Friday, November 27, 2020

The Secret "defect" of Thunder Trucks (and why your nose/tailslides may be suffereing)

(I apologize for some weird font/text formatting issues on this post, and for the misspelling of "axle" in the first photo!) 

What you are about to read may forever change the way you view Thunder trucks. Depending on who you ask Thunder trucks may, or may not, have a "serious design flaw." Moreover, this flaw may impact your nose and tail slides. If you ride Thunders and you read the rest of this blog post, from this point forward, any time you “catch” on a nose or tailslide, you might forever be doubting your equipment. Once you “see” this design "flaw," it cannot be unseen.
If you ask me, I say there absolutely IS a design flaw. Just what is this flaw? It is related to the length of the base plate that sticks out beyond the outer most mounting holes/bolts (and the position of the axle in relation to that). And yes, that simple little issue may be fucking-up your nose/tails slides, but more on that later. While this design issue is commonly known among hardcore skate tech nerds, it isn’t as common knowledge among those who aren’t super fussy about their equipment. However, that does not mean the "problem" goes away if you are unaware of it.
For starters, let’s look at this tracing of an Independent and Thunder baseplate.


There are two significant things to note here. First, is that Thunder baseplates sit further inward on your deck than Indys. Conversely, Indy baseplates stick further outward towards the nose/tail than Thunders do. See that “Note this difference” arrow? That is distance that Thunders are “shorter” than Indys. The second significant thing to note is where the axle sits in relationship to the baseplate. The red lines marked “center of axle” are (duh) where the center of the axle (on the hanger) sits over the baseplate. Note that Indy axles are closer to the center of the board than Thunders. Nothing of surprise here. Indys have a shorter wheelbase than Thunders, so it makes sense that Indys would have an axle closer to the center of the deck (and Thunders would be further out). Now, where all of this gets interesting is what happens when put wheels on your trucks...and then try doing a nose/tailslide.
Let’s start with Indys. When you do a nose or tailslide with Indys, the outermost end of the baseplate “grinds” along the vertical edge of what you are sliding, and the wheels do not come in contact with that same vertical edge. The reason the wheels do not contact the edge is because the baseplate sticks out further than the wheels do. I think you may now see where all this is leading to. With Thunders the opposite is true. Thunders have a “shorter” baseplate than Indys. Moreover, the axle (and thus the wheels) sits further toward the end of that baseplate. So, when you do a nose/tail slide with Thunders, the baseplate often never touches the vertical edge you are sliding on, but the wheels do. These two photos will help visualize the difference (both trucks have the same set of 53mm Spitfires on them).
Indys. The baseplate touches the “ledge,” but the wheels are free and clear.



Thunders. The baseplate does NOT touch the "ledge," but the wheels rub against it

Thus, there is a much greater chance to “stick” when doing nose/tail slides on Thunders because the wheels will “catch.” Ben Degros also often mentions this issue on his (fantastic) YouTube channel when talking about Thunder trucks (as can be seen in this video around the 2:47min mark). It's also commonly discussed on the SLAP Forum. Now, this is not to say that nose/tailslides are impossible with Thunder trucks. Clearly such a claim would be demonstrably false. But what it does mean is that (a) you probably need a lot more wax to compensate for “catching wheels” if you’re running Thunder trucks, (b) your margin of error is much thinner, and (c) nose/tails slides on Thunders are often more akin to a power slide (e.g. wheels rubbing) than on any other brand of trucks. Next time you are at a park, and you see someone over-waxing the fuck out of a ledge for nose/tail slides, look what trucks they have. Usually it is Thunder skaters that are doing this, and the reason why should now be obvious. Of course, the secondary problem with this is getting too much wax residue on your wheels (sketchy landings), and pissing everyone else off at the park who doesn’t want turboclown amounts of wax on a ledge to compensate for a poorly designed truck (e.g. Thunders). Further, Thunders are the only truck on the market (that I am aware of) that have this “problem.” Indy, Ace, Venture, Krux, etc. all have baseplates that stick-out beyond the wheels. Only Thunder has “catching wheel syndrome.” When something is designed radically different than every other product on the market, that often says something. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. Here, I side with the latter.   

All of this I find very disheartening. Deluxe is such a rad company. I just wish they could make trucks as good as everything else they do.* Until then, I am stuck on Indys…they nose slide great!

*For some reason DLX can not figure out how to make a proper baseplates. Everything else they do is top-notch. Their baseplates, however, leave me utterly confused. The Thunder problem is explained above. Ventures have that inane design where the outer most mounting holes are so far under the hanger that it is next to impossible to get anything but a combination wrench on the mounting hardware. Absurd. What is going over at DLX that they can rule at everything else, but are still producing nearly XR-2 level baseplates?

POST-SCRIPT: Here is another example that shows how much of an "outlier" Thunder baseplates are. Here is a Thunder truck, and an industry standard shock-pad. Look at how much the shock pad sticks out beyond the baseplate when the holes are lined-up. This does not happen on any other truck, only Thunders. Any other truck, and the end of the baseplate and the shock pad (or riser) would be almost flush.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Knee Gasket Reviews: Killer 187 & Old Bones Therapy

Killer 187 & Old Bones Therapy Knee Gasket Review

This post is a review of both Old Bones Therapy and Killer 187 knee gaskets. 

Disclaimer: I am not associated with either of these companies in any way, shape, or manner.

First, why would one want a knee gasket? They basically serve five purposes. First, is to add some compression support to the knee area. Second, is to add a touch of padding to prevent against simple abrasion if don’t want to wear full-on kneepads. Third, if worn with kneepads, they can help prevent the pads from slipping down during knee slides. Fourth, if worn with kneepads, they can add a bit more padding around the kneecap area. Last, when worn with kneepads, gaskets help keep the pads from getting too nasty because the (easily washable) gasket will soak-up most of your sweat, rather it going directly into your pads. I wear my gaskets (with kneepads) for reasons three (3) through five (5). 

Note: Lots of pics at the very end of this post. 

Killer 187s

 I’ll start the review(s) with the Killer 187 gaskets. I’ve had these much longer than my Old Bones, so I have a longer-term perspective with this product. Killer 187s make the following claims about their gaskets;

 - Curved ergonomic design 
- Thick padding surrounds the patella 
- Two layers of neoprene encase 
- Super absorbent EVA foam 
- Ventilated mesh sewn in for breathability on back of knee 
- Non-irritating side seams for comfort 
- Top and bottom stitching for durability

All of these claims hold true. Additional comments are that these gaskets are thick (but not too thick), and they have a good amount of padding around the kneecap area, including the patella tendon area. They fit snuggly (and neoprene can be rather warm/hot, esp. in summer). Some many not like the snug fit as much, other might (esp. if you’re going for compression support). That said, no knee gasket should fit loosely, as that would defeat almost any reason for wearing one.

I have found two drawbacks to my 187s. First, they seem a little “short.” By that, I mean that I’d like the overall length of the sleeve to be a bit longer. They certainly cover the entire contact-area of my kneepad, but just barely, and a tad longer would be better. Second, and this might be a big one for some people, is the stitching on the back of the gasket that connects the neoprene and the ventilated mesh. On mine, that stitching started to fail not longer after I got them. This might have been because, when I first got them, I was pulling them up from the top when putting them on, which is the incorrect method. I should have been “rolling” them a bit more. In any event, I reinforced these areas (sewing them up with waxed dental floss). I have not had any problem since. Would this problem have happened if I had been properly putting the gaskets on? Who knows. We’ll find out if/when I get my next pair.  

In the end, the 187s knee gaskets are a good product. I’ve had mine for a few years now. They’ve gotten good use, and have otherwise help up. They definitely make my kneepads feel a bit beefier, they have never slipped down, and they do a great job keeping sweat out of my pads due to the thick-ish neoprene. $45.00 for a set

2021 FOLLOW-UP: My 187s finally died. They served a good long life, and I got plenty of use out of them. I got another pair, and unlike the previous ones, I was bit more careful with how I put them on. I have had no problem with the stitching like I did with the previous set.   

 Old Bones Therapy

Next, we move on Old Bones Therapy (OBT). This company seems to have a very dedicated (almost cult-ish??) following. I had some money to burn, and I love trying out new skate gear, so I decided to give these a-go to see what all the hype was about. The owner(???) often posts on social media circles I run in, and he even offered a standing discount code to one of the groups I’m in. That is really cool. Direct involvement with the community is a big plus in my book. Their products are targeted at the older crowd, which is also, well, “my people,” so that resonates, too. To these ends, Old Bones had some “pluses” going for me before I ever even had product in my hand. 

Let’s take a look at some of the claims made by OBT on their web site about their knee gasket. I am not going to cut and paste all of it here. You can read that material on the product description page, which can be found here.

The OBT gasket is notably different from the 187s on several fronts. First, they are much longer than the 187s. Too long, IMHO.  They extend far up my thigh, and far down my shin. Wearing them, at least for me, makes it feel like there is HUGE knee pad on my leg, which covers the my upper leg, knee, and part of my calf. I'm not really a fan of that.  Second, the OBTs are not made of neoprene. They are made of some type of  “breathable knitted fabric.” The OBTs are thinner, and more “light weight” than the 187s. These don’t feel quite as “snug” or “tight” as the 187s, and that’s a good thing (for me). I am curious to see how the fabric holds-up over time. Will it loose its stretch? Will it wear out? I’ve not heard of anyone reporting this happening. Time will tell. I’m also curious to see how the OBTs do with keeping sweat away from my kneepads. I got mt OBTs in Fall 2020, so I won’t be able to really test that one out until summer 2021 (when it’s really hot again). OBTs also have these really cool anti-slip “nobs” at the top of the gaskets to help keep them in place. The OBTs do not have as much padding around the side area of the kneecap as 187s do. They also do not have any padding directly over the center of the kneecap (187s have a small layer of padding over this spot, but not much). This is the one drawback of OBTs for me. I wish they added a bit more padding in these spots. The one other “drawback” of the OBTs is that since they are made of fabric, if it gets near Velcro (which is common on others skate pads), the OBT fabric can get “stuck” to the Velcro. As soon as I realized this was an issue, I’ve been careful to keep the OBTs away from the Velcro on my other pads. I don’t want to find out if repeated “separations” will cause any structural integrity issues to the OBT fabric (as is often the case when fabric gets repeatedly stuck to Velcro).

I like the OBTs. I just wish they (1) were a tad shorter, and (b) had that extra bit of padding over/around the kneecap area. Once I have put substantial, heavy, long-term use on the OBTs, I will post a follow-up about their longer-term durability.  $25 each (or $45 for both).

So, which product is better? That depends on what you are looking for. Want a gasket that adds some padding? Go for 187s. Want a gasket that provides compression support to a larger area of your leg, is lighter, has an awesome fit, and is from a company that has great community outreach? Then OBT is your clear choice. Also, if you’re just looking for general knee support, with long wear times, you’re better off with the OBT, because they are bit more breathable, comfortable, and cover a larger area. That said, I have often seen claims about OBT that basically sound like, "I had all four my limbs severed in a car accident, and I started wearing OBT knee-gaskets on my severed legs, and now I can skate like I'm 18-years-old again!" It seems a lot of people credit OBT with some magic rejuvination ability. It's a just knee gasket. It's not going to make you walk on water. I read all those "cult" claims with a huge grain of salt. You should, too.   

And very last, and this probably a bit petty in the grand scheme of things...the OBTs are just really bad-ass looking. Great color scheme and design. They did a great job with these things. Oh, OBT comes with cool stickers, too. Who doesn’t like stickers?!?

2022 FOLLOW-UP: Well, I've now had my OBTs for awhile. They are still going strong. They have stretched out a bit (making them even longer than before), which I still not really a fan of. Otherwise, they have held-up very well (much better than my 187 gaskets for that matter), and do everything a knee-gasket should. I still wish they had a bit more padding the knee area, however (like 187s do). Old Bones Therapy is an unquestionably rad company, that does a lot to directly support and communicate with the community. I am certainly proud to give them my support and endorsement.

As you can see, the OBT gaskets are much longer than the 187s.

Back side of them.

ALL of the gray area on the 187 (right) is padded.

Knee padding when gaskets turned inside-out.

The anti-slip part of the OBT gasket.

The stitching I had to redo on the 187s.

Here you can see the 187 gasket just barely extends beyond my PD knee pads.

The OBT gasket covers much more of your leg above and below knee pads.