I've been working at Neon Skates in Ottawa since the shop opened. I will never quit that job, even if it means working one four-hour shift a year. I love the job.
That being said, in my years at the shop, I've noticed one thing: people are super indecisive. And I totally get it. Derby gear isn't cheap and you're taking a chance on a lot of unknowns. I bought my first fresh meat gear in about four minutes flat and the (shitty) lesson I learned was so straight forward, it's made me brutally and painfully careful in every decision. I won't even spend six bucks on laces unless I'm SURE they're gonna be good.
In the past five years, since abandoning my fresh meat crap, I've skated in the same stuff with the exception of THREE things:
1. I swapped a Triple 8 helmet for a certified helmet;
2. I ditched Gumball toe stops for Shock Stops; and
3. I switched to waxed laces.
EVERYTHING ELSE HAS STAYED THE SAME. Even my wheels.
Things you should know: I'm short, stocky, strong, surprisingly quick, my endurance is a consistent work in progress, I have good footwork, and my weight goes up and down more often than gas prices.
Boots: custom Riedell 195s to accommodate a wide, thick, and short foot. I BELIEVE in custom skates for fit and/or style because I don't like compromising.
Plates: Revenge and now that they've replaced it with the Rival, I'm going to hunt down anyone who's ditching Revenge plates and start a little emergency stockpile.
Cushions: Powerdyne Magic Cushions, red (78a) cuz I like 'em soft.
Knee pads: 187 Killers and yeah, five years. I briefly switched to Pro Designs and broke my patella. NO MORE CHANGING, though I still use the Pro Designs for outdoor skating.
Elbow pads: 187s and frankly, they're in pretty amazing condition considering all of the years.
Wrist guards: Dakine snowboarding pads because they're so minimal and lovely.
Mouthguard: Sisu 1.6 and ALSO five years. It was snow white once upon a time. Now, it's more crack mouth than white. I recently bought a new one and will finally retire this nasty thing, but it should be noted that it lasted.
Helmet: Nutcase for practices, tossed to me by a certain lovely skater from France and I feel like it's got good mojo, though I play in an S-One Lifer.
Wheels: Jukes...I mean, I have other wheels that I'll grudgingly use if I *have* to, but I don't care what they invent. Jukes, 88a on just about any surface unless it's way slick or there's crazy stick.
Toe stops: I recently bought Rx toe stops and they were not for me. Were they too different? I have no idea what's wrong with me. They worked but all I did was whine internally, so I sold them and went back to what I like, the Shock Stops.
Bearings: whatever cheap whatevers I can get as long as they spin.
Things I Don't Believe
1. Your weight should dictate what you buy.
2. Ceramic bearings are worth it.
3. Elbow pads matter.
4. Washing your gear will ruin it.
Things I Do Believe
1. CUSTOM SKATES ARE WORTH IT.
2. Taking the time to think about the dollars you spend matters.
3. Buying bazillion dollar gear is not going to make you a better skater; only practice can do that.
4. Calling or emailing Neon to ask questions you might be too embarrassed to ask is amazing. We won't laugh at you. You can disguise your voice and conceal your number if that makes you feel better.
Thing I'm Considering
It typically takes me months to make a decision. It's been a while since anything derby tickled my fancy (with the exception of the in case case), but I'm now THINKING ABOUT MAYBE CONSIDERING buying the new RADAR backpack. I feel like the only solution here is to make Dawn Cherry bring it in for me while I debate over it for the next six months and refuse to let her sell it to anyone. You can come in and look at it when it gets here, but DIBS until further notice.