The long-awaited new Spitfire Formula Four wheels finally came out this year.
They have single-handedly made most modern skateboard wheel companies rethink their formulas and sales quotas. I don't quite remember the last time a wheel formula came out that made such a loud noise in the skateboard industry as these have this year. It's been quite a long time. They have been reviewed and talked about so much now since their release, still certains aspects of these new wheels have not been touched upon. I will do my best to talk about those technical qualities in all the ways both die-hard wheel nerds and everyday thrashers can understand.
|Spitfire Formula Four 52mm 99a wheels|
|Spitfire Formula Four 53mm 101a wheels|
The great divide: Spitfire or Bones?
The modern skateboard world seems to be split on 2 roads - Bones or Spitfire. Sure, there are a million other skateboard wheel companies - some big, some small, some good, some bad - but the most popular wheels of this era in skateboarding are undoubtedly Bones and Spitfire. So just what is it about these two wheel companies that spread the divide? Well, in marketing, a lot. Nobody can touch Spitfire's graphics, designs, and expanded line of other products. But when it comes to durable wheel formulas, nobody has been able to beat Bones and their 100% less flat spots guarantee. Spitfire wheels have a certain feel to them, and both STF and SPF formula Bones wheels do too. Each brand has a few different formulas, but neither brand has a formula that feels like one of the other brand's formulas. The talk of the Formula Fours was that Spitfire was coming out with a wheel that was as durable and lasted as long as a Bones wheel, skated and felt like a Spitfire, but with absolutely no flat spots. Of course that was a big deal to every die-hard Spitfire rider. To Bones riders, like myself, we really weren't phased by it's coming intensity to the skateboard world. Because as we all know in skateboarding, when you like what you like and it works, you stick with it. Which is why Spitfire skaters ride Spitfire wheels and Bones skaters just always ride Bones wheels. And that's that, right? Well no, not quite. Not anymore anyways.
Grip and Control
When the Formula Four wheels were coming out the first thing I heard was "better control on all surfaces."
Honestly the last thing I really cared about was the slide-ability factor, Bones gives me plenty of that. But that was the problem, I needed the perfect indoor park wheel. So what I needed was something that had good control and grip, but also something that would still be fast and slide when I wanted it to. Enter the Formula Four 99a wheels.
This formula of wheels are quite honestly the best indoor park wheel formula out right now. I skate a lot of slippery, dusty masonite and have been searching for the perfect smaller wheel that would would be grippy enough in the bowls and ramps but still hard enough to give the speed of my favorite wheels. I've skated 99a-101a durometer wheels long before I started skating Bones STF and SPF 83b and 84b wheels, and let me tell you, these Formula Four 99a wheels don't skate like 99a's. They feel closer to a 98a or 97a, but give the speed of a 99a. They really do have the perfect balance of grip and slide on masonite and skatelite. They aren't quite as fast as say, Bones STFs or SPFs, but they make up for it in the fact that they grip the walls better so you can pump through more and hold back less, which in the end I guess you could say amounts in more speed. You know what I mean? Like when you know the ramp or bowl is slippery and you know your wheels are too, and you've already fallen there before so just when you are about to start generating that good top speed on something, you kinda hold yourself back either around corners or wherever you took a slam the last time you skated it? Well, that. That doesn't really happen with these wheels. The 101a Formula Fours weren't as confidently grippy on the dusty masonite but they weren't too bad. About the same as a Bones STF, which was what I was used to riding indoors anyways. The key with any wheel when it comes to grip is to break them in really well before you go skate a slippery park. That way, your treads will wear down and your contact patch will widen so you'll have better surface control. That's one of my favorite things about these new Spitfire Formula Four wheels - no treads! Smooth contact surface straight from the get-go. The 99a's broke in a little faster than the 101a's. Of the two Formula Four wheels, I clearly prefer the 99a's overall. They have just what I'd been looking for.
Durability and Speed
On the street, I will say that they amount to a bit more of a comfortable ride than standard Spitfire Classics and have a lot more rebound in them to give them a little bit more of a "pep in your step" kinda feel. Not exactly like Bones STFs, but similar. They're in that family of hard wheels that are actually harder than they feel when you skate them. Which leads me to talk about this, the Formula Four's durability factor. I'll be honest here, I love Spitfire, I respect them and everything they do; they have a great team and are really great people. But, their standard classic urethane just wasn't durable enough for where I skated, and I just couldn't use them anymore. I rode Spitfire Classics and Bigheads for years and years - that's just what the shops in my area always carried back in the 90s. But once Bones came out w/ STFs, I never looked back. Their durability was unmatched compared to wheels I'd used before. The Spitfire Classics on my rough, course asphalt streets looked like Swiss cheese after 2 days. Bones STFs just held their ground and beat the hell out of anything else I'd ever seen or skated in my whole life. Then I got these Spitfire Formula Four wheels.
Over the last 2 months I've really tried to beat the living shit out of them around my area, and honestly they still look a week old. I'm pretty impressed. The 101a Formula Fours are obviously harder and will plow through anything even more so, but the ride is of course rougher. They're very fast though, so don't forget that the faster you go, the less you feel. So even though the 101a Formula Fours are really hard, they don't quite feel like it when you're hauling ass. Between the 99a's and the 101a's, the 101a's feel closest to the hardness, speed and slide of a Bones STF. Neither durometer Spitfire Formula Four wheel is as fast as a Bones SPF wheel at the indoor park, but they aren't as slippery either.
So, to break it down - if you are a Spitfire fan, you will feel like you're on the wheels that you are comfortable with and long for, but they will last you a whole hell of a lot longer. If you are a Bones guy, you will enjoy them, but also feel the difference in rebound between the two types of urethane formulas right away. Bones have a certain specific feel to them and how they ride and react, and Spitfires certainly do too. Formula Fours in my opinion react just like any other Spitfire. Neither one is bad, they're just both different. You like one or the other, or both. Like Vulc's and Cupsoles, some people only like one or the other, and some people can skate in either and be happy. If you're a Spitfire skater, get some Formula Fours and never look back. If you're a Bones skater, give them a shot - they might just be what you are looking for. Either way, you should find out for yourself. If you skate other wheels like OJ, Autobahn, Pig, Satori, Type-S, Abec 11 or Rainskates, etc., - yes, please do yourself a favor and grab some Spitfire Formula Four wheels. These wheels will outlive a nuclear war compared to all those. (A lot of those wheels are poured in the same factory anyways. . . . *cough cough* another time, another article).
|Smooth tread-less shape, and the perfect width for skating everything.|
Slide-ability and Flat spots
As far as the zero flat spots and slide-ability factors are concerned, well, I skateboard going forwards or backwards, and that's what I think a skateboard is supposed to do right? Everyone else these days is concerned with skateboarding sideways. To each their own. I don't bomb hills and then slide sideways for 30 ft. If I'm going down something, I want to go faster, so I like rolling straight and going with the speed. Sure, doing powerslides is fun, but I come from an era where wheels were 38mm small and power sliding wasn't a go-to daily affair. When I do it, it's gotta be a thing, to say - turn around fakie all of a sudden or back around again, or even just a stopping technique or maybe a little powerslide into a boardslide on a ramp. It's just not something I do all the time. So I don't really worry about flat spots that much anyways, because I never get them. I just need wheels to not chunk out, chip, or fall apart. I need them to be able to handle abuse and to be able to work well on all terrains. The Spitfire Formula Four 99a's really do all of this.
"The Colour and The Shape"
The Formula Four wheels I reviewed have the great classic Spitfire shape. I really enjoyed their wider profile as opposed to what I've been skating, even if it just was 1-1.5mm wider. (I had been skating many sets of 52mm Bones V1 shape wheels for a long time now, that are 52mm x 31mm wide). The Formula Four 52mm 99a's wheels are 52mm x 32mm, and the 101a's are 53mm x 32.5mm. (This small increment actually does make a difference, so don't be a smart ass). Formula Four wheels come in size from 51mm all the way to 58mm. Why only 58mm? Because you don't need to go faster than what the 101a 58mm F4 wheel can do for you. Stop whining that there are no 60's, and try a set of these 101a's in 58mm for crying out loud! If it's still too slow for you, then you can go ahead and whine, ok there Evel Knievel? I read it all the time, "I'd grab a set but I skate 60's, blah, blah, blah." I'd bet you that a set of Formula Four 101a 54mm wheels would outspeed a set of other random 60mm wheels any day! They are really fucking FAST - trust me!
|The fucking fast 101a Spitfire Formula Four wheels!|
The natural color of the Spitfire Formula Four wheels was talked about quite a bit up until their release. Now everyone's over it and we can all move on with our skateboarding. Yes, they are NOT snow white, they are a little off white. That's the color of the formula. White is a pigment too you know, a lot of people don't realize that. Some skateboard wheel formula urethanes out there would be clear if not. So if the recipe for the formula to make these Spitfire F4 wheels is this shade of white, then so be it. I think they look fine and unless you are standing next to a pile of crisp, new snow you'll never know anyways. Either way, does it really matter? No, clearly not at all, because these wheels are selling like crazy all over the world right now and it's the only color they come in. People just like to bitch about something before it actually comes out. Eventually they'll release the F4 wheels that are green and other colors, but will they skate the same or be just a little bit off? Time will tell on that one.
|These 99a wheels are the Classic shape and are 52mm x 32mm w/ a 15.5mm contact patch|
The new Spitfire Formula Four wheels broke me away from what I was and still am, a die-hard Bones guy.
I really enjoyed the change though and embraced the challenge going in. Did I want to like them? Yes, yes, I did. But, did I want to love them? No, honestly, I didn't. I kind of wanted them to eventually fall apart and fail me because I already love Bones STFs too much and I didn't want to get all butt hurt over another wheel skating better than my usual. But now, I have to say that I really do love these new Spitfire Formula Four 99a wheels, for the indoor park and even on the rough streets. They aren't falling apart, they aren't chipping, and they aren't going to fail - they just keep asking for more! They're not even getting smaller, it's fucking crazy!! So, will I stick with them? Hey, time will tell really. For now they are staying on my board when I skate the indoor park. Until Bones and Powell come out with a slightly softer formula STF or SPF wheel, these new Spitfire Formula Four 99a wheels win my vote for the best in grip, speed and control as an indoor park wheel. There's really nothing else out quite like them.
Special thanks goes out to skateboarding's greatest natural asset Mr. Jim Thiebaud, and everyone at DLX.
Ride the fire, burn FOUR-EVER guys! Thanks!