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Equipment Care and Maintenance

Take Care of Your Gear

Let’s face it- derby girl sweat is akin to nuclear waste. I never thought I could smell so bad. Seriously. Especially my wrist guards. Good God!

The most effective way to keep your gear from smelling like ass, and last for a long time, is preventative maintenance and care.

Don’t leave your gear in your bag or in your car where it is subjected to extreme temperatures. Let me paint a picture- after prakky, your gear is soaked, you take it off, throw it in your bag with your skates, throw it in your car and forget it until your next practice. Now, whether you live in a hot or cold climate- the moisture from your pads and skates is going to condense, rusting the metal parts of your gear, and/ or creating a fabulous environment for mold. That’s right- MOLD. I have seen girls open their bags and have mold spots on the sides. Furthermore (and yes, I’m hoping to completely freak you out), I have even heard of leagues having outbreaks of ringworm from not washing their gear.

Girls, seriously. Whenever your gear is sweaty (including your helmet), take it out of your bag after practice and at the very least, lay it out to dry. This alone will cut way down on odor. For extra credit, spray it with something antibacterial. Febreeze, or I use vodka. Cheap vodka, mind you, but vodka, as the alcohol kills the bacteria that causes odor. Yes, someone has already looked it up on the myth debunking website and found it to actually be true. It’s an old opera costume trick.

Wash your pads regularly. On a gentle cycle with hot water. I use regular detergent, I haven’t found bleach to be necessary, and it will break down the material the pads are made of. Bleach is harsh. DO NOT PUT IN THE DRYER. Just lay them out to dry.

To care for your boots, wheels and bearings:


  1. Skates need to be laid out as well when sweaty. I don’t spray them, but I pull the tongues and try to let as much air on the inside as possible.
  2. You must protect the seam that runs down the toe. If it splits, it can compromise the integrity of the skate, and the leather can start to pull away from the sole. It doesn’t really matter what you use, a leather or plastic/rubber toe guard, or I use duct tape. A few layers of tape over the toe does the trick for me.


  1. I keep a wet rag (just water) in a baggy in my gear bag to wipe off my wheels. It just seems simpler than baby wipes or “skate” wipes. And it works just fine.
  2. Again, do not subject your skates to extreme temperatures by leaving them in your car. It can shorten the life of the urethane or Poly BD that the wheels are made of. They can dry out and become hard. (As can the cushions on your plates.)


  1. All together now- Don’t leave your gear in your car- moisture is BAD for anything metal. What is metal? Bearings are metal.
  2. Look at the insides of your wheels after practice. Is there dirt and dust and hair and FUNK in them? Yes? Wipe them out with a dry rag. Just a plain dry rag will keep you from having to clean or replace your bearings as often. Dirt is bad for bearings.

I know it’s hard- and sometimes it can’t be helped to leave your gear in your car. I personally know of four girls on my league alone who have had their gear stolen. That’s too many. Whenever possible- bring it with you into work, and especially when returning home. It’s not even the expense of having to replace all the gear (keeping in mind your auto insurance does not cover personal items in your car, only homeowners/renters insurance does), it’s the thought of having to break in another pair of skates. Do you want to go through that again? Didn’t think so.

Skate Adjustment

In derby, we skate continually to the left, in a pretty tight circle. The skates most of us wear are built to help us do that. As we lean to the left, the wheels on the front and back axles should get closer together on the left sides of the skate. In order to do this, the trucks must be flexible.

Most skates’ trucks start out pretty tight. If you don’t loosen your trucks, your feet can cramp because you are fighting the skate to turn. Also, the skate will find the flexibility it needs either from the plate coming loose from the boot, or the leather coming away from the sole.

Truck adjustment is different for every skater, and it may change as your skating improves. There are no hard and fast rules, just guidelines. Generally, the front and back truck on each skate should be adjusted similarly, but the adjustment can vary from foot to foot. For instance, I like my left skates’ trucks looser than my right. I’m also finding the better my skating gets and the faster I want to go, the looser I like my trucks.

If you are fighting to turn and/or your feet are cramping- your trucks are too tight.

If you are on a straightaway and your skates feel “squirrely”, they are too loose. There is also something called “booting out”, where your truck is so loose, your boot actually hits your wheels when you lean. Super bummer, because your wheel completely stops turning when your boot hits it. (This can cause crashing and damage to the skater.)

You are looking for the sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

How to adjust your trucks:

Turn your skate over and look for the two nuts that come up out of the plate. They are at the end of the king pins. On higher end plates, this looks like a dial. For this instruction, we will use the more common example of the nut. (If you have a high end or old school plate with a hexagonal bolt or what looks like a giant screw, see the other instruction for specific types of plates, or give us a call at 206.274-8250.)

  1. Place your skate tool over the nut and place the tool so you can remember where you started, ie 12 o’clock.
  2. Start out by turning left, or counterclockwise 1/4 turn, or from 12 to 9 o’clock.
  3. Repeat on the other nut on that skate, and then move to the other skate.
  4. Skate a few laps and see if it is easier to turn, or if you feel squirrely. If it still feels tight, repeat process another 1/4 turn. If too loose, go back until you get them where you like them. Sometimes it takes some time to figure out where you like them, and again, they don’t all have to be the same, they just have to be where you feel you can skate and turn easily.