Michael takes the Harfangatang Kegels for a few skates and gives SkateFurther a review.
Great distances mean a great variety of surfaces, no wheel will be perfect for them all. Softer, bigger wheels will plough through soft gravel, mud and carry on spinning longer with every push but that extra weight will cost you energy getting back up to speed when the rougher surfaces slow you down. So, smaller wheels are better for when it’s the environment calling for acceleration over momentum but that’s no good if you’re having to carve around twigs and puddles that you could just ride through. And the dilemma continues… It’s a tough choice and the best option is to find a do it all wheel, a compromise that will sit comfortably along the long road and not add the weight of an extra set of wheels to the rucksack. Big enough to handle all terrains. Fast enough to keep you at optimum average speed. Something that doesn’t add too much weight, grips well in every condition and, of course, goes the full distance.
It’s a lot to ask from one company… so we went to two on our hunt for the magical recipe.
Harfang are champions of the above and kings of the rainy road. They understand that no wheel is perfect for all. They know that we all live in different places with different temperatures, surfaces, weather patterns – we all have different requirements so maybe they’re the ones that can provide that happy medium.
Identifiable by their unique rain cut tread patterns, Harfang Performance Wheels take a traditional wheel surface and CNC tread patterns for every requirement. Wet and dry, on and off road.
We’ve combined this with confidence. Primarily designed for downhill racing, the Kegel has always been a great choice for the distance trip – Large and forgiving with Otangs lightweight core and 80mm of Happy Thane giving a low profile covering to tip the scales in our favor. The “deep dish” core and offset seat allows the thane to flex more meaning more grip, the straight lipped outer rim offers maximum contact at 56mm and the inner bevel leads to more predictable and manageable slides (if you ever find yourself going fast enough that is).
An important choice was the formula, a thane formula we feel we can trust will accept the Harfang modifications, after all, we’ve just altered the structural integrity of the wheel, best we have confidence in the material we’re cutting. Chunking isn’t what we want to be reporting here.
Tread patterns come in 5 different stages and we’ve chosen the Stage 4 dry cut to fit the our testing routes – I’ll be pushing a set of the Harfang’els along a 40km stretch of twiggy cycle path with varying surfaces from smooth tarmac to rough chipseal and even a little dirt riding, decorated with the fall of a British autumn. Adrian “World on Board” Oh will be seeing how they stand up to a wet race circuit in Singapore next month. Both riders catering for slightly different disciplines which we hope will relate across the distance scene from the Skate Hobo to the Seasoned Ultraskater.
What we’re looking for here is lots of little differences – surface handling is a primary focus point, comfort at a variety of speeds up to 25 mph, grip at upper speeds, dampening, twig/mud/cow shit handling capability yet smooth and fast when we reach the freshly laid sections that make our long trips a little more bearable. Many of these may not always be obvious but little differences across a variety of environments should all add up to a difference worth investing in! Right? Let’s see.
Setting the scene – I’ve been leisure skating a set of traditional 80a Kegels for 4 weeks now. A bit of downhill and a few weekend skates similar to the chosen testing route to get to know the original recipe a little better, hoping that any benefits witnessed upon testing the Harfangatangs could be wholly attributed to the tread modifications. These have been attached to my new custom deck – a 38″ double drop pusher running 180 Sabre CF38’s and a newly broken in set of Built-Ins.
After skating 20 miles of seafront to break them in, my first section of the route is sweet – 8/10 smooth, clean, traffic free and offers a nice little 23mph long run. The tread isn’t going to prove much here so the focus in on speed and grip. Now, this is traditional Kegel territory so it still need to be able to perform like one and I’m pleased to see the Harfangatangs knocking at the door of my max speed record, set on a set of traditionals 3 weeks earlier. Difference in grip isn’t really noticeable at these speeds but I’m the missing the 1″ toeside which is normally a necessity on the final (and only) corner of this run. They also don’t seem to be as noisy as I feared the new tread would be on the smooth (I’m a little OCD when it comes to noisy boards).
The route continues into the woodlands, bringing all kind of tree fodder to litter the tarmac cycle path. This is where I hoped to see the mods start paying for themselves. Is the tread doing it’s job? Is the weight loss making a difference? Am I getting more grip? or are these just slowing me down and looking very cool in the process.
The weight loss is too small to feel any difference in acceleration or top speed on my usual, slow rolling-look at the pretty birds distance trips, too little to feel the difference under arm however, it’s undeniably there so I’m using less energy to maintain my top speed on this surface but of course, this also means I’m experiencing a loss of momentum at the other end. Noticeable improvements in grip came into play when hitting rougher corners at faster speeds. I feel more confidence, possibly even arrogance, when steaming towards a twig in my path – The usual wince of hope when I hit it swapped for a more bullish “get outta my way” kinda attitude.
The first 13 miles are a slight incline, the rest is a leisurely coast back in the same direction. A quick stop for lunch at the halfway mark sees me ploughing through the tree fall on my route back. I’m used to 90mm Fly’s here so I was expecting an obvious drop in rolling distance, which never came. A great and very welcome surprise, I didn’t notice a thing. So my attention was turned to course maintenance; Were the Oranghargels helping keep a straight line by coping with the debris better? It didn’t take long to convince me.
Although some of the smaller differences might not be blindingly obvious at first, one thing that I do get from riding these wheels is a little more mental stability. Placebo maybe, but stronger, I think. The maths behind the adjustments we’ve made all add up. We know we’ve selected a proven wheel for the Harfang mods and we know this will benefit our requirement. We need to know the board will be able to handle the uphill struggle and the downhill smooth and these facts are reassuring enough to help me push harder, go faster and just maybe, skate further.
I was really stoked with the end results of the day. The sun was out, the wind was down, the lunch was pretty shitty but the wheels seemed perfect for the job. For this kind of trip – a dry, autumnal day out pushing varied, primarily flat terrain, uneven concrete and complimented by a mouthful of flies – it seems I’ve chosen a great partner. Different “stages” come in at different prices. It’s not cheap by any means but it’s a small cost to make and already great wheel even more suited towards the rider and the environment they skate. I’m confident that these minor modifications are helping me save a little energy, maintain speed, worry less and thus enjoy the trip that little bit more.