A Review of Equinox Wheels from Northern Pine Longboards

 

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One can get lost now a days in the maze that is the slide wheel market, and for good reason. There are more skaters going sideways now than ever before, and manufacturers are realizing there’s market to be gained. So what’s a skater to do, come skate season 2014, and they haven’t been watching the manufacturer’s forums every second following the developments of the new gear? Well, have no fear the Silverfish Consortium Reviews is here to core this, chunk that, and ice out a few times in order to give you the good word on slide wheels.

The next wheel rolling around the block for us to try out is the round lipped offering for Minnesota-based Northern Pine Longboards. The company has been out in the shadows for a few years now not generating much media hype, but with the new redesign of their slide wheel for the 2014 season they opted to create some buzz and throw the wheels into the ring with Consortium Reviews squad. Northern Pine has been a majorly locally based company since its creation and has been helping riders and events throughout the past few years. The Midwestern skate scene may not be gigantic, but nevertheless there are shredders everywhere, so when we get to spotlight a crew that’s not at the epicenter of the skate universe, well we can’t resist.

Northern Pine has updated and tweaked their previous version from last year and it’s now its set to take the market by storm. So, we put it through the ringer to see what these little white chunks of urethane are really made out of.

 

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Specs

Height: 70mm

Width: 37mm

Durometer: 80a, 83a

Lips: Round

Bearing Placement: Centerset

Setup as Tested

Deck: Earthwing NLS 40”

Trucks: Atlas

Bearings: Zealous

Grip: Vicious

Initial Impressions

We got a set of the 80a wheels fresh in shrink wrap and we always have a little giddy feeling busting them out of the plastic right away. The wheels come in a set of four (duh) with clean, minimalist looking graphics on the side of the wheel. The wheels are all white with white cores to match. The wheels were smooth and bubble-less, the urethane finish was quality.

The wheels are centerset with a slight, rounded bevel on the edge of the lip. They’re a fairly narrow contact patch wheel, even without the bevel, but it looks as though the wheel will increase in contact patch as the first 5-6mm are worn down. Always smart in our book, because smaller wheels get more slippery, typically. The finish to the wheels is stone ground. We see this is coming more and more common place in the skating world, but so we expected not much less.

The Equinox are clean looking wheels for sure. But clean only means so much to us here, so it was time to go skate. We slapped the wheels on our current go-to freeride setup, and went to find the slopes in the name of killing wheels.

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Riding Impressions

We’ve been all about centerset wheels for a good minute now. The ability to flip wheels adds so much more life to the wheel. It’s the most effective way to produce a wheel you can hold on to for a while. Additionally, when wheels match up with the edges of the deck, it just feels good to us. This is a preference thing, but 180mm trucks coupled with most centerset wheels seems to align better than most offset wheels with the edges of most decks. Maybe it’s a little silly thing to consider, but the amount of leverage it provides just makes us feel alive on our decks.

The Equinox were mounted and we were on the peak of our favorite freeride spot. Very little traffic, pavement that doesn’t eat wheels after 2 slides, little kids come out to watch us skate, and their parents don’t even glare at us for lurking around their hill. It’s a pretty perfect spot to see how well any wheel fares, as we and be pretty scientific in our testing. We’ve skated it a billion times, we know what wheels slide like on it, and so we feel it’s an ideal place to begin our experimentation with the wheels from Northern Pine.

The wheels felt a little more grippy than we expected from such a slight contact patch wheel on our first run down. Even with the stone ground finish, they had a slightly weird breakout and hookup feeling that we weren’t super into. If some wheels give you the feeling that they’re chalky, and sliding along right on top of the pavement, these gave the feel that they were more buttery and sliding into the pavement more. But, as any respectable skater knows, a wheel has a personality. It can begin looking like an ugly duckling, and end looking like the kind of hottie that would make you goof up a toeside standy if they were walking up the hill beside you. So we didn’t draft up our verdict just yet.

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Even stone ground wheels, despite the “slides right outta the wrap!!!!!” claim that most manufacturers love to stamp on every set, need to be broken in. We spent a few runs just tossing big coleman slides and getting through the first part of the wheel. And very quickly the personality began to show in the urethane. We still had the feeling that the wheel was offering some kind of resistance when sideways, but the breakout point became much more progressive. It wasn’t a sudden, overwhelming resistance. But more of a smooth drift, when we felt the push back coming, knew when it was going to arrive, and it hit right as we were getting near 90* in our slide.

Honestly it was an unexpected discovery for us. We’ve seen plenty of small contact patch, die in a session, putt-around wheels that are fun for people who love cores and groms who are 85 lbs and can’t kick out wheels (no offense to the army of groms that is our reader-base, we got love for y’all), but a small, lightweight wheel that can handle a few sessions is right up our alley.

Speaking of alleys, we like to skate those too! We took the Equinox to the exact opposite kind of freeride spot from where we were previously skating; a skinny little sloping alley in a fancy residential neighborhood with tons of driveways to pop off and potholes to get snaked in and sand patches to ice out on. It’s a place one can get wrecked in any number of ways, either by connecting helmet to telephone pole, or by diving into the bumper of a GMC Yukon being backed out by a soccer mom. At this spot, wheel performance is the difference between life and a serious trip to the hospital. We don’t show this hill to our buddy who’s just getting into skating. It’s harsh and we don’t goof around here.

So, how did they hold up? Pretty darn well actually. The alleyway is steeper than the last and there’s not really a lot of time to setup one’s slides. The smooth breakout was still present and slashing off overhanging driveways was a ball. The pavement in the alleyway is kind of harsh and is pretty often a wheel slayer. The Equinox, however, held up better than most freeride wheels that we’ve taken to the spot recently. They definitely lost a little bit of urethane, but with the increasing contact patch as the wheel wears down, we still found a confidence inspiring resistance in the wheels.

Going really huge on the Equinox was a little alarming. We’re talking those big 50+ footer standys that you see in all those videos. Admittedly, we don’t skate as well as those pros who are winning national events, but the wheels became a little on the icey side once we started throwing big slides. It wasn’t an unpredictable icey, we assumed they’d behave like this simply because there’s not much urethane to resist against. We could make it work for our bigger slides, but not leaning as far off the board made for a more enjoyable slide. As we’ve said plenty of times before, technique always supersedes gear.

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Criticisms

As with any review done here, we are never 100% satisfied. And if we were, why would you listen to us? Any dope can call themselves a “reviewer” and just spew company advertising. We’re here to cut through the crap and find out what really rolls right.

The Equinox are not our favorite “really tremendously huge” slide wheels. This didn’t catch us off guard. At some point, wheel shape does dictate more than urethane composition. When doing the biggest slides of our lives, we usually use scrubbed square lipped downhill wheels just because it’s a little more resistance and helps us control our slide. A small contact patch, round lipped wheel is not going to offer that same resistance. It’s really good for 90% of the freeriding we do, and if you’re a better skater than we are (you probably are) than maybe it wouldn’t be an issue for you. But for us, we had some trouble getting used to controlling the wheels during higher speed slides. We figured it out after a while, but it took some adjusting on our part.

The price is a little steep at $50, but we weren’t totally thrown off by the bottom line. The wear pattern on the wheels was above average and we wouldn’t bat an eye at dropping that kind of money on them. Adding in ability to flip the wheels and get consistent wear all the way to the core, it’s a pretty justified price on the Equinox.

Conclusion

Frankly these wheels are going to catch some skaters off guard out there. The roll speed is pretty solid, the slide walks the fine line between resisting and releasing with the best out there, and the durability is on par with or better than most similar wheels on the market. We see no reason why Equinox shouldn’t be under more skater’s feet during 2014. Northern Pine is doing right with these wheels and they should be on any skater’s radar if they’re looking for a great wheel to slide in all sorts of situations on.

The 2014 Equinox is tweaked from the last year and we were stoked. The urethane is smooth and we were pleased with how well they performed. If you like centerset, small contact patch wheels, these are worth a second look. They can be found for $50 on at www.nplboard.com or at a number of Midwestern shops that carry them. Northern Pine Longboards has been out of the spotlight for a while now, and we think it’s time to double take on the Equinox. They’re what we were looking for in a smaller freeride wheel, and they might be the right fit for you too.

 

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