Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ankle Update, Feb 2021

This below clip is a little outtake from last night's session. The angle iron was a tad sticky. Didn’t go fast enough/lean back far enough to compensate. Front end dipped down. I stepped-off onto the bad ankle...and down I go.

Almost two years after the initial broken bone, after two surgeries, after almost a year back on the board, and after significant recovery, my front ankle STILL betrays me on occasions...and sometimes even on very simple/low impact things such as this little 5-0 grind. I never know when it’s going to happen. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t occur nearly as often as before, and when it does, my ankle doesn’t hurt nearly as bad. Things like this used to be a session-ender. Now I just get up and keep going. That’s awesome. The pads continue to be a real life-saver when it does happen, because I usually go down straight to my knee (sound on to hear the plastic scrape). I don’t foresee loosing those anytime in the near future—it’s just not a game of Russian roulette I want to play with my kneecaps, because eventually I will loose in a serious way. It's just not worth it. 


The other major improvement is that I can now control my falls much better than before—I don’t go down nearly as hard. That’s also great news. So, despite occasional floundering, my ankle doing pretty good. 

Keep pushing...I certainly am. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Thunder Hollow Lights & Team Hollows Review (Part II: Performance)

This is Part Two of my Thunder truck review. In Part One I covered a lot of factual, nerdy, tech stuff. Weight. Height. Length. Board fit/truck size(s). Etc. Here, in Part Two, we cover something much more subjective: truck performance. 


PART II: Performance

For starters, let me clarify that I am almost 47-years-old, and I have lingering injures from a broken leg. If you want a review on how Thunders perform on f/s feebles down kinked rails, switch backside flips into f/s krooked grinds on ledges, or heavy pool skating—you ain’t going to get that here. What you will get is an honest review from average old-guy skater who isn’t trying to sell you something, isn’t making money off reviews, or isn’t trying to use the review to flaunt my own skate “ability” (which is a aughable concept). That said, on we go…  

The first thing I did on the Thunders was to just carve around an empty parking lot and on some banks. This was to get an idea how the trucks turn, to get the bushing breaking in, and to tighten/loosen trucks to my liking. I ride my trucks on the tight end of “loose,” or on the loose end of “tight.” I am an “extra medium” kind of person. How did they perform?

Yeah. My initial reaction to carving around on Thunders was…bad. Real bad. They just didn’t turn. Like, at all. It felt like my trucks were super tighten-downed. I had the kingpin nut all the way to nylon (e.g. loose as you can get without fear of it falling off), and they still felt too tight. I decided to try switching out the stock bushings. I used to ride 96a Bones hard bushing in my Indys, which ride "softer" than most other 96a bushing. I tired Bones 91a bushing in my Indys, and those were way too soft for me (they also ride much "softer" than most other 91a bushings). Well, the 91a Bones bushing are what I put in the Thunders…and they still didn’t have a decent turn. This blew my mind. A bushing that was too soft in my Indys, was still too hard in Thunders? What the hell is that about??? How is that even possible? Is Thunder geometry THAT fucked up???? Again, I ride my trucks are on the tight end of loose, or the loose end of tight. This is to say that I do not ride really loose trucks...and Thunders were too tight, even for me. The Thunder stock bushings are horrible. I would never consider riding Thunders with stock bushings. NEVER. Horrible, horrible performance. I would probably quit skating if my only choice of truck was Thunders with stock bushings. Yes, I thought that were that bad. The 91a Bones did make them ride a bit better, but not by much. They still felt super tight, stiff, and gross. After carving around for awhile I skated a bit of flatland, and some curbs. Things didn't get any better. In fact, they got worse. I couldn't carve/turn into any tricks. If I didn't land perfectly, I had to step off my board or compensate with an immediate tick-tack. It felt so...rigid, and soulless. There was no joy. Fun had abandoned me, and left only a deep sorrow of carves that once were. Despair, destitution, and spiritual calamity. No children laugh here, and tears rain down to melt black snow.

They also had this other really weird characteristic, which is kind of hard to explain. Simply put, it didn’t feel like the front and the back truck ever acted in unison or harmony to produce a good feeling turn.  While my front or back truck might have felt a bit “loose” the board turn as a whole, always felt tight and stiff. It was like there was this weird discord going on...sort of like two musicians trying to play the same song, but the sheet music each had was in a different key. 

I should mention that while I could notice the Hollow Teams made my board feel a tad higher, I could not otherwise notice any real difference in performance between the Hollow Lights and Team Hollows. None. That 1mm height difference between them might cause real or imagined differences to some, but it didn’t even have placebo effect on me.  

I intended to skate these trucks for about a week on different types of terrain. That did not, and is not going to happen. I called it quits on this entire project after the second night of skating. Why? Because these trucks are not fun to ride. At all. In anyway. There was simply no point forcing myself to go any further with this review. The writing was on the wall in huge, bold, letters. At my age, if I’m not feeling something with my set-up, game over. Time is too precious to be wasting it on things that I’m not Stoked about. I was not Stoked on these trucks. Rather, they made me want to vomit in my own hair. I know there are some who feel that Thunders turn better than Indys. I also know that there are some in New York City who think they have a good view of the night stars and sky. Not only do those people have no idea what they are missing, they also have no idea what they are talking about.

Bottom Line: If you like trucks on the tighter side, Thunders are worth a look at. I, however, will never look at them again…and I didn’t even get into this problem with them! As much as I love DLX decks/wheels, and everything they do for skateboarding, Thunders are just not the truck for me. If they work for you, great. I dwell elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Thunder Hollow Lights & Team Hollows Review (Part I: Techy, Nerdy, Stuff)

I hate NHS. I expressly state my bias up front. I would love to be rid of everything associated with that company, including Independent trucks. Despite that, I have ridden Indys for a very, very long time. Why? Because I have always found them to be a superior product (and I say that as someone who WANTS to be riding a different truck). So, that should say something about Indys. I mean they are the industry standard for a reason. I also believe that one should challenge their assumptions from time to time, if only to prove those assumptions still hold true.

So, with this background, and with hopes of riding myself of all NHS products, I decided to give Thunders another chance. This is my review of them. Since Indys are the “gold standard” (and what I normally ride), I will be making many comparisons to (my) Indys during this review. For reference, I ride Indy 144 titaniums on an 8.25” deck with a 14.38” wheelbase. And yes, I have tried Aces (an extensive review of them can be found here).

So, for this review I will be covering two different Thunder trucks at once.

-148 Polished Team Hollows (8.25”) (“TH”)
-148 Polished Hollow Lights (8.25”) (“HL”)

There is not much difference between these two trucks: minor differences in height and weight. Part II of this review (which coves actual performance), will suss out if the difference between them is substantive...or just good old-fashioned marketing. 

I have not ridden Thunders in a few years. I tried the Team versions when they first came out, and I was not a fan. However, it appears as if Thunder has made a few tweaks since then. Or have they? It’s actually kind of hard to know. Both trucks I am testing are purported to now be a bit taller than earlier generations…or maybe that is just due to Thunder’s weird truck designs and inconsistent messaging? Again, it’s still hard to actually know. Why? Well, are you ready to go down a maddening array of Thunder’s claimed truck specs that are all-over-the-map? Buckle up. We are about to descend in insanity.    

Let’s start here. This old ad stated that regular Thunders were 48.58mm tall, and that the Teams “were slightly 1mm taller,” coming in at 49.78mm (note the blue circle at the bottom of the image).

Today, things are bit different. The current Thunder web site states that Thunder 148 (8.25”) Lights trucks are 51mm, and the Teams are 52mm (see below).

Things then get even more confusing, because the height of Thunder trucks changes with their width. For instance, the 147 (8.0”) Lights are listed at 49mm Tall. The same trucks, only wider (e.g. the 161s),  are listed at 52mm. But, it’s about to get even worse. If you watch the little promo videos on Thunder’s web site for each respective truck style, they only list ONE height for each model. Nowhere on the current web site do the numbers “48.58” and “49.78” appear (as they did in that old Team ad above). Maybe I missed it, but I never recall seeing anything from Thunder that they had made their trucks taller. Maybe Thunders have always had a varied height-to-length-ratio, which was just poorly advertised/document by Thunder in the past. Whatever the case, it would be nice if Thunder put out some clear, and consistent information about their truck specs. And good luck looking for height guidance/specs at any on-line skate shop, because you will also find truck heights listed that I didn’t even mention above. It’s just total bedlam.
What about Indys? Independent trucks have no such confusion. Their standards are 55mm tall. Everyone agrees on that. Their forged trucks are 53.5mm tall. Everyone also agrees on that, too. Indy height does not change with width. Their new mids are 52mm tall (but those also appear to have a horrible design, and should be avoided at all costs. Nice job, Indy. You managed to make a heavier truck, with less kingpin clearance, a stickier kingpin for smith/feeble grinds, and with more initial slip-out. Sounds like the worst Indy ever made. I'm not going near them.).  

So, before I even get to Thunder’s performance aspects, I am going to cover a lot of nuanced, nerdy, spec-tech stuff. You've been warned. I am sure some people think this level of scrutiny is absolutely inane and absurd. Others thrive on it. If you want to just skip straight to the performance aspects, head over to Part II (which can be found here). All of the measurements below are my own. If there is a reason to cite a manufacture claimed measurement, I will expressly state that. Just for comparison, I threw in specs on my Indys (144 titaniums), and Ace 44s, too.

Weight (individual truck):
HL: 322g (11.36oz)
TH: 335g (11.81oz)
Indy: 335g (11.81oz)*
Ace: 395g (13.86oz)

*Manufacture claim. Mine are too ground down accurately weigh them against the others, which were all brand new when weighed.

Height (measured to center of axle):
HL: 51mm
TH: 52mm
Indy: 53.5mm
Ace: 52mm

Measured center-of-axle to center-of-axle. This is will never an EXACT measurement because bushings, pivot cup, etc. will never allow the axles to sit perfectly flat/balanced.

HL: 17.62”
TH: 17.62”

*My deck wheelbase is 14.38”. So 17.62” minus 14.39” equals 3.24” (rounded to 3.25”). Thus, Thunders will lengthen any deck’s wheelbase by +3.25”. Knowing this number helps with compare wheelbases among truck brands.

17.5” (axle to axle on a 14.38” deck)

17.25” (axle to axle on a 14.38” deck)

Kingpin Clearance:
for this I just eyeballed it from top of kingpin to top of the hanger.
HL: 10mm
TH: 10mm
Indy: 9mm
Ace: 8mm

Axle Length (total):
HL, TH, and Indy: 8.25”
Ace: 8.38”

Axle Length (individual)
For this, I measured the length of the axle that sticks out from the hanger.

HL: 32mm
TH: 32mm
Indy: 32mm
Ace: 35mm

Hanger Length:
HL: 5.62”
TH: 5.62”
Indy: 5.62”
Ace: 5.56”


Comment on Durometer: While the Thunder web site does not state what durometer the polished Thunders come stock with, everywhere else that stock bushing durometer is listed, it is listed as 90a. So, I will assume my Thunders also came stock with 90s bushings. If you want to use aftermarket Thunder bushings, they come in 90a, 94a, 97a, and 100a. All of these come only in a conical shape. By comparison, Independent aftermarket bushings are available in 78a, 88a, 90a, 92a, 94a, and 96a. These are all available in both conical and standard cylinder shapes. The height of bushing is important for compatibility with non-manufacture after-market bushings

Bushing Height, Hardness, & Shape:

Top: 10mm
Bottom: 14mm
Stacked with washers: 27mm
Hardness: 90a
Shape: Conical/tapered

Top: 10mm
Bottom: 13mm
Stacked with washers: 27mm
Hardness: 90a
Shape: Cylindrical/straight  

Top: 12mm (91a)
Bottom: 14mm (86a)
Stacked with washers: 27mm
Shape: Cylindrical/straight  

Baseplate Design: Thunders are notorious for this “problem.” No other truck has this issue, only Thunder does. I’ll cover this more in Part II on truck performance. 

Appearance: Everything above is factual information. Weight. Height. Lengths. Etc. Now we move to something more subjecting, appearance. I have mixed feelings about the way Thunders look. I don’t hate them (I despise how Aces look). I don’t love them (I love the way Indys look). They definitely look more svelte than Indy. Thunders almost, almost, start to look like “Wal-Mart” trucks, but don’t totally cross over into Toy Store Land appearance (many have made that claim about Thunders). I love the way Thunders with a black baseplate and silver/gunmetal hangers look. Thunder is constantly putting out different truck color combinations. Some of them look really cheesy, IMHO.

Mall Grab: I saved the most important for last. I know everyone is dying to know…but how are Thunders for Mall Grabs? I’m sorry, kids. Simply put, Thunders are just a lesser Mall Grab. Due to Thunder’s stripped down, svelte design, they just don’t give your hand that much to hold on to. Grabbing your Thunders as you waltz into the Food Court, or Zummies…it just feels as if you are daintily holding a fragile bouquet of small, weak, undernourished aluminum flowers. If the jocks by the Burger King kiosk start frontin’ on you, it just doesn’t seem like you have any real heft to fight them off with. Without question, Indys are the best truck for a good, satisfying Mall Grab. “Grab the Best, Fuck the Rest”…or something macho tough-guy like that.   


So, there you have it. A pretty lengthy review of Thunder trucks, before I have even put them on my board and skated them! On paper, four things stand out to me. First, is the longer wheelbase. Second, is the lowered height (esp. with the Hollow Lights). Third, is the notorious baseplate issue with nose/tail slides. Last, the Team Hollows weigh the same as my Indys (surprising), and the Hollow Lights are a tad lighter.  I am eager to see how all this actually plays out when I start skating them. How much of these differences is marketing, and how much will I actually notice? Time will tell. Part II of this review will adress actual performance vs. marketing gimmick. Note however, that Part II has not been posted yet. I will link it here as soon as it is goes live. Until then, happy skating.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Diminish, Fade, and Wither: The Inspiring Delcline of Tony Hawk

I am an old, broken, skateboarder. My balance is not what it once was. I don’t react as fast as I used to. I don’t heal as quickly as before. Every year skateboarding becomes harder. Every year I become more susceptible to injury. I like my pads a hell of a lot more than I used to. These are hard facts of biology, time, age, and life.

Recently Tony Hawk posted about his recent struggles doing a 720. A trick he invented long ago. He said he could not spin them as fast anymore. He said previous attempts ended badly and did not inspire confidence. He said they were much harder now. He battled it for awhile, pulled one, and said he may never do it again. Albeit vastly different scales, these battles are ones many of us already know quite well. I certainly do. They are also battles EVERY skateboarder WILL know, provided they stick with it long enough. There is no escape.

It’s not often someone in skateboarding, especially someone at Hawk’s level, openly talks about (and shows) the impact of aging. It’s almost unimaginable to hear TONY HAWK talk about battles with CONFIDENCE. Hearing and seeing his own battles with declining skill and ability certainly make our own battles with the same that much more universal and...humanizing.

Much respect for making that 720, Tony. But even more respect for the honest vulnerability. Every session is a gift. It won’t last forever...and even Tony Hawk knows that.

We diminish. We fade. We wither. And that, at least to me, is a gift. The impermanence of it all is what makes it so special. It’s what makes it so hard to take anything for granted, and what reveals how profound the simple really is (and I’m not talking about just skateboarding here). As I knowingly roll into my own twilight, I do so with a gratitude brighter than a thousand Suns.

Hawk, battling to land a 720, one last time.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Well, My Arm Isn't Broken...(2021 is off and running)

Well, 2021 is off to an interesting start. On Jan 4th I badly hyper extended my elbow. I gave it a few days to see how it was doing, but started to think it might be broken???? However, I had to hold off on going to the doctors. Why? Well, I got Covid. Fortunately it was not a very bad case. That said, almost three weeks after the first Covid symptoms appeared, I still have ZERO taste or smell.

Once out of quarantine I was able to see the doctor about my elbow. X-Ray showed no break. That is good, but almost a month later it still hurts in some situations. The Dr. said to come back in 2-3 weeks if it’s still causing some problems. I have a feeling it will be.

Just as I was again feeling almost 100% post-Covid (aside from no taste/smell), and ready to do some mellow skating again (with an elbow pad on bad arm), the weather took a turn for the worst. We are in the middle of a bad cold snap right now. It is currently 10 degrees outside. Wind-chill is well below zero. The cold is supposed to end in two days, to be immediately followed by a large snowstorm. By the time I am back on the board it will be over a month since I last skated (and will probably still have the elbow injury when I start rolling again). That sucks.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Big Wheels Might be a Big Problem (or Don't Let the Past Ruin Your Present)

Often people who cling to sentimental notions of the past do not realize how much their set-up is actually holding them back (especially when deck/truck/wheel ratios are WAY off). I say it all the time, but equipment evolved FOR A REASON. Below is a post someone made on Facebook after they had serious equipment epiphany. I am not, by any means, saying there is a "correct" way to set-up your skateboard. There simply isn't. That said, there are consequences to the way your board is configured. Some may not be fully aware of those consequences. Thus, I am ONLY trying to share information, which may make for happier skateboarding. 


“Since returning to skating after several years off, I have been focused on getting back
everything I used to be able to do, within reason (which was not much to begin with). I then hit a plateau, and stopped progressing. Most of it was admittedly out of fear of getting hurt, but the rest was centered around never feeling stable and balanced on my board. I always felt like I was going to tip over and fall off. I couldn't get my wheels over the coping to grind because I felt like I was going to fall off. I couldn't roll-in because I always felt like I was going to fall off. I couldn't ollie because I would actually fall off every time I bent my knees.

It was miserable. I went skating every day this week. Each time, instead of feeling better afterwards like skating always does to me, I felt increasingly depressed. When I got home from the park yesterday, I was pretty much disgusted with myself. I made a sandwich, cracked open a beer, put on some sweats, and sat in my recliner, moping over the fact that I am a washed-up has-been, and generally being whiney. I was blaming it on my weight, my age, my joints, etc.

Then as I was watching a show on TV, something was mentioned about fulcrums, levers, and pivot points, and, my brain board is too tall.

I am constantly analyzing, engineering, and tweaking things to make them work better in pretty much all aspects of my life. In skating, I am always trying new equipment and changing combinations, to find that optimum configuration.* A lot of times it is just me doing retail therapy to compensate for sucking, but sometimes I find something useful.

I love innovation, but sometimes I get stuck in the Old Man mindset where I have false assumptions that everything from “my time” was better. I realized that while I have a modern board, my configuration was completely stuck in the 1980s; my wheels, trucks, and boards...all huge.

There was a logic behind it: Tall wheels go faster and are easier to get over coping, sidewalk cracks, rocks, and other obstacles. Wider wheels have more surface area. Wider trucks and boards offer a more stable platform and turn easier. But there is a tradeoff. All of that big tall Monster Truck mentality has side effects. Besides the instability just rolling, I was having muscle injuries in my pushing leg, because I couldn't get that foot to make solid contact with the ground. I was hitting every push with the toes, and that was causing a chain reaction strain from my Achilles to my thigh.

So, today I went to my local skate shop, and bought a new set of wheels; the smallest wheels I have ever owned. I drove to the skate park, broke out the tools, and stripped my board down. I took my riser pads off, and switched my wheels from 60mm to 54mm.

I hopped on my board to take a test run, and it was literally night and day. I instantly felt completely stable and in complete control of my board. Instead of constantly feeling like I was falling off, I felt like it was glued to my feet. I was instantly going 2x faster, doing ollies, grinding, and generally just playing catch-up for the last two months.

The Lesson: I was completely stuck buying top of the line stuff, but always top of the line Retro Reissue stuff. I kept subconsciously equating anything “smaller wheels” with the early 90s "bearing cover" wheels. I knew there was a difference those and modern “small” wheels (e.g. under 60mm), but I just couldn't get it through my head that I can still skate AND use modern equipment, let alone that I would actually be able to skate better. So, don't let yourself get stuck in a rut because you have "always done it this way." You might only be diminishing your own ability.”

*Be careful falling too far down this rabbit hole. Yes, an 8.75” deck with Indy 159s and 56mm wheels is going to ride VERY different than an 8.0” deck with titanium Thunder 147s and 50mm wheels. Getting into extremely minor equipment tweaks (e.g. 52mm vs. 53mm tall trucks) will often lead you to an OCD-induced maddens without any real substantive performance benefits.

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Clarity Self-Deception Can Bring (was: Revisiting Thunders & a 14.5" Wheelbase on Transition)

[NOTE: Much of what I wrote below was based on self-deception. Clarity is revealed in the post-script at the end.]

I believe that one should occasionally (re)test their assumptions, if only to prove that they still hold true.

My standard set-up for mini ramps is:

•    8.25” DLX shape (14.38” wb)
•    Indy titanium 149s, with Indy 92a cylinder bushings (the blue aftermarket ones)
•    Spitfire F4 Classics, 54mm/101a
•    Swiss 6
•   Jessup

I recently decided to give Thunders another try on transition. I despise Thunders on street (they don’t turn, they are too low, and they have that stupid baseplate issue), but some of the exact reasons I hate them on street might be benefits on transition. I ride my trucks tighter on ramp, so the fact that Thunders “don’t turn” might be good. Thunders have a longer wheelbase than Indys, and they are also lower. This would provide for a bit more stability—also something beneficial. However, a longer wheelbase would make things respond a tad more sluggishly. Also, a lower height gives a little less wiggle room on anything where your nose/tail may touch the coping or ramp (this could both be negative and positive). The baseplate issue is not a real factor on transition because of the (larger) coping size. Last, Thunders are not an NHS product, and avoiding NHS is always a good thing in my book. So, at least on paper, Thunders appear to be a mixed bag, but they lean a bit more towards the positive side. How would this play-out in the real world? 

In the past there was a time when I rode Thunders on ramp and Indys on street. But I later switched back over to Indy on tranny, too. Time to retest those (Indy) transition assumptions, again. I had a pair of 149 Team Thunders (the slightly taller ones) kicking around in my closet. I threw on them on my transition board, and skated them for the last week at my local mini ramp.

There were a few things I liked about them, and a few things I didn’t. First, the positives. I really like the lower-to-the-ground feel of Thunders, both for just riding on the ramp itself, and on all truck-based lip tricks (e.g. pivots, grinds, feeble to fakie, etc.). Everything felt a little less squirrelly than on my Indys. I am not sure if this was the result of the longer wheelbase, that Thunders “don’t turn,” or the lowered truck height (or all three). In any event, I liked it, mostly. But I'll come back to this it at the very end.

I noticed one subtle difference with the longer wheelbase, which had both a positive and negative impact. On the positive, I noticed with any grind I could keep my weight a little further back on the board. This helped “push” through grinds, and it felt really nice. It also seemed like on any rail/lipslide/disaster/etc. there was a bit more wheel clearance (because wheels were further away from potential points of contact on platform or transition). The opposite side of this is that there was a fraction more of lag time required to “clear” the trucks/wheels on any given reentry (e.g. have to fakie manual a tad longer to clear front trucks on a pivot to fakie, etc.). This was a little unnerving at times, because I kept thinking I was going to hang-up. Last any kind of revert trick (nose stall revert, ollie to tail to revert, disaster revert, etc.), or anything where you 180’d into or out of a trick (1/2-Cab to railslide, disasters, rock n rolls, etc.) ALL took more effort to “swing around,” and the “swing” went slower when it did. I had some real trouble with nose/tail stall reverts on the Thunders because I wasn't getting them all the way around. This was pure function of a longer wheelbase, and I was not a fan. There was also this one other weird thing that happened a few times. On several occasions when I was in the middle of the flat, and setting up for some type nose/tail trick (nose pick, nose stall, fakie to tail stall, fakie to smith, etc.), I ended up shifting my weight too far to the extreme end of the board (in the direction I was going), and this resulted in slightly lifting up the wheels/trucks at the opposite end of the board (and that can get REAL sketchy, REAL quick). I am not sure what this was about—but it never once happened before on my Indys, but it did happen several times on the Thunders. I assume this is probably just needing to make some minor adjustments to the different wheelbases. 

Last, is that one issue I said I'd come back to at the very end. Despite all the positives, there was this one thing about Thunders that I just couldn't quantify--and it was a negative. Despite the fact they felt a bit more controlled than Indys, and less squirrelly, they always felt...stiff, and as if something was lacking (soul?) that prevented them from being truly...enjoyable. I felt a bit more like a technician skating Thunders, and a tad more like Chris Miller with my Indys. Ironic, because Miller rides for Thunder these days.    

Final Result: I definitely did not hate the Thunders—I could absolutely ride them on transition with only a few complaints. The question at this point is just which of the two do I like better and/or is more enjoyable to ride? Tomorrow I am going to throw my Indys back on, and see how that goes. I will add a post-script once I’ve done that.

One other thought that came out of this experiment: What if what I liked better about the Thunders was the longer wheelbase? Would a slightly longer wheelbase with Indys be some new epiphany? We shall soon find out. I ordered a DLX 8.25” Full deck (basically same shape as my current 8.25”, but with a 14.5” wheelbase) that should be here in a week or so. I am curious to see what my take on that is (with Indys). I’ve tried 14.5” wheelbases on mini ramps before, and didn’t like it—but that was looong before I broke my leg. The way I skate is a bit different now, and different equipment might reflect that in a more enjoyable way. Plus, I just like trying out different skate stuff. In the post-leg break world, I think now is a good time revisit many of my equipment assumptions (if only to prove they still hold correct). More certainly to come.   

POST-SCRIPT: Well, a rather dramatic bit of information was discovered yesterday which turns much of what I stated above on its head. What is that bit of information?  Forged baseplate Indys (what I ride) have the SAME wheelbase as Thunder Team trucks (the Thunders I have most often ridden). This is huge.

How did I discover this? I was tinkering with my equipment two days ago on a rainy night. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what the actual difference in wheelbase was between my Indys and Thunders. So, I mounted them on a deck and measured axle to axle. I was shocked at what I was seeing. There was less than 1/16th of an inch difference between the two. This could not be true! I remembered measuring Thunders Lights a long time ago, and they were about .25” longer than Indys. What the hell was going on here? I need a second opinion.

There is a super nerdy thread over at the SLAP Forums about a way to compare/measure/determine the relative wheelbase of any given truck in relation to any other truck. I am not going to explain how take those measurements in this post. You can read it in the SLAP thread. Anyway, I wanted to re-measure my Indys & Thunders via SLAP method as to means verify what I had discovered. I had not looked at that SLAP thread in a long time, and I wanted to verify the exact measuring methodology. So, I headed over to SLAP to look-up the info. That thread is also continually updated with the wheelbase tech specs of any given truck as people measure them (and others provide independent confirmation). When I looked at the thread, I noticed some new updates to the truck spec list since the last time I had been there. Two entries immediately jumped out at me:

Independent 149 forged hollow (8.5" axle): + 3.1875"

Thunder 149 team edition (8.5" axle): + 3.1875"

This CONFIRMED what I discovered. I then re-measured my Indys and Thunders with the SLAP method. I confirmed my own previous results. My Indys and Thunders had the exact same wheelbase.  MIND. FUCKING. BLOWN.

One other SLAP member made this comment, “I'm pretty blow away as I am sure most are. We've always dumped them into 'Indy' or 'Thunder' wheelbase. It also explains why Indy forged have always felt fine to me when going back and forth to Thunder cast. In that scenario it was no wonder only turn was bugging me on the decks I was riding. Who knew?

To be fair, regular Thunders do have a longer wheelbase than Indys by about .25” (as per my memory, and confirmed on that SLAP thread), but not the ones I was riding. So, what is the fallout from this discovery? A few things immediately jump out.

First, and most obvious, is that everything I attributed above to a difference between in Indys and Thunder wheelbase was now demonstrably FALSE. Those differences were clearly just in my head. Remember that 14.5” deck I ordered, to try a longer wheelbase with Indys? Yeah. Well, that was based off bogus “information” (Yes, I’m still going to try it when it arrives…but now I am far less curious about it).

Second, this means everything I liked and disliked about Thunders came solely from the height difference (Thunders are indeed a bit lower than Indys) and the overall Thunder turning geometry. This also means that the geometry on Thunder Teams is even more atrocious than I first thought. I always thought one of the reasons Thunder Teams didn’t turn as well as Indys was because Thunders have a longer wheelbase. Well, same wheelbase as Indy, and your shit still can get a decent turn? Ok, guys. Nice trucks. I'm out. This game is over.

Third, like person I quoted above, it also explains why I didn’t hate Thunders as much this time around (last time I had the longer wheelbase version), and why I found it relatively easy to switch back and forth between the two without any MAJOR complaints.

Last, (and this probably the biggest “shift” to come out of this “discovery”) it has made me concretely aware that the source of perceived nuance differences in equipment may simply just be me waaaay over-thinking things (surprise, surprise). That said, when Equipment X rides different than Equipment Y, the “scientist” in me wants to know why, and, what the source of those differences is. This, of course, can open up a wormhole that one may not want to go down. I think from this point forward I am going to drop the measuring tape, calipers, and scales when it comes to skateboard equipment. I am going to stop looking for the “scientific” explanation as to why something performs the way it does. I am going to stop the tinkering with minutia. Instead, my only criteria is just going to be the existential question, “Does this just feel good to ride?” If the answer is yes, then the game over. If no, then try something different. This is just to say that I am going to let pure experience be my soul guide, and not get too caught up in tiny measurable differences. It’s time to close the wormhole.  

To that end, we now come full circle (albeit via a path of self-deception about wheelbase that I never could have foreseen happening). I have ridden enough stuff to know that the set-up listed at the very top of this post is one I really enjoy riding. I am no longer going to make attempts at minor improvements to that.

“I believe that one should occasionally (re)test their assumptions, if only to prove that they still hold true.” I like my Indys. I learned that’s all I really need. Assumption confirmed.    

POST POST-SCRIPT: The 14.5" wheelbase deck arrived. I set it up, and skated it today. Within three tricks on the ramp, I knew I didn't like it, for every reason I previously didn't like it. I skated it for awhile longer, just to be sure, and I was.  Assumption confirmed, again.