Few downhill longboard wheels have been as highly anticipated as RAD wheels. Since the rumors of a new super-wheel started circulating, people all over the world have been wanting to get a chance to ride a set and see what the buzz is all about. After a few delays and a metric shit-ton of anticipation, RAD’s have been released into the wild. West Hem Roll’s own Charlie Snyder took a few minutes to sit down and talk to the man that started it all…Mr. Louis Pilloni:
WHR – So people have been anxiously waiting for the every-elusive RAD wheel for a bit now.
Pilloni – I was hoping to have them launched a while ago. The thing is, we could have, but I wanted to make sure that everything was exactly how we wanted it to be.
WHR – Indeed. There are plenty of companies who try to push a launch and end up not having enough product, or worse yet, an inferior product.
Pilloni – Exactly. And I could have pushed it, but I wanted to make sure the tolerates of the core are set correctly.
WHR – It doesn’t exactly help that you’ve been in and out of the office for races and moving buildings with Sector 9…not to mention SkatehouseMedia.com and all the other projects you’re involved in. It’s a lot of balls in the air.
Pilloni – Yeah, it’s been a bit of a hassle keeping everything up in the air, but things are really coming together.
WHR – What inspired you to make a wheel in the first place?
Pilloni – Well, it’s been a fun project that I’ve been able to get fully involved in. The goal was to make a wheel from scratch from the rider’s point of view, not a mass-marketed cruiser commuter wheel that’s always getting flooded into the market.
WHR – It seems like when a lot of companies have approached building downhill wheels, they’ll take the cores they use for all their other wheels and put more urethane on them. For the most part, core molds haven’t really made any significant changes. What brought you to the RAD design?
Pilloni – It was starting from pretty much square one. You know, looking into the options we had available and then saying, “Why don’t we create our own.” By doing that, we were forced to start at the core, developing something that no one else had at the time; developing something that is performance driven and building on past wheel models that are already proven.
WHR – What inspired the RAD Crown Core?
Pilloni – The idea behind the Crown Core was to section the wheel off so that the outer and inner lips acted independently yet in unison with each each other. This calms the wheel down by creating valleys for the lips to rebound agains.
WHR – So essentially the outer points of the crown are calming down the deformation and rebound of the lips to making a smoother and more consistent ride?
Pilloni – Yeah. A lot of the strength comes from the core material. It’s kind of our secret material that creates a much stronger core and gives a better center point so there’s less play in the wheel. Compare it to tires. The rims aren’t made of plastic or any sort of flex material. They’re made so they are solid and provide support, and that’s where we were coming from. With a skateboard wheel with a solid core, you don’t lose as much energy and momentum due to urethane flex.
WHR – I’ve personally been riding them for a while now, and it really does feel like a softer wheel without the deformation and chatter.
Pilloni – And at the center of that is the core, but a lot of it comes from the lip shapes as well. Everything beyond the core is something designed from the rider’s point of view. After riding skateboards for 20 years and downhill for 8 years, I’ve gone through a lot of wheels and come to know what I like and don’t like in them. For the lips I just broke it down and looked at all the drawings I had, looking at the angles and seeing what made that wheel act a certain way. From there I combined different shapes to take it to the next level.
WHR – What in particular is different about the lips on RADs in comparison to other wheels?
Pilloni – It’s a lot of minute changes. A couple degrees here, a few degrees there, having two flex points within the lip. It’s not one thing necessarily that makes the wheel what it is, it’s a combination of the different changes.
WHR – Over the past few decades you’ve had guys like Chris Chaput and others redesigning and revolutionizing downhill-optimized wheels for luge and downhill. Do you see yourself as taking their innovations to the next level my moving it in a different direction?
Pilloni – You know, the idea is to break away from the mold in the wheel market…to break away from this constant marketing wash cycle of recycled or similar products. Downhill has progressed to a level where riders today are doing things that 10 years ago people weren’t even thinking about doing. We need to have the gear progressing with the skaters. Skateboarding, in a sense, hasn’t really changed in that everyone is going for the same feeling. At the end of the day the equipment doesn’t matter, but it’s most important that the rider is confident in the equipment they’re on so it’s not holding them back.
WHR – In regards to different wheel companies, there have been a couple popping up lately. Do you foresee any of them looking at your design and saying, “Hey, that’s not a bad design.” and trying to offshoot onto their own version of the RAD design?
Pilloni – Well, everyone always tries to pull and take from other designs. That’s kind of how it works. As much as you’d like to say that something is original, it’s not. A lot of it comes from the past. You learn from others and you learn from your own mistakes, figuring out what you like. The main thing is to continue to grow and continue to build the next product. If people see positive aspects to a wheel, then they’re going to try and mimic that. It’s a compliment.
WHR – It’s apparent in all industries really. There will be a good idea, and others start to build off of it. But with RAD wheels, it doesn’t seem like there’s much on the market currently that RADs are based off of…it’s a completely different direction.
Pilloni – Well, the idea is that all companies are in this together, and the goal is trying to give something to the community that they want. We’re all having fun skating, we’re all out there to advance, and it’s most important to support the companies that support the community.
WHR – That’s what I’m seeing from RAD. Some companies kind of prefer to tell the skater what they want, and other companies get feedback from skaters and give them what they want. That dictation mentality, the hyping of rehashed products is what, I think, we want to steer away from.
Pilloni – And that’s the goal. The people we have involved in the company, James Kelly, Max Ballesteros, Jackson Shapiera, Ben Dubreuil, and all the other guys…we’re all involved in the community on a global level, and we want to keep that involvement going.
WHR – And it helps that you guys are performing on the product you’re making…something not all companies do. They’ll make a product for downhill even if they aren’t doing downhill. Downhill skaters might be involved, but at the end of the day it’s not a product that’s designed by and for skaters….or at least not to the extent other companies do.
Pilloni – Yeah. And a lot of that was out ability to step out of the mold. Some wheel companies you go to will say, “Well, here are your options. You have A, B, C, and D. You’ve got these different cuts, these different urethanes.”
WHR – So basically, “Here’s your thane options, here’s your cut options. What do you want?”
Pilloni – Exactly. None of that. We want our own. We’re starting completely from scratch.
WHR – Anything else you’d like to add about the wheels?
Pilloni – Well, it’s extremely exciting. I feel really lucky that I’m able to skate and do what I love. Skating is fun, and we want to keep it fun.
Rider Approved Design wheels will soon be available on the shelves of skate shops around the world. Grab a set and see what all the fuss has been about.