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Friday, August 9, 2013

OMG the Park Wheel Review is Finally Up!

I've been riding all sorts of park wheels. The ones I liked the best were the Rainskates, the Bones SPF, and the Landsharks. I liked the Spitfire Classics, but only because they were significantly less expensive than the other wheels but performed nearly as well.
I have a huge soft spot for OJ wheels, but the Power Riders and Save Plutos that I rode were not good wheels.
Then there are other wheels that I've ridden but haven't written about yet. I have the majority of the wheels here, and will post more as I finish writing about them.

 
- Rainskates 95a 62mm
  • Good wheels that remind me the most of the kind of high quality wheels I skated back in the late-80s and early-90s. The core is hard and a good bearing seat. The wheels are fast for a 95a, just like 95a was in the 80s. The wheels chip easily, though, and they get noticeably slower in hot weather. Good wheels for all around use.
- Spitfire Parkburners 58mm
  • I got the Tony Trujillo shape. These suckers are really wide! They measure 38mm wide, compared to most wheels’ 30-35mm. They don’t feel much different than Spitfire Classics. The shape is ridiculous, and the wheels are overly weighty and don’t give much in return. I refused to skate these wheels beyond an initial couple of runs, and passed them on to a friend to skate. However, I am familiar with the Parkburners formula, having skated it more than a few times before getting these monsters. The Parkburners formula is soft at 98a, and it is neither fast nor especially durable. Parkburners in the past lasted as long as Spitfire Classics. I wouldn’t buy Parkburners when Classics are often available for less money.
- Sublime Snot Shots 99a
  • Hard wheels. Responsive on ollies. Grip is moderately good on concrete, fine on asphalt, and fine on composite and wood. Interesting wheels, but there are better choices out there. ABEC11, the manufacturer of these wheels, makes longboard wheels, but has a few extra product lines, Sublime being one of them. I passed an additional set on to a friend for his take on these wheels.
- Bones SPF 55mm and 56mm
  • I’ll admit it: I hated Powell Peralta wheels in the 80s. With wheels back then, I only ever wanted 95a because that was what worked when I was learning everything. Powell Peralta’s 95a formula was only ever available on ridiculous shapes, like the terribly ugly Mini Cubics. Rat Bones and G-Bones were only ever available in 92a or 97a. I didn’t like 92a because the powerslide was too grippy and the wheels were in general just too slow. I didn’t like the 97a because the powerslide was, paradoxically, also too grippy, even though the wheels were faster. I finally got around to trying a set of 95a Powell Peralta wheels in, I don’t know, maybe 1990? I gave them a good chance, and I found them slow and too grippy on powerslides.
  • SkateOne still makes Powell Peralta wheels in all the colors, shapes, and durometers I hated when I was a kid. But SkateOne makes Bones wheels, too, and the SPF model is one of the best wheels available. Grip is not as ultimate as I expected from reading the testimonials, but, on smooth concrete, SPFs are plenty grippy and grippier than most. And, most of all, SPFs are really, really fast on smooth concrete. Next level fast. The wheels are loud when chirping on kick turns and slides; a lot of skaters like this, I don’t. The wheels get small flat spots easily and sound like little machine guns when rolling along smooth concrete. The wheels got faster after a few sessions, and grip improved. Flat spots still happened, but they were minor and rolled out quickly. These wheels will easily last me 6 months if not a year. However, I have slid out on these wheels more than once, especially on hips on the bowl walls when the centripetal force suddenly no longer goes in a direction that sticks me on the wall. I have found SPF wheels are slick and slippery on masonite; it was not a fun time and I kept slamming on stupid shit. The SPFs are average on skatelite and composite surfaces like ARC ramps, making me feel like a chump for paying so much to get performance I could have paid ⅓ to ½ the price for had I bought some other wheels. The SPFs are fast on asphalt, but they have a very rough ride and I can’t slide them as easily as I can other hard wheels.
  • An alternative if someone skates a lot of different surfaces are the Bones STF. The Bones STF gave me a lot of the speed and grip of the SPF but were more accommodating on other surfaces. Except asphalt. For me, the Bones STF slip too quickly on slides on asphalt, making it feel like I’m skating in the rain, and I slammed painfully a few times too many sliding STFs on asphalt. I bet people who learned to powerslide on STFs have a real hard time powersliding any other wheels. I expect more resistance from the wheels, so my weight is further back when I powerslide.
     
- Spitfire Hardcore 54mm
  • I appreciate Spitfire’s Classic formula, and a lot of skaters report they like it, too. Here the Classic 99a formula is wrapped around a hard core. These are good wheels on concrete, about like Classics. These Hardcore wheels are not especially faster than full pour wheels. These were sticky and predictable, unlike some other core wheels that get jittery when trying to hold the line over bumps and cracks. These Hardcores weren’t as fast as dedicated park wheels. The hard core helps a little with ollies because the wheels don’t mush out when I crouch to tap. I thought these were too expensive when Classics would do just as well. The core looks craptastic-plastic, too, like kids’ toys or something. Whatever. I didn’t like these wheels.
     
- Spitfire Classics 99a
  • Great wheels. A favorite of many skaters, including many pros. Not the fastest, but fast enough. The grippy formula inspires a lot of confidence. Hard to beat the high performance for such a low price. Plus the Spitfire Classics come in every size from 50 to 60 mm and then some extras from time to time like 62 or 63 or 48 or 49. And, thankfully, Spitfire will never stop making these wheels, so you don’t have to worry about becoming an addict only to have DLX switch them up on you. I like to ride Classics from time to time because Spitfire Classics remind me of how run-of-the-mill skateboard wheels should feel.
     
- Ricta Superparks 55mm
  • Fast wheels on concrete. Not the fastest, but noticeably faster than non-park wheels. Shape is skinny. The wheels wore quickly and big chunks started coming out of them after only a few days of park use. Decent grip on wood, skatelite, and composite surfaces. Good sliding for slide tricks. Unlike the first generation White Lightning formula I tried years ago, the Superparks gave me no flatspots. Poor performance on asphalt. Good while they last, even if it was only a few days before they started chunking out.
     
- Landshark 101a 55mm
  • These wheels are just as fast on smooth concrete as Bones SPF. Let me repeat that: these Landshark wheels are just as fast as Bones SPF, the same Bones SPF considered by many to be the fastest crete wheels made today. Even better, the Landshark wheels do not flatspot at all. When I first was riding the Landsharks, I did a standup powerslide on smooth concrete and there was not one flatspot, not one machine gun sound from these wheels. There have been no flatspots at all in the many powerslides, kickturns, ledge tricks, and other slides since then. The Landshark wheels performed excellently on wood, skatelite, and composite surfaces. Additionally, and surprisingly, these wheels performed extremely well on asphalt surfaces, giving perfect slide behavior for downhill runs as well as firm, solid response when popping ollies. These wheels are so good they seem to defy logic by being so magically versatile. At $40 a set, they aren’t cheap, but Regulator Distribution often has sales where you can pick up some Landshark 101a wheels for as little as $25. Highly recommended, and definitely my top pick of this comparison. These wheels roll on anything and they roll extremely fast.
     
- Satori Relife 53mm
  • Slow, nasty wheels. Made from recycled cores from people’s old wheels, and it definitely shows. Oddly enough, these wheels are priced higher than most wheels, so skaters on a budget who would probably be okay with a little less quality to save money couldn’t afford these. If recycling is your thing, you could go for the Kontrol Eco wheels - they are much, much better wheels and are a zero-waste product. I passed a set of these Relifes on to a friend for additional testing; pretty soon we’ll see what he thinks.
     
- Kontrol Eco 55mm
  • I had two sets of these wheels. The first set was an older set, and I think they sat in the sun at some skateshop for a few months before I bought them on sale online. This first set was squishy in the bowls. I could hear them compress when I went up the wall on a carve. They felt awesome on asphalt for cruising, but didn’t like to powerslide at all. They were mushy and unresponsive on ollies on any surface. Now, on to set 2. I bought this second set from a different vendor, and I paid full price. This second set was completely different than the first set. The second set was hard, responsive, fast, easy to slide, durable, and grippy. The Kontrol Eco are great wheels, especially if zero-waste, sustainable urethane formulas, and all-American manufacturing are important to you. As with all wheels, watch out for sets that have been sitting on shelves too long. And skateshops, please don’t let your wheel inventory sit in the sun. Recommended.
     
- Pig 95a 50mm
  • These are softer wheels and are good for rough asphalt. They are slow on smooth concrete and too grippy for ledge or box use. Good for learning flatland tricks because they mush out and don’t let you shoot out that easily. They aged quickly, becoming softer and slower. Moderately recommended, but make sure you get a fresh pair.
     
- Ricta Chrome Core White Lightning 51mm
  • These are good all-around wheels. They are fast and grippy on asphalt and on smooth concrete. They grip on composite surfaces (like Fresh Park ramps and ARC ramps) very well. They don’t like to powerslide much, but they also don’t get flatspots. Good wheels. With bling.
     
- Ricta Speedring 52mm
  • These are also White Lightning formula and didn’t feel or perform any different than the Ricta Chrome Core wheels, except they were a little quieter. See the review for the Chrome Core wheels.
     
- Flip Gumball 54mm
  • Nominally 96a in durometer, but feeling softer, these wheels are too soft to be fast park wheels, too hard to be fast cruiser wheels. They did well on uneasy surfaces, though. They roll over pebbles - nature’s own skate stopper - pretty easily. However, these aren’t the highest performing wheel out there. Even for ditches, there are better options, like Pig Wheels 95a or the Ditch Tech Formula wheels from Powell Peralta or Bones. Put these wheels on a cruiser board and leave them there.
     
- OJ Power Riders Lite 63mm
  • Nominally 101a in durometer, but the formula is smooth and chatter-free. They felt softer than typical 101a. The bearings didn’t seat straight at first, but heat cycling the wheels sorted everything out. The OJs developed flat spots quickly from lightly abrasive moves, like kick turns and tic tacs. The little flat spots took forever to roll out. Bigger flat spots formed when doing ledge tricks. I don’t like these OJs or the Save Pluto OJs I tried about a year ago. The Save Pluto OJs were hard little bastards that didn’t like to grip. I probably should have given them more of a chance, but I skated them down an asphalt street, did a powerslide, fell hard on my tailbone, and that was the end of my session that day and for about a week after that. I was mad about getting hurt, and I was like “fuck those Save Plutos! Fuck OJs”. But I got the Power Riders because the formula was different, being based off Power Riders, uh, naturally, I guess, and Power Riders were advertised as a great bowl wheel. I liked OJs a lot in the 80s. Come to think of it, I stopped skating OJs and started skating Santa Cruz Speed Wheels in about 1989, but that was more of a local supply issue than a preference issue. But between OJs and SCSWs, I preferred the SCSWs because they were less expensive and I could get them with more modest graphics. The formulas and the performance felt similar enough to suit my preferences. But that was then, this is now. These modern OJs are just... not junk, but not good. I’m sad about this. NHS, can you fix this, please?

22 comments:

  1. Great Review!! Thanks for the, as usual, great detail and insight. Pi wheels review coming?

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    Replies
    1. I've been riding the Deckcrafters Pi wheels (60 mm) for about a year. A slight bit slower than SPF's on a smooth concrete skatepark surface. Yet the trade off is better grip, especially over hips. -- John

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    2. Yes, Pi wheels when I get a chance to buy some. Buying is on hold until I've published all my current reviews. I've a lot of reviews in the hopper.

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  2. I have to agree about the modern OJ formula vs the NOS Street Razors I have. I copped 2 sets of 60mm 95a Street Razors, great slides, fast... They do chip a little and get small grooves in them from slides but no worse than the 62mm 99a (softer formula) Duane Peters Radials I had a few years ago. I rode a set of the Jason Adams "That's Life" 60mm 101a, felt like glass, completely slippery and felt out of control. Not sure what the deal is at NHS these days, I sent the DP Radials back due to chipping, Tim Piumarta, head of R&D contacted me and said it was typical if I was riding rougher surfaces. However, he did send me a few sets to replace what I sent back, my faves being the 58mm (no longer made in this size) 87a Key Frames. I have some OJ III 58mm 97a, great for smooth parks, but when it comes to the mean streets I like that 95a or 92a, but you're right, the formulas vary by manufacturer. Thanks for the review!

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    1. Has anyone tried the new HENSLEY's, the OJ II TEAM RIDER's, OJ II ELITE COMBOS, or the SLIMEBALL VOMITS? Wonder how close all these re-issues are.

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    2. I'm watching Slimeballs at various shops, waiting for a sale. I haven't seen the Elite Combos or Team Riders in the wild yet. I wish the Team riders had the old graphics.

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  3. Great review Bertrand, as always you cut through the bullshit and give us the honest low down.
    My wheel review coming soon, will focus less on wheel formulas and more on wheel size to terrain, but like you and alot of us guys I've been doing my own park wheel "research" for quite sometime now.

    I've experimented with alot of different wheels on indoor park/wood/masonite surfaces as that's what I ride most. I've always battled trying to find the best on a slick surface but yet super fast wheel. I'm a Bones guy, in reality, and at heart, so I like to stay in the Skate One/Powell/Bones family if I can...so I started on SPF's, broke my kneecap, got some pads, moved to STF's, was tired of taking hipper's and then moved onto to Powell/Mini Logo 97a 58mm wheels...and then gradually moved my way back towards something faster...which was the STF's, but only after they had been de-treaded on the pavement and the contact patch widened a bit.
    Treaded wheels on indoor park surfaces are horrible, the grooves catch all the grime and make for a horrible sliding mess of your sesh, it's like you're skating on a layer of slime and not even on your urethane anymore, and that becomes pointless as to what wheels you're riding anyways. I stayed with worn in STF's size 52-54mm for about the last 6 months at the parks. I feel I'm ready to go back to SPF's, so I'm trying them for a few weeks to see if I like STF/83b Bones or SPF/84b Bones, and there I will stay when skating indoors.
    I say "feel ready" because starting to skate all over again after not for over a decade and jumping straight into skating with SPF's on dusty masonite is not the smartest thing to do.
    If wheels had experience ratings than Bones SPF should be under EXPERT or Experienced, because they are not Novice or Intermediate park wheels.
    You can't not know what the fuck you're doing in a gnarly indoor wooden slip-tastic but super fast bowl w/ hips on SPF's or STF's - or you WILL pay the price, as so many of us did, and still do.
    You first gotta learn how to carve those walls high but fast and maintain alot of speed and balance at the same time, all without thought, do this for a few months then you can up your indoor park wheel hardness to Mach 10 aka SPF/84b/104a wheels.

    I've talked to George Powell through Facebook messages a bunch of times and I finally got to ask him about if they ever experimented with a slightly softer, but maybe grippier SPF type formula park wheel, using the same high grade TDI Urethane that Bones STF/SPF/DTF/ATF uses.
    I suggested them calling them IPF-Indoor Park Formula, rating in at a hardness of around 78b aka 98a, as opposed to the SPF's 84b/104a rating.
    He told me that they have tried softer formulas, but they just weren't as fast as the SPF's, and the difference in slide and grip wasn't that drastic enough to matter much over the loss of speed. I kinda figured that was the case, as SPF's are still in my opinion the greatest outdoor smooth but raw concrete park/bowl/pool wheel of all time, but indoors they haven't quite perfected that yet, and painted concrete is also just as slippery as masonite, if not more so.
    I guess that's where Rainskates and Type-S sort of excel, they have fast, hard cored 95a-98a wheels out there, used alot for indoor parks, ramps and bowls, I just figured and hoped maybe Bones would get in there eventually too, but it doesn't look like that's happening anytime soon.
    Anyways, I love wheel experiments and I appreciate all your park wheel testing and honest posting here. Thanks Bertrand!
    Remember everyone, always have fun on your quest to find those "right" wheels, perfect shaped decks, and best turning trucks, because at our ages it gives us all great excuses to go back out and do more skateboarding, even if we have to call it "research". : )
    - Johnny

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  4. I used to skate any wheels I could get my hands on that were anywhere around "99a". I used to ride shit tons of blank wheels, and I always thought wheels were just wheels, and none could really be any better than the rest.. Then one day I won a free set of STFs from the Bones website, and since then I've rode Bones STFs religiously. They're the best. I've had spitfires, and those would only last me a day or so, so I certainly don't agree with your thoughts on those Spitfire classics. haha

    When I used to skate blank wheels and others I'd always get one tiny coned shaped wheel, and other sized other wheels when I'd ride them.. Almost all would cone except one that would stay large and cylinder-ish. With Bones STFs my wheels have stayed the same size throughout their life, and they'd last forever, and I do powerslides and odd tricks alllllll day! I love them! :)

    Since riding Bones STFs and telling everyone how awesome they are most of the skaters at the local park have tried them and also swear by them as being the best wheels. Most here also say Spitfires suck, and that they flatspot like that's what they're made for.

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  5. I think this is pretty spot on for the wheels I've ridden. SPF get better as the 'crete gets smoother. STF are similar by slide easier. Those Snot Shots are hard, surprisingly grippy and... interesting. Rainskates are great medium-hard wheels with a precise core.

    I'm suddenly riding 69mm 80A These ATF's in bowls now...

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  6. I think a really great indoor park wheel for Skate One/Bones/Powell to make would be if they used a dual durometer thing.
    Like say if they made a Rat Bones II shaped wheel, and the core was say 85B and the outer was around 77-80B.
    That way the inner would be a point harder than say an SPF, and the outer would be liek a 97a type wheel. This combo w/ the core could keep the bearings safe and seated snug and help the wheels not absorb and lose the speed from softness of the outer layer.
    You'd have a wheel that should perform similarly to an SPF/STF in terms of speed and rebound, but with the grip and stability of an older 80's type vert wheel. It'd be a good tag team partner for Powell to make this right next to what their These wheels are doing.
    George Powell said that they were going to be doing some exploring into technical things in skateboard equipment and I for one really hope something like this get's explored for all us indoor ramp and bowl guys that love the speed of the SPF's, but hate the slip.

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  7. Would you suggest the Rainskates 57mm 98a yellow wheels for a beginner mini-ramp skater? I've done some pumping which is as much as I have done so far. They are going for 45AUD which is cheap so I was thinking of buying them.

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    1. If that is a good price, then you should be good. Rainskates are high quality wheels. Most wheels are suitable for mini ramp usage, except when the ramps get dusty, in which case you'll want something around 95a-99a durometer and a grippier compound. On mini ramps, I really like Spitfire Streetburner, Satori Linked Logo, Kontrol Wheels (any formula), Ricta White Lightning, and, of course, the Landshark wheels. The Landsharks are really great whatever you ride, so I will always say they're good for whatever you want to do.

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  8. Great review and awesome effort, stoked on the page in general.

    As a result of the review a set of landshark 55s is on its way to sweden. Going to be interesting if these can beat my two current favourite wheels Rain skates white (101a) and SPFs. I cant really feel any difference between these wheels regarding grip and speed. Although I really like the core and therefore effortless perfect bearing seat that the Rain skates has. Every time I install bearings for SPF I at least get one wheel where the bearing wobbles (rolls much slower).

    Would be very interesting to hear your experience of the Rain skates 101a.

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    Replies
    1. You'll like the Landsharks dude. They have the best of both of those wheels. Speed and flatspot resistance of the SPF's and the precise cores of the Rainskates. Enjoy! :)

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  9. I'm coming a bit late to the conversation but am after a bit of advice. I'm an older skater, having come back to it in recent times & have been developing my skills on bowls & half-pipes. As a kid I used a skateboard for transportation (I'm a surfer first & foremost but have now taken up skating tranny for the flat days) with big soft wheels. As a consequence I'm still trying to get used to hard wheels. I've used Mini Logo 60mm 99a (felt too hard) & am now on the Bucky Lasek Type-S (58mm 96a). I don't mind these for smooth bowls but I can't get used to the chatter on anything rough. The local half-pipe I skate is made of that Rhino stuff (rhino-ramps.com) which tends to be sticky & only suited to hard wheels. I've got a set of Rainskates 85a that are nice on rough concrete in parks but terrible on the Rhino surface. So, after this long-winded bit of dribble, my question is can you recommend an in-between wheel or something that feels a bit softer than the Bucky's but won't stick on the non-concrete surfaces? Basically an all-round wheel if any such thing exists. I have got my eye on a set of the Rainskates 95a or 98a. Am I looking in the right direction?

    Might I add you've got a great informative site by the way.

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    Replies
    1. Hey, Karl, thanks for commenting. For your stated needs of all-around skating that is a bit softer feeling, I suggest Satori 98a Linked Logo wheels. They aren't as hard as the 98a nomenclature suggests, they're more like 95a, they certainly don't feel rock hard, but they're not soft cruiser wheels, either. They grip a lot of surfaces, even dusty masonite. They do not chatter. I've never flat spotted a Satori wheel, even with all the powersliding I do. Plus, they're reasonably affordable.
      http://www.amazon.com/Satori-Movement-Linked-Logos-Wheels/dp/B0019XZ5IE/ref=sr_1_3?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1393077751&sr=1-3

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    2. Thanks for the suggestion Bertrand. I picked up a set of the Satoris recently & love them. They were a bit stickier at first but it didn't take long to get used to them so the Bucky's have been retired. I particularly like the lack of chatter in them. And the smaller wheel size (56mm) ain't half bad either. I'm convinced that there's no such thing as a true all-round wheel but these are close enough for my liking. Also picked up a set of Rainskates 59mm 98a which I've yet to try, but I've got a feeling that the Satoris will remain my go-to wheels.

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  13. Thanks a lot for the interesting review.
    I have a hard time finding the "Landshark 101a 55mm" in Europe. Are they discountinued?
    Are there any other similar Landshark wheels?
    Thanks in advance.

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    Replies
    1. The Landshark wheels have various names but the formula generally stays the same. Here's their website: http://www.landsharkwheels.com/
      Sorry I can't be more helpful!

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