Thursday, October 7, 2021

Helmet Reviews: Pro-Tec vs. Triple 8 vs. Bell

 This post is a review of three different skateboard helmets.

Before I get into the specifics of each helmet, I want to touch on three things. 

First, is certification. This is in an important: ONLY BUY A HELMET THAT HAS ASTM F1492 CERTIFICATION. REPEAT. ONLY BUY AN ASTM F1492 CERTIFIED HELMET. Non-certified helmets are useless, and do almost nothing for actual protection. They should be banned from sale due to their misleading nature (in fact, they are banned in California). If you have a non-certified helmet (or your kid does), throw it out, and get a real helmet. Below are a few links to more information about certified helmets. Dual certified helmets (ASTM and CPSC) are your best bet. 

This video is an absolute must watch on the impact difference between certified and non-certified helmets. Please watch it.
Below are few other links to information about certified helmets. 

Second, helmets do NOT prevent concussions. No helmet design has been proven to prevent concussions. The materials that are used in most of today’s helmets are engineered to absorb the high impact energies that can produce skull fractures and brain injuries. However, these materials have not been proven to counteract the energies believed to cause concussions. Beware of claims that a particular helmet can reduce or prevent concussions.

Third, is fit. Heads all come in different shapes and sizes. Moreover, all helmets fit differently. So, what works for me, might be horrible for you. If you want a helmet, you are strongly encouraged to go try them on somewhere (if possible). A good fitting helmet you will hardly notice. An ill-fitting one will either give you a pounding headache in less than 10 minutes (e.g. it’s too tight), or float around on your head and provide inadequate protection (because it’s too loose). A properly fitted helmet shouldn't feel much different than wearing a baseball hat. Can’t find the exact style and color you want? Simple, just go try helmets on somewhere, and determine the brand/size that most comfortably fits you. Once you have that info, just order the exact one you want on-line somewhere (or have your local skate shop order it). Make sure to cover it with stickers. Also, make sure there is a good return policy if you haven't tried a given brand on before you've ordered it.  

All this said, lets move on to the helmet reviews. 

The Pro-Tec Classic helmet has been around forever. I am sure it is name you recognize. Their pads have been shoddy for years, but their helmets have been on point. Tons of people wear and love Pro-Tec helmets. I am not one of them. Before I get into what I don't like about them, lets look at some of the tech specs. 


ASTM 1492-15/1447
CPSC 1203
CE 1078
AS/NZS 2063:2008

429 grams / 15.1 oz 

Pro-Tec sizing can be seen here. My head measures about 56.5cm (22.25") around. Thus, their information says I should be a solid size Medium. 
Two circle vents in both the front and back. The top looks like this:
This is a weird one. I looked at two different Pro-Tec Classic helmets. One was white, the other matte grey. Both sized medium. They seemed to have two different sized liners, as can be seen in the two photos below. Note that the liner is the "same" but the way it fit within each helmet is very different (most noticeable in the dead center). This caused them to fit a bit differently, but more on that in the "fit" section (also below).  

Standard issue straps buckles. Basically these were exactly the same on all three helmets.
Appearance | Cut | Profile
Of the three helmets,  Pro-Tec was the most "curvy." The others hard harder angles on their profile lines. Here is a side profile of the Pro-Tec, Bell, and Triple 8. Personally, I was not really a fan of the curvy Pro-Tec lines, but that is totally a subjective call.



Triple 8

The Pro-Tec helmet did not fit me well. It felt quite tight on my temples/side of head, but very loose on the front and back of my head. In fact, I could easily rock it back and forth (e.g. front to back) on my head. This indicates that is was too loose. It felt like the helmet was "egg shaped," but my head was round (my head just might be "fat" in the middle and "short" on the ends. Given that this was a medium helmet, and it was too tight in some spots, and too loose in others, I feel like dropping down to a small would be way too tight on temples/sides, and still a questionable fit on front to back. In any event, it did not provide a snug, consistent fit around my entire head. I skated with this on for about 30 min. I fell on my ass at one point, and felt the entire helmet shift on my head. That should NOT happen, so it was game over for the Pro-Tec. I also felt like this thing kept riding-up on my head, and ended-up sitting too high-up. Even before it started "riding up," I found Pro-Tec to sit higher up on my head. Here is the Pro-Tec and the Bell for comparison. Note the distance between top my eyebrows, and lower brim of the helmet. There is a dramatic different between the two. I didn't take a pic of Triple 8 while wearing it, but it sat lower like the Bell helmet does.


Final Verdict
Not the helmet for me.

Triple 8 has been around quite awhile now, and they have become a well-known name. They have some big name endorsements like Tony Hawk. Of the three helmets in this review, the Triple 8 dual certified helmet was the most painful to wear. From the first second I put it on, instant discomfort. But first, lets cover those tech specs. 


ASTM 1492-15/1447
CPSC 1203
CE 1078
AS/NZS 2063:2008

429 grams / 15.1 oz 

Triple 8 sizing can be seen here. Again, my head measures about 56-57mm (22.25 - 22.5") around. Thus, their information says I should be a in the Small/Medium sized helmets. 
The Triple 8, like the Pro-Tec, has two round vents in the front and back. These, however, are much further apart than the vents on the Pro-Tec, and they are also a little higher-up. Up top, the Triple 8 has a similar vent pattern to the Pro-Tec.

This helmet came with two sets of lining. One is thicker than the other. The thicker one is for "small" heads. The thinner is for "medium" heads. 

Again, standard straps.
Appearance | Cut | Profile
See pics above. The Triple 8 was the most angular of the the three. It even has a little "flair out" in the back.

Holy hell. Instant headache as soon as I put this torture device one. This thing would be nightmare if I had to wear for more than 10 minuets. Very tight on sides of head, and felt like a few parts of my crown (top of head) pushed up against the harder foam core of the helmet (e.g. as if the softer padding did not fully "cushion" my head). This creating some really painful pressure points towards the back top of my head. This helmet did not rock forward and backwards like the Pro-Tec did, but it was literally like wearing a circular vice on my head. Now, I clearly fit within Triple 8 guidelines for a size medium helmet. Is their sizing off? Would size large/extra-large be better? Is my head just that weirdly shaped? Unknown. But what is known, is there is no chance in hell I am wearing this helmet.

Final Verdict 
I am running away from this thing as fast as I can. Thank god for a good return policy!

Bell Helmets are not really known in the skate world, and that is shame, because the Local helmet was the CLEAR and DECISIVE champion amongst these three helmets. This helmet is GREAT, and I can't say enough good things about it. But again, first, the tech specs. 


ASTM 1492-15/1447
CPSC 1203
CE 1078
AS/NZS 2063:2008

431grams / 15.2 oz.
Note this is tid-bit heavier than the other two. Mine has lots of stickers on it, and I do have a really sensitive scale. That said, did not notice a weight difference when wearing this compared to the others. 

Bell sizing can be seen here. Again, I am in the medium range with my head being 56-57mm (22.25 - 22.5").
While Pro-Tec and Triple 8 have very similar vents, the Local has ones that are a bit different. It has two rectangle vents in the front and back (front vents can been seen in pic above). On top it has six rectangle vents.
Nothing too much to note here. 
Standards straps, just like the others.
Appearance | Cut | Profile
The Local has more hard angles than the Pro-Tec, but are not as extreme as Triple 8. See pics above. 

The first thing to note about the Bell Local helmet is this dial adjuster in the back. This thing rocks. It allows for fine-tuning your helmet's fit. This means that you can get the EXACT snug/tightness you want. That is a huge advantage over the Pro-Tec and Triple 8. Why more helmet's don't come with this, I don't know. 

Overall, the Bell helmet had a perfect fit for me. Snug all the way around my head. No pressure points. Nothing floating around. it basically feels like I am wearing a well-worn baseball hat. As I said at the top, the "fit" of helmet is different fro everyone, but the Bell Local is absolute perfection for me .

Final Verdict 
An absolutely fantastic helmet. I wouldn't wear anything else.


(1) Another certified helmet with a good reputation is the S-One Lifer, seen here. I have never seen one of these in real life. From the photos the Life has similar "lines" and vents to the Pro-Tec. I cannot confirm this, but I have heard the Life shell is much larger than other helmets, because the only "size" different between a small and XL is the thickness of lining (e.g. the shell is larger to accommodate all size heads with liner swap-outs). If anyone can confirm/deny this, please let us know in the comment section. Last, the Lifer costs about $70, which is a bit more expensive than the others.

(2) Triple 8 also makes some "pro" model helmets and a "sweat saver" helmet. These cost from $70 to $130. For the purpose of this review, I wanted to keep things in the same "price point," so I didn't include any of those (I am not about to go out any buy them, either).

(3) Killer 187, which makes great pads, also makes helmets which are NOT CERTIFIED. Considering how well-know 187 pads are, it is basically criminal that they sell non-certified helmets. What is even more insane, is that on their web site they sell a non-certified Lizzie Armanto helmet. However, if you read the description of the helmet it says, "For a certified version of Lizzie's hemlet, go here." When you click the link they provide, guess where you are redirected to? To the Triple 8 web site! How ironic is that? Anyway, it's real lame that a company like 187 does not make certified helmets. Shame on them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Product Review: Boneless Pro Slim Knee Pads

 This is a product review for Boneless Pro Slim knee pads.

Short Version: A great knee pad if you wear it with a knee gasket. Great protection, and not too bulky. These have become my go-to all-purpose pads.

Long Version: I’ve been rocking Pro-Designed mini ramp pads for a long time. Love them. After I broke my leg, I’ve been wearing pads a bit more for general street/park skating, too. While PDs are great on transition/ramp, they can be a bit bulky for street. So, I started looking for something a little less cumbersome for when I wear pads in those other settings.

First, I tried some of the Pro-tec street pads. They were cheap-ass garbage, that I quickly threw-out. Next, I tried a set of Killer 187 Fly pads. These were certainly an upgrade from the Pro-Tecs, but they have their own drawbacks, too. They are a little uncomfortable, and have pressure points due to their “ergonomic” design. Sizing can be a little off/tight. Caps are not replaceable. Padding is sufficient, but sometimes you can “feel it” if you go down hard on them. That said, for $40-$45 bucks, they are decent.

Enter Boneless Pro Slims. These run $90 a set (not cheap, but not super expensive, either). They have replaceable caps, which is a huge plus. The Pro Slims are almost the exact same size as Killer 187 Fly pads, but with more padding right where you need it. They are not as bulky as 187 Pros (which stick way the hell out, and also have annoying presser points), or PDs. I am not sure I’d want to bail a 6’ air on a vert ramp with the Pro Slims, but I can’t do 6’ airs on vert ramps, so nothing lost there (I'm sure the Boneless Pros would have you covered for that). For an older skater who skates a lot of 4’ – 6’ tall mini ramps, parks, and street, the Pro Slims offer a perfect amount of protection, without being too bulky. 



So, I mentioned knee gaskets at the very top. Time to say a bit more about that. For starters, I do not know why anyone would ever wear knee pads without knee gaskets.  Knee gaskets perform some important functions. First, they add some more padding to your knee. Second, they help relieve any pressure points your knee pads might have. Third, they keep your pads from slipping down when you fall/slide on them. Last, and most important, they serve as sweat sponge. This is to say they keep your pads from getting too gross, too fast (e.g., the knee gasket soaks up most of your sweat, rather than having it penetrate deeply into your pads). To that end, knee gaskets are much easier to wash/dry, than knee pads. Thus, it is beyond me why anyone would ever choose to do without knee gaskets.  

That said, I hate butterfly-backed knee pads. Why? Well, if my shoes are already coming off to put on knee gaskets, then slip-on pads are just a lot quicker/easier to put on than butterfly-backed pads. Moreover, butterfly-backed pads often have a few pressure point spots that slip-ons do not. Boneless Pro Slim pads (which are butterfly-backed) take me longer to put on than my (slip-on) PDs. Without knee gaskets, they are few spots on the back of the Pro Slims that can be a tade uncomfortable (add a knee gasket, and that problem instantly goes away). So, my only "complaint" about the Pro Slims is that they are not slip-ons, but that isn't a really a real "complaint." But, yeah, just wear knee gaskets. They make everything better.   

I’ll wrap-up by saying I absolutely love these pads. I have been such a loyal Pro-Designed customer for years, that I almost feel bad giving Boneless pads such a glowing review. But I also can’t lie; the Pro Slims are a great product, cost less than PDs, and are little more versatile (than PDs) due to their slimer size. In closing, if you are looking for a great all-around pad, you would be doing yourself a grave disservice if you didn’t give the Boneless Pro Slims a HARD look. I would highly recommend them to anyone.

(Note: If you're looking at the Boneless web site, you may seen the "Park Pad" listed. These have been discontinued--they were replaced by the Pro Slim pad).

Below is a clip of my Pro Slims in action a with a nollie shove-it to b/s revert over a little spine (the link this does not seem to be showing-up on hand-held devices for some reason).


Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Big Four: Ace vs. Indy vs. Thunder vs. Venture

 I recently revisited the four major trucks brands. 

Below is a ultra stripped-down product review/comparison of each.

Ace 44 AF1 (8.25")
"Squirrel Tanks." These are heavier than standard Indys. I could not get passed this. I constantly noticed it. The stock bushing are mush. Combine that with Ace's shorter wheelbase, and these things ride like "squirrel tanks." Due to non-standard sizing of Ace bushing, there is no easy swap-out for aftermarket bushings. Some fawn over how Ace trucks looks. I am not one of them. I think they look like something you'd get on a Wal-Mart board. Oh, the sound. How could I forget that? Something about these trucks (the pre-oiled pivot cups??) made my board sound like it was just pulled out of a swamp--a horrific water-logged, deaden, thud. I can't deal with that. Oh, they are really expensive, too. And I'm not even going to touch on the fiasco with with their sizing catastrophe. Different is one thing. Dumb is another. Lot of the latter going on over there.
Squirrel turn.
Sound like Swamp Monster.
Thunder 148 Team Hollows (8.25")

I didn't totally hate these. Wait. Yes, I did (but not as much as Ace). They are tad lower than my Indys, and have almost the exact same wheelbase. The turn, however, is very different. It's a much stiffer turn (at first), but then goes kind of quick at the end, and then snaps back to level. Even with softer bushing my trucks felt "tight." I found myself doing lots of tick-tacks. No fun. I tried a few different bushings types and hardnesses in these. Nothing felt really good. They had a decent grind. The slightly lower truck height made my pop feel a little more...flat. These might be better suited for a deck with steep kicks, but I am not about to switch out trucks based on the deck I am riding. The real deal-breaker on these is the baseplate issue. Even if you were to assume that I could make these turn/pop like my Indys, I'll never get passed the Thunder baseplate problem. Yeah, you can nose/tail slide on Thunders. That said, there is less room for margin of error and/or you need a lot more wax. Hard pass for me. 
Souless turn.
Wonky pop.
Absurd baseplate.
Venture Hollows 5.6 (8.25")
The lightest of the bunch (but only by a tad). Oddly, I liked these more than Thunders, despite Ventures also having the longest (bay far) wheelbase of the group. I put stock 90a Indy bushing in these, and they felt pretty good. Certainly not a super-quick turn, but a turn that felt good, and enjoyable. Weird grind. Metal seems harder than any of the others. Ace, Thunder, and Indy all have a round metal encasing around the axle. Venture does not. Their is more of a "straight wall" of hanger. I feel like the rounded axle encasing of the others helps with grinds, whereas the "wall" of Ventures has a tendency to catch more. I also think these trucks look a little...weird, almost 1960s SciFi-ish (which is normally a great look). The real deal breaker with these, is yet again, the baseplate. There are two problems with Venture baseplates. First, is the outermost hardware mounting holes are so far under the hanger (or the hanger is so far out over the baseplate) that it makes its really difficult to get a skate tool on the mounting hardware bolts. This is just absurd. Second, is the exact opposite problem of Thunders; Venture baseplates stick too far out for my taste--more so than any other truck on the market. The real problem with this is that for anything like a nose/tail slide, the extended baseplate gives you a smaller effective nose/tail (e.g. less space to balance on). I mean, we are talking small amounts here, but it's enough that (a) I can notice it, and (b) it occupies space/causes mental doubt in my head about nose/tail slides. 
Weird grinds.
Meh turn.
Meh-er looks.
Baseplate calamities.
Indy Titanium 144 (8.25")
I saved the best for last. No baseplate issues. Not too heavy, not too light (these are actually a few grams lighter than the Thunder Team Hollows). Smooth consistent turn (with lots of aftermarket bushings to get exact turn feel you want--super loose, to super tight). Mid-sized wheelbase. Mid-sized height. Every truck listed above has some kind of "problem" with it (weight, turn, grind, baseplate, appearance, etc.). Indy has none of those, at least for me. Everything else always gets compared to Indys, for a reason. A friend said it best, "If you are trying to get your trucks to ride like Indys, ride Indys."

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. 

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). This is not only true for those wrapped up in nostalgia, but those who may not be aware about the so-called "proper" ratios of a modern skateboard. 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.