Review: Orangatang 80a Balut Freeride Wheel

This is a particularly exciting review for me, not only because of how friggin’ excited I’ve been to talk about the 80a Baluts I’ve been freeriding since the end of January, but because it’s also our first stab at a video review! When it comes to discussion about wheels right now the conversations seem to be talking about one of two things: the bad batch of ‘thane and the aftermath that Abec-11 has been dealing with for months, and the new freeride wheel from Orangatang: the Balut. Original Skateboards rider Billy Wilson and I got together yesterday to talk a little bit about what we think of the 80a Balut so far, check it out below and read on after the video for some additional info.

Setups:
Mike: Original Apex 40 w/ 10mm Surf-Rodz INDeeSZ (also the test setup for below)
Billy: Original Apex 40 w/ Caliber 50 Cals

So, even after you’ve watched the video you have some questions? Didn’t have time to watch the video? I’ll do a short written review, too — just to cover all our bases.

These wheels are different. Don’t throw these on your board and expect them to ride like the Stims, Durians, 4Prez, or InHeats — they just won’t. On this project Orangatang set out to reinvent the wheel as they knew it (bad pun, I know) and scrapped almost everything we’ve seen released from them thus far. Instead of building a new variation of one of their already successful wheels, the Balut is drastically different. Let’s start in the middle, shall we?

The biggest change you’ll notice right away is the big exposed blue core that Orangatang is using for the Balut. The bigger core means that you’ll have a more consistent wear pattern right down to the last bit of ‘thane. It will also help keep your slides feeling super consistent. (If you remember my reviews on the 80a Stims and 86a Durians you’ll remember me talking about how much the slide changed once I started really getting them small, something that I have yet to experience with the Baluts.) Orangatang didn’t just stop there, however. They also decided to change the placement of the core within the wheel. Unlike any of their other wheels, which are all offset (not side-set like I said in the video, that was my goof), the Baluts feature a center-set core. This means you can flip the wheels when you notice you’re getting some coning and don’t have to worry about them riding any different, it also drastically changes the way they ride. And for the record, these are not the same cores used in 4prez/Inheats.

Instead of the “grip/slip” control that the Stims and Durians brag about with due to their fat, rounded lips, the center-set Baluts offer a very different ride. The first thing you notice when you get on the Baluts is just how easy they are to break out into a slide. You really don’t have to put a whole lot of “umph” into them to get them to break out. That being said, I have yet to really experience a situation where I’ve been ultra worried about them icing out from under me. While I haven’t been skating any technical downhill with them (…that’d just be silly) that would require me to take sharp turns at speed, hard carves and corners feel like you have just enough grip to keep you from going over the edge. A big part of that might be the new ‘thane they’re using and the fact that these are the softest Orangatang is offering, the 80a.

The new ‘thane, dubbed “Euphorathane,” is probably where I got most concerned when I first heard about these wheels. Why? Because I’m quite in love with 80a Happy Thane after I got intimate with it for the review I did a little while back. Fear not, though, because the new ‘thane really rocks. It’s tough to really tell just how different the Euphorathane is compared to the Happy Thane wheels because we haven’t seen a Euphorathane Stimulus yet and the Baluts are SO different overall that it’s like comparing apples and oranges at this point. How does it skate? Super smooth, as I said before the wheels break out exactly when you want and offer what I think is one of the most buttery slides I’ve ever experienced. Unlike what we’ve been hearing about the 83a Baluts (I have yet to ride them myself), the 80a duro is soft enough to actually shed some speed and leave some ‘thane on the pavement, but not to the point where you loose too much momentum. I’ve noticed the new ‘thane to be a little more durable too. Coning has been more than manageable and I haven’t had any significant problems with flatspots (so far…), although I know Billy has had a little trouble with them. I’ve actually had less issues with preventing/getting rid of flatspots and coning with the 80a Euphorathane than I did riding the 83a Stimulus wheels.

I’ve really enjoyed these things so far and have had a much easier time learning some new tricks because of how easy they are to break out and how consistent and predictable they are. The 80a ‘thane is soft enough to kill some speed when you want it, grip enough when you need it, and still leave some ‘thane lines while actually being pretty friggin durable. Orangatang addressed a lot of the qualms people had with the Stims and, in my opinion, hit the nail on the head with the changes.

As always don’t forget to Like our Facebook Page where we post pictures and videos (like our recent raw run) that don’t make it to the site! If you’re interested in the “I Rep the East” or “Skate The East.net” vinyl stickers you saw in the video review pop over to store.skatetheeast.net and cop a few so we can keep bringing you ill content!

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