BIG UPDATE 11/19/2012: I made the Tensors into awesome trucks just by changing out the bottom bushings! It completely changed my mind on the Tensors. Read on to see how they did.
Here, in Part 2, I will share with you my observations about each of the trucks I tested. These are just my observations based on my skating style. I am a primarily street skater who does a lot of technical flatland, ledges, banks, and boardslide bars. I skate mini ramps a lot, too, preferring my ramps in the 4' - 6' height. I
skate loose to medium trucks and I like to grind ledges and fun boxes. Every now and then, I enjoy fast downhill runs, snake runs, and carving bowls.
In alphabetical order, here are my observations about each set of trucks I skated for this comparison test:
- Ace 44 - The Aces were really nice trucks that suffered from outdated quality standards. These trucks turned really well, feeling telepathic on carves. The Aces made skating transition easier, but the painted versions I skated stuck a bit when grinding metal coping. The stock bushings were really excellent. They started off feeling very soft, got a little stiffer, and eventually settled in to a very predictable medium-soft feel. Outdated quality: the Aces had longish axles that were not centered in the hanger, and the mounting holes were off-nominal on the baseplate, making mounting a little difficult. I felt the Aces were too tall for street use. The Aces excelled on transition and in bowls.
- Destructo D1 5.5 - The Destructo D1 trucks were hefty, twitchy, slow trucks that didn't respond well to the kind of fine movements necessary for either technical street or transition skating. The kingpin on the D1s was so recessed that it is impossible to catch the kingpin on Smith grinds. The quality of the D1 trucks was about average. The axle length was about 8.2", which barely made the cutoff for this test. The D1s would do best on big street, where you don't have to turn much and you don't want to hang up on your back smiths down the 10-stair hubba.
- Destructo D2 5.75 - The Destructo D2 trucks feel like low trucks but without the wheelbite. Turning is kind of slow, they are kind of good at carving, and feel best at a medium tightness. What the D2 trucks have going for them is their stability in so many situations. Stable when you're pushing, stable on manuals, stable on kick turns on the ramp. The quality of the D2s is high. The D2s grind extremely smoothly on most any surface you would normally grind. The D2s felt very light, more like an 8" truck. There's a predictability to the D2s that makes them good trucks for all-around skating with an emphasis towards technical flatland and mini ramps.
- Gullwing Shadow DLX 8.5 - Plain and simple, the Gullwing Shadows felt like heavy Independents without the high quality standards. The Shadows come with a flat bottom washer that causes the trucks to have a lot of wheelbite. Replace this washer with a normal cupped washer, and the trucks feel exactly like Independent 149 standards. In all ways. Stock, though, with that flat bottom washer, the trucks need to be tightened up quite a bit to prevent wheelbite from throwing you off when you're trying to carve the tight end of the bowl. The Shadows' quality was lacking: both of the axles were off-center enough in the hanger to necessitate removing a washer from one side and adding it to the other to get the nuts to snug down right. The bushings were wonderful but the flat bottom washer was dysfunctional. The trucks were nicely polished but they had casting marks all over the place, off-nominal mounting holes in the baseplates, and a lot of unnecessary aluminum on the mold design. The Shadows were too hefty and slow for technical street. The Shadows did best on transition and bowl skating.
- Independent 149 Forged Hollow Stage X Mark II - The Indy Forged Hollow (FH) trucks are the strict disciplinarians of the truck world. The Indy FHs harshly punish you when you don't flick just right, or don't tap just right, or turn just a little off, or don't land squarely on the bolts. The forged baseplates and stiffer kingpin remove all slop from the trucks. These trucks will throw you off your board unless you are a perfectionist in feet placement and body position. As promised, the Indy FHs feel light and responsive. Adjusting lines, however, is only moderately quick, mainly because of the lower height and subsequent tendency to wheelbite. Surprisingly, though, I spent 3 weeks with the Indy FHs and grew to like them for their overall versatility. I got many new bruises and road rashes from these trucks, though. Be perfect in foot placement and body position (who knew that arm movements could have this much effect?), and the Indy FHs reward you with higher performance. But get a little sloppy, and the trucks will pitch you off quickly. Throw out the stock bushings and put in Independent Genuine Parts medium (orange) bushings. You can seriously skate anything you want with these trucks, just so long as you take the time and effort to become a perfect skater.
- Independent 149 Standard Stage X Mark II - The Indy 149 standards are good trucks. Independent improved the Stage X trucks by widening the yoke cavity and putting barrel bushings on the bottom. The result is a 149 truck that does everything Indy standards are known for and now turns like its closest competitor, the Theeve 5.85. Because of this improved turning, you can just get these trucks if you're interested in trying Theeves but don't want to have to remove all those Indy cross stickers, t-shirts, hats, shoe collabs, grip tape, bumper stickers, license plate frames, shot glasses, bottle openers, belts, sunglasses, and tattoos. The Indy 149 standards do best on transitions and bowls. Run them loose.
- Royal Four 5.5 - The Royal Four 5.5 trucks are extremely high-quality, well-designed trucks with an 8.5" axle. These Royals do it all and do it well. They are the smoothest grinding trucks I've ever skated, locking in perfectly and grinding as long as you want. They turn better than any standard-kingpin truck out there and even better than some of the longboard-kingpin trucks out there. They turn surfy when you want, holding your carve exactly where you want. They turn tightly when you want, with no wheelbite and tight, tight line adjustments that is even more telepathic than Theeves or Aces. They feel about right in weight - not too heavy, not too light. The quality is extremely high, with not one feature wrong or off-nominal. The stock bushings are lovely softies that break in over the course of the first few days. The Royal Fours are smooth and steady whether you want to ride them so loose they rattle or as tight as you like. The Royal Fours have a longitudinal stability that is extremely forgiving of misplaced feet on landings. Flip tricks are no problem, either, with just the right amount of responsiveness to the flick and predictability on the flip. The board pops up nicely on varial tricks even if you slide instead of pop the deck. The Royal Fours make me a better skater because they reward even the clumsiest of efforts with a roll-away or an easy bail. The stock bushings are very nice, but they could stand to be a little more responsive on returning to center. Other than that little detail, the Royal Four 5.5 trucks are great all-around trucks for those who like loose trucks and wheels 54mm or smaller.
- Tensor Ten Magnesium 5.75 low - I have a love-hate relationship with Tensors. I love how light Tensors are, but I hate that they don't turn. The only Tensors I really like are the 5.0 and 5.25 mids, and even then only on my flatland board on which I'm not turning and not going very fast at all. With the new Tensor Tens, I have a new reason to both love and hate Tensors; well, not really hate Tensors, but reason enough to definitely hate the stock bushings. With the stock bushings, these Tens are so low that there is no reasonable way to skate these without having them as tight as an 80's freestyle truck. If you stack up 3/8" of risers, you'll probably be able to turn with these trucks without severe wheelbite, but you'll still only make little shallow turns that are more like slight carves than turns. No, no, no, the best way to turn with these Tensors with the stock bushings is to just tic-tac. Sorry, that's the only way.
I truly doubt the wisdom of having a 149 low truck that is this low and has this much wheelbite.If you don't want to change out the bushings, Only get these trucks if you skate very tight trucks, skate only technical flatland and some technical street, you turn by tic-tac instead of carving, and you're obsessed with having your axle length properly fit your 8.5" board. Quality is high, the stock bushings are better but still crap (although there are no more "nested" bushings), yada yada yada. Seriously, don't get these trucks. Wait until Tensor comes out with the 5.75 mids.
BIG BIG UPDATE 11-19-2012! I replaced the stock bottom bushings with tall barrel bottom bushings from Venom Bushings. Venom calls these bushings the "Downhill" model. One package of two will do you, you're only replacing the bottom bushings. With the Venom tall barrel bottom bushings, the Tensors are now perfectly behaved park trucks. Even with no risers, wheelbite is gone with wheels 52mm and smaller. The Tensors carve beautiful, tight, confident arcs on the walls of the bowl and in the pockets of the flow course. I find myself easily going faster, higher, and skating with much more confidence than with the stock bushings. With the stock bushings in the Tensors, I would never have even considered pumping in a bowl, much less carving and grinding. But with the tall barrel bottom trick, the Tensors turned into very respectable trucks. The Tensors also grind concrete so smoothly. I was doing 50-50s for as long as I wanted, it was so smooth. The tall barrel bottoms also pushed the hanger up enough to raise the ride height from 45mm to just under 48mm - the same as Thunder 149s - and also positioned the top of the kingpin below the hanger grinding surface. Also, because the bushings are so much taller and harder, there aren't 7 threads showing on the kingpin like I see so many Tensor riders having. The tight turning of the Tensors allowed for ultra-quick pumps in the pockets and on pump humps, too. I was flying around the park. And, even though I was skating my soggy only-1-month-old Powell Peralta deck (pictured above), I was still able to pop crisp ollies because the setup was so incredibly lightweight. All in all, just changing out the truly crappy stock bushings turned these trucks from zeroes to heroes. I can now recommend the Tensor Ten Magnesiums 5.75 Low to anybody who wants a great all-around truck. Just be sure to get those tall barrel bottoms! Here are a couple of places: NYC Longboards, Muir Skateshop, SoCal Skateshop, Warehouse Skateboards, and Social Skateboarding. All of those online skateshops I just listed are great skateshops.
- Theeve TiH 5.85 - Take all the good attributes of the Theeve TiAX 5.85, make them not-noticeably-lighter (seriously, they don't feel any lighter than the TiAX 5.85), and make the grinding surface so slippery that you can't lock in on your grinds. Oh, and double the price. Then you'll have the TiH 5.85. They're good for big street, because they're very strong and they turn well (like all Theeves), but the inability to grind right or stall on coping right decreases their versatility for technical street, transition, and bowl skating. Plus, they're really, really expensive. Just get the TiAX, you'll be happier. Use the $70 of leftover money to get a new deck, some Khiro pivot bushings, and some Independent Genuine Parts bushings.
- Thunder 149 Light - The Thunder 149 lights are kind of "meh" trucks. For the price you pay, you get a lighter truck with forged baseplate and hollow kingpins, but you give up the stability of the standard Thunders. The 149 Lights were a clear example of how much difference the forged baseplate makes. While the baseplates are nicer-looking and stronger, the truck gets stiffer and behaves differently. (This was also remarkably noticeable in the Indy 149 Forged Hollow.) The Thunder 149 Lights were not very surfy trucks, because of bad wheelbite and the subsequent need to run the trucks pretty tight. I put 97a Thunder bushings in them to help them out. But they did turn pretty nicely at lower speeds. Ultimately, the Thunder 149 Lights are best if you like how Thunders feel but want something a little more biased toward technical flatland and technical street. If you skate Thunder 149 standards normally, you would mount the Thunder 149 Lights for games of skate.
- Thunder 149 Standard - The Thunder 149 standard trucks are stable, surfy, turny trucks if you like your trucks medium to medium-tight. Run too loose, the 149 standards get wobbly. Run at a medium setting, the 149s are perfect for most any skating you'd like to do, but they especially excel at big street, like drops, gaps, high speeds, and long grinds.
- Tracker Dart 149 - The Dart 149s are strange trucks. With their elbow-pivot arm, the design is very different than other trucks out there. The Darts are the very definition of surfy trucks, but are also extremely stable even when you run them so loose they rattle. The quality is old-school: the axles are off-center, the casting is sloppy, the bushings look and feel like those bushings from early-80's roller skates, and the kingpin is a hex-head instead of button-head kingpin. But what is strange about the Darts is that they're pretty good trucks for all-around use. For some reason, they were very easy to kickflip. They had a very lightweight feel to them. They carved well yet were very stable on center. There was a little bit of wheelbite burn, but nothing that stops forward motion. You could run the trucks very loose or very tight and still get smooth feel and smooth turning from them. The Darts are surprisingly good, especially considering their antiquated look and geometry.
- Venture 5.8 - Ventures are always interesting trucks. Since DLXSF took over distribution, the bushings have improved tremendously, even though they get pretty stiff after the first week of use. The Venture 5.8s are surfy trucks that turn quickly and have no wheelbite. The grind requires a little effort, but they are still just shy of being sticky on the grind. Ollie effort, like all Venture standards, is high. The 5.8s surf like the Aces but still do very well in flatland and technical street skating. Ditch the stock bushings for some Independent soft bushings, and you'll keep the great turning and carving you experience when the trucks are new. Because of the geometry, you can skate big wheels, up 60mm in size, without any risers and still run pretty loose trucks. The Venture 5.8s are great all-around trucks for those who like their trucks loose and their wheels big.
- Venture 5.8 Light - The Venture 5.8 Light trucks have a forged baseplate and hollow kingpin. Other than being lighter, a little lower, requiring less ollie effort, and having a need to be run medium-loose to avoid wheelbite, the 5.8 Lights feel pretty much like the standard Venture 5.8s. The 5.8 lights are all-around trucks for those who skate medium trucks and wheels in sizes up to 58mm.
So, which truck did I like best? It depends. I liked the Royal Four 5.5 trucks the best for the 149 size for running extremely loose trucks. For medium tightness, the Venture 5.8s are hard to beat for all-around skating - their really good kingpin clearance makes all your grinds smooth, too. For tight trucks, the Tensor Ten 5.75s are fantastic and extremely light. The Darts have a special place in my heart because they're such an underdog in the looks department yet perform like little lightweight champions on pretty much anything and they have a much wider adjustment range than the other trucks here. Your preferences may be different from mine, so I hope my measurements, my observations and my comparisons among these 149 trucks help you find your dream trucks.