The Bear 2020 Smokies are the latest precision truck offering from Bear. With the Gen 6 cast trucks already proving themselves to be some of the best cast trucks around, can it be said to be the same for the Smokies? Check it out below to find out more.
- Truck width – 120mm
- Baseplate Angles – 50/20*
- Rake – 7mmm
- Bushings – 74/78a, 95/97a venom bushings
- Slop-stopping system – UHMW Insert
- Pivot cup – Riptide Pivot Cup
- Cost – $400 (USD)
They also come with:
- A ½ inch riser
- An 81a bushing
Disclaimer – I am sponsored by Bear. But I will be fair and unbiased in the review.
Bear 2020 Smokies Precision Longboard trucks Review
Are the bear Smokies good? (Summary)
Yes, they are. These are some of the best longboard trucks I have ever ridden, I’ve been able to do things on them that I struggled to do on my previous trucks. They’ve allowed me to take tighter lines around corners and allowed me to push my abilities as a rider. It might be a coincidence, but I’ve steadily become a better rider whilst using these trucks.
However, they do have one or two things that hold them back – namely a fixed truck width and a UHMW insert that may be hit and miss for some riders. But like with most things, it’s not all black and white.
A key to riding slalom trucks …
Generally speaking, to make the most out of these trucks, you’re going to need to work the front truck as much as possible. You’re going to have to have most of your weight on there, using your front foot to do most of the turning, etc.
Otherwise, in my experience, the trucks aren’t going to turn that well and they’re not going to feel that stable. Yes, they have a low 20* plate in the back, but it’s like they’re designed for you to have your weight far forward and make the most of them that way … that’s just my experience with them so far.
This applies to both the 2020 Smokies and the 2020 Slalom Rogues.
The Bear 2020 Smokies are very quick turning
The Smokies react quickly to your input. They have a strong center, but once you engage them they quickly articulate and turn deeply – turning quicker than any other truck I have used so far.
A quicker turn means more options in terms of race lines …
Because they turn and react to your input quickly, this gives you more options on the choices of lines you can take around a corner. And this also felt like I had more time to make a “correct” decision on the choice of my race lines. I had a split second of more time before my line around the corner was fixed.
And again, I was able to make corrections (and changes) on my entry, line through the corner, and even my exit. I had a lot more “choice”.
With other trucks, I felt that once I locked into a line around a corner, that was it. I had to pick the perfect line I wanted to take and settle on it. Any deviation would mean washing out, scrubbing, losing grip, etc.
Of course, you are still limited by your input. They allow you to take great race lines, but it’s up to you to get them to do what you want them to.
I didn’t have to be super aggressive with my input to get them to turn
I didn’t have to lean hard on these trucks to get them to dive around the corner or to simply articulate. This is both a good and a bad thing.
This allowed me to get the trucks to articulate as deep as I wanted them to, without having to grab rail in some corners. I didn’t have to put as much input into them as I did with other trucks.
However, this meant I had to be a bit more cautious with balance and input. Whilst they have a strong center, once you engage them and get off that center, they dive kinda quickly. Of course, this dive is always controlled and never too sudden, but I feel it could be too sudden for some riders and be an issue for them. I did feel it was an issue in some cases tbh – more on this in the road feedback section below.
Of course, you can always opt for harder bushings, or use cupped washers for more stability and a slower turn.
But yeah, with these trucks I never once felt limited by turning and I never felt as though I wished the trucks turned more.
Check out my review of the Landyachtz Small Blind here.
How does the UHMW insert affect the ride?
Unlike any other truck on the market, the Bear Smokies use a UHMW (ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene) insert. Common inserts used are spherical bearings or urethane inserts.
This gives the truck a very unique feel – I think comparable to a spherical with a strong center (never ridden a spherical so idk how accurate that is of a comparison).
So yeah, rather than compressing and pulling on the insert, it feels like the hanger just glides over it when you engage the truck.
Solid center feel, but no return to center
You have a very fixed center feel. The truck doesn’t want to suddenly dive left or right until you actively engage it.
When you do engage the truck though, the insert just allows the hanger to glide over it smoothly. Unlike a urethane insert bushing, it doesn’t affect the hanger’s movement, it just gives it a “direct” feel.
Because it is plastic and has no rebound, it also adds no return to the center or doesn’t want to actively pull the hanger back to the center. The return to center feel comes completely from the bushings. This is nice as the truck can turn quickly and deeply the second you come off the center.
However, the return to center from insert bushings in other trucks aids in stability, and helps keep the truck stable when you roll over road imperfections. This insert doesn’t help as much in that regard.
Does the UHMW insert wear quickly?
Yes and no. The front one widens a bit within a session or two, but then after that, the feel remains consistent for a long time. The rear insert stays about the same.
I can see why the UHMW was a choice over a normal urethane insert. With how quickly the truck articulates and how small the opening is, you’d end up with a small insert bushing that has to deal with A LOT of movement. It wouldn’t last.
UHMW wants to deform instead of breaking or tearing. It plastically deforms instead of elastically deforming the way urethane inserts do. It’s also why it makes a great slide puck material. It’s the perfect choice for use in a high wear area.
One thing I’d be interested in trying is a urethane insert in the back and a UHMW insert in the front. I believe urethane inserts help feather out road vibration, bump steer, feedback, and can help a bit to aid stability. I don’t think the trucks sorely need it, but it would be fun to try. And because the back one doesn’t seem to be worked as much as the front one, I think it could withstand the abuse …
Are these trucks stable?
Yes, they are. They have a solid center and feel solid when going down the hill. I’ve only taken them up to about 50mph, but I had no issue with them in terms of stability. I think I can take them as fast as 60mph pretty comfortably (I could probably go 70mph + but uhhhhhhhhhhh we’ll see).
They reflect road feedback a bit more than other trucks
Whilst solid in a straight line, when you go over a crack, or a bump or something, they articulate a bit more than a truck with a urethane insert would.
Because the insert has no return to center, the truck can articulate a bit deeper when you go over chunder. You have to rely on the bushings to naturally bring the truck back to center.
On trucks with insert bushings, I felt the inserts help to quickly bring the truck back to center when you ride over a crack or something. Because when the truck articulates, you engage and compress the insert bushing, it naturally wants to return to a state where it is not compressed – which is where the hanger isn’t engaged. This aids in stability a lot (it does have some disadvantages though which I’ll express in the Rogue Vs Bear Slaloms video).
This isn’t the most noticeable thing most of the time, but it is noticeable enough. The trucks are still pretty stable, and if you don’t react, you will keep going straight with no issue. I have got used to them so it doesn’t bother me anymore – initially, it did, but after adjusting I’m ok with it. I do think riders jumping on these trucks for the first time may have an issue with that but will get used to it with time.
Of course, you can always opt for harder bushings, or use cupped washers for more stability.
Like I explained in my how to get good at DH fast guide, twitch does not equal wobbles.
Do these trucks have a lot of grip?
With the straight axles and a dialed-in setup, these trucks felt like they had a ton of grip and like I was able to effectively use the entire contact patch of my wheels. And because of the support of the insert, I felt I had direct contact between the wheels and my feet. They never really chattered when I slide them – except at really slow speeds and only when I didn’t focus most of my weight on my front foot.
The transition between sliding and gripping was also always smooth for me.
There’s not a lot to talk about sliding and the overall grip for me. Apart from adjusting to how they behave and ride, there’s not much else I can say. It wasn’t too different from skating other split angle DH trucks – except the weight distribution. Keep most of your weight 70%+ on the front foot and you’ll be ok.
Are these trucks hard to ride?
Apart from being reactive to your input, I have not found these trucks difficult to ride at all. Especially when they are dialed.
People talk about Slalom setups being tippy and unforgiving, but I’ve found them to be quite easy and natural to ride. I gave my Small Blind setup to my friend Blaise for a corner session, and he was skating it fairly well, especially for someone who had never used such a setup before.
I think having a solid insert bushing, or a way to ensure you have a direct feel between the trucks is key. This is why I believe trucks with no slop stopping mechanism (or something to compensate for it) shouldn’t be used under 150mm. They won’t feel as good … but that’s just a theory, for now, the jury is still out.
Are they good for stand up slides?
Yes. In my experience, trucks that have a solid center are great for doing stand up slides. These are no different. I could standy them pretty ok, especially with freeride wheels.
However, they will feel tippy. As freeride wheels on 120mm, wide trucks don’t track very wide, leaving you with a narrow truck.
You can also run smaller freeride wheels – about 65mm or taller, without scratching the kingpin. I haven’t
Things that are annoying but don’t affect the riding experience
These are things that I found annoying, but didn’t affect my riding experience with the trucks. I would say, they shouldn’t be determining factors to whether or not you buy the trucks. But that’s a choice for you to make.
The height difference between the front and rear trucks
The front and rear trucks have a 0.375inch height difference. The trucks come with a 1/2inch riser that you can use to even out the ride height. I prefer to use a ¼+⅛ riser combination to get an exact height match.
Once you slap the riser on there, you forget that these trucks have a height difference altogether. Unless you take apart your trucks often, it’s not going to bother you at all.
What’s nice, is that you can wedge and dewedge the rear trucks without any increase in height. The 2018 Rogue Slalom trucks also had a height difference, and you were to wedge them to the angle you preferred.
And the height difference might be a great thing. There is a lot of diversity in how people end up running their baseplate angles on slalom trucks, so some room to accommodate this doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Check out my review of the Cheetah Hawgs here.
The height difference is caused by the hangers
Because the rear hanger has an inline axle design, it sits inline with the bushing seat. This is what lowers the ride height of the rear truck. I.e, if you put the rear hanger on the front baseplate, and vice versa, the front will be lower.
You can use the baseplate with your other hangers
Bear plates are all compatible with all their trucks. You can use the rear 20 plate with the other trucks – I think I’ll be experimenting with this with the 130mm hangers when I get my hands on them. I’m also setting up some 180mm Gen 6 hangers on some 45* precision plates to mess with them as a tall bushing truck.
Anyway, if the 20 plate was higher, I would not be able to do this. I’d have an insanely higher back truck.
The above said I don’t think being able to use them with the other Bear trucks would be that important for most people …
Some washers touch the hanger
Cupped washers and normal size flat washers touch the sides of the front hanger when you use them. You don’t get the hanger to articulate fully and lean all the way. You get washer bite before you get wheelbite.
It’s only truly an issue with a cupped washer there. You get washer bite before you get wheelbite.
I run a normal size flat washer full-time in the trucks, and it never affected me when riding. It was only something I noticed when testing the range of lean/articulation when I was standing still. You hear a slight click just before getting wheelbite.
It does scratch up the hangers and messes the looks so don’t do this when you’re standing still. You never actually get the trucks to articulate and lean that deep when you’re riding them downhill, so it’s not a big issue. I wouldn’t recommend running cupped washers rs though.
Things I didn’t like about the Bear Slaloms
No hanger adjustability
You only have one hanger width to work with, 120mm. Honestly, this did not bother me. I used a variety of wheels on these trucks and felt ok with them.
The only time it did bother me was when using Venom Magnums. They stuck out considerably on the Small Blind and I didn’t feel comfortable sliding and using them. I never even took the setup outside because it just felt off standing on them in my room.
I would have liked maybe 10mm’s worth of adjustability. Would have been nice as I could adjust the tracking width to my preference and find a feel I liked. Running a variety of wheels wouldn’t be too different.
I did speak to some truck manufacturers, and they said that adjustable axles add too much stress to the shoulder of a hanger, increasing the chance of failure.
Higher ride height in the back?
Less overall grip, more control in the slides, and feels like it puts your body in a better riding position.
It feels better to ride and offers a more forgiving riding experience. However, I felt that I had less grip and was able to squeeze less overall slow down power from my wheels. It was also easier to approach that limit/edge of grip comfortably.
I had the back higher by 1/8th of an inch. I used a ⅛ riser.
How I have mine setup:
- Weight – 156lbs/71kg
- Truck baseplate angles – 50/20*
- Bushings – 74/78a, 95/97a
- Washers – Normal size washer roadside front, cupped washer roadside back. No boardside washers.
- Wheelbase – 21inches.
I prefer the normal size flat washer RS in the front truck. It makes the front truck give me a little bit better support during heelside slides. I can sit on it and get it to dig into the slides and heelside turns. It also adds to the center feel and aids in stability when going fast.
I’d go with a smaller flat washer RS in the front if I wanted it to turn a bit more and a bit quicker. I’d go with a cupped washer RS in the front if I needed more of a center feel. Might be the right choice for going 60mph+?
What did you think about the Bear 2020 Smokies? Are they the trucks for you?
I think the Smokies are amazing, and I’m going to keep riding my set for a long time to come. Of course, they aren’t perfect, but after having adjusted to my set I am pretty content with them and look forward to tackling bigger hills and pushing my limits with them.
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