This is my first new pair of skates in four years, which makes me pretty stodgy.
Most speed skaters have new skates every two and a half years, and new components oftener than that. Derby skaters might buy new skates three times in three years, because the first two sets of skates a derby girl buys are always too big. Speed skaters expect pain in the feet; they’re a bit like ballerinas that way. Derby girls of course expect pain everywhere else, but it doesn’t occur to them that for a good fit, the pain must start with the feet.
Unless you buy good stuff right away. After seven years of skating I’ve learned. I texted my dealer, Steve at Lombard, with my skate-geek order:
Reidell 695 redlines, black, size 6.5, with shearling tongue, open toebox, velcro overstrap, leather uppers
7mm Avenger plate #2
Atom Booms wheels
Steve outgeeked me of course—he is a dealer—so he talked me into the D (wide) ball and B (narrow) heel, because as he well knows, women tend to have feet shaped like a duck’s, and men tend to have feet shaped like bricks. Who knew?
Well, anyone who’s had to buy quad skates. All skates are built on a men’s last, that is, the flat part (or “last”) on the bottom is shaped for a man’s foot. This means all women skaters have to wear EZ-Fits (neoprene half-socks) on their heels and maybe an extra pair of socks, because skate manufacturers haven’t caught up with the fact that 98% of all rollerskaters these days are derby girls. There’s nothing like slaloming and juking your way around the track, dodging hip checks and feeling your heel suddenly slide halfway across the inside of your boot. Ugh.
Of course my Fleetwood Speed Team coaches, Jack, Rowena, and Jason Countryman, helped me pick all the features. Jack unequivocally endorsed the Avenger plates. Rowena let me try on her 695 redlines—my last pair was a pair of her castoffs, as our feet are the same size. Jason, geekmaster of all things wheely, put me onto the Booms.
Let me crow about my new skates.
The 695 boots fit perfectly. The wider ball and narrower heel mean no sliding in the boot. The shearling tongue gives cushy comfort on top. I loved Rowena’s old white skates, but it’s nice to be wearing black again. Rowena is the sort of person who can wear white without getting grubby. Not I.
With the Avenger plate, I’m already tilted at the correct 45-degree skating angle, so I don’t spend so much energy tilting myself.
The Atom Booms wheels are a miracle: hard enough to roll as fast as a 95-hardness wheel, but sticky enough to grip the floor like a 66-hardness wheel.
All these things mean almost zero breaking-in time. Most of my breaking in has been about deciding whether to leave in the manufacturer’s insole, replace it with a lesser insole, or do without an insole altogether. I’ve settled on el-cheapo Dr. Scholl’s for now.
Here’s my entire gearset: skates with two sets of laces for a custom fit, toe-protectors, and gumball toe-stops; EZ-Fits; wrist-guards with heart monitor; elbow pads; kneepads; asspads with tailbone protector; and my coolio original Whip It headband, the elastic now hopelessly stretched out but still my favorite skating souvenir. I see I’ve forgotten to picture my helmet, or “brain bucket” as we call it in horse jumping. That’s because it’s currently hanging on my new bike during the speed season break.
New bike: continued on next geek-out rock.