While the Formula Four wheels from Spitfire have been out some considerable time now they are still the most recently developed wheels from Deluxe Distribution. In recent months we have seen plenty special editions and pro models released to continue the sales momentum, everything from coloured versions to pro models for both Thrashers 2013 Skaters of the Year (Ishod Wair), as well as the boss, Andrew Reynolds – which bears a Spitfire flaming skull in a beanie hat. Very recently they have also released a Lance Mountain model.
An all new formula first released back in 2013, the new formula is claimed to provide the hardest wearing wheels Spitfire have ever made – and as with so many wheels, claim to be flat spot resistant. Sadly these days almost all wheels are sold with claims of being flat spot resistant, so anybody with any experience of buying wheels will know that such claims should always be taken with a pinch of salt.
The Formula 4 wheels come in 2 durometers, 99a and 101a, pictured are a set of the 101 durometer, which for those uninitiated in the world of wheels is the harder of the two durometers available. While these are harder than 99a option, both durometers are quite hard in the grand scheme of things, and some less experienced skaters will hardly notice a difference. As well as coming in different durometers, they are also available in 3 different shapes, classic, conical, and tablet (more recently referred to by Spitfire as Radials) – however it seems very rare to come across the tablet shapes as most online shops don’t seem to stock them. If you fancy a set of the tablet format you’re probably best to order through your local skate shop. Just to confuse matters further, they also have “full” variants of the classic and conical shapes, which are much the same but with a wider contact patch.
So in total there are 5 different shapes, which come in sizes of 50mm all the way up to 60mm. Which shape is the one for you is largely going to be down to your own preference, however there will be different performance attributes to each of the different shapes which should be considered when choosing your wheels. For those of you who have never purchased brand new wheels, the question you need to ask yourself is, what terrain are you likely to be riding the most and what sort of skating do you want to be doing?
I opted to try out the 51mm 101a durometer classic shapes because they will be primarily used at a smooth concrete park where there will be few rough patches to contend with. The classic variant of the wheels has the smallest contact patch (the area of the wheel which is actually in contact with the riding surface) out of any of the profiles available, so if its powerslides and reverts you’re looking for these will be the ones for you… And if its going to be possible to flatspot the Formula 4’s it should be easiest to do so with the classic shape.
Unpacking the wheels from their wrapping I was happy to find the inclusion of a Spitfire sticker (even if it’s not the standard flaming head logo that we all know and love), along with a form to join the Spitfire Burn Club… While I have made fun of the Burn Club in the past, it does give you the chance to win free wheels every month, and doesn’t cost anything… So i can’t actually see a downside to joining.
It is immediately obvious that the wheels are colour coded by durometer, and the red graphics of the 101a’s look absolutely brilliant, really bright and clear with no layers merging into one-another. The wheels come smooth, not with grooves like some wheels come with out of the box. (Such grooves always wear away quickly so i’ve never entirely understood what purpose they serve, perhaps a member can fill this ignorant old fool in?)
The urethane itself is not a pure or brilliant white like you would get with other wheels such as Bones, but rather a more “raw” colour – a slightly off white that shows some of the natural colour of the urethane. I like that they’re clearly not strongly coloured, as for the most part coloured urethane tends to mean poor quality urethane.
Riding along the street towards my local skatepark the vibration carried through these wheels to my feet was quite noticeable – the hard durometer combined with the fairly small size makes these wheels inappropriate for riding long distances on rough surfaces, however i was very impressed with how much grip they had – despite their very hard durometer. The risk you run with hard wheels is that they can sometimes feel less like urethane and more like plastic – a problem i have found with some cheaper brands (old Ricta’s spring to mind). One of the main reasons urethane became the standard material for wheels in the first place was because it’s both hard wearing and grippy, while plastics may be hard, they’re neither hard wearing or grippy. However i am pleased to report that despite their hard durometer the 101a Formula Four’s are still incredibly grippy – and even on our smooth concrete skatepark they only ever slide out when you really force them to, they are honestly quite incredible. All this said, at very high speed these wheels turn into a whole different beast, they still grip, but need to be kept in check if you don’t want to get thrown off. If you skate at extremely high speed or down hills these might not be for you, i’m yet to slide out hill bombing with these, but have come close several times.
Like with all graphic transfers printed onto wheels the graphics on Formula Four’s don’t last forever, and mine were looking worse for wear after just a couple of short sessions at my local park, however almost a year since putting these on my board they are still as grippy as the day i put them on, there has been no flatspotting (despite my best efforts), and no big chips have appeared as a result of rogue stones etc.
While i have heard other skaters claim these wheels do flatspot, in my experience they have been absolutely flawless. It’s safe to say the 51mm 101a Formula Four’s are my current favourite wheel, and i recommend them to anybody who will be riding fairly smooth surfaces. I look forward to trying out the 99a durometers soon! As ever, you can pick up the Spitfire Formula Four 101a 51mm’s from our friends over at SkateAmerica.com., and you can find spec’s for all the different flavours at SpitfireWheels.com.