected, the smaller leather holes will keep it with your skate instead of bouncing across the track. (Proven! This happened to me in a recent game.)
  2. The pieces are layered strategically around the toe to prevent flapping and gaping holes on the sides. On top, the middle strip sits under the two side pieces. Holes are cut so they can be laced through both layers. On the bottom, the middle strip sits above the two side pieces, locking them in place to keep them from shifting. The toe stop anchors the bottom in place.

IMG_5776 copy

Here is a paper template that shows the positioning of the three pieces. You’ll want to refer to this picture when you are building your template and constructing your toe protector.

When I did this project over a year ago, I didn’t take photos of the process. So below is my best explanation of how I did the project. If you’re a crafter, eyeballing the photos will help you come up with your own design.

What you’ll need…

Leather belt at the desired width and thickness.
Mine was about 1.5” wide and 1/8″ thick and very rigid. The thicker the belt the more wear you’ll get. You’ll need six pieces and the length of them could be anywhere between five and seven inches, so make sure your belt is long enough. If you find one in the high 30s or low 40 inch in length, you’re probably good. I found a great belt at the second hand store for a few dollars.

Something sharp to cut through the belt.
I used tin snips. Scissors or a utility knife may work, depending on the thickness of the belt.

Something sharp to cut holes in the belt.
If you have a leather punch, that works best. But a hammer and nail could work well too, or even using a drill.

Paper and tape to help build your template.

Create Your Template

Figure out how the belt will work with your skatesIMG_5769

Skate boots have different toe shapes, laces start in different positions and your toe stop hole position will vary depending on your plate. Cutting three paper strips in the same width of your purchased belt will help you figure out how to cut your belt for length and angle, so you don’t waste pieces by cutting incorrectly.

You’ll want to overlap the three pieces of your paper template in such a way that the toe is completely covered, you have good side coverage and it goes up high enough IMG_5770to be laced onto your skate. You could alter this design so the middle piece goes higher up your skate if you wish.

Remove your toe stops and your laces from your skates. Wrap the three pieces around your toe, matching the layering to the coloured paper template I posted above. Make sure the paper isn’t too loose, or you’ll have floppy protectors when you make your final cuts.IMG_5772

Ensure all three pieces of belt are centred over your toe stop hole under your skate. Also ensure the position of all three pieces don’t have big gaps in between around your toe. Adjust the angle of your strips to get the coverage you want.

When you are happy with the position, use tape to secure your pieces. Flip your skate over and stab a hole through all three pieces to mark where you will cut for the toe stop.IMG_5773

On the top of your skate, mark the cuts for your two side straps and your top strap. You want your two side pieces to butt up against each other when it’s all laced together. (If you position your middle piece exactly where you want it to sit on the top of your skate, you won’t need to mark that cut). Don’t worry about marking lace holes at this point.

Assemble bottom portion of toe cover

IMG_5774Cut your belt into strips and mount them onto your toe stop

When you pull apart the three paper strips, it should look something like the photo to the right. Use this to cut your leather pieces to size. I add an extra 1/8 inch on each end when I cut, in case I made an error on measuring because you’ll be trimming to make it look neat and tidy once it’s all assembled. On the toe-stop-side of your strips, mark your toe stop hole and cut it about a 1/2 to 3/4 inch from the hole.

IMG_5780

A closeup view shows how cutting a small hole in your straps allows the pieces to be threaded onto the toe stop nipple and will hold in place.

Cut a hole in each strip for your toe stop. (This will be hard if your belt is thick and rigid. Don’t cut yourself!) Make the hole big enough to just fit over the first thread of your toe stop nipple, but small enough so you have to turn the leather strap to make it go up the nipple.

Once you have all three holes cut, thread the strips onto your toe stop taking care to use the order as illustrated by the paper template above (middle strip should be the last one you twist on). Twist your toe stop nut on next then turn your toe stop into your skate, adjust the height and tighten.

You want the straps under your skate to be as close to the nut as possible (or next to your skate if your plates use a hex key adjustment). Position them accordingly before moving onto the next step.

Assemble top portion of toe cover

IMG_5781

View of the assembled cover after the lace holes have been punched.

Flip your straps up and over your skate. Position them so the three pieces fully cover your toe, with no gaps. Layer the pieces according to the paper template above. When you have them positioned how you like them, mark your lace holes. Your middle strip needs four holes, your side pieces need two holes each and you want to do your best to line them all up. This will take a little guessing because the straps will be covering the holes you need to mark. Take your time to estimate. It’s okay if your holes are a little off; tightly lacing them (I use wax laces) will help keep it sturdy.

You could also do this step before you attach the pieces to the toe stop. However I do it in this order because I want to pull the straps up as tight as possible, then position the lace holes. Your laces hold everything in position and if your holes were inaccurate, the toe protector may shift more than you like.

View from the top. The laces also go through the bottom middle strip to securely fasten it to the boot.

View from the top. The laces also go through the bottom middle strip to securely fasten it to the boot.

Cut your lace holes using a leather punch or nail and hammer. (You can remove them from your skates to do this step or leave them attached to your toe stop). Once the holes are punched, lace your covers to your skates.

Finish up with tape to protect the exposed laces from being torn. Trim any excess belt to make the presentation look neat and tidy.

Done! Now do the other skate.

What’s great about this project is the pieces can be rotated to your other skate as they start to wear down. (We all have a favourite knee to fall on, that toe protector will wear down first.) Or you could just buy another belt and replace individual straps as needed.

Assembled unit from the side.

Assembled unit from the side.

Toe protectors are meant to get scuffed, torn and beat up. They also cost anywhere from $20 – $40. These ones cost me $10 plus 2 hours to make. While they may not be the prettiest, they are very practical. But I’m sure you creative derby peeps will find some unique second hand belts to give your toe protectors some personality!

Happy crafting! Post a link with a photo if you do the project!

Here is the wear on my toe stop protectors after over a year of skating. You'll notice I'm due to rotate some pieces to the other skate but they have held up well. Tape protects the exposed laces from getting torn. They aren't the prettiest, but they are super practical for the rought floors I skate on.

Here is the wear on my toe protectors after over a year of skating. You’ll notice I’m due to rotate some pieces to the other skate but they have held up well. Tape protects the exposed laces from getting torn. They aren’t the prettiest, but they are super practical for the rough floors I skate on.

DIY big kid customization PART II: Installing roller skate plates

This is part two of a series on roller skate plates. Normally I like to include all info on a single topic into one blog post but this topic is just too detailed and I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone. Part one talked about plates, sizing and different ways to mount them. Part two I’m going to share my own experience in mounting my plates, as well as how to adjust DA45 trucks that have an adjustable pivot pin.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not an expert, I’m just sharing what I did. It seemed to work but there may be some blatant errors in my methods. Any experts out there? Please correct me so I can keep the info accurate for others!

Things you’ll need

  • Plates
  • Mounting Hardware
  • Cushions
  • Screwdriver
  • Ruler
  • Tape
  • Pencil/marker
  • Skate tool
  • Additional wrenches that fit your hardware (may vary depending on your plate model)
  • Drill and drill bit (Bit should be sized appropriately according to the plate manufacturer’s directions)
  • Something to trim the bolts after installation. Dremmel, bolt saw thingy of some sort
  • Rag
  • New laces (you’re taking apart your skates so you may as well replace your laces)
  • A friend to help you and for moral support

Step 1: Take apart your skates

Take off all your laces, tape, toe stops, wheels and hangers until you’re left with an empty plate. Save your cushions if you want to use them on your new plates. You can read more about how to take apart your skates here.

Step 2: Trace the outline of your existing plate

I was a virgin at all this so I decided the more markings on my skate to help centre my new plate, the better. I just used a pencil.

After everything’s removed, you can outline your existing plates.

Step 3: Remove the plate

Using whatever tools needed (I needed a screwdriver and skate tool) remove the plate from your skate. Make sure you take note of positions of washers, etc. because you’ll be installing similar hardware back on in the same fashion.

To get to the toe hardware inside the boot, shift the base of the boot tongue to the side to expose the hardware.

Once everything is removed, give the bottom of your boot a cleaning; careful not to erase your pencil lines.

I used a screwdriver and skate tool to remove the plate

Dirty and gross. Use this opportunity to clean them up!

Step 3a: Fill in your old holes

I didn’t do this step but in the articles below there are some suggestions as to what to use to fill them in. But I’ve heard a hot glue gun will work or any other adhesive-type material that will fill and harden appropriately.

Step 4: Decide where your axles are going to sit

I literally stood on my new plate wearing my boot (I re-laced my skate for this step) and freely moved my foot around until a) the front axle was positioned near the base of my big toe and then b) shifted slightly until the axles felt in a natural position for my feet.

I strictly went by feel. I sort of bounced and shifted my feet around in my boot so I could see if the axles were in a natural position to easily take off from a jump. Having an extra set of hands at this point is helpful so you can hang onto them if you slide off the unsecured plate and they can mark the positioning of the axles on the side of your boot so you can repositioning it after you mark your centerline.

After I made my axle marks I compared both plate positions on each boot to ensure they were positioned the same (front to back) by measuring the plate position from the back of the heal.

I found one was shifted a little far forward than the other so I marked an average position between the two and then stood on my axles again for a final check.

You may have to do this step several times to find out what front/back position you want your axles in. Try far forward, centre and rear mounts so you can feel the difference. Don’t forget to refer to the references in my first article for info on the different mounts.
**Edited to add: thanks to Steph in the comments section who pointed out there is a ‘left’ and a ‘right’ plate for the Avengers. Check your mounting instructions carefully or check with the manufacturer to ensure you put the right plate on the right foot. (Thankfully I got it right the first time)

Step 5: Determine your boot centerline

I initially tried to use existing markings to determine the centerline for my boots. I had a hell of a time with it. I don’t know if it’s because my skates are well-worn and stretched, or because my right foot is a ½ size bigger than my left, but one skate would always be way off centre compared to the other every time I measured.

So instead, I marked the centre of the heal on both boots, then I put the boots on and marked where the space was between my second toe (next to the big toe) and the third toe. Make sure you lace up your skates for this step so your feet are sitting as they normally would in your boots.

Using a ruler I drew a straight line from the heal centerline to my new front markings. Doing it this way I found the centerlines mirrored each other on the boots.

NOTE: I PAINED over the axle positioning and centering for HOURS. This was easily the hardest part.

After I had them centered to the best of my ability, I found how different my centerlines were from the factory markings. So I was either way off or the factory markings were off. Regardless, I took a deep breath and continued on my brave journey.

Once you think you have your desired position, you can tape your plates to your skate and walk around them on a bit to be sure because once you hit the next step, there is no going back!

You can see by my centerline, it doesn’t match with the factory centre markings. I lined up the front centre with my toes in my boot.

**UPDATE April 18/12 This is Amanda’s advice from the comment section. I wanted to include it as well in my main post because it’s great info… “The easiest way to measure your centre line is to determine where you want your front axles to be. Mark those points and draw a line horizontaly across the boot between them. Measure the centre point of that line and mark it. Draw a line down the sole of the boot from the centre point of the heel to that centre point. That’s your centre line. The centre line will always be different depending on how far forward or back you want to place your front axles.”

RESOURCE

Quadskating.com: How to centre roller skate plates (article)

Step 6: Prepare to drill

This is what I SHOULD have done… positioned the plates according to my markings onto the boot and then wrapped 20 rounds of duct tape all the way around the boot to secure them in place.

But I didn’t.

Afraid to ruin my beautiful leather boot, I loosely taped the plate in place to use as a guide for drilling, confident of my drilling abilities.

On my first attempt at drilling through the bottom of the boot, the plate came loose and wiggled everywhere and forced me to stop and reposition the plate again.

So don’t do that. I should have learned from that mistake and super-taped the plate on the boot.

Instead I opted to mark the holes with a pen and drill the holes without the plate in place.

If any of you handy-er derby girls have a workbench with a vice to hold your skate in place, that’s most helpful. I did my drilling on the living room floor holding the skate with my free hand.

Going slow and steady, I managed to drill all the holes. However, with my lack of skill and experience, I realized my drilling wasn’t completely accurate and my holes were off.

Drilling for plates isn’t like installing Ikea furniture where you have a little wiggle room a 1/16 of an inch on either side of your mark.

Well crap.

Step 7: Mounting the plates on the boot

Luckily my drilling wasn’t TOO far off and I was able to muscle my plates onto the bolts I inserted into the boots. We’ll see if this slight adjustment will have any long-term effects on my skates, but I think I only have about 10 months of life left in these boots anyway.

I ended up using the bolts from my previous plates as they were exactly the same as the new bolts that were provided and they fit into the new plates. As a result I didn’t have to track down something to trim the ends of the bolts as manufacturers supply super-long mounting hardware that will need to be cut after installation.

Once I inserted the bolts into the boots I realized that some of the inner sole was going to have to be trimmed out so the bolt would recess easier to be flush so it wouldn’t dig into my foot.

As a test, I fully tightened one bolt and while the bolt did some work at removing the sole as it was recessing, there was still lots of debris in there to keep me from getting the bolt fully flush.

So I grabbed a little knife and carved a small portion of sole material out immediately surrounding each hole inside my boot.

That seemed to help and I continued tightening the hardware on each skate until it was tight and the heads were flush inside my boot.

RESOURCES

Quadskating.com? Drilling roller skate plate mounting holes (article)

Sin City Skates: DIY Plate Mounting (PDF)

Step 8: Admire your big kid customization

I was mentally exhausted after this process and immediately vowed to never do it again. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind and try to tackle it again.

So pretty!

Step 9: Put everything back together

Now you can put on your NEW hangers, wheels and toe stops and do your final tweaking of the action of your skates.

Depending on your plate, you will need to figure out your new tightness for your trucks and, in the case of my new plates, adjust your pivot pin. My old nylon plates merely had the trucks seated within the pivot cup. The new plates allowed me to adjust how deep the pivot pin sits within the cup.

It’s not a hard adjustment to do, but difficult to explain. So check out these articles and videos on how to adjust your plates!

Leadjammer Skates: Pivot pin adjustment (article)

Create-A-Skate.com: Improperly adjusted pivot pin can cost you a king pin (article)

Adjusting the action of your skates

Final results!

I’ve been skating on the new setup for about a month now and I really love them! I think I’m going to have to play more with the truck action because these new plates are super-responsive so I don’t necessarily have to have the trucks loose for more turning action. If I can tighten my trucks and still maintain good turning power, it will give me more overall stability.

The weight of the plates feel no different from my previous set and I’m finding I’m a bit lighter on my feet (due to the change in positioning of the axles under my feet? Maybe!)

And the white plates look really cool 😀

That’s my plate-change journey! Questions, comments or advice? Please post in replies! I found the biggest challenge was finding a single article with all the information I need to do this process so I’m hoping to add to update these posts as more info becomes available! Share! Share! Share!

As requested in the comments section, here is a bottom photo of my mounted plate…

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DIY big kid customization PART I: Selecting roller skate plates

This is part one of a series on roller skate plates. Normally I like to include all info on a single topic into one blog post but this topic is just too detailed and I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone with a massive post. Part one is going to talk about plates, sizing and different ways to mount them. Part two I talk about my own experience in mounting my plates, as well as how to adjust DA45 trucks that have an adjustable pivot pin.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not an expert, I’m just sharing what I researched. There may be some blatant errors in my info. Any experts out there? Please correct me so I can keep the info accurate for others!

Not being able to afford a new set of boots and plates and my existing boots still in decent shape, I decided to just upgrade my plates. As CRDA skater Negative Nancy told me, (paraphrased) skating is much easier when you’re not fighting with your equipment. And it’s true! After many truck adjustments and changing cushions, I felt still really weighed down by my skates. It was time to try something new.

So I ordered these babies.

Sure Grip Magnesium Avengers

This is the first post of what is going to be a shit-tonne of information. I found this whole ordeal of selecting and installing my plates pretty exhausting and even now, over a month since taking on the task, I’m not sure if I would do it again.

I found I had to do a lot of research and glean information from here and there, because selecting plates and how you mount them is an extremely individual choice!

Should you get new plates?

If you’re wanting to upgrade your skates but not wanting to shell out for a whole new package, it’s a great way to save some money. It’s a personal choice, really. But for me, I felt my skates were limiting me a bit. I wanted to turn harder and faster and they just weren’t cooperating with me; hence my decision to change.

The plates I chose are double-action 45 degree trucks, which means 2 cushions per axle and the kingpins are at a 45 degree angle. This model also has an adjustable pivot pin, which allows a bit more tweaking of your skates. I’ve never skated on anything but 15 degree in derby and borrowed another skater’s 45 degree setup to make sure I didn’t hate them. After skating on them I decided to do more research before making my purchase.

Luckily I like to read on the interwebs and I found some articles that talk about the kinds of plates that are available and their pros and cons. It’s important to analyze what your current setup is NOT doing for you and then try and find a product that fits what you want. Read. Read. Read. Better yet, ask to borrow skates that have a different setup from your own to get a feel for the difference.

For me, weight was a huge issue so I had to find a lightweight plate model. I also wanted to stop fighting with my cornering and I read that 45 degree trucks allow you to turn with less force. So the Sure Grip Magnesium Avengers were a great fit for me

Here’s some articles about plates and trucks to help you get started on your research…

Plates in Brief

Sure Grip: Plates? (PDF)

Anatomy 101: Skate Plates (article)

Leadjammer Skates: What’s all this noise about plates (article)

Quadskating.com: Quad roller skate trucks (article)

Sin City Skates: 45 Degree Kingpins (PDF)

What size of plates do I order?

I wanted to go to a short forward mount, which was to give better response, agility and maneuverability. I thought I was ordering the right size for such a mount, but then after receiving my plates I realized I should have gone one size smaller. Again, you have to do your research to figure out what size of plate is best for the kind of mount you want to do.

In the end I think it turned out well though because if I did go a size smaller, it would have handicapped my skating for a longer period.

The manufacturer of your plate should have a handy-dandy chart on what size plate to order based on your skate size. Look for ‘plate specification’ documents for info like that, as per this example.

What’s short forward, you ask?

Essentially you are ordering a plate that’s a size smaller from what you would normally skate and then you mount them closer to the front of your boot so the front axle is more forward of the ball of your foot (base of your big toe). It forces you to stay on the balls of your feet more and better turn radius because your wheels are closer together.

I’ve also read that it allows more power when pushing.

WARNING! This setup is not for new skaters as there is more empty space at your heal with this setup, meaning if you aren’t always weighted forward, you will not have your wheels at the back of your heal to catch you if you lean back.

Even though I didn’t order the right size plate, I decided to do the short forward mount as best I could with what I had.

RESOURCES

Quadskating.com: Where to mount roller skate plates (article)

Green Wheels Magazine: Skate Plates (article)

Derbylife.com: Ask An Expert: Plate Mounting – Short/Forward vs Standard Mounting (article)

Make your purchase!

The good news is if you make a mistake and hate your new plates, you will likely have a market to sell them within your league. But if you do your research thoroughly, I bet you’ll pick the right ones!

Make sure you double-check what the seller supplies with the plates, especially if you’re buying them used. Make sure that cushions and mounting hardware are included and if it isn’t, purchase the appropriate kits to complete the set!

Check back for Part II where I share my (stressful) experience of mounting my own plates.

Jumble Jam

Hi readers. A lot has been happening the last couple weeks so here’s a jumble of thoughts and things that’s been going on.

Last game of 2011

At December 3rd’s bout in Medicine Hat our team came out with a win which was so amazing. While our first half was a little inconsistent, during the second half our entire team meshed and things we have been working on so hard came to fruition. Watching jam after jam, every play was executed in textbook format. It was a beautiful thing and I was so proud of everyone.

The crappy thing, well for me, about that game is that I pulled myself out after the first half. I took a nasty blow to the back of the head at the end of the first half which resulted in another skater falling over my head. For the curious, you can see it below. (Jam starts at the 42:00 mark, crash happens just after the 43:00 mark)

At the time of the hit I remember thinking that my neck doesn’t bend like that, even on a good day and at half-time I was met with shakey knees, dizzines and nausea. After getting checked out by the EMTs and chatting with my coaches, I decided it wasn’t worth risking a second blow and further injury.

It was a good decision as the ride home was rough and I could barely move the next day. After a visit to the doctor, it was determined I didn’t have a concussion (whew!) but had a pretty nasty case of whiplash. X-Rays for precaution and a few chiropractic and massage appointments later and I’m feeling next-to-my-old-self. In my follow up my chiro didn’t notice anymore swelling in my neck and he’s given the okay to do some light contact.

Crosby’s off skates again

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins has suffered a setback from his head injury, which happened in January. He made his return to game play in November but announced yesterday post-concussion symptoms have returned and he’s now out indefinitely.

I just have to say what an amazing role model he is for professional and amateur athletes, contact sports in particular. I’ve seen my peers in roller derby skate with concussions, broken noses and the like. I have to admit, I get why they do it.

For one, it’s hard to pull yourself out of a sport you love so much. It’s also hard to pull yourself out because in many leagues, you’re competing for a roster position with all the other skaters. If you pull out, will you be considered a ‘wimp?’ I know it crossed my mind with my recent incident.

Whether we like it or not, the pressure to perform for your team is there at the amateur level. And I’m sure there are many who still have the view that if you don’t have an ankle dangling from the bone or blood pouring from your face, you should be contributing. Concussions are invisible, as are many other injuries one can acquire in roller derby. Those with that kind of mindset are not only putting themselves at risk, but others who are around them as their focus and skill will not be 100%. Even if they put themselves back into the game with the best intentions, they become a liability skating injured.

But Crosby is changing people’s view on such injuries, showing it’s okay to take time off, get better and you CAN come back just as strong if you stay dedicated to a plan to make yourself get better. Even off skates, he’s an amazing ambassador to sport… ALL sports… and I hope amateur coaches and players take notice.

Skating with an injury is just dumb.

Gear talk

Old & new kneepads. I was most surprised how the exterior protective cap was stretched out.

New kneepads!

Speaking of injuries, I FINALLY replaced by kneepads. I honestly thought I could maybe get a couple more months out of my old ones. But looking at them side-by-side I can see now how horribly stretched out and compacted they were.

Admittedly, I added some foam of my own inside my old pads to try and extend the life. It actually worked okay and I got 1.5 years out of them.

*DISCLAIMER Don’t do what I did. It was stupid and could of horribly backfired. I’m not going to try and extend the life of my kneepads by inserting foam ever again.

New plates!

During my week off skates I decided to give my skates some TLC. So I pulled ALL the tape off of them and I gave them some love. But it was also to give them a good inspection to see if I could get another year out of the boots.

Giving some love. I had A LOT of layers of tape on my babies. I don't remember the last time they were neeked.

Minor repairs aside, they’re still doing okay, but I’ve been saving some pennies in anticipation for an upgrade so I’ve decided to get some new plates.

Sure Grip Magnesium Avenger with 45 degree DA45 trucks.

Pretty, right? These magnesium babies are lightweight and the trucks have 45 degree double-action stuff on it. The axles are closer together than my previous pair and I’m excited on how this will change my footwork and derby stance. (I’ll have to lean more forward and the shorter axle distance means tighter turning)

What’s great about roller skates is that you can take them apart, so if I decide to get new boots next year, I can take these plates off and attach them to the new boots. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures when I do the install. I hope they come soooon!

Less than 20 days until the end of my year of fitness goals!

I’m excited to be compiling info in anticipation of a wrap-up post for my year of fitness goals. Having to take time off for my injury has made me feel incredibly behind with exercise and diet, but yesterday I hit up the gym once again and it was like I never left! It felt great and I’m almost ready for another weight increase. And I’m ridiculously excited to write some new goals for 2012 which will include some serious muscle-building and change in diet.

Watching the skaters at the Blood and Thunder World Cup also inspired me. It’s so exciting to think many who were there competing at a national level were where I was only a few years ago. As a result, focusing on my head game and adding more skills to my tool box that I can pull out instinctually are on my list. I’ve contributed two years as a board member to the league, so I’m also looking at possibly backing down from that so I can focus more on my skating. I think that will help a lot.

****

Thems my jumbly thoughts! I’d love to hear what you think about the pressure to play injured (Have you had pressure to do it?) or any new goals, gear, etc that you’re racing towards for the end of 2011!

Until next time, readers! ❤

Trucks, hangers, cushions – taking apart your skates

When I first got my skates a year and a half ago, I played with different ways to adjust them to improve my agility. The hardness of your cushions and adjusting the action on your plates are the two common ways to customize your skates. However at the time, the other obvious way for me to achieve fast wheels with quick turning was to adjust the nuts on my wheels slightly loose so they had a little wiggle action, like this:

It seemed like a good idea at the time and I’ve been skating with my wheels like that ever since. What I didn’t realize, this seemingly harmless adjustment was damaging my axles. It wasn’t until Rollercon11, when I showed my skates to one of my instructors, that she pointed out my wheels had way too much wiggling in the wrong direction and I should inspect my hangers and possibly get new ones. Wiggling like this…

Even with the nuts as tight as they could go, this is what my wheels do. The loose wheels wore down the axle of my hanger so much that you could visibly see the damage when compared to a new hanger.

Damaged one on top, good one on the bottom.

To fix the problem, I had to take apart my skates to replace the hangers. Following is a short tutorial on taking apart your skates. It’s a good idea to take your skates apart semi-regularly to inspect the parts, even if you aren’t having any problems, as a small crack can turn into a bigger problem if it’s not spotted quickly.

suregripsupercushions.1

Soft cushions give you more turning ability. If one of your cushions is shaped like a cone, more action will be in your skates

This is also the process you use to replace your skate cushions (also called bushings). The hardness of your cushions, mixed with how tight you adjust the truck nuts will allow you to customize your ride. The softest cushions will give you more turning action but less stability. You can customize further by choosing conical-shaped cushions, allowing for even more action.

If you are rolling on skates with adjustable pivot pins, you will also need adjust your pivots after going through the process below. (EG: Plates which have adjustable pivots include Avenger, XK-4 DA 45 and Invaders.) Check out this great video from Roller Girl on how to adjust your pivots.

Here is another video by Fluster Cluck on adjusting your pivots.

Before you get started…

Removing your wheels will make this job easier, so do that first. You may as well inspect your wheels and your bearings as well.

If you’ re happy with your current skate setup, write down your truck settings. Similar to adjusting your toe stops, your truck settings can be personalized as well. The more loose your trucks are, the easier it is to turn – however you may be less stable on your skates and looser trucks may inhibit your speed. For more information on how to adjust the action on your trucks, check out this video!

How to Adjust Your Trucks from Minnesota RollerGirls on Vimeo.

If you like where they are at, measure the distance of the nut with a tape measure or count the kingpin threads which stick out from the nut.

My front trucks are looser than my back. Make sure to record the position of both nuts. Regardless of how you set up your truck adjustment, it should be the same between the left and right skate.

Using your skate tool, loosen and remove the two nuts on your truck from each kingpin.

Lefty loosey

Pull off your first washer and cushion to reveal the hanger, then pull out the hanger. Then remove the second cushion and washer from each kingpin.

The reveal of the first cushion.

The skate hanger pulls right off, revealing the second cushion.

Easy, right? Don’t forget to take this opportunity to clean your parts ‘n pieces! Inspect your pivot cups (the part that your hanger tip is inserted into) for wear and cracks, ensure your plate is secure to your boot and look for cracks or wear on the plate itself.

The bare skate. You can see the two pivot cups next to each kingpin.

These are the cushions and washers. The hardness of your cushion affects the cornering of your skate. You can see I use conical-shaped cushions which get installed last.

To reassemble put everything back on in the opposite order, adjusting your trucks how you like them with the truck nut. If you are rolling on trucks with an adjustable pivot pin, make those adjustments after you tighten your truck nut (see first video posted above.)

Finally, put your wheels back on and tighten the wheel nuts so you get maximum spin but no wiggling in your wheels!

All back in one piece and pretty!

Remember that your skates are meant to be taken apart! For more information on other skate maintenance, check out this page.

How to adjust and/or change your roller skate toe stops

Tools for the job!

Using your toe stops is essential in derby and therefore should not be neglected. Between figuring out the correct length for your skating style and keeping them from falling off mid-practice, toe stops can be almost as confusing as choosing your first set of wheels.

Yesterday I received a new set of Gumballs, so I figured I’d share with you how I tech my toe stops while I’m changing them out. Please note that if you ask five different skaters on their chosen length, you will get five different answers. So the key is for YOU to keep a log whenever you adjust your tippy toes so you can track what works and what doesn’t.

My Current Toe Stop Settings

It’s helpful to know your most common starting position when you are adjusting your stops because often one toe stop will be longer than the other based on what foot you put in front.

I usually start with my right foot in front. This is a photo of me about to go down into my starting stance. See how my left heel is naturally much higher than my right heel in my stance? My toe stops are different lengths to reflect this positioning.

At a gear session with Coach Pauly, he said a good starting point for your front skate is to have your back wheels the same height as four fingers when you are up on your toes. That is what my right skate is currently set at. My left skate sits higher, which means your toe stop will be adjusted closer to your skate compared to the right skate.

Have I confused you yet?

Long story short, the closer your toe stop is to your skate, the higher your heel will be when stand on your stops. You need to find your balance of where you are comfortable when you stand on your toes.

There are many ways to gauge and record your toe stops… do what works best for you!

Any of these ways works to measure your toe stop height

Cherri’s Toe Stops (prior to changing them)

RIGHT FOOT
4.5 cm from skate
9 threads from skate
4 fingers heel height

LEFT FOOT
4 cm from skate
8 thread from skate
More than 4 fingers heel height

Now that I’ve established my current settings, it’s time to change to a new brand of toe stops. My stats will change on the thread count because of the brand change, but I plan to keep the distance and heel height the same as my previous brand.

Removing Your Toe Stops

I don’t like the little wrenches that come with many skate tools. They just don’t offer enough torque to loosen and tighten my stops effectively. Plus I don’t want to strip the nut of the skate. I always carry a large wrench in my bag for this job. I find it works best.

Lefty loosey

Once your nuts are loose, unscrew the toe stop from your skate then remove the nut and washer from the toe stop. They will be a little gunky so I take this opportunity to clean them and I also wipe out inside the hole of the skate.

Paper towel works fine. I don't use water.

Screw your nut and washer on your new toe stop and position it further than necessary down the stem of the toe stop. Remember, the washer goes between the nut and the skate.

Then insert the toe stop into your skate and screw it in until the desired height is reached. If your nut gets in the way, position the nut further down the stem.

Check your height

Once you are happy with your toe stop height, finger-tighten the nut down to the base of the skate.

Get it as tight as you can with your fingers so it won't move when you tighten it fully.

Using your wrench, tighten your nut. If you have finger-tightened it enough, the toe stop shouldn’t rotate as your tighten. But if it happens you may need to hold the toe stop in position while you tighten so it doesn’t move.

Right tighty.

When tightening my toe stops, I really put my back into it. I hate having to keep checking them to make sure they aren’t getting loose. So I lay my skate on its side, put my foot on the toe of the skate and pull up as hard as I can with my wrench.

Heave-ho!

If you have toe protectors on your skate…

DO NOT place them in between your nut and skate. The leather becomes compressed over time and it will slide out. Then the extra slack between the skate and nut will make your toe stop come loose. I just let mine hang loose. I guess I could also cut them off since the rest of the cover is secured by tape. I just haven’t done it yet.

Leave the piece of leather out of your nuts. (hehe)

Last step: Remeasure and log your new toe stop settings

RIGHT FOOT
4.6 cm from skate
5 threads from skate
4 fingers heel height

LEFT FOOT
4.1 cm from skate
2 threads from skate
More than 4 fingers heel height

Hope this helps some of you tech your own toe stops!

All pretty and ready to be broken in!

A love letter to my skates

Left: My skates on their inaugural run. Right: My skates as of this morning.

Dear skates,

I feel compelled to write you a letter. Please forgive my disjointed thoughts as it’s sometimes hard to explain how I feel about you.

We’ve been together for a year now and I feel it odd I haven’t named you. Inanimate extensions of my life often get named, cars in particular, as I’ve had a Katie the K Car and a Patty O Brien, a green Dodge Neon.

But you have remained nameless.

Perhaps it’s because you have never been lifeless. Perhaps it’s because when I slip you on my feet, you become a natural extension of my body. You move how I move. I control you yet you control me. Without each other we cannot portray freedom, motion and power in the same way we do when we are not conjoined.

It may be a little creepy, but I like to abuse you.

I bang the backs of your wheels into the floor while I’m lacing up to make sure my heel is locked in tight. I pull so hard on your strap across the top of my foot, I can practically hear the stitching heave. I scrape your leather skin on the roughest of surfaces when I fall.

I’ve taken you through mud. I’ve taken you through puddles. But in my defense, I’ve also taken you apart and wiped and cleaned every piece of you.

Sometimes after a practice I toss you into my skate bag so hard that I’m certain I’m giving you minor nicks and cuts from all the other stuff in my bag. Sometimes I do it out of frustration; other times I do it because practice went late and I only have minutes to get out of there. I am sorry for the days you have to live in that space, mixed with all my nasty-smelling gear. But out of all my pads, tape, tools and wheels, you will always be the sweetest-smelling item in there.

I remember the first day I took you out for a test run.

You look a lot different now than you did a year ago, which is to be expected. Even though you are now stretched, scuffed and dirty, I love you more now than I did when you were shiny and new.

I love how your skin molded so nicely to my feet; with it gently curving around the bunion on my right foot. There is a perfect impression of all my footly imperfections inside each boot.

That’s what makes you unique and truly mine forever.

I’ve made some adjustments since I’ve first met you… I changed your laces, upgraded your cushions and changed your toe stops. Your toes were taped to protect your skin where it tends to get worn the most. I remember I thought I was smart in taping a single row of tape completely around the bottom part of your boot, in the hopes it would further protect you from all the elements outdoor skating brings. I also remember how I cried inside when I went to change that tape and part of your skin came off with it. It devastated me that something I thought would be doing good, did you harm.

It’s no secret that I’ve had some wheel issues. I hope one day I will find the answers I’m looking for. But I find it fitting that my first pair of wheels, my outdoor wheels, are still my favourites by a long shot. Like you, they also look a lot different from their first run. The graphics on the outer rim have long since been worn off; the sharp edges of the wheels are worn down like a bald tire; the skating surface is nicked from sharp gravel that outdoor skating brings. But despite their imperfections and your imperfections and my imperfections, I feel magic when we come together.

Is that weird? I hope not.

One day, I may have to quit you. But I don’t foresee that being for a long, long time. Even if the reason I brought you into my life no longer exists, I feel I will still use and abuse you in every way. Even if the reason I brought you into my life outlives your stitching or plates or body, I will never toss you aside. Like my first pair of roller skates, you will be held in high esteem; carefully tucked away for a grandchild to find many years from now.

I hope the scrapes, scars and tape residue will give them a peak what my life was like at this moment in time. Because I’ve been pretty lucky to be given the opportunity to get to know you, skates. Right now, aside from my family and closest friends, I probably spend the most time with you.

Thanks for everything you’ve given me.

Love,
Cherri