My First Wheel Love. Powell Peralta Snakes Review.

In my experience (it’s probably just me), a third of my time downhill longboarding has been spent looking for gear that makes me happy. Whether that be trucks, a deck or a set of wheels, so much of my time is spent building my setup to be exactly what I want it to be.

Well, by the time 2017 rolled around, I had been happy about my setup for a long time. I had my choice of a favorite drop deck (a Rayne Reaper, at the time), and well-dialed Paris Savants. This setup made me happy in all ways but one- I didn’t have a favorite wheel. And it was crippling! I was always trying out new wheels, getting used to them, and as a result I’ve wasted so much time that I could have been using to further my skills. Refer to figure 1 to see a representation of my frustration. 

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Figure 1: A representation of my wheel crisis.

And then… Powell Peralta rolled into 2017 with the release of their new wheel, the Snakes. The first in a well-named series of downhill and freeride wheels, the Snake surprised me with an unprecedented amount of control, consistency and an iconic “hissing” sound that I’ve always related to a good freeride wheel.

You see, a freeride wheel that honks isn’t a good one. It means that the contact patch is bouncing across the road, for lack of a better description. Contact with the ground isn’t consistent, and so the slide isn’t either. It makes for a fairly sketchy situation where you can’t trust your wheel to keep up with your shenanigans.

However, a hissing wheel- that’s a good wheel. It’s the sound that results from full contact with the road, with the wheel wearing evenly, consistently over the course of the slide. Since you’re not getting bounced all over the pavement, you can trust the wheel to do exactly what you want it to do. Snakes were very aptly named. They seriously hiss.

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Those are some nice colors!

The Powell Peralta Snakes seem to be designed with a no-bs mindset. The shape doesn’t beat around the bush. It is purely utilitarian, with the square-ish shape and rounding on the lips that’s just enough to be useful when you first get the wheel. Apart from that, there isn’t very much focus on the aesthetics of the wheel. The dyes were all chosen so that each color of wheel (except black) feels similar, and the graphics are made with water-based decals that don’t affect the slide the wheel. The downside here is that the wheel graphics flake off after a couple days, but that’s no issue- they’re skateboard wheels.

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A rounded-but-square lip profile. 

Something cool about all Powell wheels is the use of a smooth core instead of a ridged one that has mechanical locks to the urethane. Instead, they apparently bond the urethane to the core chemically. There’s been a great deal of controversy over this decision, but it seems to make one very evenly supported wheel with great lip support. I haven’t had any issue with it, so I have no negative remarks to make about the use of a smooth core. In fact, I’m a fan. It’s the first set of wheels that I’ve had that don’t cone. They just refuse to cone! I’ve never flipped them, nor have I rotated them. They just don’t cone. I have heard rumors that one singular wheel has slipped off the core, but I believe that to be an isolated, freak case.

The slide of the Snakes is something I’ve never felt before. It’s an incredibly sugary, smooth slide (I don’t feel that it’s quite buttery), but that’s a slide feel that’s not common with particularly durable wheels. Somehow, with how durable they are, they still manage to feel like a mids wheel. (A term used to describe a wheel that dies fast). They’re slippery, don’t kill a lot of speed, but they will kill speed if you need.

Snakes had an issue with chunking when they were first released. Whenever they ran into a curb or hit a pothole, they would chunk severely. Kevin Reimer seems to have fixed that issue now, and there’s a lot less talk about chunked Powell Peralta wheels now.  Again, I’ve had no chunking issues with my set of Snakes.

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Do I look like I’m having fun? Yes it does. Snakes are fun. You could be like this too. 

If you’re looking for an incredibly consistent, durable wheel that will exceed all of your expectations for a freeride wheel, get some Snakes. You will not regret it.

Here’s a video from our friends at SK8YEG reviewing the Snake. They’re a bunch of cool goofs.

Stay safe, wear your helmet! Talk to a turtle.

Ryan

Thanks to Hopkins Skate, Muirskate and SK8YEG for supplementary media. Banner image is Shane Sussman (@shanesuss). 

Harfang Supremes – Insights and Impressions

A few weeks ago, we covered the release of a certain wheel called the Harfang Supreme- a new freeride wheel by Harfang which comes in regular and Roman Candle variations (the ones with flints in them for sparking action at night). In case you missed that post, here’s the jist of it:

“The Supreme is 65mm in height and 46mm in width- this means it’s quick to accelerate, and is moderate-high in grip. For reference, Venom Harlots are 48mm in width. The wider contact patch means that the wheel performance will be snappier- a harder kickout, a consistent, speed-killing slide, and then a quick, aggressive hookup. The Supreme comes with Harfang’s proprietary Fiberglass Matrix race core, meaning the wheel is well supported for even wear patterns and slide characteristics. The core is centerset as well, meaning they’re flippable so that you can correct coning on the wheels halfway through the life of the wheel, for example.”

We were lucky enough to get a set of the Harfang Supremes flowed to us by Yann, the wonderful owner of Harfang for review. And let us tell you, they are a hoot. Well, better than Hoots. (Bonus points if you got the reference.)

So, to begin with- Supremes have a pretty generic shape. Now, don’t let that be a testament to the quality of a wheel. Wheel manufacturers only have so many molds and it just turned out that Harfang chose one of them. Also, a generic shape is only generic because it’s averagely just a good shape that works for a lot of things. In the case of a freeride wheel, the Supreme shape is nice because aside from the bevel at the beginning of the wheel, the width and contact patch of the wheel will stay the same during the duration of the wheel’s life. I found this to be incredibly positive, as that makes a consistent wheel. I got really used to them and could expect the same slide every time.

Casting quality of the wheels was great- I didn’t notice any separation of the wheels from the core, which I have noticed with wheels before. If you didn’t know, this creates chatter when you slide, and it’s not the most pleasant thing- you can live with it, but I hate it with a burning passion. Thank goodness that didn’t happen to the Harfang Supremes. There was also none of the common wrongs with bad wheels- swirling, inconsistencies in wear, no shearing in the urethane, no cracking in the core. So, all-around a pretty reliable wheel.

Okay, with all those technical things aside- my experience with the wheel.

Harfang Supremes, compared to wheels that I’ve ridden in the past, are gripper than Orangatang Skiffs, Free Wheel Co Free Ballins, Tracers, and and Envys. They are slidier than In Heats, Ahmyo Mukti Protos, and Muirskate Markers. So they’re right in the “less-slidey” category of wheels. They’ll wash out, they’ll slide far, but they definitely won’t dump thane and launch you off the side of the road in the case of a bad slide. The slide is a little in the ground, kind of chalky, and will leave thane lines if the pavement is hot. They’re not very good on cold pavement though- they get really grippy and the hookup turns really mucky. They’re some of the most controllable wheels that I’ve skated, whatever input you put into these wheels, you can expect to feel a reaction. Good for novice skaters who are just learning to learn pendulums and drifts, I think. They won’t win a slide jam in the longest slide competition, but they’ll definitely be a wheel that you want to shred at the local putt and freeride hills.

The roll speed is pretty generous- I was able to keep up with the others at Saturday Night Skate with these on. It’s pretty easy to tell a slow freeride wheel from a fast one, and this one definitely isn’t slow. The urethane seems to be generously dense, so you get a decent amount of speed out of them.

The sparks! The sparks are gnarly. When you first get the wheel, you’ll find that the flints in the wheel are kind of jagged and sticking out weird. Worry not, one slide and those will be evened out. There are times in the life of the wheel when they get a little short and you don’t get heavy sparks like you did in the very beginning of the wheel, but as you wear down the wheel, you start to get sparks again. I don’t expect Harfang to know the speed at which their wheels wear and how that relates to the wear of the flints. That’s like, a lot of math and research. But the flints work reliably and they’re oh-so-showy when it comes to sliding at night.

All in all, these were an awesome wheel- they’re made to be slid and they’re made for you to enjoy. A conservative, careful company like Harfang has once again introduced a wheel that’s different to all the others. Sparking wheels, who would’ve thought! These are definitely a wheel that I’ll be skating in the future. Might have to buy another set as soon as I run out of freeride wheels!

 

Orangatang Wheels – Skiffs Insights and Impressions

Ah, Orangatang, Orangatang, Orangatang. It’s a household name in the longboarding scene- they were some of the first to make quality downhill wheels, some of the first to come up with a diversified wheel series to cover several riding styles such as downhill, freeride and cruising, and one of the companies that helped to spread the message of downhill skateboarding across world.

From such a great company, it’s reasonable to expect a great product or two every couple years- I definitely do. And it was no surprise when Orangatang released the Skiff, a fun freeride wheel in a similar class to Rayne Envies, Tracer Hawgs, Seismic Crybabies and other wheels with a small contact patch and slippery urethane. These wheels were made for one purpose- fun and easy freeriding. These are the wheels that people break slide records on, the ones that people win slide jams on!

The Orangatang Skiff was something of an experimental project after the release of the Onsen back in 2015- the small core inspired the designers and riders at Orangatang to substitute the hard urethane for a softer freeride urethane, and the result was a small, successful run of 83a Skiff-prototypes. Production of a more refined shape came very soon, with the wheel being produced in all 3 durometers of Happy Thane- 80a, 83a, and 86a. We at Longboard Envy HQ received the 80a, mainly because one of Ryan’s favorite urethane formulas is Happy Thane in 80a- his first wheels were 80a In Heats, and most of his slides were learned on them. So it was a trip to the past for him when he got the 80a Skiffs.

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Harfang Wheels – Supreme

There are few wheel companies in the longboard scene that’s known for having their wheel technology to a science. Harfang wheels has been active for a long time in the longboarding industry, taking other companies’ wheels and using their state-of-the-art 4-axis CNC machine to cut rain grooves into them, and they’re popular and preferred by many racers for good reason because their performance is much beyond anything that’s manufacturable on a normal linear-axis lathe.

What you may not have known is that Harfang also manufactures their own wheels. First it was the Absolute back in 2016- a 73mm race wheel that comes in all varieties of rain grooving, and now it’s the Supreme, a freeride wheel born out of Harfang’s experience making and selling the Absolute.

The Supreme is 65mm in height and 46mm in width- this means it’s quick to accelerate, and is moderate-high in grip. For reference, Venom Harlots are 48mm in width. The wider contact patch means that the wheel performance will be snappier- a harder kickout, a consistent, speed-killing slide, and then a quick, aggressive hookup. The Supreme comes with Harfang’s proprietary Fiberglass Matrix race core, meaning the wheel is well supported for even wear patterns and slide characteristics. The core is centerset as well, meaning they’re flippable so that you can correct coning on the wheels halfway through the life of the wheel, for example.

Harfang Supremes come in a 78a and 81a durometer. As with any Harfang wheel, the Supreme comes in the Roman Candle variety as well! That is, wheels with flints inserted into the urethane, which makes the wheel spark when they are slid. They don’t change the way the wheel feels though, it’s just really flashy, if you’re into that aesthetic!

Jump on these quickly, because Harfang wheels have a tendency to sell out fast!

Cloud Ride – Storm Chasers

It’s been awhile since I reviewed a wheel! A couple weeks ago, I received a set of Cloud Ride Storm Chasers in the mail- they’re the new downhill wheel from Cloud Ride wheels, a popular urethane company affiliated with Atlas and DB Longboards. Historically, Cloud Ride has never had a grip wheel offering. The Freerides were grippier than most, but their shape and urethane was still engineered to give a nice, in-the-pavement slide. However, with the Storm Chasers, Cloud Ride finally has a fully fleshed-out wheel lineup, all the way from cruiser wheels to downhill-heavy grip wheels.

I had heard some rumors that the Cloud Ride Storm Chasers were the same stock core and generic urethane as some other downhill wheels on the market. But I was a little skeptical of these rumors, since Cloud Ride had been advertising their custom core for months now- and it’s true, they’re definitely custom. It’s called the Thunder Core, and it’s actually produced at a facility separate from the one where the urethane is poured; definitely a higher-end process, since many wheel companies just choose from the selection that the urethane company offers them. However, that’s not to say that the Thunder Core is anything ordinary- the recessed design is unique when compared to other proprietary cores such as the Cobra Core or the RAD Crown Core; those are large, but the Thunder Core is small, with support ribs closer to the bearing hub.

This allows for an incredibly gushy, soft-feeling wheel. The small core allows urethane to deform further than other wheels, and the difference is absolutely noticeable. In my time riding the Cloud Ride Storm Chasers, I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to grip drift corners and have difficulty putting down small bike paths where I would normally pull off drifts and checks on my other wheels. Naturally, I’ve been riding a lot faster than I normally would.

The slide is definitely in the pavement- the skin takes around 4-5 fast drifts to take off completely (I do wish it lasted a little longer), and the slide is a little choppy with the skin on, but afterwards, it’s wonderful for anything race-esque. They kill so much speed compared to large-contact-patch wheels such as Cult Raptures and Biggie Hawgs because they’re grippy (not to say that they’re bad wheels, they’re great too) and really dig into the ground. I’ve never felt safer going down a hill with cars coming up the other side. I know I’d be able to stop with only a moment’s notice.

Some auxiliary information- Storm Chasers are seriously, seriously heavy and carry a metric crap-ton of momentum. They make some very good commuting wheels if you can get some shorter hangars and make them stick out anything but an inch out the side of your board. Just a personal opinion, Cloud Ride should make a version that’s offset just for commuting purposes. They’re so cushy!

All in all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Cloud Ride Storm Chasers; if you’re looking for a grippy, responsive, speed-killing, fast wheel, these might very well be for you.