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

Kicking it with the Kanthaka — Loaded Kanthaka Review

Kicking it with the Kanthaka — Loaded Kanthaka Review

photo (41)Along with the long awaited Chubby Unicorn Loaded released a second new addition to their line-up. While this deck appears to have a pretty standard popsicle shape, popular in street decks and tech sliders, it definitely has a few stand out features that require a closer look. The Loaded Kanthaka draws from multiple riding styles to create one board that can perform exceptionally well for pretty much anything.

The Kanthaka is a freeriding, tech sliding board with a flare for street style skating. While it may have the appearance of a typical tech slider the Kanthaka handles a little differently due to its dimensions and some subtle construction characteristics. In addition the Kanthaka is a terribly versatile board that can handle parks and traditional street style skating like a champ due in no small part to its fat kicktails and small wheelbase (for a longboard).
photo (39)The Loaded Kanthaka actually comes in two sizes. The sizes on this deck are dictated by the width of the board and not the length (as is typical with most longboards) and gives you the option of a 8.625 in or an 8.875 in. I went with the 8.875 deck because I like to have a nice wide platform for my feet to stand on. Now before we talk about how the Kanthaka handles on the pavement, lets get into the technical specifications:

Loaded Kanthaka

Length

36 in

Width

8.625 in8.875in

Wheelbase

17.5 in

Kicks

7.5 in

Special Features

Rocker, Wheel Wells and Flares, Foot Pockets

Commuting
A first instinct would suggest that the Kanthaka would be very similar to a traditional skateboard when commuting; however, it has these nice wheel wells which allow you to run larger wheels than you would otherwise. Wheel wells can make or break a setup, especially on a longboard, because you generally are riding this type of board with larger wheels than a traditional skateboard would allow. Interestingly, the Kanthaka doesn’t have traditional wheel wells (where there deck is just sanded down for extra clearance); instead it has integrated wheel wells. This lends to a few distinct benefits. First, the board is actually molded up to allow more room for your wheels. Second, the molded wood creates flares on top of the board. Third, by molding wheel wells rather than sanding them out of the deck there are no discontinuities in the fiberglass skin on the bottom of the board; this keeps the deck thick and strong on the wheel well flares. These flares actually end up being super useful, but we’ll talk more about that later.

photo (47)The Kanthaka can take it to the streets like few other boards. It is super light (thank you, bamboo and fiberglass construction), agile as a mongoose, has a little bit of rocker to lower your ride for easy pushing, and has tails that would make even the most spectacular of peacocks envious. The nature of this board lends to equipping it with small light wheels that accelerate quickly and are easy to get off the ground. This translates to a gnarly commute where you can zip through people or cars and then pop up or down a curb with the utmost steeze.

Downhill
Believe it or not, this is not a downhill board. I can already tell you that if you are looking to break the sound barrier on a skateboard the Kanthaka is not the direction you would want to look in (although Loaded has the hookup with the Chubby Unicorn). However, if you live somewhere very hilly you don’t have to necessarily rule the Kanthaka out of your quiver either. photo (13)The wheelbase on this board is small for a downhill board, like really small (17.5in), so it will get relatively unstable at high speeds pretty quickly. I personally have not brought it anywhere north of 30mph for more than a few seconds. However, if you get comfortable on this board I can see people pushing it a little faster. Once you learn the ins and outs of the Kanthaka you can really lock yourself in with the pockets produced by the wheel wells. These pockets and the rockered platform produce a much more stable ride than boards with comparable wheelbases when getting fast.

Freeride
Here is where Mr. Kanthaka really starts to turn heads. Whether you like to spin around with never ending 180 slides or you like to pump out 1000 ft switch toeside slides, you will find something you like with the Kanthaka. Those wheel flares I spoke about earlier make for a great way to lock your feet in place for slides. In conjunction with the kicktails the flares produce a very comfortable pocket for your feet to rest in. When I slip my feet into this pocket hitting slides toeside and heelside without monkey footing (hanging your toe or heel of the edge of your deck) becomes much more manageable. This is an enormous benefit for producing quick spinning slides. I wouldn’t say my 360 slides are by any means beautiful and fluid, but on my Kanthaka they are definitely easier and at least more fluid than on other boards.
photoIf you are more into hitting big long standing slides than just spins the Kanthaka still has you covered. You don’t see many people hitting big standies on most of the boards in its class, however, this isn’t “most” boards. The first and most obvious advantage this board has in fast freeride is the length. Coming in at 36 in the Kanthaka is a little long for an average tech slide or hybrid board which keeps you feeling a little more stable. In addition the rocker-concave combination on this board adds even more stability and lets you get the leverage you need to dig deep enough to hold out slides comfortably by slightly lowering you to the ground.

photo (4)The small size (compared to your average longboard) of the Kanthaka lets you stand comfortably at either kicktail while in the pocket created by the wheel flares and kicktail with your other foot. This leads to one my new favorite things to do when freeriding… Blunt slides. You can blunt slide the living heck out of the Kanthaka on its big ol’ tails. Unlike many longboards (which have smaller tails) where your foot has to hang off the tail, you can rest pretty much your entire shoe on these fat tails without a problem, which I find really nice when trying to hit anything from the tail. Additionally, the tails on the Kanthaka are reinforced with a layer of carbon fiber that actually does make a difference in its durability. If you are just learning how to blunt slide and manual (or if you just know that you tear boards up) the tails on this deck will last a little bit longer due to the carbon reinforcement.

The Kanthaka is one of a rare breed of boards that is just as comfortable on hard wheels as it is on soft wheels. This was my first venture into hard wheels, and I have to admit:  it takes a little getting used to, but it is a whole bunch of fun. I have taken this deck tech sliding on many an occasion and it has handles wonderfully, you feel very in control despite having the iciest wheels possible under your feet. If you have never ridden hard wheels and are interested in trying it out, then the Kanthaka has you covered (worst case scenario: switch back to soft wheels).
photo (1)Freestyle
It was really hard to choose a favorite style of riding with the Kanthaka because it was meant to be such a versatile board. However, I would venture to say that freestyle skating is this board’s bread and butter. The Kanthaka is easily misidentified as a typical popsicle shaped skateboard to an untrained eye because they share so many common characteristics. I have never been very good at traditional street style skating, but this board sure does make me wish I were better at it. Something about the Kanthaka makes you want to start hitting stair sets and rails like it’s your job.

photo (9)With the skills to back it up, the Kanthaka is more than ready to handle this type of skating. The symmetrical shape lets you hit shoves from either tail and feels just as comfortable when the board is backwards or riding switch. The Kanthaka does have a tiny bit of asymmetry to it, but it is not in the shape of the board, but rather in the steepness of the tails. The nose of the board is a little steeper than the tail of the board, however, it is hardly noticeable until you have spent some serious time on this deck.

Everything about the Kanthaka screams, “I want to ollie,” and man alive can this deck get some air. The tails make really solid contact with the ground to generate a very substantial pop that you don’t often find in a longboard. Which is great because while it may take nearly all of my coordination and energy to ollie my TanTien an inch or two high I can get a foot high on the Kanthaka without a problem. Additionally I have ridden quite a few other hybrid decks and none of them generate as much pop as the Kanthaka.

photo (7)The last great thing about the Kanthaka is that it is truly a hybrid deck and can hit the parks and bowls quite nicely. As I mentioned I am not very good at traditional skating but I grabbed the Kanthaka and took it to a makeshift skate park here in Carrboro. Despite feeling incredibly out of my element and kooky the Kanthaka is definitely a good choice for ramps. I was able to drop in and hit the transitions just fine. I let regulars to the park try the board out, and after getting used to my loose trucks, they loved it!
photo (16)Setups:
The Kanthaka is an interesting deck to get all set up. Lots of people prefer reverse kingpin trucks these days, but I think that the spirit of the Kanthaka matches traditional kingpin trucks. I initially ran my Kanthaka with Indy 169’s and didn’t like how restrictive they were, to remedy this I got some of the new Indy hybrid baseplates. These allow me to run a wider array of longboard bushing which I prefer. I am a little biased, but my favorite setup of all time is with Surf-Rodz traditional kingpin trucks; they really suit the board and line up with the wheel wells very nicely.

It can’t all be good
While I think the Kanthaka is a ton of fun, every board has its ups and downs. The biggest downside I would say that the Kanthaka brings to the table is that it has a bit of a learning curve (or at least it did for me). If you are used to riding longboards, which generally have larger wheelbases and smaller tails, this deck will take a little getting used to. It is easy to describe the pockets on the Kanthaka with words but I honestly think that they are something you need to put your feet into to fully understand. I found that the wheel flares and kicktail combination felt very foreign initially and wasn’t sure that I even liked it. Which means it took a little bit of persistence for me to get a feel for these pockets; however, all at once they suddenly felt great! Really, this is only a downside if you don’t want to take the time to get to know the Kanthaka. The good news is that once you get used to the deck you can really do pretty much anything with it.

The Price
The Loaded Kanthaka carries a much higher price tag than boards that would appear similar at first glance. However, the devil (or angel in this case) is in the details and the Kanthaka’s subtleties raise it a cut above the rest. The Kanthaka has carbon fiber reinforced tails, thick durable wheel wells, and a high strength-to-weight ratio thanks to its bamboo and fiberglass construction. These combine to make a board that is not going to give out on you after a few months of serious riding. People may not agree, but I believe that the quality and durability of the Kanthaka merit the slightly higher MSRP.

photo (10)The Bottom Line
Would I recommend the Loaded Kanthaka to a friend?
I would whole-heartedly recommend this deck to anyone looking for a hybrid, tech-slider, or freestyle board. In addition I think that anyone who is looking to make the transition from street style skating to longboard would be smart to consider the Kanthaka.

All in all the Kanthaka is a light, compact, slide machine that can handle whatever may be thrown at it. I commute with this board on the daily, have taken it to parks, tech sliding, and everything in between. It has held up beautifully to all the abuse I put boards through and has helped me learn a few street style tricks. Plus, I really cannot over-emphasize how nice it is to ollie up a curb.  Thank you Loaded for producing another incredibly fun and versatile deck.

Stay Awesome
Wayne

Current Favorite Setup:
-LOADED KANTHAKA 8.875 in
-Surf-Rodz TKP 176mm
-Orangatang Nipples medium (purple)
-Orangatang Fat Free 86a (yellow)
-Loaded Jehu Bearings

Kalypso 4President — Orangatang 4President Review

Kalypso 4President — Orangatang 4President Review

Hey Everyone,

Check out the video review!
Kalypso 4President

Kalypso, my dog, and I decided we wanted to give you our opinions on Orangatang 4President wheels! The 4President line of Orangatang wheels have been around for a pretty long time and have a reputation for being a fast and reliable wheel for many different disciplines of riding. In my personal opinion they are as close to a do anything wheel as one can get. But before we get into how these wheels handle on the road, let’s talk about the specifications of the 4President.

My Co-Star Kalypso

Like all Orangatang wheels 4Presidents are offered in their 3 signature durometers/color combinations, 80a orange, 83 purple, and 86a yellow and these wheels are poured with Orangatang’s HappyThane urethane formula, which a lot of people either love or hate, but I personally love. 4presidents are a hard lipped wheel with an offset bearing seat and measure in at 70mm with a 53mm contact path.

So what does that mean for your riding? Being a 70mm hard lipped wheel gives 4presidents a very quick acceleration and the ability to carve hard and take corners at speed. However, the reason I said that the 4prez is as close to a do anything wheel as you can get is because if you break these wheels in they will slide allllllllll day for you. I really enjoy freestyle, downhill, freeride, and commuting on these wheels.

Disciplines of Riding:

Orangatang 4Presidents perform well in MANY different types of riding from slalom to sliding and everything in between. Let’s talk about how they handle in different riding scenarios.

Commuting:
4presidents make a great commuting wheel for several reasons. The first is that they accelerate quickly and hold speed for a while, which means that they glide for a long time after each push. The second is that they have fantastic grip, even when broken in, for pumping. If you pop these bad boys on a flexy board you can really just pump the day away and hardly ever put a foot on the ground. I have actually pumped UP hill on 4Presidents when I throw them on a flexy board like a Dervish. Kalypso loves to commute on these wheels because she doesn’t have to pull as hard because they roll so easily and for so long!

Freestyle:
I actually really like to freestyle on these wheels! 4Presidents may be a little bit wide and heavy for some people’s freestyle tastes, however, I thoroughly enjoy them. I like that they have a little grip but still slide like crazy if I really throw myself into the slide, even at low speeds. Plus there is always that benefit of being a wheel that doesn’t require that much pushing once it gets started rolling. Not having to push all the time is great for tricks like cross stepping and all that board dancing whatnot.

Downhill:
When it comes to downhilling 4presidents are a fantastic wheel! They get up to speed very quickly and hold speed for a long time. I have seen some serious race set-ups with 4presidents on them as opposed to the larger InHeats due the the faster acceleration of 4presidents. If you don’t break in your 4presidents they can really take a corner too, they grip really hard when going fast. However once you break them in it’s a whole new ball game!

Freeride:
Freeride on 4presidents is insane. They take a little work to break in, you gotta get that shiny release mold off and round out the edges a bit, but once you do it’s game over. I love to slide on my 4presidents. They are as much fun going sideways as they are going downhill. They have a very smooth and consistent slide with no surprises thrown in the mix. I feel very comfortable whenever I slide on these wheels. In addition they wear pretty slowly which is nice. I have a set Orange Stimulus wheels that have worn at much faster rate than the 4Presidents have. I also haven’t ever had trouble with flatspots or ovalling, which is super sick.

All in all, I would say that Kalypso and I LOVE Orangatang 4Presidents! They accelerate quickly and hold speed for a long time. You can pump and freestyle them all day. They can corner like a boss when they aren’t broken in… then when they are broken in they love to slide! Like I said earlier, I think that Orangatang has gotten about as close as you can get to a “do anything” wheel as is possible with 4presidents.
Just ask Kalypso!

 

Thanks for reading/watching!
Any questions, comments, concerns, bills, junkmail, loveletters???
Send them my way!
Wayne

Divine Street Slayer Wheel Review

Divine Street Slayer Wheel Review

Review by Nate Dierk:
When we first got these wheels, we were a little apprehensive as neither Wayne nor I had ever ridden Divine wheels before and we had no idea what to expect. The wheels were ready to slide right out of the box, having been stone-ground (like most slide wheels these days). I slapped them on my symmetrical comet voodoo doll and couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised!  These wheels are the easiest to slide of any I’ve ridden, quickly doubling the lengths of my longest slides.

The wheels are 72mm and the set I’ve been riding are 82a durometer, the harder of the two versions available (the softer is 78a). I’ll also note that I have the black version, as some swear that the dyes in wheels can affect the riding characteristics. The slayers have a 56mm contact patch and lightly beveled edges. The edges are also designed to become harder as they wear, enabling the wheels to maintain consistent slide characteristics throughout their lifetime.

As far as riding the wheels go, they are an absolute dream for drifting and sliding. The amount of effort needed to initiate slides is almost eliminated, creating an extremely smooth transition between riding and sliding. Sliding these wheels cuts a lot less speed than other wheels, allowing you to extend the length of your slides significantly or slide at lower speeds. The slides are also incredibly quiet and I highly recommend them for any other ninja skaters out there. The slayers make corner drifting a lot easier too, as when taking fast turns they drift predictably and controllably. I’d also like to note that these wheels take considerable time to begin coning, and I’ve yet to have to flip them (they’re ALMOST centerset) despite riding them for dozens of slide sessions.

All in all, these wheels are one of the BEST slide wheels I’ve ever ridden. They’re fantastic for downhill freeride as you can reliably slide at high speeds. They also make a great first slide wheel as many of my friends who are learning to slide made great progress on my setup. I wouldn’t recommend these wheels for some boards though, as their primary use is for epic slides. For instance I wouldn’t slap these puppies on my Tan Tien as they’re too heavy for the flip tricks often performed in freestyle riding. Same goes for commute boards, as extra weight is a big turnoff for any boards that you have to frequently carry.

Current Setup:

Comet Voodoo Doll ‘D2′ Symmetrical [36”]
SurfRodz Fixed Axel RKP [50°]
Powell Super Swiss 6 Bearings
Divine Street Slayers [72mm, 82a]

 

Thanks for the Review Nate!