Review Of The Loaded Poke

 

 Tasty Fish:  We ride the Loaded Poke

 

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This is the Loaded Poke, a small longboard that follows a long lineage of fun decks by Loaded. Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a Hawaiian version of sashimi, served with spicy seasonings and stoke. The Poke longboard is a successor to the Ceviche, which is a successor to the Fish, all three being Loaded boards that were all about small bites, seasoning and stoke. In plain sight, the new deck is a moving picture of progression. With a big wake to fill, the Loaded Poke was interesting to our riders not only as an evolution of the line, but because Loaded has designed and intended it to be used both like the ultra-turny, surfy carver Fish, but also the more technically-oriented Ceviche.  We've skated the Poke using Loaded's setups for both approaches, and a few of our own.  Here's our report.

 

Fishy looks. 

Let's start with how the Poke looks.  Examining the Loaded Poke reveals a fuller, more streamlined shape than that of its ancestors.  The deck has that fishy looking profile reminiscent of a flounder. However, the standing platform is very generous. Instead of a pointy nose and a narrow cutout tail, both extensions of the deck are wide enough to be a solid standing platform.

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A look from the front reveals a functional concave that seems deep enough for the job. Flared wheel arches are a nice touch as they look more modern and techy than shaved wheel wells. The grip tape is, following Loaded tradition, die cut. What’s non-traditional about it is the grippiness. It’s very aggressive - akin to a freeride or downhill deck.

 

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The cutouts in the tape, the rails and bottom of the deck effectively show the Poke’s bamboo construction. A close look reveals the epoxy fiberglass layers in there. Yay for techy sandwiches. The deck is drilled for both old-school and new-school hole patterns.

We can’t fault the Poke for looks. Not only is the organic shape very appealing, but the graphics and rather monochromatic color scheme are befitting for some reason we cannot explain. A fun deck like this tends to scream in colors, but this one does it rather sublimely. Keen eyes see all the potential and that’s all that matters really.

 

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The finishing net of the Poke’s good looks is the attention to detail. This attention to detail shows even in Loaded’s choice of a subtle, yet tactile clear coat honeycomb print for the underside. Very clever, as it is clear in color, but bold in strong light. It also offers a very nice tactile experience for gloveless hands.

 

The setup – or better said, setups...

We’ve established the Poke’s good and functional looks. Now let’s establish the basis of this review based on the board setups.

Loaded shipped the Silverfish Longboarding Consortium a fully built Poke. The icing on the cake was the two setups however. Loaded claims the Poke can morph from a surf-style pumper to a more standard longboard oriented setup with a simple change of trucks and wheels. So, for this review, we are looking at the Loaded Poke with the following 2 truck setups: 

  1. Surfstyle pumper with a Carver CX.4 at the front and a Carver C2 at the back.
  2. Standard narrow longboard setup with Paris 150.

The idea behind this is the Carvers will offer a completely different feel whereas the Paris trucks will offer something we are highly used. To experiment with wheel setups, we have:

  1. Orangatang 4President 80a Orange
  2. Orangatang Stimulus 80a Orange
  3. Divine Wheels 80a Red

 

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The Orangatang’s shipped from Loaded with the board, while the Divines ended up on the Poke after digging through our pile of gear searching for the stickiest wheels we could find. More on that later.

70mm wheels on a small and narrow deck tend to always be a cause for concern for us in terms of wheelbite. Running 150’s usually puts the wheels too close to the centerline to effectively run anything bigger than 65mm without wheelbite. But we soldiered forward with our helmets and gloves on.

Since the Poke came pre-built with the Carver trucks, we decided to start with that first. As is the norm with any Loaded board we receive, we are very satisfied with the build. The board oozes attention to detail down to the bearing spacers, branded black hex hardware and branded bushing washers. Yes, the trucks came fitted with Orangatag Nipples bushings and proprietary washers that actually fit. The flat black washers are surrounded by a multitude of little Orangatang “g” logos. Now that’s OG.

A quick note on the Carver trucks setup. Carver pushes a surf style culture into their trucks. No need to tell you the history of skateboarding. You know it. Skateboarding was born as an extension of surfing.

 

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The combination of CX.4 front and C2 back yields a different feel to the board from front to back. The front is loose and turny, just like a surfboard because it has no fins in the front. The back is tight and tracky, just like a surfboard because it has fins in the back. Layman’s terms.

We question Loaded as to why they sent our trucks with an orange soft Nipples bushing at the front and a medium Nipples purple (purple Nipples?) at the back. Their reply was simple. That setup adds more looseness at the front and a more controlled rear for pumping. Fair enough. Let’s do this.

Hail the Poke carver

Carving Ahi Poke, Poke carving… There has been enough warming up by this point, so we are going to tell you straight up…  Heck freaking yes, the Poke is fun!

That’s it. Done. Review’s over, go ride. Or keep reading…

We don’t say this lightly. This is sweet fun. Pumping has come a long way since the days when one would bounce out of turns like a cheerleader on a trampoline. Also gone are the days where LDP boards made you look like you are jiggling jelly with your front foot while the rest of your body is as stiff as a board. The days of flexy cambered decks are evolved into precise turning and energetic pumping off the wheels.

The Poke’s stiffer construction and slightly rockered profile makes the pumping feel closer to surfing than any board we’ve ever tried. We know what we are talking about here. Silverfish is in SoCal… and we surf.

 

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This revelation didn’t happen right away though. We screwed up a little before going riding. Loaded shipped the board with the Carver trucks and 4Pres wheels, but we thought we knew better and put the Stimulus wheels on first. Well, needless to say, sticky fat-lipped wheels are the best option to run on the Poke with the Carver trucks. The Stims are too slidey and drifty. Half of the pumping energy was being lost to drift.

We know, sliding is fun, but this is one setup were too slidey is not a good thing. Switching back to the sticky 4Presidents was an eye-opener. The difference in feel and pump-ability was insane. This led us to raid the stash in search of the stickiest wheels we could find. This is how those 78a Divines came to appear on the Poke. However, the difference between the 78a’s and 80a’s was negligible and both did the trick well. Sticky FTW on the surfy Poke.

One very cool thing running sticky race wheels is that you can push hard to pump and grip hard while carving. Sliding is fun, but it sucks when you want to do a solid carve. But push hard enough and carry enough speed and the wheels finally break loose into an aggressive, pushy slide that breaks free and then grips again aggressive at the back. Very involving and not at all unlike a surfer smacking the lip and breaking the fins free for a split-second before they grab hard again.

The front wheels, on the other hand, are much harder to break free when running the Carvers. A look at the front CX truck and it’s nearly vertical kingpin reveals why. There’s just not enough sideways leverage like there is at the back. But then again, sliding is not what this setup is about. For that, make the switch to Paris or Indys.

The most interesting concept is that the same hill you would do in 2 minutes with a freeride setup at speed, you can take your time and run it for 10 minutes covering more ground. You can lay tracks all over the road and cover more distance over ground while not going very far. You can hit the driveways and parking lots along the way and have a blast doing it. This board can easily take you places your speed rocket simply cannot. Plus, the functional tail and stiff energetic deck can let you ollie over obstacles with the steez of Bob Burnquist.

We were pleasantly surprised by two unexpected things while running the Carvers:

  1. While they are not as low as Independents, the height without risers is less than with Paris or Randals, and…
  2. We ran no riser or shock pads on the Carvers and had ZERO wheelbite with the 70mm wheels like we feared we might. Stoked for that. We shall see how the Paris trucks will fare.

At first we thought the wobbly nature of the Carver trucks on the Loaded Poke would be a novelty that would wear off soon. We were wrong. The design of the Poke, along its stiff and lively construction, make the Poke + Carvers venture an ideal long-term setup.  We loved the setup so much that we ran the Carvers on the Poke for the vast majority of our test time. We rode it. Our friends rode it. We skated places that are normally not ridden with this kind of setup, yet we still came out on top.

Note though, this is not a setup that’s very keen for speed. Go too fast down a steep hill and you can easily wobble yourself into the asphalt. But, for the surfer in you, we can tell you the Poke can tackle steep hills as a carver with sticky wheels. The setup is so turny and the wheels sticky enough that if you control your speed you can keep yourself in check without sliding. Carve down, then back up and then down again. You can even do full u-turns to scrub speed. Freaking brilliant actually.

But it doesn’t end here. Time to slap on the Paris Trucks.

 

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Poking the Reverse King Pins

 

Paris Poking, Poking at Paris… We mounted the Paris 150 trucks on the Loaded Poke well after we knew this deck like our own child.

Immediately we adjusted our style. The Poke on Paris offers a more traditional feel to a rather short board. The Poke adopts the tracky-directional characteristics of reverse king-pin trucks that are much more at home at speed. Turns become more drawn out and carves are more flowy rather than sharp and abrupt. The board is more inclined to do 4-wheels drifts than the tail-out traits of the Carver setup. Think about the Poke on Carvers as a rear-wheel drive lightweight sports car and the Poke on Paris as an all-wheel drive turbo rally car. Tail out happiness over 4-wheel drifting.

 

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One very surprising factor is the responsiveness. The Poke is a lively deck. It offers little flex, but the flex it does have is sharp and quick. What we’re talking about is the speed of the flex reaction is fast and will never let the board feel like a wet noodle.

With narrow trucks like 150’s, the reaction time is instantaneous. However, there is a problem, something we didn’t face with the Carvers. Wheel Bite! Getting wheelbite with 150mm trucks and 70mm wheels was something we were concerned about from the beginning. We were surprised we got absolutely zero bite with the Carvers, but this wasn’t the case with the Paris 150’s, even though they are somewhat taller.

Now, don’t get us wrong. The bite wasn’t bad. It took some effort from our heavier riders in the 170lbs pound range, riding with the softer Orange Nipples barrel bushings. The Poke’s flared wheels arches aid in avoiding wheelbite for the most part, but if you are heavier and rather aggressive in your turns, you will get it.

If you are 160lbs or heavier, here’s what we suggest:

  1. 1.If you insist in 70mm wheels with soft bushings, a 1/8” Khiro shock pad riser should do the trick.
  2. 2.If making the board taller is not an option, 65mm Fat Free wheels would be best.
  3. 3.Given the Poke’s immediate response, running slightly harder bushings than the orange Nipples could do the trick. (Purple or Yellow).

In fact, we preferred the Poke + Paris with the medium durometer Purple bushings over the soft Orange ones. Felt better over all.

The one thing we have to say about the Loaded Poke running on Paris 150’s is that it’s the most versatile setup of the two we rode. This setup makes the board more suited for a variety of applications and conditions. It can handle speed better, tackle parks and pools with ease and even feels faster pushing – this because no energy is lost to wobble and the hyper-steering of the Carvers.

However, as is the case when you go “all-rounder”, you lose character in very specific situations. So of course, the Paris setup won’t carve or pump at all like the Poke on Carvers. While losing that however, you gain in other areas. A simple compromise.

That versatility transfers to wheel choice as well. When running the Carver CX.4 / C2 setup, we only liked it with sticky race / slalom wheels. But the Paris 150 setup works excellently with the slidey nature of the O’tang Stimulus. In fact, we wouldn’t even consider stepping up in durometer to yellow Stims with the Carvers, but on the Paris setup, the Poke can become an even more fun drifting and sliding machine.

 

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Smelly Poke?

Slightly-seared raw fish might be a delicacy, but leave it out too long and it starts to stink. Did we find anything stinky about our Poke? This is a tough one.  Every board has its strengths and weaknesses. No deck is perfect for all situations. But apart from the obvious things like, “don’t expect it to do well at 50MPH” and “it works in a pool, but it’s not the ideal pool or park deck” it’s really hard to find any real faults with the Poke.

We suppose the extra-grippy tape, unlike what’s typically used on most small decks, will have you spending more money on shoes. But on the other hand, we wouldn’t spec it any other way.  The wavy die cut pattern of the grip tape is interesting and very Loaded-like, but it isn’t particularly pretty. We much prefer the subtle nature of the die cuts in the Chubby Unicorn.

And like with any other Loaded board, you have to push considerably more coin to get one. No surprise there.  But really, that’s about it. We’ll eat the Poke and it’ll never get smelly.

To sum it all up

Longboards keep getting more and more specialized, as is the case with the Poke. As long as you know what it is you are getting into, it’s hard to make a mistake. Plus, that’s what reviews like this are for.

It’s been a while since we have ridden a board so different that the fun factor is just through the roof. Oftentimes we collect boards for the sake of collecting them and sometimes we just pass them on. The Poke is a board that is so fun it’s not going to be leaving our sights anytime soon. Riding the Poke was an eye-opener and a blast all at the same time. It’s small and taking it everywhere is key.

If you really need to know which of the two setups, Poke + Carvers or Poke + Paris we preferred, we’ll tell you:  our preferred build was the Poke + Carvers with sticky sharp-lipped wheels like the O’tang 4Pres. But hear us now. The ONLY reason for that is because it’s so wildly different than what we usually ride around here. The uniqueness of the setup is a great refresher and vacation from the norm. That’s what makes it so fun. But either way you go, the Poke is an absolute blast. 

This Poke carver would make an ideal sole board for the surfer that cares less about going fast and sliding all over the place. It would also be a perfect setup for the commuter or college skater that uses a skateboard as a means of getting around town. This combo turns more sharply than any almost any other skateboard we have ridden in a while. This makes it ideal for 90 degrees sidewalk turns and pedestrian slalom. What’s best, get the feeling right and you only have to put your foot down once – to get rolling. After that, pump all the way home.

For the dedicated freeriding longboarder, the Poke + Carvers would be a fun secondary board. It would be great setup for when it’s inconvenient to haul around a large board. It would also be ideal for the occasional fun ride in town, parking garage stint and campus riding.

Should you try one? The answer is, absolutely! How should you build it? Up to you really. Use this review as a guide and think about what you want to do and build accordingly. Better yet, make sure you have a skate tool – because experimenting with different setups is a forté of the Loaded Poke. The best way to have Poke is with various tasty ingredients. Explore, experiment and above all, have fun and Go Skate!

 

Board Specs: Loaded Poke

Length:                                               34” / 86.4 cm

Width:                                                 9.125” / 23.2 cm

Wheelbase:                                        20.75” / 52.7 cm

Tail:                                                     7.625” / 19.4 cm

Thickness:                                          .375” (3/8”) / .95 cm

Concave depth (approximate):        .5” (1/2”) / 1.27 cm

Weight deck only:                             2.8lbs / 1.3kg

Weight as built:                                 6 lbs 13 oz. / 3.09 kg

 


Tested Trucks:

Carver CX.4 / C2 – Bushings: Orange O’tang Nipples front / Purple rear

Paris 150 – Bushings: Orange O’tang Nipples. Then Purples


Wheels:

Orangatang Stimulus 70mm 80a Orange

Orangatang 4President 70mm 80a Orange

Divine 70mm 78a

Bearings: Loaded Jehu

Hardware: Loaded

 

 

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