Intended Use: Rolling smoothly on uneven/rough surfaces and works well for street-oriented skating, skateparks, bowls, and smooth surfaces
Recommended for: A smooth ride on any surface, good slideability, and durability. An overall quality wheel.
56mm V6 93A
Review Date and Location: July 2022 – September 2022 in Idaho/Utah/Wyoming
Powell’s new Dragon Formula Wheels are supposed to be a soft wheel that still slides like a hard wheel. When I first heard about them, my interest was immediately peaked. I’m a huge skate nerd and have tried almost every durometer of wheel out there. I’ve had some 90a cruiser wheels that I loved because powerslides on them felt like powerslides with hard wheels. Since I first rode those, I’ve always wondered if someone could make some sort of magic wheel that could cruise like a 78a soft wheel, but still, somehow slide like a 101a.
While that magic wheel may be a pipe dream, several companies have attempted to make wheels that fall between the typical duros of hard and soft wheels in the hopes of capturing the best attributes of both. They’re typically around 95a. I’ve tried some 90a’s, 92a’s, 95a’s, and 97a’s all from various brands. I’ve had some alright experiences, but more often than not I end up with something that doesn’t really cruise or slide. At best, I’ve found some wheels that can roll over slightly rougher ground and can still slide alright.
Powell claims that the 93a Dragon Formula Wheels are smooth enough to roll over rough terrain, but still also grip and slide like 99a and 101a wheels do. I was initially pretty skeptical because that’s the same description for just about every other brand’s hybrid wheel formula. Over the past two months, I’ve been trying out the Dragon Formula wheels to see how they stack up to other medium-hardness wheels on the market.
I threw the 56mm Dragons on an 8.88 Heroin egg-shaped board with Tensor Mag Light trucks and Bones Big Balls bearings. The softness of the wheels was the first thing I noticed. My local park is all asphalt with old metal ramps. The Dragon wheels felt much faster and smoother than my regular 99s. The Dragons shine brightest on rough terrain like asphalt and gritty concrete. They can’t ride on all the surfaces that 78a wheels can, but they’re much more versatile than any of the other medium-hardness wheels I’ve tried. I normally ride 97a’s at some local curb spots. With anything harder, the rough ground just rattles you around and kills all of your speed. The Dragons felt like a huge improvement in comparison. They also feel good on smooth surfaces like concrete, skatelite, and metal ramps. They have a quiet, soft wheel sound when rolling. Sometimes really soft wheels can feel kind of sluggish on smooth surfaces. The dragons felt fast on every surface I rode, with the exception of skatelite. They felt a little slow in the mini ramp for some reason, but it wasn’t slow enough to be that big of a deal.
Here’s where the wheels get interesting. With how soft and grippy they felt, I didn’t expect them to slide at all. The wheels weren’t having any issues when I was dragging them during kickturns and reverts, so I decided to try some powerslides. On the first go, I almost slipped out! The wheels are deceivingly slick, so I highly recommend taking it easy with them until you get a good feel for them. Something about the way they slide feels great though. It’s almost smoother and more controlled. If your weight is right, they’ll just go. They start to grip as you lean forward though, but I never felt like they were going to pitch me forward without warning. One odd thing is that they seem to feel slicker on rougher surfaces. They still slide great on smooth surfaces, but you can feel them wanting to grip a little bit more.
I will say that the dragons do feel a tad sticky when it comes to doing slides and grinds that involve the wheels sliding against the obstacle you’re on. It’s very slight but noticeable. Sometimes you can hear when they grip on metal coping or rails. You’ll hear a squeaking sound as you slide across. I just used the squeaking sound as an audible indicator if I needed to wax the obstacle. When things are waxed properly, there aren’t any weird sounds. When they’re not waxed properly, the squeak is the only issue. You can still muscle through and slide. I never unexpectedly stuck and slammed with the dragon wheels. There were even some times when I tried to bluntslide a rail and had my weight way too far forward. Instead of sticking and slamming like normal, the slide just gripped a bit more and I was able to safely run out. Overall, the wheels slide great. They’re a hair more grippy than your regular 99a’s, but you can still hop into grinds and slides and fully trust them without fear of sticking.
The Dragons are extremely flat spot resistant. I tested the wheels on various types of terrain. Part of testing was seeing how well they powerslid. I was always shocked at how well they could slide through the roughest of surfaces. One, in particular, was a section of gritty bricks at a college campus. The wheels slid over them with ease. I also just like doing powerslides in general, so I really put these wheels to the test. After two months and countless powerslides, there were no flat spots. The only wear that happened was a few small chunks and slits, but I consider it normal wear and tear. I think that most wheels would be ruined if they went through the same amount of abuse.
One of the complaints I’ve heard from other reviews is that the Dragon wheels sound weird or too quiet when doing slides. Sometimes people are picky and want their gear to sound a certain way, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about how they sound for those that care. The wheels definitely sound different than hard wheels when it comes to rolling around. They’re a lot quieter. It’s most noticeable on smooth surfaces. I don’t mind as I like the way cruiser wheels sound. However, I don’t like the squeaking sound they make when grinding metal coping sometimes. This can be fixed with a little wax. I also noticed that they tend not to do it as much as time goes on. I think as the wheels break-in, the surface layer of urethane that squeaks rubs off. The complaint I’m referring to made it sound like the wheels were always quiet when they slid, but I don’t think that’s the case. Sometimes they are quiet when they slide, but other times they have a deep barking sound that I love. I think it just depends on the surface the wheel is sliding on. If it’s waxed, it has a lot higher chance of being a silent slide.
I had a great time on the new Powell Dragon Formula wheels. They’re honestly unlike any other wheels I’ve ridden. They’re smooth and grippy, but somehow they slide great at the same time. It’s honestly weird that they work so well. They won’t replace your cruiser wheels, but they will open up so many new spots for you. They make skating rough terrains so much easier without compromising how well they slide. I’d recommend them to anyone. Especially people who skate curbs, skate streets, or people who have parks with rougher asphalt or concrete. I’d even recommend them for kids and beginners. I think the only time I wouldn’t recommend them would be if you only skated a super smooth skatepark and your only concern was doing the longest grinds or slides possible. The Dragons are so good that I already went out and bought another set for my main setup. I feel like that’s saying a lot because I’ve been riding Spitfire Formula Fours almost exclusively for two years now. The Dragons aren’t exactly the magic wheel I’ve daydreamed of, but they’re pretty damn close.
I also had fun letting other people try out my board and seeing what they thought of them. Everyone loved them. The common remark was usually “Holy shit!” after the first powerslide haha. One of my friends, Landen, doesn’t really ride soft wheels, so he treated my board like his usual setup and started ripping without any thought of sticking. He was jumping into backslide lipslides on unwaxed ledges and the wheels were still sliding. The best clips of him were filmed within 15 minutes of riding my board.
Also, with the new set, I got some 54s. The graphic side of the wheel had a glossy finish, but the backs didn’t. I think the production versions of the wheels are stone ground on the back to help cut down on the squeaking sound. So I recommend riding them graphics out. The graphics also wear off oddly fast. Mine were almost completely blank after one half-hour slappy session.
- A very versatile, almost quiver of one, type of wheel.
- Fast on most surfaces, especially rough ones.
- Smooth and quiet.
- Make rough spots much easier to skate.
- Grippy, but somehow also slick.
- A great feeling slide.
- Extremely flat spot resistant.
- A fun and unique experience to try.
- Bearings go in easy
- Can feel a little sluggish on some very smooth surfaces.
- Slightly stickier on grinds and slides than on regular wheels.
- Mental trip of getting used to a soft wheel that can slide.
|Price:||(4.5 / 5)|
|Construction:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Performance:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Overall:||(4.9 / 5)|