All aboard the hype train. This week’s review is going to be on the Powell-Peralta Dragonskin wheels. There has been a lot of hype around them and today you’re gonna find out how much of that has been true. Check it out below.
- Diameter: 69mm
- Width: 48mm
- Contact-patch: 44mm
- Durometer: 83a (or 81 not sure …)
- Surface finish: stoneground
**Though Powell (rather Kevin Reimer) did send me these pre-production wheels for free, but that will not in any way affect my review of them.
Powell Peralta Dragonskin freeride wheels review
For a long time now, Powell has been making what is considered by the community the best soft sliding wheels. They’re a dominant force in the freeride market and their wheels often sell out pretty quickly. They certainly are a beloved company within the longboard scene.
Some popular sliding wheels from Powell are the Powell Snakes, the Powell G-slides, and the Powell Kevin Reimer wheels.
What are the Dragonskins and why should you care?
The Dragonskins have been hyped up as an improved and all-around better product than Powells other slide wheels. Which if you agree with what I’ve said about Powells other wheels above, is quite an achievement. Thus they’ve quickly become a highly coveted wheel – Powell has been dropping prototypes here and there and just really pushing the hype and mystery of these wheels.
Design goals, product goals, and some additional info about the Dragonskins
Kevin (product designer) was kind enough to answer some questions I asked him about the Dragonskins (DS). He is how he responded.
Why did you want to make the Dragonskin?
“We wanted to make the dragonskin for a variety of reasons, but essentially the reason was, we never stop testing and improving our proprietary formulas and we often happen upon something special that warrants development. Dragonskin has been an ongoing project from before 2013, and I was able to use 72mm prototypes of it to win Angies Curves in 2014. It was the only wheel on the track that still had skin at the bottom.
As we continued working with the formula we learned more and more and decided to take it in a freeride direction once we nailed the rebound and hardness. The results were phenomenal. They roll faster, grip harder, and last longer than Snakes which are already the cream of the crop in the freeride industry. “
Alex Charleson (Powell Team rider) killing it on Powell Snakes.
Design goals and what you wanted to achieve with the wheel.
“Our goal is always to make a wheel that performs better but also lasts longer – this way we can ensure we’re doing right by skaters (our customers) and the environment.
By getting you the best performance you can skate harder, and by getting you the best durability you skate longer.”
How to best utilize the product? Best roads/surfaces and such to use it on?
“Dragonskins excel on all pavements. If a wheel doesn’t work well everywhere, we probably won’t go to market with it. Having said that though, Dragonskins are about 6 duro points harder than 75a SSF so they will ride harder when you’re on rougher pavement.
They are much more resistant to chipping or chunking than 75a (for obvious durometer reasons) and thus are a better bet for practically every use purpose. They’re just all-around a higher-end product.”
In my past conversations with Kevin, he said that these wheels were designed to be used on California slurry seal roads. Slurry seal roads are known to make most wheels feel grippy and as such, most people don’t enjoy skating on those roads too much. And he was right, they feel pretty great on slurry seal roads. They slide pretty smooth where other wheels would feel a bit more grippy.
Any idea of the shapes we can expect?
“Currently, Dragonskins are made in the same moulds as Snakes at 66mm and 69mm. There wasn’t much tweaking necessary there, it’s already a great shape. The same is true when Dragonskin goes into the 72mm mould.”
Any idea of the pricing range?
“We are doing our very best to offer this wheel in an affordable way. We haven’t really finalized pricing, but it depends very much on how we will sell them – if we go direct to consumer only, we can make this ultra-premium product more affordable.
If we go through the standard distribution model we have to add in margin for those tiers of sale. We haven’t really finalized that yet, but my thoughts are since we will be limited in production that we should make it direct to consumer only.”
The hype around the Dragonskins …
There’s been a lot of hype around these wheels, about how durable they are, how grippy they are, how they can thane without wearing down much, and essentially how good they are … basically a lot of very good and (in some cases) contradictory claims too.
And as some who has been burned by hype many a time, I am naturally wary. I now employ a strict philosophy of “Don’t believe the hype” and it is serving me well …
The mastermind behind the Powell Soft Slide wheels (Kevin Reimer) is a true, seasoned hype master. I’m telling you, this guy can hype up anything and will usually do so for most of the products he is involved with … and whilst the hype usually lives up to the performance of the products, the community has been burned by it once or twice by it – namely with the hype surrounding Powell DH race wheels and the Aera Rf1s. Whilst both products were pretty great in their own right, they didn’t perform as advertised (rather as hyped) for many people.
So yeah, not trying to put down Kevin (or his marketing strategy) or his products in any way, I simply want to illustrate that hype and excitement about these wheels will not affect this review. And by extension, anything else that I write and make a review about.
So, are the Powell Dragonskin wheels actually good?
They roll fast
For a small wheel, these had pretty good roll speed. They accelerated quite quickly and held their speed well. For comparison, they rolled faster than Powell Snakes and picked up speed a lot better.
I personally dislike riding most freeride wheels because of how slow they are – they make most of the runs here unexciting because of the slow overall speed. But because the DS were abit quicker, freeride and doing stand-up slides runs here has become more appealing to me, it’s something I look forward to doing more of on these wheels.
The slide is pretty impressive
Apart from the roll speed, these wheels really shine in the slide. A summary of them would be – the edge grip of a Powell Kevin Reimer and an almost similar slide to a Powell Snake (with a similar lack of slow down power). So how does the slide feel?
How does the slide feel?
They have a very SMOOTH and forgiving slide – which feels kinda unique. I don’t think I’ve skated a wheel that has had a similar feel to these in terms of the slide. Bear with me as I explain how.
The slide feel mostly depends on the pavement you skate them on but for the most part, they have a sort of glidey feel … it’s difficult to describe. You can feel the wheel sliding across the pavement, but you don’t really feel it “gripping” or wearing away … It’s almost an awkward midpoint between chalky, icey … and I honestly feel I can’t accurately put my finger on it and describe it … maybe a good way would be an “icey wheel that thanes”.
But on some pavements, this chalky feel is more apparent – and it especially feels this way at the beginning of the life of the wheel (mostly due to the stone-ground finish).
And I really like how the slide feels and honestly can’t get enough of the feeling. I giggle to myself like a little girl every time I do a big stand-up slide.
But yeah, in summary, the slide feels good and they slide smooth.
They have a ton edge grip
They have a ton of edge grip before breaking into the slide and you can really feel it when you’re at that edge of traction – just as you’re initiating and pushing the wheels into the slide. In some ways, you can consider this a sort of feedback mechanism to let you know you’re about to slide – and I have to highlight that because I haven’t felt anything similar in any other wheels I’ve tried. You know, you either have square lipped wheels that don’t want to slide or round lipped wheels that just slide – there’s not really a forgiving mid-point between them …
So yeah I really liked this feeling. It felt consistent at both low and high speeds, and it really helped me feel more confident about doing faster slides.
That edge grip was always there to sort of safely let me know I was about to slide. Other round-lipped wheels sort of just break into the slide when you’re going quick and you have to almost “guess” when it would be best to kickout.
And it whilst was never really too much for me and didn’t really get in the way of sliding, I have to admit, the edge grip wasn’t the best for slower speeds stuff.
I liked the edge grip but …
The edge grip didn’t feel very good for a lot of stuff going slow. It felt fine for most slides, but it didn’t allow the wheel to quickly break into traction enough for me to pull off things like 360s slide with ease. I couldn’t really push out the wheel into the slide as easily as I would have liked to as there was always that resistance during the initiation.
Though tbh, that could be a rider issue mostly – I’m not the best freerider or 360er if we’re being totally honest …
Some DS riders didn’t like the edge grip
Though I liked the edge grip, some riders I spoke to who had experience with the DS didn’t like it. Some said the edge grip was too much and gave them a feel that they didn’t enjoy.
I can sympathize with this because depending on the setup I had, the wheels felt and performed differently. With my Gen 6 Bears on a different deck, these felt like they were ALL edge grip. That smooth feeling slide had disappeared and all I was working with was edge grip. I talk more about this in the “The slide different for different setups” section below.
They don’t slow you down much
They slow you down as much as Powell Snakes do – which is not much at all … This allowed me to do some impressive stand-up slides – even when I wasn’t going all too fast.
A good summary of these wheels would be – “roll fast, don’t slow you down much.”
Is the slide consistent across different pavements?
They feel about the same on most pavements. The feel of the slide is slightly different, but that edge grip into a smooth slide is more or less quite similar. It is a bit grippier on some pavements (eg. Slurry seal) but more or less the same really.
I skated them on a road that had two different road surfaces – one was newer and smoother, whilst the other really old, rough, and worn down. Wheels are usually a bit grippier on the newer road and slidier on the older one. However, I couldn’t really feel a significant difference between how they felt on either. They just slid and I just didn’t really think about it after a while – which is odd cause that’s something I have to keep in mind when skating those roads.
They also performed pretty well on rougher, (almost gravelly) roads too. The edge grip feeling was minimized, but the slide was still quite good.
In summary, they’re a really consistent feeling wheel.
They are very forgiving
I don’t have the best stand up slide control, but these kept me sliding even when I wasn’t in an optimal position to handle the slide properly. They only threw me into a highside if I made BIG errors in judgment – which is quite fair. But they were forgiving for the most part and I got away with too much haha.
The slide feels different depending on your setup
These wheels feel differently depending on the setup you have them on.
When I rode them on my RF-1, they had a feeling where there would be some edge-grip as they broke into the traction, before transitioning into the smooth feel I’ve been describing above.
When I rode them on my Gen 6 Bears, they just felt like they were all edge-grip. It felt like I was riding a narrower version of the 72mm square-lipped Krimes. This wasn’t that bad, but I preferred the smooth feeling slide over this.
It’s not clear to me why they feel different between the two setups, but I did have a consistent feel with the RF-1s when I run the DS on my Ronins in the past. No idea why there was this performance difference but I could find out with time.
I primarily used setup 1.
- Board: Sp8board custom Bullet
- Trucks: Aera RF-1
- Truck width: 150mm
- Baseplate-angle: 46*
- Bushings: 88a hardcore all-round or 85/87a venom barrels
- Washers: Flat washers all-around
- Bearings: Loaded Jehu bearings
- Board: Landyachtz Cheesegrater
- Trucks: Gen 6 Bears
- Truck width: 180mm
- Baseplate-angle: 45*
- Bushings: 93a hardcore RS, Venom 87a freeride BS.
- Washers: Cupped RS, flat BS.
- Bearings: Bear Spaceballs
They do last a long time
I can’t really comment on the wear as I haven’t skated them as intensely or for a really long time. They look the same size as new tbh.
This is the main failing of this review. I can’t tell y’all about the durability. I only really had a few sessions to skate them (review is low key rushed), so I do apologize about that.
I did talk to someone who skated the DS extensively. They said “the durability is rather phenomenal. That took a considerable amount of time to do. I’d say they have three-four times the life expectancy of a snake depending on the surface you ride em on.”
They thane on some roads, leaving some light marks. However, I haven’t really noticed much wear. But they thane which is really cool.
How do they perform in different temperatures?
I only skated them in a consistently warm environment, so I can’t comment on how they’d feel when it’s cold out. I did talk to someone who skated them in various environments and the said – “As for the cold I found they are still a good but more slide. The warm makes these things grip more. It’s an interesting phenomenon I haven’t seen many other wheels accomplish. But that was part of why kev took the win at angies. They held up so well in the heat.”
Do they chunk easily and does it affect performance?
Not really. The lips do get these tiny bits kinda flaking off of them – but this only happened to me because I purposeful rode them on rough pavement with the intention of trying to chunk them – you know, just to see if they’d actually chunk. But when skating them on most pavements these tiny chips didn’t occur much.
The image doesn’t illustrate it very well, but those small chunks look ass though the wheel has been gnawed on …
But overally the wheel doesn’t really chunk – or rather I haven’t gotten any chunking issues from them.
But I wouldn’t be super surprised if they did. This is a persisting problem with all soft formula Powell wheels and by extension all other soft wheels as well – most of them do chunk.
That said, I believe these should hold up better than other Powell wheels – they’re much harder being 83a whilst the Snakes are only 75a. The urethane isn’t going to tear apart as easily.
They’re great for fast freeriding
These wheels really came alive for me when skating fast. The edge grip was great, and I didn’t feel like the wheels ever “suddenly” broke into the slide. This was key for me when it came to skating fast.
For freeriding, I don’t like most wheels because they always suddenly break into the slide, and you have to be a bit on point with controlling and almost instinctively knowing where that edge of traction is. I don’t freeride a lot, so maybe that isn’t an issue for most people who do – that edge of traction is likely second nature.
But with the Dragonskin, I was able to skate fast and stand up slide them fast comfortably. The edge grip was pretty key for me. I always had that feedback from the wheels that I was beginning to slide. This was a refreshing feeling.
Not having to guess, or intuitively KNOW when I’d start sliding felt good.
Limitations of the review
- I skated them in a warm climate, so no real feedback from me on how they’d feel skating in the cold.
- Can’t comment on the durability.
- Can’t give a proper opinion on how they hold up against chunking.
What I didn’t like about the Powell-Peralta Dragonskin wheels
- I didn’t like the “all edge-grip” sort of feeling on the Bears. And it might be a shame if people need specific trucks to get the right feel out of these wheels.
- TBH, not much more I can say I don’t like. I don’t have information such as price, availability etc. But again, there’s not much I don’t like about this wheel. Not saying it’s perfect, but it’s pretty good. It does the thing exceptionally.
Who should buy it
- If you’re looking for an awesome fast freeride wheel, this wheel is a good option.
- Want to try out some exotic shit? This is the one.
- Do you want to ride the hype train? Get these wheels.
- Does going very fast and not slowing down much sound exciting to you? Get these beasts.
- Looking to try a wheel that does things a bit differently from the rest of the market. You need em.
- Looking to up your fast freeride game? This is a good choice.
Who shouldn’t buy this wheel?
- If you’re primarily doing slow skating (sub 20ish mph).
- If you like the feel of traditional wheels and don’t enjoy a lot of edge grip.
- If you’re an anti-hype beast.
What do you think? Has this review been helpful
Low key been stressed to put this review out. Though I’ve done my best to describe the wheels according to my experience, I feel like I may have missed out or misrepresented on one or two big things. If you’re ridden DS before, what do you think?
Otherwise, thank you for reading the review and I hope it has provided insight into these wheels. Hoping you guys get to skate them soon too. Big thanks to Kevin Reimer for giving me this opportunity.
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