Fresh Meat 101

Buying Fresh Meat Gear 101 + more…

Welcome! So you are thinking about Roller Derby? If you choose to, you will join an amazing sport which is made up of a large group of supportive Women, Men and Children. But where you do you start? Well, by now you’ve probably found out if you have a league near you, so let’s talk gear.

Choosing gear can be daunting to say the least. There are so many options, lots of different types, price ranges, colours, designs, which one is the right one to choose?
Some of the most common questions are:
“Does spending more money mean that it will fit me better?”
“Do I have to spend an arm and a leg to get good quality?”
“What if I just want to try it? Is there a way for me to do that without spending too much?

“No spending more doesn’t necessarily mean it will fit better, but it usually means it will last longer and is better quality. However fit is the most important!”
“No you do not have to spend lots to get good quality”
“There are a variety of pricing options for this reason, spend a little to try the sport, spend more if you are committed and ready to jump in”

No two skaters are the same and no two skater’s stories are the same either. You may be just wanting to see what Derby is all about or you may be gun-hoe ready to dive in. Hopefully no matter your story, this information serves you well and helps you choose the right gear.






Our package ratings:

We have rated our packages! Why? Hopefully to make your choosing of gear a little easier.

1 STAR = Maybe Baby – I just want to test Derby, not sure if it’s for me or if I can commit. I don’t want to spend too much because if I do and it doesn’t work out then I have to try selling the gear again or it will be a lot of wasted money sitting in my wardrobe/garage. I understand this gear may not be completely ‘Derby Quality’ and I may need to upgrade things like knee pads in a month or so but that is ok. At least if I don’t like derby I have a good set of recreational gear.

2 STARS = Pretty Sure – I’ve checked it out, it sounds like the sport for me and I’m pretty sure I can commit. But I don’t want to spend too much because if I do really like it I want room in my budget to be able to upgrade my gear (mainly knee pads) within my first year of starting.

3 STARS = Keen as Mustard! – I have my derby name picked out and all. I’m ready to take this sport on. But I still don’t want to break the bank for all of my gear. Knowing that I am this keen though I want some ‘Derby Quality’ gear that will protect me throughout my next year or two of Derby

4 STARS = Ready to ROLL…. - Ok so where do I sign up! I have my leather boots, ‘Derby Quality’ Pads and the rest of my gear. No need to upgrade for at least a year or two. I’m made for Derby, finally a sport where I fit it in. 2 days, 4 hours and 3 minutes till my first training session…

5 STARS = Derby Doll – I’ve been around Derby for a while or at least I know that it is the sport for me. I don’t want to waste my time with upgrading; I just want top quality gear that I will have for years to come. I want to start with the best and know that it will still be skating strong.



You know those things with 8 wheels that roll? Haha. The low down… You don’t have to live on 2minute noodles for the next month in order to pay for a good set of skates to start derby. But you do have to spend a little if you want a pair that is comfortable and well, rolls. By a little I mean more than $120, and for Derby quality I would recommend more than $150 for kids and $250 for adults. Why? Because anything less usually comes with nasty bearings that won’t roll, a boot that will break down within your first few months of derby and you will be upgrading within your first 6 months (if not sooner) of skating.

Synthetic vs Leather: Synthetic is cheap but in most cases it is pretty durable. It makes for great starter skate material because it keeps the cost down. It doesn’t stretch however usually synthetic boots are lined with padding, this padding will usually break down or at least give a little leaving you with more room so be prepared to buy a snug boot because if you start with it loose then it’s only going to get looser.
Leather moulds to your feet over time. You also want to buy leather boots snug because when they mould or what we call in Derby ‘Break in’ then you will have a good fit and a long lasting skate. There are different quality leathers, USA leather is better than Chinese as USA leather breaks in and then holds its own, while Chinese can take a little while to break in but sometimes gives too much. But either way both will last longer and mould to your fit better than synthetic.

Protective Gear:

Knees- Falling, we teach you how to do it! Well we teach you how to do it safely in derby so that you can fall on the track and not hurt other skaters around you when you do fall. And we all fall so don’t ever think that you are exempt from this, because a big nasty skater will come along and make it her life goal to knock you over, with a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye as she does. She’s doing it lovingly I assure you...
So you want some padding in your knee pads because you will be landing on these a lot. We classify gear as Derby and Non Derby/ Recreational quality. Derby quality should give you many months if not years of knee protection, recreational quality will still protect but may need to be replaced if not upgraded within the first few weeks or months of Derby use.

Elbows- You will be taught how to safely fall to these too (usually the after math of a larger hit where you have too much momentum to knee fall only and then fall forward to your elbows too). Sounds scary but is actually one very very fun fall! It’s called a four point fall (2 knees + 2 elbows = 4). You won’t fall on your elbows or put as much impact on your elbows as your knees so you can afford to have less padding on these however it is still recommended that you have some quality elbows for when you do fall on them.

Wrists- The natural human in us seems to put our hands down at the first sign of falling, this on many occasions results in a broken wrist. To overcome this we wear wrist guards that have two splints, one on the bottom of our wrist that extends to our palm and one on the back which extends over the back of our hand. There are a few variations of wrist guards but for newer skaters and derby players I highly recommend the two splint design. Once you retrain your natural reaction of putting your hands down to falling to yours knees first you can look into some of the lower cut designs which usually only have a short splint on top and bottom or only have a palm guard with no back splint.

Helmets- There is two common helmets types worn in Derby. The most popular is the skate helmet, a multi impact helmet with a hard plastic shell that sits deep on the head so that it covers most of the forehead and then also over the back of the head to offer full head protection. This helmet comes with a soft foam liner so it absorbs impact as well as absorbing sweat when skating. This helmet can take light-medium impacts without the need or recommendation of replacing. For this reason it is recommended for derby because we do occasionally drop our helmets into our bags or lightly knock helmets with the skater next to us. The other common helmet is the Certified Helmet, it is certified for Bikes and Roller Skating, still has a similar deep shape of the multi impact but some designs do sit a little higher on the head this is because it has harder foam and you are unable to change the shape of the foam to suit your head. This said though it is still a comfortable helmet and does have a thinner foam liner to absorb the sweat. The advantages of this helmet are that the impact rating is higher so you can take larger hits as the helmet offers more protection. However it is recommended that the helmet be replaced after any impact as the harder foam can suffer fractures within the material which reduces is ability to protect the head. We don’t regularly take large hits to the head in Roller Derby however it does happen occasionally so it is a matter of weighing up the likeliness of impact and protection vs the need to replace after single impact or option of multiple knocks.




Must have Accessories:

Mouth Guard- Ever had to try and decipher the mumbled sentence of someone wearing a chunky mouthguard? Derby requires us to wear a mouthguard any time we are on the track or training, it is a quick game and we need to communicate verbally but we cannot remove our guards especially during game-play! There are three common guard options for Derby. Cheap boil & bite guards, SISU retainer-like mouthguard or Dentist made.
Boil & Bite are a good option for beginners or as a spare to keep in your bag if you lose your main one. They tend to be a bit chunky but some come with a strap that attaches to your helmet so that if you do accidently spit it that it doesn’t fall to the floor. Did I mention they are cheap? You put these in hot water and mould the guard to your teeth as well as you can.
SISU mouth guards, these beauties are worn by most skaters and many athletes worldwide for many contact and non-contact sports. They are thin and fit like a retainer to your teeth but they offer up to 50% more protection than your regular boil & bite. They allow you to talk clearly, drink with them in and don’t impact your ability to breathe as they are slim so don’t get in the way and you can pretty much leave them on the whole time you skate. (I even chew lollies mid game while wearing mine… Shhhh) The SISU guards also come flat and after softening them in hot water you can completely custom mould them to your teeth. Mess it up? Don’t worry because you can remould these up to 100 times!
Dentist Guards, I haven’t personally worn one but have seen them to be chunky. Well fitted to your teeth as they are personally made and made of superior materials than that of the boil and bite but still chunky and don’t always allow clear communication however with the cost usually comes the protection guaranteed by your dentist.
Make sure your mouth guard comes with warranty. We RARELY take a hit to the mouth in derby, let alone one that results in damage to our teeth but just in case…. SISU definitely does come with a warranty J

Optional Accessories:

Tools- (I class theses as necessary accessories but it is an optional addition as you don’t need it on the track). Skate tools are necessary for the tightening of toe stops, wheels, trucks and other skate adjustments. Other tools like bearing tools are good too if you choose to change wheels over. Please email me if you need a hand with anything skate related! I am always willing to offer advice and how-to information.
A tool that can adjust most toe stops, wheel nuts and trucks is the Powerdyne Y3 Tool! This mighty tool fits in the palm of your hand and will that will last throughout your skating career and is one that you will always use. The Bones bearing tool is one that removes and inserts bearings into wheels, inexpensive, small and oh-so-handy. Great for when you change bearings in wheels such as for outdoor skating or when you purchase new wheels.

Knee Cap Covering- Some venues require that you cover your caps on your pads so that when you fall you don’t scratch the floors. Two options are the Rockstar gliders and Teflon Tape. Rockstar gliders are a specially made cover for knee pad caps; they securely attach to your pads and last for ages! They slide well and will last. Teflon tape is an adhesive tape that you attach to your pads with its adhesive backing; it slides really well but doesn’t last more than a few games, a few weeks of training and about 1 fall on any rough outdoor surface. It is a great option if you only skate occasionally on a floor that requires covers or keep a spare sheet in your bag so that you can touch up if you need to at trainings.

Strap ‘N’ Go skate noose – Skates, like our pads get sweaty and need to be aired out after use otherwise their metal components start to rust. But when we put our skates in our bags we usually after a long training session forget to take them out to air, so the skate noose is a great alternative as there is no need to take them out to air, they already are out. The skate noose is what I call the ‘handbag’ for your skates as it allows you to sling your skates over your shoulder like a handbag and carry them around. This also leaves you with more room in your gear bag rather than trying to squeeze your skates in there too. Skate nooses loop around your boot and sling over your shoulder so they are easy to carry, not bulky and incredibly handy.

Wheels – Some skates come with some basic wheels which are great to get started on because they allow you to start skating without costing you anymore but also give you time to work out what wheel will suit your style and venue. We don’t offer wheel upgrades in our fresh meat packages but please speak to our team and they can arrange it for you if you would like. Some skates (usually the mid to high priced ones) do come with some top quality wheels which means there is no need to upgrade. But for all skaters some do choose to skate outdoors as a way to better their skills or get more time on their skates while not at training, so we offer an outdoor wheel as an addition to your package. Outdoor wheels differ from indoor as they are softer and allow you to roll over bumps and debris on the road; they also absorb the vibrations rather than stopping when they hit a rock. The softer the wheel the smoother the ride, however if you are on a mostly smooth concrete like surface then you can afford to go a slightly harder wheel.

Other info that you will need:

Wheel Hardness – Wheels are rated in durometer or ‘a’ rating. The higher the number on the wheel with an ‘a’ following the harder the wheel. So most roller skate wheels range from 78a (very soft/outdoor) to 101a (quite hard/indoor). There are wheels of all hardness or ‘a’ ratings in between.
Outdoor wheels – Usually range from 78a – 80a
Hybrid (multi surface) - Usually range from 80a – 86a
Indoor wheels – Usually range from 86a (soft for slippery floor) – 101a (hard for grippy/sticky floor) With the most common hardness being between 92a – 96a in Australia as we mostly skate on wooden or clean concrete floors.

Stoppers – Those little things that are on the front of your skates to stop… Oh so you’re an old school skater who never used them. Welcome to derby, please meet your new toe stops. Derby over the last few years has revolved and we now use our stoppers more than ever and for more than just stopping. They are now used for jumping, running and well stopping. The bigger the better some will say. Like most things it does really come down to personal preference and what works for one may not work for another. So your skates will usually come with a basic round stopper which is good to start with, from there you may want a slightly larger one when you start to learn more toe stop work and from there you can go really big which will give you even more stability and more stopping power. Why did I recommend steps? Because it is good to know that you can work with the smaller stops before going for the super big stops, it also gives you the opportunity to see what you like. Some people are more than happy on the medium sized stopper, some like the small and some can’t live without the huge ones. It’s again one for some, one for others. So give things a go and find what works for you.

Skating – One of the fundamentals to playing derby. Who would think? A lot of people come to derby knowing how to skate; I think it is great; it certainly makes a lot of things very easy for you. A great head start if you will. But it’s not a must; one of the big things about derby is that it is accepting of all. You could be the national champion speed skater or never skated a day in your life but either way there is a spot for you in this crazy Derby world. Some leagues simply don’t have the man power to teach people to skate as well as derby so if you can’t skate yet don’t worry, talk to your league about what you can do as a non-skating member and seek out some help. Try outdoor skating at your local netball court, ask any of the members if they do any outdoor skating and could they offer some tips, see if you have any learn to skate programs or skate rinks around you. RollerFit is a major one that not only teaches you to skate but you can also increase your fitness at the same time as the name suggests. Some leagues have learn-to-skate courses where you can learn to skate before starting Fresh meat, so never be afraid to ask questions or ask for help, there is usually someone willing to help you out or at least point you in the right direction. On the flip side though, if you have come into derby as a seasoned skater please please please never assume that you know all! What I have found in derby is that when it comes to skating skills and technique there is no one right way. Yes there are some wrong ways but there is never just one right way. Your coaches are volunteers giving up their time to teach you about something they are passionate about, they want to see you progress and become the best derby skater you can be. They are usually able to appreciate someone’s’ other way of thinking or left-of-centre way of doing things but they ask that you to give them the same respect. Be ready to accept that you are never too good to learn or continue learning. Derby and skating in general is always changing and evolving. There are new tricks, skills and techniques coming out all the time so never stop learning. Give everything a go, try all of the things and only once you have truly tried it can you honestly say “no that just isn’t for me, maybe I will do it this way”. So what I am trying to say is that when you’re at derby don’t be a butthead, we already have too many of them in the world, we don’t need more. Derby is accepting of all. Be willing to learn, be willing to accept that some things will work for you and some just wont and that we are all here for one reason and that’s our desire to do something more than just roller skate, we want to be involved in this great sport called Roller Derby!

Have you got your derby name yet? ….


Written by Bri ‘De-Bri’
30th Jan 2016

Owner/Manager of Roller Derby Heaven

Skater for Newcastle Roller Derby League since 2010





Phone: 02 4973 3011

Address: 5 Brodie St, Morisset NSW 2264