An Illuminating Wheel — Northern Lights Review

An Illuminating Wheel — Northern Lights Review

Hello My Friends,
I have recently started riding a new set of wheels, Northern Lights by Balance Skate Products. Northern Lights are new to the Balance line-up and were designed as an all around wheel with a knack for all of your freeride endeavors. Something really cool about these wheels is that the cores actually glow in the dark. Yes, you heard me right, the cores glow in the freaking dark!

Which means as soon as these wheels arrived at my house, before I even put them on board, I let them sit under a lamp for a minute then turned off all my lights. Northern Lights lay no false claims. They totally glow in the dark, which is just plain old fun.

I know everyone is curious about how well these wheels handle, but before I get into that, let’s talk about the technical specifications of the wheel. Balance Skate Products’ Northern Lights are 70mm in diameter with a 38mm contact patch. The core, aside from being glow in the dark, is slightly offset. Northern Lights come in only one durometer of 83a. They are round lipped and the riding surface is stone ground or “pre-broken-in.”

Downhill
Northern Lights are not really a downhill specific shape, however, I have taken them pretty fast more than a few times and was happy with the results. Coming in at 70mm makes these wheels a very typical size for longboarding but not necessarily for super downhill mode which normally rocks wheels around 75mm. Bigger 75mm wheels have a higher top speed than 70mm wheels so you probably aren’t going to break any speed records on your Northern Lights.

However, these wheels are actually really fun if you like a little bit of slide in your downhill runs. The narrow contact path and the rounded lips make for a very drifty wheel when going fast. If you like to go fast and then slide through a turn the you will enjoy these wheels. That being said, Northern Lights are surprisingly grippy when you want them to stick and held some moderately turny lines when pushing some speed.

Commuting
I do a lot of skateboard commuting (despite the bitter winter cold) on my way to work every day. My commute to work is about two miles long with lots of hills, roads, sidewalks, curbs, cars, and people to maneuver through. I put Northern Lights through these motions every single day, two miles there, two miles back, on every dry day since I got them back in December. Two of the things I really liked when commuting on these wheels were the quick acceleration and the light weight.

Being a 70mm wheel means that you really don’t have to put that much effort into getting these bad boys up to speed. One or two pushes and you are well on your way. They don’t hold speed for a super long time, like a more massive wheel would, but since it takes so little effort to push them it is definitely a fair trade off. Additionally I really enjoyed how light these wheels were when I had to push them for two miles every day.

Freestyle
I mentioned that having a light weight wheel was great for pushing around town, well I think that a light weight might be even more applicable to freestyle skating. If you like to freestyle as much as I do then you probably already know how beneficial a light wheels can be. Northern Lights are great for flip tricks because they don’t weigh your board down very much, especially for a 70mm wheel, which means your spins or flips don’t require a Herculean effort.

Generally when I freestyle skate I throw lots of 180 slides in the mix when linking tricks. Northern Lights are really nice for quick 180 slides on flat ground. You can break the traction very easily and spin them around without a problem. The slide is nice and smooth and the transition is pretty quiet, which is always a plus.

Freeride
Like most people I have been getting more and more into freeride lately and am always questing for a fantastic slide wheel. Northern Lights have definitely hit a sweet spot for freeride. They break traction smoothly and consistently. These wheels do not drop an enormous amount of thane, which means they also do not wear stupidly fast. I can also say that they have been wearing very evenly and uniformly throughout my entire test phase with no flat spots or ovals. Now to answer the question on everyone’s lips, “are they buttery?”

Northern Lights do not have what I would consider to be a buttery slide, they have a very interesting slide that I have really come to enjoy. Once they break traction Northern Lights feel like what an icy slide would be like, however, they are completely controllable. The first time I held out a big slide on Northern Lights I could have sworn they were going ice out right away based on the way the felt under my feet, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find that their slide is super controlled and predictable. I don’t think I have ever ridden a wheel that felt so icy but remained so freaking manageable. Northern Lights are one of my favorite freeride wheels as of late because once you break traction and start sliding they just go without sacrificing control.

It Can’t All Be Good
Every product has a downside or two. I would say that the biggest downside to Northern Lights might be the fact that they look so similar to other wheels on the market. I have heard people say that they are just Metro Motion knock offs. There are in fact many wheels on the market poured in the very same mold as Northern Lights.

However, to these people I would say, “Don’t knock them til you have tried them.” Because while you may have ridden similar wheels I promise that you have not ridden thane like Northern Lights.

The Bottom Line
Would I recommend Northern Lights to a friend?
I wholeheartedly believe that these wheels are a solid choice anyone looking to freeride and freestyle on their board (which is most people these days). They are light, slidey, and very durable. What more could you ask for in a wheel? Northern Lights are a great all around wheel, however, I think that they are at their very best in freeride. If you are looking for a long lasting wheel that can handle pretty much any type of abuse you can throw at, then I would consider Northern Lights.

Any Questions, Comments, Concerns, Hatemail, Junkmail???
Send it my way!

Stay Awesome,
Wayne

My Current Favorite Setup:
-Loaded Chubby Unicorn
-Surf-Rodz 176mm RKP 50*
-Venom Bushings
-NORTHERN LIGHTS 70mm 83a
-Venom Bushings
-Daddies Bearings

Fairy Tales Really Do Come True — Loaded Chubby Unicorn Review

Fairy Tales Really Do Come True — Loaded Chubby Unicorn Review

 Hello Friends,

I come to you today with a review that many people thought would never be written, that of the infamous Loaded Chubby Unicorn. The Chubby Unicorn has definitely been under development longer than any board I have ever heard of and there has been more stoke and hype around this specter of deck than I thought imaginable.  We have all seen the glimpses of the Chubby Unicorn in pictures and videos for a very long time and it will finally be available worldwide on December 4th.

The Chubby Unicorn is a topmount, double kick, symmetrical freeride and downhill board. Despite the seemingly simple shape the Chubby Unicorn, lovingly called the Chubby by many, is a board unlike anything currently on the market. However, before I get into how this thing handles on the road, let’s talk tech.

 

Loaded Chubby Unicorn

Length

42.25in

Width

9.75in

Wheelbase

28.25in

Kicktails

7in (to inner bolts)

Special Features

W-Concave, Wheel Wells and Flares, Recessed Truck Mounts, Grab Rails, UHMW Skin, Urethane Rails

The Chubby Unicorn spent an insane amount of time in development to make what Loaded thought to be the best downhill freeride board on the market. In doing so Loaded added some serious tech to this deck to really make it perform in the manner they wished.

There are several novel features, unique to this board, that are not currently available anywhere else on the market. The most intriguing of which are the Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE)  skin on the bottom layer of the board and the urethane sidewalls coating the rails. These were both added to give the board some extra durability and dampen vibrations when going at top speed. I know that everyone has as many questions about them as I probably did, so I made sure to spend extra time testing every aspect of these new features.

If you have ever read one of my reviews then you already know that I always review a board in each of what I consider to the four main categories of longboarding. This review shall be no exception, so let’s get started.

Commuting
When it comes to a commuter the Chubby sure can make a run to class or work a whole lot of fun. Especially if that run to class or work includes some nice terrain to tear through in the process. I personally find W-Concave to be kind of hit or miss with me in many aspects of riding, but commuting is generally where I don’t like it. However, the W on the Chubby is nice and flat on top so it doesn’t make my feet sore when pushing on it for a long time. Another nice thing for me, because I’m a mongo pushing kook, is the concave. While it is definitely there, like the W, it is not crazy steep foot cramping concave. Finally, I would say that the weight on this board is just right for a commuter, I have ridden dozens of boards that are composed of like 20 plies of maple and they weigh a ton, coming in at less than 5lbs makes the Chubby pretty enjoyable to push around.

Favorite Commuting Setup:
-Paris 50*, Orangatang Nipples (Hard), Orangatang 4President 83a

Freestyle
Well the most obvious trait this board has for some freestyle action are the two giant kicktails on either end. I think that most boards keep their tails a little too short, well the Chubby said screw that! Loaded beefed their tails up with big ol’ 7 inch kicks which is great for freestyle and for freeride alike. There is enough tail to actually pop a significant ollie (not the 1inch ollie you get with most longboards) and you can get plenty of leverage on the tails to do things like shoves, big spins, tiger claws, you name it. Some of the more subtle freestyle bonuses are the urethane sidewalls and the UHMWPE skin on the bottom. They are really nice because if you’re like me, and you don’t have perfect manuals on lock, you will often drag the tail of your board along the ground. Of if you are constantly hitting ollies or big pop tricks off the tails you scrape your tail up pretty fast.  The problem is that on a board with a price tag as daunting as the Chubby Unicorn getting super fast razor tail would be terrible. Fortunately, that urethane sidewall and UHMWPE skin have done wonders to keep my board in tip top shape (despite the fact that I have been intentionally trying to thrash it to give you the best review possible).

Favorite Freestyle Setup:
-Paris 50*, Orangatang Nipple Bushing (Soft), Orangatang Stimulus 86a

Downhill
The Chubby Unicorn is one fast moving son of a gun. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever felt as stable on a board as I have on the Chubby. To be fair, this board was designed with me or someone very close to my height, weight and shoe size in mind. I am about 5’9”, 160lbs, and wear a size 10.5 shoe and this board felt like it was meant to be. I am the first to admit that downhill is my weakest skill in longboarding, but I can at least get pretty fast if I try, and I took this board to some of the biggest hills Chapel Hill has to offer and it performed very well. It made me feel more confident going fast which was great because as we all know that person who is the most sure of her/himself is generally the best at downhill, haha.  I probably maxed out in speed at around 40mph on some 45* trucks and I didn’t feel even a slight wiggle under my feet. It is seriously like riding a on a magic carpet, or actually, just like riding on a big fat Unicorn. The wheelbase is long enough to keep stable but not so long that you lose maneuverability. The concave keeps your feet where you want them to be without being overbearing and restrictive. In addition I really liked have the wheel flares on the board as a reference point I could feel without looking down at the board. Finally the recessed truck mounts lower the board just a tiny bit and takes your center of gravity down there with it which adds a little more stability to your runs.

Favorite Downhill Setup:
-Surf-Rodz RKP 45*, Venom Bushings, Orangatang 4Presidents 80a

Freeride
I am aware that the Chubby is downhill/freeride board, but I would like to make the argument that it is actually a freeride/downhill board. Mostly because this board, in my opinion, is at its best during some freeride action. I like that the Chubby retained a wheelbase of only 28.25 inches because it makes the board so freaking nimble on the hills. If you like 180 slides you can spin until your heart’s content with this board due to that small wheelbase and the multifaceted uses of the concave. I have mentioned that the concave isn’t anything super serious, but it is in its simplicity that it shines. The rails and W have enough to grab onto with your feet no problem when transitioning between slides or holding out long slides. I’m no pro rider and cannot hold 16453 foot slides for days, but I have definitely hit my longest slides to date on this board. Additionally I really like to use my tails when I freeride, so I like having the enormous tails on the Chubby when hitting the slopes. The tails have a little bit of concave in them  and are so beefed up that you can definitely keep your foot locked in on the tail in any situation. Finally, let’s talk grab rails. If you are a fan of early grabs or stalefish/indy slides you will be a fan of these grab rails. They are definitely deep enough to grab into with your fingers and get a little more grip on your deck. The only time I ever had an issue with them was if I were wearing slide gloves with finger pucks on them; but then you can’t really grab anything anyways so I can’t really call that the grab rails’ fault.

Favorite Freeride Setup:
-50* Calibers, Blood Orange Bushings, and Orangatang Stimulus 83a or Baluts 80a

Check that Skate Face!

Durability
I don’t normally devote an entire section of a review to the durability of a board, but I think the Chubby merits this special adjustment. I know that everyone wants to know if the Chubby Unicorn is really worth the extra money and the durability of board definitely plays a role in that. I have actually been attempting to thrash this board; I have treated it like absolute hell. I have been taking it off stair sets, curbing it, flipping onto the rails, trying to razor the tail… you name it, I have put this board through it. Through all of this my Chubby still looks better than most of the boards I have and that I take way better care of. I haven’t even been able to scrape through the urethane sidewalls to see the wood on the tails or the rails yet.

It Can’t All Be Good…
Every board has its up and downs. There is no silver bullet longboard that will be a perfect fit for everyone. I believe the Chubby Unicorn has come incredibly close to being a do it all board, but I also acknowledge that this board won’t be it for everyone. My main reasoning is the concave. Some people are really big fans of very extreme and elaborate concave and some people just do not like W concave. This is simply a case of not being able to please everyone because everyone looks for something a little different in a longboard.

The Price
I also happen to be a pretty gifted mind reader and I know the other downside everyone is thinking about right now. The whopping price tag. The Chubby Unicorn is going to set you back $360 for the deck. That is a freaking investment right there. I know that this has ruffled a lot of feathers with people who have been waiting forever for the Chubby to come out only to find they can’t afford it. While I am in no way saying this board is cheap, I do think it is worth the price.

My background in sports started with cycling and surfing which both carry a much larger pricetag than longboarding does. A decent surfboard, even used is going to be at least 300 big ones and the price only goes up from there. Now, to get anywhere near a decent road bike will cost you $1000 and to get a bike that is competitive at the racing level we are talking well over $4000. The Chubby Unicorn is a professional level board using the most innovative manufacturing techniques on the market; it is the crème of the crop, and you really do get what you pay for.

Bottom Line
Would I recommend the Chubby Unicorn to a friend?

Yes, this board has received the Wayne Capps Seal of Approval in pretty much every way. I would however, encourage anyone looking to purchase a Chubby to try one out before you buy. This board does require a significant investment into the sport of longboarding so you need to be sure that you’re in it for the long haul and that you feel comfortable on the Chubby.

I think this board would best suit someone who is looking for one board to do everything. Many people out there now have quivers of boards (myself included) and I think that the Chubby might be a great alternative to a quiver. It costs less than getting more than one board and, in my humble opinion, can do the job of many boards better than any two boards combined.

If you know someone with a Chubby, give the board a try and see if you like it. I am fairly certain you will be impressed and I have to give mad props to Loaded for making such a solid board.
 Thanks for reading! Any questions, comments, concerns!?!?!?

Hit me up!
Stay Awesome,
Wayne

My Current Favorite Setup:
-LOADED CHUBBY UNICORN
-Surf-Rodz RKP 50* Trucks
-Orangatang Stimulus 80a
-Venom Bushings
-Daddies Bearings

the Reckless Vandal — Rayne Vandal Review

the Reckless Vandal — Rayne Vandal Review

Hey Party People,
I recently got my hands on a Rayne Vandal a board so ready for steeze that it may make you feel like going way bigger and harder than normal… one might even say it makes you feel like a reckless vandal. (see what I did there?) The Vandal really is an awesome board for both freeride and downhill and it has all sorts of nooks and crannies to keep your feet nice and comfy no matter what type of situation you might find you and  your board in.

However, per usual, before we get into how the Vandal handles on the ol’ black top let’s get into the technical specifications of the board.

Specs:

Rayne Vandal

Length

35.5in

Wheelsbase

25.75, 26.5, or 27.25in

Width

10in

Special Features

Tub Concave, 3D Wheel Wells, 3D Gas Pedals, Mounting Options

The Vandal is a direction topmount board with everything you need to go fast and go sideways and even some surprising attributes to make it pretty fun in other applications.

Commuting
This board is a pretty dope board to cruise through town on. It is small enough to be nimble on sidewalks but has more than enough room to steeze things out with. Something I really like about Rayne construction is the use of bamboo and pre-tensioned fiberglass. This combination makes their boards both strong as an ox and light as a feather. Being so light is really what makes this board so nice to commute on because it takes like no energy to get moving.

The Vandal also has some nice adjustable wheelbase options, so if you know that you are going to be riding through some close quarters pretty frequently you can dial the wheelbase in nice and tight. This allows you the ability to whip 180 and check slides with little no effort.

Freestyle
Most people would be kind of surprised to know that the Vandal, although definitely not intended to be a freestyle board, has some nice traits for tricks. You can reel the wheelbase down real low to give your Vandal a little tail. Now the tail is not kicked but it is super functional. you can boneless, tigerclaw, shove, and manual with this little tail all day long. In addition something one of my buddies did that was kind of cool is put a footstop on his vandal. This footstop was meant for intense freeride/downhill time but it doubled as an “ollie block.” He would pop an ollie and then slide his foot up against that footstop to get a little more leverage on the board and add height to his jump. There’s a little pro-tip if you’re ever trying to take you Vandal up curbs, haha.

Downhill
The Vandal is fast. There are no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” about it. This board was built for speed and lots and lots and lots of it. Having never actually ridden a Rayne before this Vandal when I heard that it was made of bamboo and fiberglass I immediately thought of more flexy cruiser type boards and couldn’t picture it being stiff. However, the second I stepped on the board all my thoughts of flex dissolved. The Vandal is nice and stiff and has super comfy foot pockets. The board was molded with such thought and foresight that I felt very comfortable going at about my max speed on this board the day I got it.

Freeride
Where does a Vandal truly shine? Well, to be perfectly honest it was quite a close call between downhill and freeride, but in the end I think the Vandal’s true forte is going sideways (and feel free to disagree with me). The platform on this board is something else, the wheels wells form awesome 3D gas pedals that you can really dig your feet into for slides. They feel great for spinning around and transitioning between heel and toeside slides and also make you feel really confident when leaning into bigger slides. The shape of the wheel wells is so intuitive and natural that you don’t find yourself needing to monkey foot (when you wrap your toes or heel on the rail of a board to get more leverage) hardly at all. I still do it out of habit when I am going slow (check out some of my pictures), but at high speeds my feet stay on my platform at all times even when switching my slide direction.

Let’s Get to that Bottom Line:
Who would I recommend the Rayne Vandal to? I think that this board is great for all those folks out there who are looking to go fast and go sideways. While the Vandal is pretty good for commuting and even has some nice feature for some light freestyle, it is really all about speed. Speed while downhilling and speed while pulling off impossibly large powerslides. The Vandal is currently my topmount of choice because I know when I step on the board I am going to be locked in for any speed I might hit and ready to hit a slide at a moment’s notice.

If you are looking for a directional topmount board that can do a little bit of everything but really excels at downhill and freeride then I would humbly recommend the Vandal. It has everything you need to go super fast and slideways. Plus, to top all of that off the construction on the board is great and I know that my Vandal will last me a long long time.
Photo Cred: Flerine!

Any Questions, Comments, Concerns, Loveletters, or Memes???
Hit me up!
Stay Awesome,
Wayne

My Current Favorite Setup:
-RAYNE VANDAL
-Surf-Rodz 176mm RKP Trucks
-Orangatang Baluts 80a
-Venom SHR Bushings
-Daddies Board Shop Bearings

All Hot and Bothered — Fireball Incendo and Beast Wheels Review

All Hot and Bothered — Fireball Incendo and Beast Wheels Review

Hey My Friends,
I have been checking out some new wheels lately have been rocking these sick new sets of Fireball wheels the Incendos and Beasts. These wheels are pretty interesting wheels in that preform well in a variety of skating styles and look good to boot. They have a really nice urethane formula that begs to be slid on and are a fun all around skate wheel. Let’s get into the specifications of these wheels.

   All Fireball wheels come in 3 signature color/durometer combination with the softest being the white 81a, followed by the red 84a, and finally the black 87a. They also all come slide prepped with a nice stone ground surface so you can slide these bad boys on day one. They have an interesting lip shape, but I’ll talk more about that in a second. There are two varieties of Fireball wheels the Incendos and Beasts. Incendos are offset and 70mm with a 44mm contact path and Beasts are offset 76mm wheels with a 49mm contact path.

I mentioned that these wheels can perform well in many of the different situations a rider might encounter on the road which makes sense because Incendos were designed to be an all around wheel. Unfortunately I have heard some guys who like to hold those long standies out for days complain about Fireballs. Well when I was talking with some of the crew over at Fireball they informed that these wheels weren’t meant to freeride specific. However, they told me that may have something along those lines in the works so all you guys who only like to hold out standies can look forward to those, because although these wheels aren’t the best shape for freeride the thane formula is soooooo smooth. But I digress, let me tell how these wheels perform in the many different styles of riding you might want to put them through.

Commuting
I really enjoy commuting on both Incendos and Beasts for different reasons. If you like to whip some check slides and do flip tricks on your commute you are going to love the Incendos they are lighter and accelerate nice and quickly. If you like the whole push, push coast dealio then you are going to dig the Beasts. They take a little bit of work to get up to speed since they are larger but they hold speed great. It’s really nice for longer commutes and skater who aren’t into flippy tricks or doing quick slides.

Freestyle
If you are into freestyle longboarding then you are probably going to prefer the Incendos. They are light, nimble, and break out into quick little slides like it is their job. I really like these wheels for longboard flip tricks and flatland powerslides when I am freestyling. They leave thane so easy, it’s kinda cool, you can see your thane lines after quick 180s. The best freestyle application for the Beasts that I have found are that they are dope for dancing. That nice long coast I was talking about means that you can cross-step the day away without having to put your feet back down for pushing. Oh yeah!

Downhill
Now this is a discipline that these wheels were made for! Incendos are great for hitting hills that aren’t super long and that you are going to need to get up to your top speed quickly due to their smaller 70mm diameter. Beasts are, well… they are beastly at downhill. They have great top speed and hold that speed very well. That 76mm diameter, as I mentioned, makes them great for sustaining speed and the wide contact path allows them to corner pretty well too. Both Incendos and Beasts come with a stone ground finish so I would not recommend trying to grip through a hard corner going super fast, because you’re going to slide. Now, I am not a downhill racer, but I have taken both sets of wheels through some tight turns going fast and they drift beautifully! This is where I think that these wheels really excel over the competition, they are so freaking smooth and predictable!

Freeride
I touched on this earlier in my review, but what is interesting about Beasts and Incendos are that they are not meant to be a freeride specific wheel. Despite this, what is great about these wheels is that they are both awesome to freeride anyways. I really enjoyed the urethane formula of the wheels because it is smooth as hell. These wheels are not the very best wheels I have ridden to hold out loooong standing slides, but they are definitely aren’t the worst and I would still say that you should give them a try. What is really interesting is that they are super sick for 180 slides. I will 180 down a hill all day long on these wheels and enjoy every second of it.

So would I recommend Fireball brand wheels to a friend?
Absolutely I would!

I would recommend the Incendos to anyone looking for a nice all around wheel that can really hold its own in all types of riding. I ride my Incendos on my every day do-anything board and they are a perfect fit. I can meet my friends on the hills, to freestyle, or just to cruise around and be confident in my wheels meeting my requirements.

I would recommend the Beasts to someone looking for a wheel that hold speed nicely and drift well. If you live in an area where you need to hit some speed and then take a drifty corner, check out some Beasts. Additionally if you are a strict commuter looking for a nice set of wheels to cruise on grab a set of Beasts for that smooth ride!

Per Usual, if you have any questions whatsoever, comments, recommendations, hatemail, loveletters…
Hit me up!

Stay Awesome,
Wayne

My Favorite Setups:
-Original Drop Beast
-Paris 195mm
-Purple Nipples
-Bones Reds Bearings
-FIREBALL INCENDOS

-Bustin Ibach
-Surf-Rodz 200mm RKPs
-Venom SHR 86a
-Surf-Rodz Pro-Series 10mm Bearings
-FIREBALL BEASTS

 

Photo Credit: Tyler Pollard