So far, 2012 has been the year of the longboarding wheel, as there have been at least seven new offerings and several more “updates” both by wheel houses and board companies that brand wheels with their own name. Of course, the Powell name and Skate One not only go back to the summer when urethane wheels first began flooding the skateboard market, but they have something nobody else does: their own urethane factory, right in Santa Barbara, California. Now, they’ve had “longboard wheels” in the Skate One line for years but most skaters know them as entry-level stuff – certainly nothing using urethanes like they’ve dominated the street and vert market with. Well, until now.
The Longboard Consortium and Silverfish Longboarding skaters have been riding Skate One’s new wheels in various forms and durometers since we received a stoked phone call from an old contact at Powell, “we’ve got something you gotta try, like nothing we’ve done before!” So miles later and now with an official name, “These Wheels” by Skate One are reviewed here by the Longboard Consortium. We find them to be the first totally-new, truly high-performance wheels and urethane in several years and we think you’re going to feel the presence of These Wheels on the hill, whether it’s under your board or another’s.
These Wheels currently come in two sizes and and one urethane, Powell’s “FRF”, wrapped around either red or green cores. All the wheels are 80a and the translucent urethane seems to reveal a deep-centered, mildly offset core of the type our riders have found to provide both the smoothest slide and maximum wheel life. Powell either used a really accurate calculator to divine the optimum diameter, or just wanted to be a little different, so they list them as 69.5mm and 74.5mm in diameter, with tread widths at 42mm and 45mm, respectively.
The logo and printing on the wheels are understated and the core color can be seen glowing under the urethane. The wheels are made with a proprietary urethane formula that is designated with FRF (free-ride formula)and the denomination “717A” indicates the wheels are pre-ground translucent freeride formula.
These Wheels are shipped stone-ground, so they ride straight out of the shrink just as they will after a few quick slides. That sets the tone for the overall ride of the wheels: consistent. Powell’s FRF urethane formula does a number of things well –those that stood out most were the control and the feeling of the drift. These Wheels ride well and they ride controlled. There is none of the chatter and chattering that’s sometimes experienced in hard-edged slides with other wheels. The drift itself is quick to be controlled and reacts to board control with a reliable and steadfast sense of consistency.
We rode these wheels over various pavement types and the wheels responded the same whether we were on crushed aggregate or dirt-polished pavement. They seemed to be very forgiving of conditions and the urethane depth seemed to more than compensate for even the worst of the stuff we threw at the wheels. The ability of the wheels to perform under less than favorable conditions were a highlight for the riders that tested them. The general feeling of the wheels as a freeride wheel was that they performed reliably and consistently.
The core placement and contact patch worked to support the urethane; the wear on the wheels after even the most intensive sessions was minimal and the wheels wore very consistently, with no aberrations in the urethane seen on any wheels. We could expect these wheels to take their fair share of shredding before we would see core.
In terms of feel, both slide and drift are “chalky”. For those of us that leave drift lines on the street, These Wheels keep more urethane on the wheel after a slide than on the road. You’ll get ‘thane lines, but we would call them “conservative” rather than “faint” because this is an election year and we think it’s funny. Sliding, as mentioned above, was smooth on the break and on the hook up. Reliable and consistent the whole time. Ours came with several boxes of good, old, reliable Reds Bearings, so we left ‘em in the shot for you.
If you believe the marketing copy, Skate One took an entirely new approach to their cores, wrapped ‘em in their highest grade of urethane and then spent quite a while perfecting not just the ‘thane or the core but this exact wheel. If you take a look at the skaters they’ve lined up for their R&D (ride and develop?) Team, you’ll see skaters not only with plenty of trophies and skills, but also experience with a variety of wheel designs. Skate One appears to be using George Powell’s time-honored practice of finding great skaters with great ideas for how to make skateboarding better. Based on the shape of the wheel and a core design that’s an obvious departure from Skate One’s previous “recreational” offerings, we think you can see results, already. These Wheels are like nothing ever out of Skate One before and are some of the best freeriding wheels you’ll ever skate.
Each set will run you 70$ retail. Yea, you read that right! 70mm wheels for seventy bucks? Prices are up in the longboard world and you’re gonna have to pay to play with These. That’s not the biggest downside, though! The real issue is that longboarders have discovered these wheels and, as of this writing, there is almost zero availability of These Wheels. The price is apparently not an issue. You might also think the These line might seem a little thin, with only one durometer and urethane, especially considering Powell’s proven willingness to create purpose-built formulas for their street and vet lines. However, we have good reason to tell you things are about to change with the These Wheels offerings… keep a close eye on the Facebook pages if you can’t wait.
These Wheels are quite possibly the beginning of a new line of wheels that will quickly take its place among the favorite brand of wheels in many riders setups. There was a great deal of hesitation before our riders got a chance to ride the wheels, and no lack of uncertainty based on how quickly we’ve destroyed other wheels from Santa Barbara, but after a single run and then many subsequent runs thereafter, zero doubt remains. These Wheels are consistent, reliable and very comfortable. Many of our reviewers’ opinions have been mirrored out on the hill with other skaters using These. Pretty much everyone skating These Wheels will agree that Skate One and Powell have delivered proof of their competence and commitment to high-performance longboarding wheels. Our riders’ advice is that, if you find these available this summer, get them.