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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Maxxspeed Thunderbird

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The Maxxspeed Thunderbird is plain. There’s just something so unassuming about it…when other boards of similar construction are exaggerating their features (wheel wells painted to stand out/or look deeper) or crying for attention (weird/eye-catching graphics) the Thunderbird seems content just to showcase its simplicity. Which the raw wood finish and classy logo do quite well, if you ask me. If this were a romantic comedy the thunderbird is the nerdy friend you never pay attention too. Let’s see if we can’t get her to lose the glasses and let here hair down (or, if you’re a girl…take his shirt off?), because this board might just surprise you. (Plus, we all know that hot foreign exchange deck just isn’t into you.)

Downhill:
Ok, so let’s knock out the obvious first. This board excels at downhill. Honestly, one wouldn’t expect much to go into the making of a DH deck…flat and pointed wins the race. Keep it streamline! However, this criteria is in opposition of everything that makes decks separate from just planks of wood. Every feature has to be weighed against this in order to find the right compromise. The Thunderbird found this perfect middle ground with a flat nose that gradually develops into a mellow elliptical, and a long tail that turns slightly upward. Nothing is exactly hugging your foot, you won’t feel “locked in” but you won’t cramp up either, and the basic concave provides plenty of grip and leverage.

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Freeride:
This was a concern for the guys at Maxxspeed…with freeride decks really leaning towards crazy concave (not to mention the correct assumption that the Garuda was what caught my eye) they wanted to make sure I was one to appreciate a more simplistic deck as well. I assured them that, while I like concave, I’m a fan of simple boards too because I like to customize my boards topography. Which, you can do (with everything from duct tape to craft putty), but I honestly didn’t feel I needed to. A foot stop was all it took to make my front foot feel secure, and with a mellow elliptical and a nice pocket made by the tail, your back foot feels great wedged either over or just past the bolts, depending on how you mounted your trucks. Either way you get great leverage and an easy release for long stable slides…but with that extra bit of tail under foot you get great control over things like blunt slides. This DH looking deck can get surprisingly techy when it wants to!

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Bowl:
So…there honestly wasn’t much I was tempted to try with the Thunderbird that it doesn’t excel at. That’s not to say it can do absolutely everything…it just doesn’t presume much, what you see is what you get. So I kind of had to pull a fourth category out of my ass…luckily, when someone told me it felt like Comet fucked Powell Peralta and gave birth to a mystical beast, I said “what the hell.” and took it to a bowl. I have to say, mounted on the shortest WB it was nimble, and the wide platform made me feel really comfortable surfing around. Plus, the tail is so accessible that kick turns are fluid and natural. However, want a counter point? It’s huge. That’s it…the nose is really obtrusive and the deck can feel clunky at times. I was afraid it wouldn’t even fit in some of the tighter corners…it did, but that constant doubt didn’t make for the most fun riding experience.

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Boardercross/UFR:
Ok, so I don’t just have boardercross ramps stacked in my trunk…but my favorite discipline is what I like to call Urban Freeride. It’s the incorporation of street-skating obstacles (waxed curbs, handicapped ramps, stair sets) into hillriding tricks…and The Thunderbird excels at it. The tail of this board is where the magic happens. A surprising amount of thought went into this seemingly simple kick. The design and dimensions are perfect…this beefy tail plants hard and has a lot of pop. I was very surprised because I’ve honestly never felt so much like I was actually doing an ollie on RKP trucks! Quite frankly, longboard ollies always look/feel more like bunny hops to me…a fluid movement that seems to lazily leap over obstacles. This board has the aggressive pounce of a TKP board, that snap and lunge that makes obstacles it’s bitch! While other KT boards are saying “oh shit, a manhole…I better ollie.” The Thunderbird is saying “Finally, we found a five step! I was getting hungry…”

There it is, The Maxxspeed Thunderbird. Design and ingenuity disguised behind ascetic simplicity. Everything you need in a simple top mount and nothing you don’t. Quite the drastic change from its predecessor, the Garuda! So I’d keep an eye on Maxxspeed Skateboards if I were you…it’s quickly becoming obvious that they don’t plan to be another “one note” line of decks! These botanomancers are out to prove they can do anything with a slab of wood, and I for one can’t wait to see what’s next.

As always, don’t forget to like The Longboard Critic on Facebook to get updates on our weekly reviews! Not to mention, some pretty cool contests.

DISCLAIMER: This company was confident enough in its quality that it was willing to provide me with product to review.

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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

DHD Spuds Review

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Downhill Design makes wheels. Wheels that go fast. Wheels that slide far. That’s why, at first glance, the Spud may seem like the black sheep of the family. The small, clear thane outcast of this performance line of products. However, don’t be fooled by its humble appearance or seemingly self depreciating mockery of a name…once broken in this black sheep becomes a beautiful swan! Or, you know…whatever.

Breaking them in:
So, to continue mixing metaphors…even in its most sheepish state this wheel shits thane like it’s golden eggs. In fact, I regularly have post breaking-in sessions in the parking lot of my work during my lunch break…I rarely break a wheel in completely this way, but it’s quicker to slide well on the hill when I scrub off some skin first. Spuds were the superstar of these flatground sessions…thaning hard on the first slide. There’s no waiting around for these things to leave lines! In fact, the only hint that they were new was the loud honk they had until broken in, and a slight inconsistency in the slide (though slight enough that I’d still pick fresh spuds over many other wheels broken in).

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Sliding:
So a few slides in and the parking lot was getting pretty painted up. I had to stop and save it for the hill (and make sure to take some photos of the now semi-fresh wheels). That was a good call on my part…the wheels were already starting to cone due to the inherently poor form of flatground puttery. So the first thing I did on the hill was some nice long standies, to even out my wear. I just leaned until the wheel released on its own, which wasn’t very far. As mentioned before, it doesn’t take much for spuds to thane hard. This results in a surprisingly early release point considering how resistant they are too icing out, so you have avery large margin of error here. Plus, the few times they started to get away from me I was saved by this wheels clean and predictable hook up. If you need practice getting a nice lean without falling every time (it’s skating, you will fall…but the less time falling the more time spent dialing shit in), or you’re already an expert who’s looking for a wheel that will adapt to different speeds/terrains as quick as you do…this is the perfect wheel for that.

Leaving lines:
If you want a wheel that will thane anywhere, then you want a spud. I literally tried them on every surface I could think of: blacktop, sidewalks, parking garages, even brick! What’s cool about spuds is that they don’t leave the pale white lines you’re used to with clear thane…instead they seem to take on the characteristics of the surface they’re on. Blacktop comes out black/tan tie die, brick turns it Orangeish yellow, and pavement gives it a light gray color. Although, like the clear thane you know it wears fast and its therefore prone to defects. I actually tried to flatspot them and it didn’t work…but they coned so hard so fast that I’m pretty sure they just passed the test because wheels only flatspot when you don’t want them to. If you aren’t at least working on getting all four wheels sideways, these wheels won’t wear very evenly…Which will affect their performance. Though, small mistakes (i.e. coning, minor flat spots, possibly even slight ovaling) are easy to fix given you have good form.

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Hitting The Core:
Out of the package Spuds definitely seem like your standard mids, which calls the price into question. It’s not crazy, but a little high for mids. It’s not until you start to hit the core that you realize what them extra dollars was for. DHD seems to, for better or worse, missed the point of making mids…they aren’t dirt cheap and a bit to much thought seems to have been put into them. These are more of “performance mids”, if that’s even a thing. These wheels have a very quick releasing urethane that seems specifically designed to compensate for their wide contact patch/center set geometry. Why not just have a wheel shape better suited for sliding then? Because near the core the soft urethane deforms slightly and that wide contact starts to hug the ground in an hourglass shape. These lips continue to provide grip when not sliding and maintain more consistency than other wheels I’ve experienced. Is this the only wheel designed this way? Of coarse not…a lot of wheels will have decent albeit very different slide characteristics near the core. What impressed me was that the Spuds compound seemed designed in such a way that a fresh wheel and a nearly cored wheel would feel and perform as similarly as possible. I’m not saying it’s exactly the same all the way through…but it’s not going to be throwing you any huge curve balls.

Does that make it worth the extra money? That’s entirely up to you…I’d say, if you’re learning checks and relatively new to holding out long slides with all four wheels going sideways, then you’re going to love the extra play you get. This is a very forgiving wheel designed to keep you on top of your board no matter what. You become very confident on this wheel and it gets easier and easier to push your limits…especially since it stays familiar all the way through. Once you find that release point, it never wanders too far…even near the core. If you kill a wheel in one sesh, then it might not be cost effective for you to stock up on spuds…but then again, you’d have to be holding out long enough slides already that you probably don’t need the safety net of this wheels huge margin for error. Though, even the most experienced skater could easily justify trying them given all the freebies you get from Thane Store! For more info on Spuds, it any of DHDs other wheels, check out their Facebook page.

As always, don’t forget to like The Longboard Critic on Facebook to get updates on our weekly reviews! Not to mention, some pretty cool contests.

DISCLAIMER: This company was confident enough in its quality that it was willing to provide me with product to review.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Zealous Bearings Review

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Bearings have long been the only small component of a board that even beginners obsess over. Knowing the importance of a good bushing setup or quality pivot cups is a relatively new phenomenon in skating. However choosing a quality bearing has always been thought of as an important conundrum…which is why it’s actually pretty funny how little most skaters know about bearings. Gimmicks, meaningless buzz words and misinformation run rampant in the bearing market…meaning that enough of us are falling for these tricks for them to continue being used. So with all of this in consideration, it’s sometimes hard to trust some outlandish claims like Zealous Bearings makes. So I didn’t…instead I cracked this case wide open (literally) and saw for myself what they had to offer. Here’s what I found:

New:
It’s funny the arguments people will get in over these bearings…people swear that you have to “break them in”, while other people will call bullshit immediately on ever having to break in a bearing. In reality, they’re both kind of right…most of the confusion is because of how inaccurate the term “breaking them in” is. In reality is more like breaking them. That’s right, believe it or not, bearings designed to “self heal” work better after they’re been scratched! Why? Because the nano ceramic compound is literally tiny particles in the lubricant…particles that, in a perfect bearing race, only get in the way! So yes, the lubricant is very thick and these bearings actually feel a bit sluggish at first. Not to worry…You’re a skater, that perfect race won’t last very long at all.

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Scratched:
Here’s the cool thing about Zealous Bearings…you can skate them. I know that sounds stupid, but I mean really thrash them. Of coarse, most of us do that anyway, but Zealous can actually take it. In fact, they feel better after developing a ceramic coating from various imperfections. Apparently, the resulting surface really does cause less friction than the original metal race, and the more that nano ceramic compound is deposited in scratches, the less sluggish the lubricant feels. So yes, these bearings really do need to be broken in…emphasis on broken. So skate the hell out of them!

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Used:
Ok, so I had the coolest idea ever with these bearings…I was going to take them apart, deliberately scratch them, ride them for a month or so, and then photograph the results. I thought it would be crazy to see the built up ceramic…like my bearings were reenacting a scene from Ghost every time I rode my board making little pots and shit. Unfortunately, the prefix nano is Latin for “God Damn that’s small” so there was actually nothing to really see…which is upsetting because I thought I was going to be the first to show you what happens to Zealous when they get scratched…I still am, but the visuals aren’t exactly as groundbreaking as I thought they’d be, here’s the “healed” bearing:

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Maintenance:
The only downside to having some crazy sci-fi gunk in your bearings is that eventually it mixes with all the regular gunk from the street and you have to clean it out. My advice is to avoid this as long as possible. That’s not to say you shouldn’t clean them, but most of the gunk gets dispelled from the race of the bearing just from skating…occasionally you should dismantle them and wipe off the accumulated grime with a q-tip, being careful to leave the clean lubricant. Eventually, if the nano ceramic compound does its job, then the lubricant will be used up and no longer worth preserving. At which point a full cleaning and relubricating is in order.

So that’s about it people. The magical self healing bearings actually work. Are bearings that are smoother/faster once abused going to be a go-to race bearing? Probably not…you’ll probably just want to take care of those. However, if you regularly use the same setup for multiple disciplines then these are great product. Usually, just one ollie is enough to deform the race of a bearing enough to interfere with Freeride, and if you regularly freeride rough and gnarly pavement, you’ll feel it DH…but Zealous is one bearing that can take a beating! So make sure to follow them on Facebook and grab yourself a pair from your local shop!

As always, don’t forget to like The Longboard Critic on Facebook to get updates on our weekly reviews! Not to mention, some pretty cool contests.

DISCLAIMER: This company was confident enough in its quality that it was willing to provide me with product to review.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized