Note: I primarily skate for transport. Therefore, the review below is from a skate-for-transport perspective (see the comment from Moony Lupis below).
First impressions summary PROS: WheelShields – mudguards (fenders) for a longboard – are a game-changer. Commuting by skateboard on wet roads doesn’t mean road grime on your pants, shoes, and deck anymore. If you’d rather skate, even after a downpour, and arrive at your destination clean and dry, these do the trick. CONS: Can be tricky to install (but the video does help: http://wheelshields.com/pages/install), may not fit all trucks, and are a little on the heavy side.
Disclosure: I’m not affiliated with or compensated by WheelShields. I pre-ordered and paid in full for a set of WheelShields when they were still in the crowd-sourcing stage on Kickstarter.
My setup: Gbomb Paramount Board, Bennet Vector Model 5.0 trucks (front), Holey Trucks (back), Orangatang In-Heat 75mm 80A wheels (front), Orangatang Durian 75mm 83A wheels (back), Seismic Tekton bearings (no separate spacers), WheelShields (black).
Almost a year ago, I wrote “Wheel Shields are brilliant. Hands down the biggest innovation in longboarding in a long time. I wish I had Wheel Shields when I skated across the US, Europe and China. Wheel Shields have changed the longboard transportation paradigm forever. They are an elegant solution to a frustrating problem.”
The frustrating problem I was referring to was getting my longboard deck swamped with water (= slippery), and getting soaked shoes and pants due to water flicking up off wheels as they ran over a wet surface. Even just a couple of shallow puddles on an otherwise dry road or pavement could mess up a clean pair of pants.
Already I can hear some people groaning. “What a pussy! Boohoo dirty pants…get over it!” This first impressions review of Wheel Shields is not for such people. This first impressions review is for people who want to skate to work or school everyday (even if it had been raining in the night), and who would actually rather stay dry no matter what the pavement condition.
For such people: WheelShields work.
Where I live, we get a lot of snow during winter. Around this time of year in spring, we get clear sunny days, but lots of snowmelt running across cycleways and roads. It is at times like this that the WheelShields really come into their own for me. Dry road, wet road. Clean and dry shoes and pants, no matter what.
For my inaugural test-skate, I skated around 15km (9 miles) along a river-side cycle path and city streets. To be honest, for the first half of the ride I was nervous. I mean, if for any reason those WheelShields turned with the wheel, they would stop my board in a split-second. Faster than a nice sharp concrete lip in the sidewalk. So far, however, they are holding fast.
For the most part, though, I was amazed at how they prevent almost all water from being flicked up onto my board. Even the 4-foot long patch of muddy snow-melt below would have covered my white shoes in dirty spots in a moment, had I not had the shields.
That said, they are not spell-casters with invisible forcefields. If you hit at speed a puddle of water anything more than 1cm (half and inch) deep with water, the forward-and-upwards splash of water being displaced in front of you will splash up onto you. That’d be very hard to avoid, even if WheelShields came in some sort of uber-full-coverage design.
After all this gushing over how awesomely functional they are, time for some hard truths: In terms of design, they’re not perfect, yet.
In their current form, WheelShields are not only designed for stopping water flicking up off wheels. They are also designed to carry something like 680kg (1500lbs) of weight on them, before they collapse. So you can stand on them (I tried, and they’re solid as a rock). You might want to invent new tricks. They’ll stop wheel-bite (if that is an ongoing, recurring issue for you, in which case you don’t need WheelShields, just some common sense to adjust your risers or get smaller wheels).
This is to say, they’re tough, but they’re a little on the heavy side. They’ll add about 400g (14 ounces) of heft to your board. I’m willing to pay that price in weight because I want to use my board in a wider range of weather conditions, but I’d like to see a lighter-weight fender-only version in the future.
Another little niggle is they didn’t fit my Tracker RTS 129 trucks. The axle length from end of hanger body to end of thread on the axle was about 2mm too short, meaning that the outer nut supplied with the WheelShields couldn’t get enough grip. They fit my Holey Trucks (plenty of room on the axle) and Bennett Trucks Vector Model 5.0 trucks (only just) with no problems though. Perhaps the Trackers just have a particularly short axle?
Also, first-time installation can be time-consuming. Mainly this has to do with getting the WheelShields on the right angle, and at the same angle on each side, at least for me. I have mine installed on an angle, which WheelShields expressly forbids. They insist they are installed so the top flat-ish area of the shields is parallel with the ground. I assume this is to ensure the greatest strength when standing on the shields. For me, however, all I care about is making sure the shields catch splashes. So they’re angled back at the front.
Those minor drawbacks aside, I love them. The picture below shows the bottom of my board after that 15km skate around the city. If I didn’t have the WheelShields, the top of the board would have been just as dirty.
As for why the underside still gets so dirty, I think it may have something to do with water being pushed to the side and upwards away from the wheels, causing a wave of water being driven up onto the bottom of the board.
If you take a careful look at the photo below, you can see that very little water gets flicked up off the middle part of the closest wheel. My shoes stayed totally dry during this (repeated) splashing through this puddle (for science’s sake, of course). However, water does get displaced towards the center of the board, which then meets water being displaced by the opposite wheel, pushing everything up onto the underside of the board. At least it stays under the board though…
All in all a fantastic product, which I thoroughly recommend. US$49 (plus US$20 for international shipping) might seem a little on the expensive side just for some ‘mudguards’, but think of that money you’ve spent on driving the car or taking public transport just because you can’t skate because it’s raining lightly or the roads are wet – no longer an expense you’ll have to front up.
Just bring on the lightweight fender-use-only versions, and then they’d actually be perfect.