Choosing Wheels

img_20171125_104251.jpgOver the last year, we have used 11 different wheels, including various models from: Orangatang, Hawg, Walzen, Metro, Atom, Abec & Blood Orange, and thought it worth documenting our experiences and preferences.

First off, it is important to note, that all this is in the limited context of our cafe-cruising, street pumping and carving, limited trick ability and tentative deck foot-work (calling it “dancing” is a bit much). We don’t live with streets or paths where we can downhill safely or (yet) have the ability to do big dancing and tricks.

 

Info-graphic from w82.com

For what we do, I suspect just about any wheel would work, but our choice usually comes down to the following four characteristics:

  1. Larger diameter (70mm+) – to smooth out the local rough roads and pavements. We don’t push our boarding that much to notice any subtle acceleration difference from using smaller wheels (smaller wheels accelerate faster than a larger one), but do notice immediately when smaller wheels rebound against old rough pavements.
  2. Colour – hey, aesthetics are important to us; when cafe-cruising, it is important to have a cool board with colours that work together.
  3. Lip edge & contact width – either:
    • a square/sharp lip with a larger contact width, like the Hawg Mini Monsters and big Orangatang Kegels, for max grip in the turn when cruising; or,
    • a rounded lip with a smaller contact width, like the Blood Orange Liam Morgans and Metro Red Motions, for the boards we like to throw around and do basic tricks on.
  4. Built-in Lights – my 8-year-old son will only use wheels on his board with built-in lights 🙂

I initially thought that the durometer rating would be a big factor for us, but have ended up happily using wheels from 78a to 84a with no issues.

None of the wheels we have used have given us any problems and I would happily buy any of them again.

Kegel
big 80mm pavement-crushing 80a Orangatang Kegels

 

 

 

Bearings – how much to spend?

bearings2
As a casual easy-going longboarder, and 6 boards in, I was thinking: “what have I learnt?” – the full subject/answer is for a much longer post in the future, but I just wanted to cover one aspect now: bearings.
Alongside bushings, to match my weight and style, the one thing I almost certainly will keep changing on any future boards I buy complete, is the bearings. As a casual longboarder, not pushing the envelope in dance, freestyle or downhill, can I tell the difference between bad and good bearings, cheap and more costly? The answer is very firmly “yes”.
So far we have used bearings from Atom, Venom, Bones, Oust, Bronson and some unknown unbranded makes and I may not be able to tell the difference between makes, but I can certainly tell the difference between cheap and more costly. Is it worth spending a little more on your bearings and the answer is “yes”.
So, how much is spending a little more? Well, the bearings that have all come with complete boards have been quite frankly rubbish  – “rubbish”, being that the board, under load (remember any ol’ bearing can spin forever without any load) does not travel as far and is just harder work. At the end of play, I feel more tired and just have not got as much done nor had as much fun. I guess it is simply an easy item for the makers of complete boards, in a very price competitive market, to use to help keep their costs down – there is no visible branding needed and in a shop people just flick the wheels (unloaded).
We have bought £8-15 branded bearings to replace the bad ones, but found them really to not be too much better – I doubt it is a make/brand issue, it is just a consequence of the manufacturing costs. The step change in improvement has come from using £30-40 bearings (for us: Bones Race Reds, Bronson G3 & Oust Moc7). This is where the effort, speed, the run etc. have all been significantly better and overall just made the boards more fun to use.
On the next board (oh’ yes more to come… :-> ) I am going to try out some more expensive again Swiss and Ceramic bearings, just to see if they make an even bigger difference – I suspect not, but it will be fun to see.
bearings-orthographic1.jpg

Grip Tape Shapes

I have had lots of comments and questions regarding Alfie and the grip-tape patterns and cutting.

IMG_6435

The first thing is that this was not done first time in one go – I had many many tries and had help from a Loaded replacement grip kit for some of the shapes.

There are 5 Loaded grip-tape kits I know of, which give you some nice individual shapes to play with.

In addition to these are a few pre-cut (laser-cut) patterns from the likes Lokton, however, the longer 40×11″ versions, as opposed to the smaller square 11×11″ ones, seem harder to find.

Lokton_40-Inch_Sheet_Group_Overhead_Fan

If you have access to a laser cutter then life is much much easier and they are usually available at community maker/engineering facilities, if not these pre-cut patterns can save a lot of time and heart ache. Although the pre-cut sheets are relatively expensive, I would dread having to do these kinds of patterns with just a ruler and razor-blade.

laser-cut
Example of intricate laser-cut grip tape

My relatively inexperienced pattern cutting to date has been much more basic, using only steel rulers and kitchen pots: saucepans and frying pans – sadly there is no community engineering workshop near me, otherwise, I would use a laser cutter every time.

My cutting with a razor-blade, or carpet knife, has had mixed success. Patterns drawn on the paper backing, even with new blades I have found often snags and produces poor ragged edges. Cutting on the top, direct into the grip, has produced much better clean edges, but obviously, it is not easy to draw on the top. The clean curved edges on Alfie were achieved by marking on the back paper of the tape the start and end point of the curve, making a small cut with scissors and then placing the saucepan or frying pan on the start and end points/cuts and cutting around the curve of the pan with the razor-blade.

Finally, grip-tape does not need to be black or gray, there are many other colours that can be used or mixed.

Blood Orange Grip tape

My next challenge is to grip with Zenit AB on order and arriving in a months time.