When I got my derby skates, I took them out of the box, laced them up, and put them on. It never occurred to me that skates have to be tuned to the skater.
I’ve since learned about the anatomy of my skates, partially due to this really cool diagram drawn by epic Derby Girl Denise "Ivanna S. Pankin" Grimes for fiveonfive magazine. And they very graciously let me repost it here. It was the most helpful information I found while learning about my skates.
Here was the advice I was given by my Derby sisters.
Change out your bushings:
Bushings, or cushions, are the rubbery rings that work like shock absorbers. They come in different levels of hardness, or durometer. Harder bushings provide you some stability, but at the cost of agility. Softer bushings allow you more dexterity, but you might feel more unstable on your skates.
I was skating on the hard cushions that came on my skates. I switched them out to a medium-density bushing, which have a little more spring to them.
Loosen your trucks:
A truck is the metal piece that holds the axle. There is a hole in the center of the truck where the kingpin bolt passes through. Trucks are secured to this bolt with the action nut. The tightness of this connection affects the performance of your skates. Tighten the nut down to the trucks to add stability. But that makes it harder to turn. Loosen them for sharper turns but a little less control.
My trucks were as tight as the day I first took them out of the box. A few turns of that action nut, and I noticed an immediate difference in my ability to control where I was going.
Toe stop aren’t always for stopping:
Toe stops are often getting in my way. You need a toe stop, but—ironically—you use them most for accelerating. Push off your toe stops and run a couple steps on them to launch yourself from a standstill. There are many ways to stop without using the toe stop.
When I pay attention to my toe stop, I am finding I am touching it to the ground at times when I shouldn’t be. It slows me down. Trips me up. I am learning the other ways to stop. If all else fails, I can always rely on gravity to halt my forward momentum. I raised up my toe stop to the highest position so that I could break the habit of touching them to the ground unnecessarily.
Doesn’t this sum up what I need to do in life as well as skating? What all of us need to do? Surrender control. Give up a little stability. Accelerate. And learn different ways to stop. Fly on your skates. And in your life.