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Friday, October 17, 2014

Crazy Summer, now on to Autumn skating

Seasons Changing
This Summer on the East Coast has been hardly a Summer. Lots of rain, some stiflingly hot days, lots and lots of skate parks closed for the day because of weather. At some point I gave up on going to the local skate park because they couldn't keep it open long enough to make the trip worthwhile. I'd get there and skate for 20 minutes, waiting out the occasional rain sprinkle, then the park attendant would announce the park was closing for the day. What a waste. I put my soft (94a) wheels on sometime in August, and the fact that I haven't taken them off yet indicates how much I wasn't able to get park skating in. Just street skating.

But now Autumn (or Fall, if you prefer) is here. Aside from avoiding wet leaves, Autumn skating on the East Coast has its charm. For one thing, you don't sweat yourself to dehydration in less than an hour. The skate spots aren't nearly as crowded (most notable is the absence of razor scooter riders). I personally like going sliding in the cooler weather, because my wheels seem a little less mushy.

Big Pops Decks

I watched the video below with interest at the beginning of the summer. In the past few months, I've seen more and more local skaters skating bigger and bigger decks. I've been skating big popsicle stick decks for about a year now. Because of the versatility you see in this video, I am completely hooked on big pops. I will probably never going back to tiny freestyle size decks again. What do you think? 

At the park, I was skating the Earthwing Yoni 41, which is 9.3" wide and 41" long with a 20" wheelbase. However, doing mostly street skating lately, I've found more comfort on my Riviera Thai Fighter, which is 10" wide, 38" long, and I redrilled the stock 20" wheelbase to give me a 19" wheelbase. My legs are long (34" inseam), my feet are big (Size 14 US), so bigger boards fit me nicely. I've just ordered a Bustin Yoface 39, which is nominally 9.5" wide and 39.5" long with variable wheelbases from 19" to 21". I'll let you know how that goes.

Trucks
As for trucks, I skated Bear Grizzly 180 RKP trucks in the park. On the street I shuffled among lots of different TKP trucks: Bear Trucks Polar Bear 155, Theeve TiAX 6.5 V3, Paris Street Truck 169, Independent Stage XI 169, Surf Rodz TKP 159 and TKP 177, Gullwing Grinder 9.0, and Mini Logo 8.75. I also took each of those trucks to the park at least once.
My hands-down favorite 9"ish TKP truck for the park is the Polar Bear, with the Gullwing Grinder 9.0 coming in second and the Independent Stage XI 169 third.
On the street, it's a little harder to choose, but I ended up skating the Theeve TiAX 6.5 V3 the most, followed by the Polar Bear 155 in second, and the Surf Rodz TKP 177 in third. I like the strength of the Surf Rodz, but I wish I could find a bushing set up that worked for my heavy weight. Any suggestions?
As for the Paris Street Truck 169, I still haven't decided. I rode them in the park and on the street, and I changed out the stock bushings to see what else might happen. I don't think they're bad trucks, but so far I haven't really found what they're good at. By virtue of the taller baseplate - the way it should be, and not just a longer pivot - they're really high trucks, which helps if you need more height but don't like risers. I don't know, I think they're just not my cup of tea, but I admit that I have exotic preferences. So I've decided to reset my expectations for the Paris Street Trucks and review them with the mindset of the typical skater. More to come on that, to be sure.

Muscle Memory and Motor Learning
There's a duality to my skating, and it has everything to do with the fact that I grew up street skating and bank skating. Curved transitions were hard to come by in the 80s: I skated a friend's poorly made half pipe about a dozen times (what a nasty monster it was: 8' tall with no coping on one side, 6' tall with plastic coping on the other, and about 4' of flat), I skated lots of small and mellow quarter pipes, I occasionally got some time in an empty fountain. But I spent a lot of time going down hills, skating on curbs, skating in ditches, sliding on rails and benches, and ollieing gaps. All of that contributed to a muscle memory, I'm told, that is easy to build when young but more difficult when older. My muscle memory is firm with street skating, but pretty much absent with curved transitions. Hence, I'm more comfortable on the street and on banks and less comfortable on curved transitions, which leads to the duality. What I like the most on street are medium-loose, fluid, surfy trucks. In the park, where I'm far less comfortable pushing the limits, I prefer tighter, more stable, but still good turning trucks. I must look totally confused when I'm skating the RKP Bear Grizzly trucks on a big popsicle stick deck at the park and TKP Theeve TiAX on the big pops in the streets. But, hey, I'm just going with what works for me.
What do you all think? Older skaters, do you find that your muscle memory dictates your present-day skating style? Younger skaters, what will you do to make sure you have muscle memory for the type of skating in which you find the most satisfaction?


Shoes
For shoes, I've been trying to find comfortable shoes to skate in. I'm older now, and although my feet are healthier than they were when I was a kid, I'm more affected by pain. Some readers may remember that I've been plagued by turf toe for a long time now. Well, after throwing off my shoes in frustration one day and skating in just my socks, a light bulb went off in my head. I finally started blaming my shoes instead of my technique. So I've been trying to find shoes that give me the most natural feel, as close as possible to the natural way the foot moves. I have found that my feet are healthier when I have absolutely no added support, i.e., no arch support, no heel padding, no heel rise, no ankle bracing, no special straps, and so on. I actually wondered for a few moments what it would be like to skate in shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers - those shoes that have individual toes. But that's a moot point, because my big Viking toes don't fit in those shoes anyway.
I've been skating Vans Chukka shoes at the park. The Vans Chukka comes in a standard version with the normal glued-in insole, plus they have a version with removable Ultra Cush insoles. Like many vulcanized shoes, the standard Vans soles can be "lumpy" sometimes. On my most recent pair of standard insole Vans, there is a lump in the rubber that is right in the middle of my heel, and is very annoying. On the Vans with the Ultra Cush insoles, as well as the Core versions, I seem to never have any problems with anomalies in the rubber. No matter which sole I have, with Vans I have to cut a hole by the big toe because the toe box is too narrow. I have found that for size 14 and larger shoes, a lot of shoe companies just make the shoe longer but not wider. Feet, however, get bigger in all directions. And the more I go barefoot, and the healthier and straighter my toes get, the less I'm able to wear shoes with pointed toes.
For a while, I skated a pair of Altra Zero Drop shoes, the Instinct 2.0, but the pair of Altra Instinct shoes I had were defective in that the sole was bonded to the shoe crooked and it put my ankle at a funny angle. I developed a sore ankle after a few sessions. I was bummed about the defect, but I felt like the Instinct 2 had too much sole padding and support anyway. I also have a pair of Altra Instinct 1.5 with a thinner sole stack and that fit really great and that I wear for regular sneaker stuff like running, but that wouldn't last long on the skateboard because the sides are mesh. Interestingly, at the skate park, the Altra Instinct 2 shoes got a lot of interest from the hard core skaters, who explained that their feet are pretty much always injured and they would appreciate shoes that either have thicker soles or are a little wider in the toe to mitigate the debilitation they get from hammer toe and other similar injuries. I have a load of pictures of the Instinct 2 on the Google+ page.
For street skating, cruising around, carving, and sliding, I have been wearing Vivobarefoot Freud or Ra shoes, which are minimalist shoes that have only a 3mm thick sole along the whole foot and feel really fantastic to skate in. The Vivobarefoot shoes impart so much board feel, so much control. And they're tough, too, not wearing down so quickly like most shoes. Surprisingly, ollies and other air tricks feel pretty awesome with the Vivobarefoot shoes. I've had to be careful to stick my landings on the balls of my feet, but that's how I should be landing anyway. A heel landing is bad for you no matter what shoe you're wearing. (As an aside, watch Chris Haslam and Daewon Song in Cheese and Crackers. Their foot placement discipline is amazing. Their feet are always perfectly positioned on their boards, with the toes right at the toeside edge.) I would really like to try the Vivobarefoot shoes at the park.
When it comes to shoes, what do you all think? I'm interested to hear from the older skaters as well as the younger skaters.

Apologies
I also want to apologize for not blogging during the Summer. It was a challenge to get any quality skating time in, which left no time to write. Sorry 'bout that.

34 comments:

  1. Etcetera Project low insoles's really help me.
    The primo pad really protect the foot.

    The hi's don't work for me because the board feel was gone.

    Most people going wider board but I'm going the opposite way. It's more comfortable for me. I'm still blown away by Dave Bachinsky, Felipe Gustavo and Louie Barletta skating gnarly with small board.

    I'm 3+ years old with US10 shoes.

    I've been a long time fan for this site.
    Keep up the good work guys.

    Acun

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  2. Hi Bertrand, great post!

    My name is Jonas and like you, I`m trying some bigger decks and I also feel so more comfort skating big pop decks. They are working really well on snakeruns and pools that we have here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but I found it a bit hard to skate on tight transitions and miniramps. My favorite setup now is a riviera cosmic wizard deck (9.8 Wide, 37 in length and 18.875 wheelbase) with paris 180mm RKP truck on front and paris 169 TKP on the back (maybe back truck should be wider but I already have an 169 TKP truck). Did you ever try to split trucks like this? I'm tryind this setup cause I think that TKP don't turn well on wheelbases higher than 16 and RKP on a 19 WB feels unstable on higher speeds and bigger bowls. I changed the bushings of my TKP paris truck for bones hard, I really didn`t like the stock bushings and was getting to much wheel bites. With bones bushing the truck is very good!

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    1. The Riviera decks are nice. They're flexible, but responsive.
      I like the idea of trying an RKP truck on the front. Did you use risers on the back truck to even out the height difference? Newton trucks are RKP trucks that are low enough to not need a height adjustment.

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    2. I use 1/4 inches riser pads on the back truck to adjust the difference (paris TKP is 57 mm tall and RKP is 64 mm tall). I tried to flip the front truck to avoid the riser pads but it didn`t work well.

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  3. Love your blog! I'm 38 and back skating after a LONG break. My muscle memory is a toss up. First time back on a board I popped a big 180 ollie just like 20 years ago. However doing a simple boardslide is a challenge, I thought my balenciaga would be better, quicker. Living on a mountain, with no concrete, I immediately built a mini ramp. I didn't consider the weather here on the east coast, so I rarely get to use it. Seems like at this age its really important to skate everyday. Your comment about landing on the balls of your feet is something I'd never considered, but makes sense. I'd love to hear more on that. Keep up the good work!

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    1. You're lucky to have mini ramp! I would love to build one for myself.

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  4. Balance -auto correct

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  5. Hey how do you like Bustin Yoface 39" ? What truck and wheel size are riding with it? I've had one for about a week and I love it. I have Indy 169 stage 11' s w/ 62mm Bones chomp 2's but I may go to Bones 60mm ATF wheels.

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    1. The new style ATF's based on the these wheels design, also used now by Powell Peralta, have much better performance than the older Bones ATF style. The these versions have better cores and are noticeably faster.

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    2. I like the Yoface 39 quite a bit! It is highly responsive for a long deck. I'm using Polar Bear 180 trucks set to the shortest wheelbase. I still ride Bones park formula wheels for the park, but everywhere else I'm using Divine Trail Blazer 92a in 60 mm. I'm not using any risers. Everything is really well balanced.
      How has the Yoface been for you in the last couple of weeks? What style(s) of riding do you do with it?

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  6. happy you're back! Great post.

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  7. Any recommendations for an all purpose wheel? I ride street and a mini. So far I've tried spitfire formula 4, and rictas.

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    1. I like Landshark wheels for all-purpose use. Spitfire F1 Streetburners are also nice wheels for all-purpose.

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    2. If you're riding a slippery masonite miniramp, Landshark wheels do well to keep you going where you want. Another wheel that I like for slippery mini ramps is the Satori 98a Linked Logo wheels. Good luck! And tell us what you end up getting.

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    3. Was thinking about trying type s, will check out landshark as well. Tried the 101 spitfires and they tore up my feet. Switched to ricta clouds, which feel delicious, but not very practical.

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    4. Got my satori linked logos this week. Two thoughts I have. The grip and feel of them is terrific! However two of them are not true (round). I thought it was how the bearings were set. However I rolled each of them across my jointer bed, two of four were obviously warped or oblong. It was very noticeable. Hopefully riding on a rough surface will even them out, I've never had wheels this out of wack. We'll see. Now I'm trying to choose between a real lo pro 2, or a welcome deck. Any thoughts?

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    5. Oooh, that's not good. Do you feel or hear it when you're riding them?
      Satori is really good with customer service, contact them: http://satoriwheels.org/relife/

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    6. I can't hear it, but definitely feel it. I'll contact them. Thanks for the help.

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    7. No dice with customer service, got really complicated quickly. Switched to spitfire full conical, and couldn't be happier.

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  8. I have been trying out different trucks over the last six months (indy, mini logo, ace and theeve v3).
    By far the theeves was my favorite the first 20 hours skating them.
    But then something happened. The conference boosting stability at center suddenly disappeared. As I picked them apart to find out what was wrong I found that the kingpin had gotten loose inside the baseplate. And this was after only 20 hours of mostly indoor skating. I contacted theeve and they sent me replacements. Then again after maybe 15-20 hours of only indoor skating the problem was back.
    I have now given up on theeves altogether and settled for the imo second best independent stage 11:s.
    Have you had any problems with the kungpin getting loose in the baseplate on your theeve v3:s?

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    1. Yep. Sadly, I've seen that happen to two sets of Theeve V2 trucks - not my trucks, but rather two other skaters. I replaced the kingpins in one of the sets with Theeve Titanium kingpins, which were a very tight fit BUT actually may have hastened the recurrence of the issue for that skater. Two months later, the Ti kingpins were loose, too.
      Hypotheses:
      A. My first hypothesis is that because the pivot well is drilled too deep, the kingpin gets stressed on an arc relative to the pivot. The arc is hypothetically and unintentionally just right for prematurely wearing away the kingpin hole. I haven't seen this issue with my Theeve trucks, my hypothesis continues, because I replace the pivot cups with shallower, firmer, rounder cups that center the kingpin in the hanger yoke and reduce the longitudinal stresses on the kingpin. The evidence for this first hypothesis is only theoretical, and not deeply researched.
      B. An alternative hypothesis is that the titanium-aluminum baseplates are simply too soft for the forces of skateboarding. The primary evidence: photograph and textual reports of 1) kingpins wearing out the kingpin holes in the baseplates, and 2) truck mounting bolts wearing out the truck mounting holes in the baseplate. Another piece of evidence that would support this alternative hypothesis would be if we were to observe a Theeve baseplate that has had its pivot well worn out by the hanger's pivot point - this may be a little more difficult because the pivot point is cushioned by the pivot cup. Another way to test this hypothesis would be to conduct an experiment that directly compares Theeve baseplates with other cast baseplates. I'm thinking Independent (the industry leading practice and also covers other Ermico baseplates for Thunder and Venture), Tensor magnesium, and one or two others. Does anybody know what instruments are needed to measure softness, forces on truck baseplates, and interactions between different types of metals?

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    2. Something is terribly wrong with theeves that's for sure. At least my set.
      Getting that much wear in the kingpin hole after only skating on super smooth Masonite is not ok. Imagine if I would have skated them on rougher asphalt they would have fallen apart.

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    3. I've seen better durability with the V3 Theeves. Even so, other trucks are pretty much bulletproof, so Theeve still has some maturation to undergo. Theeve knows it, they're working on it.

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  9. i just wanted to tell you all the gear talk is amazing. i love nerding out on these things. great site!

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    1. Me too. Yet another reason to just go skate

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  10. s'up guys. i got an arbiter dk cause i like the shape an there sure are some rippers on youtube. but man is that thing heavy!

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    1. Heavy indeed! But lots of people like it. Glad you enjoy it!

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  13. are you back?!?!?! I spot a Hightailer and would love a review from you... such an interesting deck.
    On my part, enjoying the classic and amazing BE40 from Gravity and trying to learn to skate parks on it!
    keep on!

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    1. I'm back! I nursed a foot injury for a while. Then I got back skating in the Spring and been having lots of fun on the Earthwing Hightailer 43. Review is in draft status right now, just a few more observations and I'll publish it. Measurements are already in the database.
      That Gravity BE40 is another deck I looked at, but my feet were too big on it! I've become spoiled on 10"ish wide decks...

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    2. great to hear from you, expecting to see your new posts.
      I have 12 size feet and have found the BE40 to suit me perfectly although it is narrow... Maybe it is the relaxed concave.

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  14. I always wear comfortable shoes before i go out. I thinks this is necessary, especially when you ride a difficult ways. Tke some rest and make some Fun With longboarding.

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