Friday, March 23, 2012

RollerGirl Boom wheel review by Princess Sticky Skates


I ordered RollerGirl's new Boom wheels that are advertised to be narrowest, grippiest, lightest wheels ever.  I can tell you that they certainly are light but that's about all I can say since they went directly on the girl child's skates without even a test run for mama.

I don't know who in their right mind spends almost twice on wheels for a child's skates than the skates cost in the first place but I can tell you if happen to go to practices five days a week, have a spouse in derby, a brother in derby, a child bitching and whining because you haven't gotten time to organize that junior program yet and can't move for gear bags and hockey trees then you probably aren't in your right mind anyway.

This probably explains why I have a seven year old wheel nut.  She somehow got the idea that upgrading her gear will make her a better skater and seeing as my custom speed boots arrived just last month I can't really tell her different while maintaining a straight face. 

(I do love my new skates but ow ow ow breaking in speed boots!)

The girl has become a bit obsessive about wheels.  When she meets someone at the arena the first thing she does is look down to see how they roll.  She'll stand on the side making mental notes comparing a skater's wheels to their agility, speed and overall coolness.  While watching Shaggy try to make a get away on roller skates in an episode of old school Scooby Doo - after criticising Shaggy's lack of safety gear and calling a low block when he took out the baddie at ankle height - she rewound the tape so she could get a better look at his wheels because, as she said, 'He wasn't very good but he was sure going fast!'

When her grandmother asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she said the only thing she wants is new wheels.  Which caused a certain amount of amusing confusion and then pity when it was clarified that she was talking about roller skate wheels.

Our derby-ness as a family tends to spread out and down the family tree.  Not so much upwards.

Generally, good gear takes you far but practice takes you further.  In Princess Sticky Skates' case (yes, she has a derby name), however, the wheels do make a difference.  Her recreational skates, after two years of wear, are just starting to fit her feet but the wheels that came with them have basically disintegrated.  She's still about a year from being able to fit in really real derby skates.  Neither of us can wait.

RollerGirl Boom wheels are just a hair bigger than the original wheels that came on the girl's skates, if that gives you an idea of how little they are.  Earlier, just to see if changing the wheels was even possible on her skates, I tried on a set of Radar Flat Outs that happened to kicking around the arena.  The wheels fit the axle, but, given that Flat Outs are fairly wide, her skates looked like one of those expo monster trucks with the giant wheels that drive over and crush stacks of cars while shooting flames out their tail pipes.  While she looked adorably tuff and very derby girl (I wanted to get her a t-shirt that said, 'I may be little but I have big wheels'), the girl child complained that she had to skate like she was riding a horse or else she'd trip over her own feet and I switched them back off again.

As it turns out, RollerGirl just released their Boom wheels right when I was looking for the slimmest, lightest wheels I could find.  And they have pink cores which sealed the deal.  They arrived last week to much rejoicing and seven year old shouts of happiness, 'It's like Christmas, but better!'

I still don't know how I feel about having such sweet (pricey) little wheels on my kid's skates but the temptation to challenge somebody else to race derby orphans with me is awfully strong.  Because in her new little wheels she sure is fast.

So what does Princess Sticky Skates think of her new wheels?  Obviously, after so much deliberation and focus she has a great deal of insight on the performance of the RollerGirl Boom wheels.  I asked her just today to give me the low down.

PSS says,

They're really, really good.  I like them.  Can I go watch my show now? 

And there you have it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The thing about roller derby...

... is that it's not just about roller derby.

Derby is a community.  Of the type in which members live close enough to each other that they are practically sitting in each other laps, where everyone knows every one's business, and nobody can do anything with tongues wagging.  Except that the living closely is more metaphorical in derby, although we do often sit on each other's laps.

Close communities are beautiful.  They cushion its members against depression, loneliness and lack of after parties.  They give us families that we can rely on to lend us a lace for our skates or a truck to help us move.  Communities all pull together to get something accomplished and share in the rewards.  There is a lovely feeling in having a group of people who share your goals and passions, that they will be there for you with the unerring regularity of practices and games.

Communities can also be cruel.  Their existence depends on conformity and of its members adding value to the community. Those who do not contribute, fit in or happen to break any of the many written or unwritten rules face consequences.  The worst of which is being ostracized or banished.  

Derby, in particular, is a community that grows not out of necessity and the need for basic survival, but out of passion.  Derby doesn't need to be, but we'll move heaven and hell to make it happen.

Derby isn't just the skaters for the skaters.  It isn't.  Derby happens because all the work that is done off skates by skaters and non-skaters alike.  Officials, league boards and committees, volunteers, fans, and hours and hours of leg work in planning, talking to municipal authorities, paying bills, researching, teaching, promoting, designing flyers, posters, tickets and uniforms, talking to other leagues, setting up bouts, coaches, venues, merchandising, fundraisers and even more talking and planning trying to work out what the community wants and how to do it.  And fielding endless questions and complaints from a world that wants this enormous cultural phenomena that is flat track roller derby brought to them, conveniently packaged and sanitized for the masses.  All. From. Volunteers.

Skaters do much of this work.  We have to, of course, otherwise we would not be skaters.  But to say that skaters are volunteers is fudging over the detail that skaters actually pay to skate in addition to all the unpaid work they do for their leagues and derby in general.  In addition to athletic training.  In addition to having lives and families. (Who, incidentally, tend to get dragged into the derby vortex.  In my league we now have skating husbands, skating wives, skating sisters and brothers, skating mamas, skating dads and skating children.)

Still, there is no way the skaters can do it all. 

It's mindboggling the time and resources that are put into this sport.  The know-how that has been shared, the thousands upon thousands of volunteer hours, the generosity and competition and love and hurt feelings and some extremely tenacious people who have been put down only to rise up again even stronger.  And being a community of passion rather than necessity, its all been done loudly, firmly, and with as many mistakes as triumphs.

I just want to say thank you to my fellow skaters, the officials, the volunteers, and the fans.  This community has given more than a sport, more than exercise and a reason to live healthy.  It's given me some great friends, some tentative love for my own body, self respect and more paperwork and meetings than I had ever imagined I might find in my lifetime.  I've shed a lot of tears but I've also, somehow, become someone I might possibly admire.

Go me.  And go you, dear derby community.  You're amazing.

Because roller derby is about much more than just roller derby.