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Monday, December 2, 2013

Spitfire Formula Four wheels review

by Johnny

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.

52mm 99a

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.

53mm 101a

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.

52mm 99a
53mm 101a

"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.

52mm 99a
53mm 101a

These 99a wheels are the Classic shape and are 52mm x 32mm w/ a 15.5mm contact patch

Summary

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!
http://spitfirewheels.com/formulafour/

- Johnny

31 comments:

  1. so excited with mine coming next month. its difficult to grab F4s in our country. yay! thanks for review! i wonder how they are when they roll over water. sample, roll over a spot where rain just stopped or something.

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    1. Thank you, glad you liked it. Best of luck with yours. I dunno how they are in water. : )
      I stay at home on those days. : P

      Shred them man! Have fun!

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    3. ^^joshnerez

      hi man, mine just arrived last friday and broke them in like 5-10 mins of just rolling in the park. i even roll them over a mm of spilled water and checked if they wiggle or slide. yea, same ride as stfs(im an stf user btw) does but as you mentioned, the spitfire grip. i love doing slides over 180s and 360s and they work like wonder.

      i tried them over yesterday at some sketchy but playable spot and it responded the way i expected it. sad to say, if im gonna be able to get my hands over another set when i wear them out, if not, id probably be switching again to stfs. but for now, im very satisfied with how it roll.

      thanks for the review, it did helped me to get some info before i used it. photo below btw.

      https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=646160652117946&set=p.646160652117946&type=1

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    4. @jshrnz dude whered you get em at phl?

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    5. ei man, at Skaterock Skateshop, but i ordered them beforehand. i believe theres a next batch comin up.

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  2. Hey, first of all i love your blog! but i need some advise im about to order some formula fours in either 52 or 53 depending on stock they are just what i usually ride (size wise) i cant figure out if i want the 99 duro or the 101. i usually just ride at my local concrete park. but the park is all beat up and theres holes in the ground its its actually quite a rough slow ride for a park. but its all ive got so i ride. im currently on some 52mm parkburners and they are nice and grip well but they seem alittle slow and damp. i dont slide alot but i do every now and then. what duro what you recommend for a park like this? also i mainly hit the rails/ledges and shred the mini ramp. cheers!

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    1. Hi, I would suggest you give the Formula Four 99's a try. They feel softer than they are when your outside, and will probably suit you really well. Personally if the ground is really rough and you want to forfeit some slide for more speed maybe try a softer wheel that has a core, you will need to bump up to at least 54mm though as softer wheels smaller than 54 just don't hold speed period. When I say possibly go a little softer I mean as in 97a or 95a NOT 85a or 80a, that'd be too soft for anything small in a park. It'd work, but you'd lose all the natural feel your used to that you have for the park. Bones is coming out with some 97a cored wheels some that I helped design and test. They should be out soon. They are a little softer than say a hard wheel, but also have a Speed Core to contain all the energy inside that si lost when you ride a soft wheel and the shock gets absorbed into the bearing and you slow down. That and the rubberness of soft wheels stretches around the bearings. These wheels will NOT have that. I'm proud to have been a part of coming up with them one of my engineering heroes (GP) like the idea and "roll" with it at Bones.

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    2. great info thanks heaps! honestly i find my 98a parkburners to soft, they feel doughy under my feet. ive been leaning towards the 99a formula fours and now with your info even more so. but i ave to ask how much grip am i going to lose with the 101a? i do sometimes ride street spots and ride around the corner for lunch on rough asphault roads. the hardest wheel i have ridden at my local park is the ricta naturals 101a i think. and they were acceptable. is the formula four 101 going to provide more grip than rictas? i ask because i am interested in riding harder wheels but not if i lose insane amounts of grip. as for size i dont really want to go bigger as i would need risers on my thunder 149 hi's and ive always felt uncomfortable riding with risers.

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    3. also out of curiosity most people have recommended the 99a over the 101a for park. but it confuses me how that is when the bones spf is hard then their stf? suggesting that harder wheels are better for park.

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    4. SPF's are good for concrete parks because they are FAST. I personally don't think SPF's are grippy wheels outside or inside, especially inside. I broke my knee because of slipping out w/ SPF' in a wooden bowl. On smooth concrete is what they were made for, but they have less control than perhaps what you'd want. The Spitfire F4 101's will be pretty close to SPF/STF territory.
      Honestly my favorite wheel of all time is the STF's. To me they are alot more grippy than the SPF's indoors. You just have to de-tread them by roughing them up and taking off about a mm on the contact patch by riding them on street for a week or 2.
      Then they are great for parks period. The Spitfire F4 99's still slide, but not as easy as an STF. If you want a hard but grippy park wheel try the F4 99's. The 101's are good for street. I know it's weird because they're harder but trust me, they were the fastest street wheels I may have ever rode. Rebound and hardness are things not best understood by the most, it's really hard to describe. Bones wheels feel, well, alive...and Spitfires feel well, kind of not alive. : P It's nto a bad thing, it's just that they have a very different rebound character to them. All Spitfires do compared to Bones. Bones STF and SPF urethanes are a very different recipe and formula than the Spitfire wheels, Classics, F1, F4 etc. They are just all different, but in the same category for use.
      I hear alot of people say "aren't Formula Fours supposed to be more like Bones"? And honestly, as a wheel nerd, I don't think they feel alike at all. The only thing they share in common to me is that they don't flat spot. That's it.
      Good luck brutha! : )
      - Johnny

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  3. thanks alot for all the info! honestly i think ill end up on stf's. once again great blog, awesome to see someone who is happy to reply and help out their readers with quality information, keep it up!

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, and thank you very much for stopping by and reading our reviews. Glad I could help. : )

      - Johnny

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  4. Amazing review, not sure if I want 99 or 101. I want to powerslide the shit out of them but I'm afraid that the 101 could be to slippery.

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  5. hey johnny! i need a little help again please, i have just received my bones STF V2 53mm wheels in the mail. one of them has a small circular dimple on graphic side of the wheel kind of an indent type thing only about 1.5mm deep i would say. ive never owned stf's and am not sure if this is a normal thing or if its a defect. ever seen anything like this or heard about it? i cant imagine it hindering wheel performance at all as it is shallow and on the sidewall but i was just curious, cheers!

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    1. Those dimples are caused by air bubbles between the urethane and the mold. From my experiences, I can say it shouldn't affect the performance. If you like, you can check with Bones to see what they say: http://bones.com/why/warranty/

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    2. Hey man a photo to their Facebook page they will take care of it. Never had a bad Bones wheel in about 15-20 sets.
      I doubt it'd matter but if you want to show them, i bet they'd send ya a replacement set prob.
      :) - J

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  6. also the dimple is about the same diameter across as you would see on a golf ball

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  8. two sets of the orange F4s and one wheel chipped from both sets :(

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    1. send them an email...they'll take care of it for ya.

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  9. Ever tried softer Bones DTF and ATF?

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  11. I really loved this blog article Johnny, it's really fuckin' great! I'm a 41 year old getting back into skating, and building a deck a la carte.

    I just want to cruise down streets & sidewalks doing powerslides, ollies, grinds & boardslides. Yet, I want wheels that can handle rougher blacktop & maybe cracks at least a little bit better than a hard wheel without getting flat spots.

    Every detail and scenario I wanted to know about a softer durometer wheel that equals an STF in durability & slide ability at the same diameter is what I wanted to find. This article sold me. I'm gonna buy the Spitfire F4 99a wheels instead of some STFs. Thanks so much bro!

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  12. I've just started skating recently and pretty clueless about all these standards on wheels. What are your suggestions for street skating? As there isn't a skate park nearby, the most I can do is to skate around my university campus area.

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  13. According to Spitfire labs and Team Riders, Formula 4 Performance Urethane is the best on the market. It lasts longer, withstands more abuse and outperforms all other wheels said Nathan Smith

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  14. Hey there, i just now thought id post and tell you your weblogs structure. It looks brilliant on the
    Formula 41 ExtremeGoogle Chrome internet browser. Anyhow maintain the good work.Depending on yourself to make the decisions can really be upsetting and frustrating. Many of us develop this ability over the course of our life.

    does formula extreme 41 really work?

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  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. Really very nice article for me. Very useful and pretty interesting to read. Very glad to visit your great weblog.

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  17. Hey Johny! Absolutely awesome write up! Just wow man!

    That being said, dood. Are 99A's good for smooth concrete parks over the rest of spitfires and bones?

    (please do reply)

    -Kelly-

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  18. I have rainskates black rain 101a wheels , when these wheels hit the concrete , it sounded like hammers hitting nails ,a metallic click, but these stfs sounded a bit rounder softer , based on sound and feel , they felt like 99a

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