2009’s Gearsplosion

Posted: 2019-03-22 in Uncategorized

Recently, I sold a board to a podcaster in LA.  Check out my girl Vanessa Gritton on any of your favorite podcast apps, she’s been on Small Beans, in every show on the Unpops Network, and probably countless others.  But, that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about the sudden infusion of a little bit of cash into my Paypal account.

I sold that board, then began taking inventory of the boards I have in my possession:  Offhand, there are somewhere around 15 complete, assembled boards between me and my wife.  I can’t even tell you how many spare sets of wheels I have.  I have at least 3 unmounted decks, and there are at least 3 complete sets of trucks that are unused (all inappropriate widths to fit the decks).  So, I began looking at all of my gear.  I’m stuck in “Old Standby” mode, wherein I fell in love with certain bits of gear around 2009, and since it’s always been good enough, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not going to be a world-class skater and don’t need high-end gear, and I’ve gotten used to that equipment, there’s no reason to change.  Good ’nuff, right?

The problem with that line of thinking is that I literally haven’t pursued any new gear for a decade.  I missed the gearsplosion of 2009-2012, the meteoric rise of hardgoods, and the self-perpetuating snowball of gear and trick advancement that came from the Longboard Boom of 2009-2014.  I’m still riding the same ol’ Randal Trucks and Abec11 wheels I was in 2009.  My ventures into “exotic” boards were Independent trucks rigged up in a downhill fashion on Sector9 urethane, Road Rider trucks (on Abec11 Retro Freerides, of course), and Gullwing Shadows (OG from the 90’s) on Spitfire 80HD’s.  There’s a lot of boards in my quiver, but not a lot of variety.  I was too stubborn, too stuck in the “good ’nuff” mentality to see the veritable cornucopia of gear that was all around me, despite being involved online with these movers and shakers of industry, despite selling all of this great gear in the store, despite being harder and harder to find this “good ’nuff” gear through the years.  I’d try a product once, say “It’s good, but it’s not as good as it’s hyped up to be,” then put that product in a box forevermore.  Instead of chasing innovation, I was chasing memories…memories of subpar gear, memories of bitch-slapping gear into working properly (fuckin’ Jeep suspension bushings from Autozone instead of using proper Venom bushings, as though my “boycott” of Venom has any impact on them whatsoever), memories of struggling to slide on a grippy wheel.

As a result, I saw this lump of cash in my Paypal account as a beacon of hope; a chance to expand my gear horizons.  I had an 8.5″ popsicle stick deck from Creepshow Skates, and some Cult wheels, and I began searching for some trucks.  I exercised as many contacts as I could, trying to find some 8.5″ trucks, and kept getting the same ol’ “good ’nuff” answers:  Ace, Indy, Tracker, Gullwing.  Finally, Muirskate recommended some Paris Street trucks to me.  Perfect!  They’re a brand outside my norm, and developed squarely in the aforementioned Gearsplosion.  They’d fit perfectly on the (trendy, circa 2013) Cult wheels!  I could use this deck as an all-terrain shredstick…anything from parks and ditches, to downhills and freerides.  And, I can’t wait to try this puppy on a hill in a slide setting.


Crown Royal Bourbon Mash

Posted: 2019-02-12 in Uncategorized

I’m going to try a new thing here:  Reviewing and tracking different whiskies and cocktails on this site, as I don’t really have a good place to do so on my phone.  Sure, I can write everything down with pencil and paper, but that would mean that I’d have to carry a pen and paper with me all the time.  I’ve already got the collective experience of humanity in my pocket (via my smartphone), so keeping the WordPress app on my phone isn’t encumbering me any more than normal (phone, wallet, keys…pack light).  I’ll keep these puppies tagged as Whiskey or something.

Recently, I picked up a bottle of Crown Royal’s Bourbon Mash whisky.  Being that Bourbon (per US and international law) is at least 51% corn in the mashbill, aged to at least 2 years in a new, charred, white-oak barrel, and made in the United States, anything made in Canada cannot be called “bourbon,” which has led to some legal issues on Crown’s part (per the Austin Whiskey Vault on Youtube).  Typically, Canadian whiskies are blends.  One unique thing that Canada does with blending is to portion out percentages of liquid when blending bottles.  An American bourbon may have 75% corn, 15% rye, and 10% wheat on the mashbill, meaning that the types of grains used are portioned out 75/15/10 by grain.  As I understand the Canadian blending, they’ll make 100 gallons of pure corn whiskey, 100 gallons of pure rye whiskey, and 100 gallons of pure rye whiskey, then take percentages of the volume of liquid…so, 75 gallons of that corn whiskey, 15 gallons of rye, and 10 gallons of wheat into a new 100-gallon vat, then it’ll get bottled and put on the shelves of your local Kwik-E-Mart.  But, going back to that bourbon designation, there are apparently a few legal ramifications for this whiskey that might see it taken off the market within a year.  If you buy it, and if you like it, you may wanna pick up a few extra bottles.  And, at $20 a fifth, it’s not gonna break the bank (for reference, Jim Beam is about $22 local to me, and Jack Daniels is about $25).

This pertains to my review because CR’s Bourbon Mash Whisky is not a bourbon, nor is it actually indicated as to how it’s blended.  But, it is a blend.  Austin Whiskey Vault described it as “budget bourbon,” but I think a more apt description would be “Bourbon Lite.”  In true Crown fashion, it’s super clean and super smooth; almost unremarkable.  But, while normal Crown tastes like a leather belt, the Bourbon Mash actually does taste like a bourbon.

Whiskey Vault describes the nose as heavy in black licorice.  My wife compared it to the flavor of bubblegum.  I thought of circus peanuts, or the overarching scent of the candy-and-comic-book store that my Dad used to take us to.  Later on, I began smelling something like a pack of Twizzlers.  Neither my wife or I ever got the heavy black licorice scent that Whiskey Vault mentioned.  I got a tiny, tiny whiff of black licorice if I began smelling the glass, then moved it straight downward from my nose while still inhaling.

Then, the flavor.  It has all the right flavors for a bourbon; the caramel/vanilla of the barrel, the sweetness of the corn, the spice of the booze.  I got a little of that candy on the front end, to the point where it almost reminded me of Hochstadter’s Slow And Low.  But, it was a very clean taste, and nothing really lingered on my palate.  I mentioned above that it was almost unremarkable.  I don’t want to disparage this whiskey, or put down the hard work and pride that the Crown Royal employees have put into this, but I found that I just couldn’t get as into it as I wanted to.  It’s good, and I’m definitely excited to go down this rabbit hole of Canadian whisky, but I want to play around with this and see if I can make it more.  I’ve got a few cocktail recipes I’m excited to try with this whiskey and see if it’ll amplify itself.

Recently, I’ve been pining for the sense of community and connection I used to have on a few select websites.  As a result, I’ve begun hitting the Wayback Machine courtesy of web.archive.org .  Before Facebook and smart phones, the internet required the passing semblance of technical know-how to access.  It wasn’t a great filter, but it was a rudimentary one…in other words, user-generated content was intentional and intelligent, unlike today’s Instagram world where 2,000,000,000 people are constantly posting their bowel movements on Facebook.  What I’m trying to get at here is that the user-generated sites, the PHPBB forums, Geocities and Angelfire, as well as self-built HTML sites were built by and for enthusiasts, and contained therewithin encyclopedic amounts of insider knowledge and real experiences, minimally tainted by BS and sponsored posts.  Ya dig?

I’ve made a few mental connections while flipping through these old websites, notably, how closely-related all the old longboard sites were.  In fact, tracing my own experience back across dozens of websites and forums, I owe my longboard hobby/passion to a small handful of specific dudes; most of whom are completely unaware of the impact they’ve had on my life, and yet strangely enough, I’m in regular contact with.  They keep blogs, maintain Instagram accounts, and post on the same forums I do.

I can’t reiterate enough how “real” Silverfish was to me.  A weird blend of my own introversion and unwillingness to branch out to meet other people, the timing with which I got into longboarding (shortly before it got popular), and my own penchant for skate nerding led me to feeling completely at home on that site.  Silverfish (and a few other forums) were my skate scene; my connection to the skateboard world.  Hell, even today in 2018, I’m out of the loop of the goings-on within the skate world, because I don’t really connect with people offline (being a 30-year-old without Facebook leaves me permanently disconnected these days).  Unpacking that, Silverfishlongboarding came from Silverfish.cc, which happened at the same time as Coast Longboarding, and both Coast and SFL were direct continuations of Yahoo usergroups and NCDSA.com in the early days of the Internet.

With the fictional movie Lords Of Dogtown and the Dogtown And Z-Boys documentary that inspired it, that spawned a generation of skaters from the 1980’s and earlier to get back onto skateboards…which caused a sudden surge of demand for old-school skate products both to ride and to collect.  These skaters, in their 30’s at the time, were the drivers and owners of the aforementioned user-generated sites and forums.  Since longboarding had cruisey, carvey, downhill, surfy maneuvers, there’s a direct line between 1970’s style skateboarding and longboarding itself.  Since Lords Of Dogtown and Dogtown And Z-Boys took place in the 70’s, longboarding was the logical progression of that.  So, between the years of 1998 and 2003, there was this rising wave of old-school skateboarding, mingling with the rise of Web 2.0, and entire new communities for longboarders to explore.

So, where’s this going?  I don’t want to mention specific names, but there were a handful of dudes from Texas that did art and graphics for some of the now-major longboard brands, one guy that ran a trick tips website, a couple odd guys from the Northeast that were posting members on every site I’ve ever been on, and several guys from San Diego and Southern California that inspired the guys who inspired me (named specifically in old interviews I’ve read).  It makes my head spin, seeing these 8-10 names popping up again and again, across dozens of websites, spanning back 2 decades or more…and then realizing that these influencers are still active!  It’s seriously inspiring!

Bushings are hands-down the easiest way to alter the ride of your longboard.  They’re cheap, and they’re easy to replace.  Hell, I used to skate around for hours in the afternoon, with a pocketful of bushings, just to see what the heck happened when I changed ’em.  Basically, this article serves to paraphrase the Hi Kids, I’m A Bushing article from my own perspective.

Again, dealing with urethane, we’re dealing with compression and rebound.  Compression is marked by durometer, and rebound isn’t normally marked.  As it pertains to turning, compression/durometer measures how hard it is to turn, and rebound is the force that the bushing imparts when returning to center.  As a corollary, higher rebound bushings can feel harder because the pushback fights you, the rider, harder.  Kind of an abstract concept, I know, but it’s something that you’ve gotta feel for yourself.

Soft bushings, given their propensity to tip the fuck right over, are best for situations where a lot of turning is desirable…quick turning applications like slalom races can benefit from low duro/high rebound bushings, since you’ve gotta ping-pong off of those turning extents as quickly as possible.  Slow turns, like carving, distance pushing, distance pumping, even dancing and general cruising, can benefit from soft duro/low rebound.  So, in these settings, you don’t need a ton of energy returned to you.

Harder bushings have more resistance and more inherent stability.  Hard duro/high rebound is used for downhill racing.  The high duro (85a-95a) hold firm, increasing stability, and high rebound keeps you stable if speed wobbles start.  Hard duro/low rebound are good for doing tricks, in skateparks, on the street, or on a flatground setting.  You’re not going to get sprung off of the board by the rebound if you land a fliptrick badly, but you want the firm duro to hold you upright, withstand impacts, and not disintegrate on you.

I’ve always wanted a scientific analysis of which pavement is best for sliding…which, I’ve done myself, in a non-scientific way, when I was working in an asphalt lab. But, I presume I’m one of about…oh, one longboarder in the entire country who cares about such things. Based on what I saw in the lab, coupled with my own observations after skating all kinds of roads, the best asphalt is “theoretically” a 5e10 aged about 10 years due to the aggregate content (better for sliding on) and how the binder wears off over the years.  There’s a LOT to grapple with, between the oil-based asphalt binder, and the oil-based urethane of a skateboard wheel.  So, let’s unpack this a little:

Urethane, as shown in the Bushing and Wheel posts, is a complex compound made up of chains of molecules.  It’s the result of a few chemical reactions, similar to baking bread or frying an egg…you can’t just re-heat it and mold it into something else.  You gotta chemically undo those changes, which isn’t exactly possible.  But, that’s what makes urethane so bouncy, slidey, and wonderful.

Rebound is an important aspect of urethane.  The durometer (hardness) of a urethane product, be it a wheel or a bushing, measures how much it’ll deform under a load.  Lower durometer means it’ll deform more…and, as a wheel deforms more over a rough road surface, it’ll dig into all the imperfections and GRIP!  But wait, you ask, what about those molecular chains?  Well, with a soft urethane formula, with weak chains, that’ll make the wheel disintegrate easier…which means it’ll break into a slide easier than a wheel with tougher urethane chains.  And, those weak chains are key to leaving those ‘thane lines on the road that the kiddies love so very, very much.  As far as rebound goes, that’s how fast the original shape reforms after the initial deformation…that’ll make bushings feel a little harder, and wheels feel a little faster (as the wheel deforms and squishes on the front edge, rebound helps the wheel spring back into it’s original shape on the back edge of the wheel, returning energy to rolling, and ultimately feeling faster).  Per the Wheels post (linked above) the “Great wheels” are going to be high rebound, grippy, racing wheels…something akin to an Abec11 Zigzag or a Seismic Speedvent.  And, because urethane plays into retaining the original shape, they’re typically grippier, since the durometer allows them to deform over a rough road surface, but the rebound snaps it back into shape before it begins sliding.

Confused yet?  Hold onto your fillings, man, we’re just getting started!

Wide wheels grip like a mofo…look at Abec11 Centrax, Sector9 Steam Rollers, or Nersh Money Hax.  More real estate between your feet and the road means that more urethane can deform over the road and give you, dear rider, more grip.  So, given that assumption, common sense says smaller contact patch is slidier than a wide one…yet, it’s incredibly difficult to slide an inline skate wheel. Seriously, try it sometime! Fast as fuck, squirrelly like you wouldn’t believe, and grips like there’s no tomorrow.  Comparing rollerblade wheels to longboard wheels, the bearings are the same, the spacing of the hub is the same, hell, the damn core is the same…Labeda’s big money-makers are rollerblade wheels. The first runs of Orangatangs had the same hubs that were in my rollerblades in high school (and people were PISSED at coring their wheels within 10mm of use). I know for a fact that several other longboard brands use rollerblade hubs; there was even a rumor that Earthwing‘s Slide A formula was borrowed from an inline company. So, at least component-wise, rollerblade and longboard wheels are pretty identical. The big difference is shape, which affects the contact patch and overall ride feel.  The rollerblade wheels I used were a fairly typical longboard size and duro (76mm, 80 or 81a), fairly similar to Zigzags or Orangatang 4Presidents. I hit my local hill and tried to slide the board.  I’m sure we’re all familiar with trying to force something to slide and going *TURN*TURN*TURN*HOLYSHITI’MBACKWARDS*.  The rollerblade wheels, at least on the setup I tried, simply would not slide. It was *TURN*TURN*TURN*IFELLOFFTHEBOARDBECAUSEITGRIPPEDTOHARD*   On a rollerblade wheel, the contact patch is only a few millimeters, but it’s located directly underneath the bearings (where the rider’s weight is concentrated), so there’s an immense amount of pressure under that little tiny area. Once you add a sideways component (from sliding), that’s still not strong enough to overcome the insane PSI under the wee little tiny contact patch, so it grips like a mofo…if we extrapolate that out, there’s a going to be a constant battle between the sideways pressure, the downward pressure, and the whole darn wheel oscillating, which probably means it’ll slide like a wet fart…er, not in a good way

So, if wide-ass wheels grip like a mofo, and so do narrow-ass wheels, surely that leaves the shape of the wheel to account for.  Centerset wheels are grippiest, because the rider’s weight is centered exactly in the middle of the wheel, leaving both the inner and outer lips to dig in and grip on the road.  But, sideset wheels are grippiest, because the rider’s weight is concentrated on the inner edge (as we learned from the Wheels post, that’s where the grip comes from), and the outer edge deforms to dig in and grip the road.  But, offset wheels are the grippiest, because it’s got a little flex and deformation to dig into the inner lip, as well as a lot of flex and deformation to dig into the outer lip.  Buuuut, centerset wheels slide the best because the inner and outer lips deform equally and lift up to shed urethane nicely on the road, with the added benefit of being able to rotate the wheels to ensure even wear.  Buuuuuuut, sideset wheels are best for sliding, because the rider’s weight is only concentrated on the inner edge, leaving the rest of the wheel free to glide sideways over the road surface.  Buuuuuuuuuuuut, offset wheels are best for sliding because there’s a little give in each direction, allowing the wheel to dump urethane off of each lip.

Now, where does this leave us?  If every shape of wheel on the market is simultaneously the best and the worst for sliding, how can you know if the wheel you’re looking at is good for sliding?  The answer, not surprisingly, is rather complicated.  But, it’ll help to look at it from the opposite point of view:  Identify what makes a grippy wheel, then eliminate those characteristics to find a slidey wheel.  Grippy wheels are typically (not always) offset or center set, with sharp, machined inner and outer lips, and are made with a long-chained, high-rebound urethane formula.  High-rebound urethane (grippy) is brightly and uniformly colored, while low-rebound (slidey) urethane is a little more subdued, and maybe even a little milky looking.  In Abec11’s line, their Reflex stuff is high-rebound and grippy as hell, identified by bright lime green, lemon yellow, or atomic orange; whereas their Classic urethane in green, pink, or amber, is almost translucent.  Sector9’s Race Formula is high-rebound, and available in bright yellow, orange, or blue; whereas their classic Ghost Thane is very faint, Butterball or Skiddles formula has the same milky quality as classic Abec11 ‘thane.  Orangatang’s purple and yellow offerings are higher rebound than their orange 80a urethane, which is why the 4President and InHeat wheels don’t work as well as they should in 80a (the shapes are grippy as hell, but the urethane formula is slidey)…80a 4prez’s are the only longboard wheel that I’ve ever experienced understeer on, where the back of the board wants to turn, but the front keeps going straight.

And, onto durometer, as though this blog post isn’t convoluted enough already.  Generally speaking, lower durometer (being softer) will grip harder, and a higher durometer (being harder) will slide out easier.  But, when a wheel is too soft (below 77a or so), it’ll just deform and dump ‘thane…meaning, that it’ll slide easier.  On certain perfect surfaces (such as a smooth sidewalk, or a manmade skatepark), a higher durometer (85a or above on a sidewalk, 99a or above in a skatepark) will hold its shape against the perfectly smooth riding surface and grip hard!  When you get a rough surface, the hard wheels will bounce and glide across the surface.  The “sweet spot” for soft wheels is between around 78a and 85a…below that range, you’ll get the urethane dumps and lose grip, and above that range, you’ll get the skidding and sliding.  Between 86a and 94a, wheels are too soft for perfect surfaces, yet too hard for imperfect surfaces.  95a and above is great for ditches, street skating, park skating, and downhill techsliding.

A wise man once told me “If you can ride it, you can slide it,” which is absitively, posilutely true…but, there are myriad options of wheels out there that’ll make it easier on you to slide.  The most important thing is experimentation, and finding what works for you.  Longboarding is still relatively cheap, so save your lawnmowing money and buy a few sets of wheels.  I can’t tell you which specific product to buy, as there are SO many other factors that we didn’t even explore here, that’ll impact grip/slide characteristics.  Wheels are important, yeah, but they’re a small fraction of the chaos that is a longboard.  So, take some of the general guidelines I’ve set forth above, and attack the skateshop with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!

There’s an odd resurgence in the skateboard world.  After forums have maked and breaked our beloved sport of skateboarding, Facebook took it over.  Skaters sought not good, solid information, but rather, to have their own opinions validated.  They sought Instagram glory over discussing wheels, bearings, and bushings ad nauseum.  And yet, there were holdouts.  There were those among us who shunned the instantaneous and superficial satisfaction, in hopes that true passion, heart, and knowledge would shine through.

There’s a common thread between skateboarding and forums.  There’s a raw energy that drives likeminded people to connect in specialized forums…that same raw energy is at the heart of skateboarding.  Skaters are creative, freaky weirdos. Skaters, by their very nature, are inquisitive and inventive.  That same creative, freaky, inquisitive, inventiveness drove the .com bubble in the late 90’s, spawned social media, continues to invigorate the gig economy and today’s DIY ethos.  So, it’s no surprise that skate forums, once having been left for dead on the side of the road, are still kickin’.  Here’s a brief rundown on a few of my favorites:

First up, we have the site Gnarwheels.  Gnarwheels formed from one of the malware attacks on Silverfish, after a couple skate geezers wanted to stay in touch.  There are a few SFL holdouts on there; maybe a dozen or so regular posters.  There’s a lot of cool, informative, tech talk here…a LOT of intelligent skate nerds hang out there.

Skaterscafe is a more traditional street skating forum, dating from 2004.  There are 6 or 8 OG members still posting.  Being more of a street skate site, the posters are a little more aggro, and a little less concerned with minutiae, but they’re some of the coolest, most down-to-earth guys I’ve encountered online.

AlwaysWill seems based out of the old freestyle skateboarding forums, and is centered mostly around flatland, freestyle, ditches and banks.  There’s a healthy bit of nerdliness here, but my experience is warm and mellow.

Skullandbones is a skate collector’s site, focused more primarily on skateboard art, culture, collecting, and old-school (pre-1990’s) skateboarding.  I’ve been an active, posting member for nearly a decade here, and I still can’t quite figure the place out.  There are a lot of big, dynamic personalities, which certainly lends itself to some fun drama and colorful e-suicides.

Penny Boards

Posted: 2018-08-20 in Uncategorized

I haven’t exactly been shy about my feelings towards Penny Boards.  The evolution from solid wood, fiberglass, or plastic in the 1970’s to laminated wood benefited skateboarding immensely.  Laminated plywood is superior in every way to heavy, clunky, brittle solid materials.  Laminate has pop, fiberglass and plastic don’t.  So, right off the bat, Penny Boards have a strike against them, as they’re substantially heavier than a wooden board of similar size, and feel dead and mushy underfoot.  For my money, you can’t beat a Longboardlarry Humu,  a Candyspanks Super Chili, or pretty much any damn thing but a Penny.

Now, I’ve done some digging around the forums at Skullandbonesskateboards.com and uncovered some posts from user Krayola…Kray’s a Dogtown local, and is purported to have apprenticed under the legendary Skip Engblom, and was in and around the Santa Monica skateboard scene during the mid- to late-1970’s, right when the whole Z-Boys thing was going on.  I’ve got no reason to doubt his posts at all.  So here, where he claims that the Chinese factory that makes Penny boards has been pushing boards under various brands since about 2004, is quite a bombshell.  That’s just the factory though…Kray also posits that they tried to sell him the plastic boards in 2006, for his skateboard brand.  And, if you look really closely at the Kryptonics Bullet boards at Target and Walmart, they’re damn near identical to the first run of Penny boards.

Here’s where it gets fun:  The Austrailian Intellectual Property office has the Penny brand trademarked as late as 2011.  As I’ve mentioned before, in any number of posts about the longboard market crash, 2011 was precisely at the peak of longboarding…meaning, Penny and their ilk are and were not early adopters, they were squarely in the bandwagon.

So, what does this all mean?  Penny doesn’t care about skateboarding…they’re just in it to make a few bucks.  They’re an international multi-level marketing scheme.  They’re owned by corporate fatcats.  I implore you, dearest reader, to buy from skater-owned companies.  Look for brands that existed before the longboard boom of 2009-2013…look for brands that are not sold in malls, at clothing stores.  A real, wooden board from Zumiez will at least keep the profits within the industry…a plastic Penny board from PacSun won’t.

Or just ride what you want, I’m a blogger, not your mother.  Skateboarding is about not giving a fuck.

Peace, love, and powerslides!

I was going to write a review of my new Earthwing  And I Hope 36″ but realized, as I was making some mental notes, that I was going to be comparing the board to my Rolling Tree Nimbus, which I haven’t yet reviewed either.  How was I going to compare the two when I haven’t written about one?  It didn’t compute, and caused vast amounts of cognitive dissonance, so I decided to just do a double-header.

The Nimbus is 36″ Long, 9.5″ Wide, with an 18″ Wheelbase.  The Hope is 36″ Long, 8.75″ Wide, with a 16.5″ wheelbase.  The Nimbus has 5.5″ nose and tails, and the Hope has 7.375″ nose and tails.  Both boards are asymmetric shapes, but have symmetric dimensions.  By all means, these are very similar boards.  But, they’re both coming from different approaches, which makes it kind of cool for me to do this comparison/review.

To distill it down to a couple lines, the Nimbus is a street board adapted from a downhill board, and the Hope is a downhill board adapted from a street board.  I mentioned in a previous post that Earthwing came from a street skating background, a fact exemplified in the ride of the Hope.  Because the wheelbase is shorter and the kicks are longer, there’s a bigger “pocket” for your feet to lock in right above the trucks.  There’s something about this board that exudes energy and aggression; it’s more than a board, it becomes part of you.  Steve Olson would probably kick my ass for saying this, but the Hope feels how this picture looks.  The Hope is a little more flexy…I hesitate to even use the word “flexy,” since it’s not.  Maybe compliant?  Energetic?  Flexy denotes a floppy, noodly ride, and the Hope certainly isn’t floppy or noodly.  It’s a standard 7-ply street skateboard, stretched out to 36″, so it’s going to have just a little more give.  The Nimbus, on the other hand, has smaller pockets, but more aggressive concave.  I found it substantially easier to break into a Coleman slide on the Nimbus than on the Hope.  The Nimbus, being more of a downhill-oriented board, feels so rock solid and surgically precise underfoot…confidence-inspiring and encouraging.

I’m riding the Nimbus on Bennett 6.0’s on flat risers with Orangatang Onsens and Zealous Bearings.  Bennetts are a little high and divey, but they’re based on the original Indy geometry, so it’s good enough.  The Hope is on Indy 169’s on second-generation (black core) Earthwing Slide-A’s with Abec11’s Biltin bearings.  The Bennetts have blue Tracker Stims on the bottom and red Khiro Bitches on top; the Indys have yellow Bones Hardcores all the way around.

My typical session is pointing my board down a hill and doing some lazy hands-down slides.  Tech sliding is something I’ve always dabbled in, even though I’ve really never been able to nail the multiple rotations, flatspins, or fliptricks that those Brazilian dudes do.

Oh, and another interesting little tidbit:  The Onsens wear down into a fine powder, which sprays up into the bearings, on the truck hangers, and onto the board itself.  The Slide-A’s don’t leave visible urethane dust, and seem to chunk a little easier.

Don’t Overthink Things

Posted: 2018-04-27 in Uncategorized

The numbers back me up on this one…my article on bearing lube is the #1 post on this blog.  I’ve got an entire section dedicated to skate diagrams.  I’m a nerd, and I know it.  I embrace it.  What drew me into longboarding was the fact that it’s very easy to make noticable changes in the way a board rides – every little thing you do can alter your experience, from new bushings, to griptape, to wheels.

Since Silverfish died, longboarding has scurried into little holes on Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, and many other disjointed sources.  The absolute largest impact from losing Silverfish is that there’s no one, central source of information anymore.  I don’t tend to follow any of the aforementioned social media in an active capacity…in fact, I’m rather disconnected from the entirety of longboarding these days.

What I’ve ascertained, while speaking with a few Redditors, is that there are whisperings of a new bearing conspiracy.  Not Ron Foster’s, as I had posted previously, but something more nefarious.  And again, I haven’t actually read this, and don’t have a primary source; I’ve just compiled this from speaking with a few Redditors:

The Great Bearing Lube Conspiracy.  This is rooted in the idea that bearing companies need to make money.  How do they do that?  By selling bearings (obviously).  I’ve often subscribed to the idea that bearings are cheap and disposable.  608 Bearings aren’t designed to have 200 pounds of rider pushing onto them, let alone the impact of ollies, tricks, and slides.  As soon as a rider steps onto a board, it destroys any advantage that a few ten-thousandths of a millimeter of precision give.  According to Reddit, this is the first leg of of The Great Bearing Lube Conspiracy.  They posit that “buy cheaply, buy often” was promoted by bearing industry insiders to boost bearing sales, as skaters were encouraged to not take care of their bearings properly and, therefore, destroy them prematurely.

The second leg of TGBLC supposes that the skate bearing industry posted hundreds of tutorials online on cleaning skate bearings, only to do so improperly.  The method I’ve used to clean hundreds of sets of bearings, inspired by several dozen tutorials and how-to’s, is as follows:  Remove the bearing shields or seals; shake the individual bearings in a container of acetone (to break down the old lubricant and shed the dirt and debris inside the bearings);  rinse the bearings in 91% isopropyl alcohol (to remove the acetone, which could leave a residue detrimental to the future lube);  then apply oil and reassemble.  TGBLC says that this does not do a good enough job, and can leave dirt and debris inside.  TGBLC says that the proper way is to completely disassemble the bearings, including the plastic or metal cage, brush them off, and then lay a thick bead of grease around the outer race to hold the balls in place while you snap the cage and inner race back in place.  This provides 100% coverage and absolute protection, while using a proper grease (impregnated with polynanoborate, nano-ceramic, molybdenum, or calcium…basically any tube of grease costing more than $10) can chemically bond with the metal surfaces inside the bearing, and actually repair imperfections and damage.

But wait, Shopmonkey, won’t all that grease create a ton of internal friction and bog down your ride?  You see, dear reader, this is the third leg of TGBLC:  The “myth” of free spin is spread around the Interwebz by bearing industry insiders to promote use of Bones Speed Cream, which according to the first leg, wears the bearings prematurely and in the end, sells more bearings.

TGBLC theorists seem to think that there’s a huge, looming bearing market behind longboarding and skateboarding.  My experience and counter-arguments are as follows:

-Having purchased (and currently own a few) several professionally-used downhill, slalom, pool/park, and freeride setups; including Dane Van Bommel’s 2002 Gravity Games board, Biker Sherlock’s H-Street reissue pool board, B-Pizz’s Revenger from Danger Bay, and a board from Silverfish’s test section, the common thread is that bearings don’t fucking matter!  The late Gary Hardwick has a video somewhere online talking about his Guinness record-setting speed run, and had gone on the record as saying that he doesn’t know what bearings are on his board.  Every other complete referenced in this bullet point came with a mishmash of many different bearing brands.  One might argue that professionals aren’t going to let it be known that they use swiss-ceramic uberbearings of doom, and that they just put cheapies into completes when they sell them, but that’s a bit of a stretch for me.  I can’t quite buy that one.

-I’ve dabbled in nearly every aspect of skateboarding, period…streets, parks, freestyle; all sorts of gravity sports; distance pushing; urban cruising.  It has been my experience that yes, heavy grease does create a TON of fluid friction and drag inside the bearings.  It’s absolutely noticable, and generally not worth the increased energy expenditure.  Having said that, I did buy some good grease this year, and cleaned/lubed them to my own standards, just for preservation purposes…I put grease on the boards that get ridden less often, just to keep them fresh and clean longer.  But, by and large, I’ve found much more benefits to cleaning bearings every few months, and keeping them lubed with light oil (3-in-1, Bones Speed Cream, etc.)

-Reddit LOVES their conspiracies, and like most of ’em, TGBLC requires the cooperation of thousands of industry insiders over the past 50 years of skateboarding.  Skaters are a creative, inventive, intelligent group…gimmicks get weeded out quickly, and stuff that works sticks around for the long haul.  There’s an absolute reason that acetone bath -> alcohol rinse -> light mineral oil has become the ingrained truth in skateboarding:  It fucking works.

What I’m trying to get at in this post is exactly what the title says:  Don’t overthink things.  These are fucking skateboards.  They’re simple toys, not complex machinery or some sort of high-tech equipment.  Bearings are far down the list of parts on a skateboard that’ll make or break your ride.  Grab your favorite oil and go nuts, don’t overthink things.

A wise friend once opined that “if an activity or sport is popular enough to have poseurs, it’s probably mainstream.”  The word “poseur,” in this instance, means someone who uses technical jargon, lies or embellishes about accomplishments, or even lies about participation in a given activity.  We’ve all seen the guys…claiming their ’98 Volkswagen Jetta can pull a 10-second quarter mile; or that they’re the “next big thing in UFC,” and that they were slated to box against Floyd Mayweather instead of Conor MacGregor; or that their beer-league hockey team beat the Philadelphia Flyers…despite the fact that that Jetta leaves puddles of oil everywhere; that UFC guy is gangly and out of shape; and the beer-league team finished 7th (out of 8 teams) the previous season.  Cars, UFC, and hockey are pretty mainstream.  You’d never hear a guy bragging about selling propane and propane accessories, pencil-sketching scenes from 1980’s sitcoms, or winning the 2018 POG world championship…simply because nobody cares!

Now, circa 2011, right as longboarding was gaining steam, we began to see longboarding poseurs.  People were wearing longboard clothing or putting longboard stickers on their laptops and cars, just because the logos looked cool…people would lie and brag about their 30′ ‘thane lines, or going 65mph through that subdivision outside of town…et cetera, et cetera.

While the longboarding boom of 2009-2013 was a great thing, in many ways, it brought a lot of negativity into the realm.  As stated above, dudes were outright lying about their accomplishments.  Certain skate “crews” would vandalize subdivision streets with their logos or tags, or be obnoxious and loud to the residents of the neighborhoods.  Some crews would ride arm-in-arm across major city streets to “raise awareness” of longboarding, doing nothing but disrupting traffic and pissing off citizens in the process.  I’ve posted before about major buzzkills, harshin’ others’ mellows.

Along with the popularity boom also came hundreds of new brands, branching out into the niche of longboarding.  While longboarding had been slowly simmering in the background for years, cultivating its own scene, built by the riders, for the riders, it had been largely ignored by mainstream skateboarding.  You could rest assured that every brand, sold by every vendor, had a vested interest in keeping the sport alive.  Once longboarding boomed, everyone wanted a piece of that pie.  Global mega-corporations were buying into longboard properties, making their own boards; small-time brands were pushing generic shapes; the likes of Target, Walmart, and your local mall got into the game.

All this did was dilute the sport and push the small-time guys out.  Penny won’t sponsor a local event; Globe Cruisers won’t sponsor a downhill event; Krown won’t sponsor a slalom race.  But, those are the brands that every grandmother bought every grandkid for Christmas in 2013…so there are millions more Penny, Krown, or Globe boards out there than there are Earthwings, Pavels, Sk8Kings, Rolling Trees, or Clutch boards.  Yet, Earthwing supported many casual push races; Pavel and Sk8kings are heavily involved in the slalom scene; Rolling Tree is still (in 2018) keeping things alive in Minnesota; and Clutch was another key player on the East Coast.

And, by lowering the barrier to entry (by selling boards cheaper than a decent set of trucks), it set the expectation that longboarding was a cheap sport.  It’s certainly one of the more affordable sports, but a $70 Penny complete or $50 Krown is a much smaller investment than a $120 Clutch deck, outfitted with $60 trucks, $25 bearings, and $55 wheels…as a result, newcomers scoffed at the idea of spending $200 or more on a complete, when a cheapo shop blank would suffice.  Every sale of a Penny, Krown, Moose, or whatever blank, was not a sale to a core brand that supported the scene.  Similarly, I touched before on the booming used market of longboard stuff.  Each time a used board changed hands, that was also not cash in the pockets of a core brand.  All of the above culminated in the complete cheapening of the activity.

In longboarding’s race to the bottom, encouraged by a meteoric rise in popularity, the corporate fatcats diluted, and cheapened the market, to a point where it was no longer sustainable by part-time hobbyists and other small-time brands.