Well, the long awaited Loaded downhill board is finally here. After nearly a decade of development, the Loaded crew presents the Chubby Unicorn, a bidirectional top mounted downhill/freeride board. The board will be available in shops on December 4th. Start saving now though, it’ll run you $360 for the deck only.
We’ve already got our paws on it and will be releasing a review shortly. Stay tuned!
The deck has more features than I care to enumerate here, so click through for photos and a detailed run down of the board.
Width: 9.75” – We designed this board with a men’s size 8 to 11 shoe in mind. This allows your toes and heels to slightly touch each rail for optimal board awareness and minimizes the need to shift your feet when transitioning from heelside to toeside slides. Although the width is slightly less than many other downhill boards on the market, we have tested with several foot sizes and have found it to be a comfortable size for most non-silverback riders. Additionally, the tapering near the nose provides much better ergonomics and rail control for a forward facing downhill tuck (where the rider’s front foot is often at a 45° or higher angle on the deck), whereas even large feet can get “lost” on a wider platform when in this position.
Wheelbase: 28.25”– After spending years riding a variety of downhill boards with wheelbases ranging from 24” to 32”, we found ourselves consistently drawn toward the 27-29” range for its very natural shoulder width stance. With your feet in the pockets (see “Integrated Wheel Wells/Flares” below), your knees are kept in a slightly bent, athletic stance that promotes control and stability when throwing long, fast slides to manage your speed down steep descents. Short enough for good traction, cornering agility, and snappy drifts, yet long enough to provide high speed stability, a solid platform for control in fast slides, graceful rotations, and an appreciable amount of lean angle (even on 50° trucks).
Kick length: 7” (tip to inner bolt)
Weight: 4.9 lbs
A rockered profile throughout the deck offers many benefits. It creates a subtle and comfortable lock-in for your feet (particularly in combination with the wheel wells/flares), helping them stay firmly planted while sliding. Rocker also slightly lowers the rider’s center of gravity for enhanced stability. Finally, the cradle-like ergonomics also provide a steady and natural platform for foot movement, whether you’re pivoting your heels over the rail for a predrift or cross-stepping up and down the board.
Recessed Truck Mounts
We have recess-mounted the trucks into the deck to allow the board to sit lower to the ground, increase stability and improve sliding performance. Incorporating rocker in a deck also leads to positive wedging of the trucks, which affects the board’s handling. Too much wedging (particularly when using 50° reverse kingpin trucks) can result in excessive sensitivity to steering inputs at speed. To compensate for wedging effects while still achieving the amount of rocker we desired, we angled the truck mounts to offset the rocker, so that the trucks will sit neutral (as though they were topmounted on a flat stiff deck).
Integrated Wheel Well Flares
The Chubby Unicorn features pronounced wheel wells that flare up above the top surface. The wood bends up to provide wheel clearance while also creating a transition to push your feet up against. The bottom surfaces of these wheel wells are also CNC routed, thinning the flared surfaces and providing additional clearance. The combination of wheel well flares and W concave achieves a uniquely locked-in rider interface while greatly reducing the potential for wheelbite.
Although the wheel well flares provide enhanced clearance, it may still be necessary to add risers to your setup when using trucks with kingpin angles lower than 50° or generally low and/or leany geometries, due to the lowered ride height from the recessed truck mounts.
We’ve ridden boards with all sorts of concave styles: deep and shallow; kinked and progressive; sharp rails and rounded/chamfered. What we found was that excessive concave could work against the rider and that subtle and mellow profiles often created the most comfortable and versatile interfaces for our feet. As a result, we’ve designed the Chubby Unicorn with a mild, progressive compound concave (using a range of radii that are blended tangentially) that gives optimal edge control and feedback without sacrificing comfort.
There are many advantages to W concave: it gives strength to the board, allows you to make the board lighter, and (if correctly implemented) can give you increased lateral support on the deck. Our experience testing a range of decks has taught us that W concave can be very comfortable or very uncomfortable, depending on how it is designed.
Based on our preferences, we have created a very wide W concave in which the W hump conforms comfortably to the arch of your foot. The center of the hump is subtle enough to still provide a gently rounded flat region that does not cause discomfort after extended use or interfere with various stances for different applications (such as tucking, pushing, or sliding). The transitional “channels” between the central W hump and the mellow rail concave on both sides lock your toes in, providing exceptional lateral support near the rail edges where it counts the most for sliding and cornering. Toeside slides and predrifts are comfortable and completely controlled by keeping your back toe in the concave channel, eliminating the need to hook the ball of your foot over the rail for support.
The ergonomics of the Chubby Unicorn allow you to keep your feet situated and reduce the need to shift or adjust your stance when transitioning from edge to edge or between drifting and traction.
While we found the directional nature of many downhill boards to be functional in strictly downhill/race settings and generally aesthetically pleasing, we were frustrated that they did not perform the same when riding in switch or after reversing the board’s orientation (e.g. after a slide shuvit). We decided that a true all-arounder should offer optimal ergonomics in either direction; thus, we designed the Chubby to be a bidirectional, bicurious, bicoastal, bilingual freestyleriding machine.
Nose & Tail Kicks
Despite the unicorn’s unicranial nature, we maintained the twin design sensibilities and bestowed upon it a pair of completely congruent kicktails. In our early conceptual sketches we explored very short kicks that blended subtly into the tapered, race style tips of the board. These underlined the downhill/race aesthetic and kept the deck compact. However, after extensive freestyle testing and tweaking we were compelled to make the kicks as functional as possible and increased their size accordingly.
In their final form, the kicks transition gently inward from the deck’s rails after the wheel wells/flares, providing ample leverage to throw shuvits/bigspins and a comfortable surface with which to catch tricks and balance upon for manuals. The length of the kicks relative to the truck mounts was designed to ensure a usable contact angle for no complies and other tricks that required a physical “pop” of the tail against the ground. Although leverage inevitably varies from truck to truck (depending on location of the axle relative to the mounting holes), the Chubby Unicorn is capable of a mean ollie, pop shuvit, or kickflip with practice and some setup experimentation.
The underside of this board has two sets of grooves on each side that are both functional and weight-reducing. The outer grooves are positioned for your fingers to grab during toeside and heelside predrifts, while the inner grooves are set deeper in toward the center of the deck to provide grip for early grabs.
We meticulously studied every riding stance that we used on the Chubby to determine the optimal griptape design, from downhill tucks and heelside/toeside predrifts to shuvit-manual combos to ollies and no comply variations. We found that there were almost no regions of the board that our feet didn’t grace regularly and that it was important to have a consistent and seamless level of grit throughout the standing platform. So we made utility our top priority and covered the entire deck (save some subtle aesthetic accents near the bolts, where the bolt heads and wheel wells/flares provide additional tactile feedback) with a medium-coarse griptape.
Flex & Damping
The Chubby Unicorn is the most recent (and arguably most complex) endeavor in Loaded’s ongoing exploration of flex and damping. The majority of our board lineup has historically focused on lower to moderate speed carving, pumping, and dancing where tangible flex and camber could serve as both a desirable performance characteristic and as a form of suspension.
When it came time to design a deck for high speed downhill and freeride applications, however, our goal was to achieve a solid and stiff flex. Thus, we needed to take a different approach in order to balance stiffness and damping. The first step we took was to experiment with a wide variety of thicknesses for the Chubby’s basswood core. We settled on a thickness that provided enough rigidity for a 200+ pound rider to feel comfortable at speed while still allowing for a very subtle amount of deck flex. This allows the board to dissipate some of the energy from vibrations, hard impacts, etc. through low-magnitude deflection (in the same manner that the frame of a race car or motorcycle is often designed to flex very slightly).
Beyond refining the core thickness, the next step toward achieving optimal damping was through the use of new materials and construction.
This Unicorn’s chubby belly is sealed with a layer of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, the same material used in snowboard bases and many slide pucks. The softer, more compliant UHMW base layer adds mass to the harder basswood core and fiberglass skins and lowers the natural frequency of the final product. This effectively “filters” out some of the higher frequency vibrations transmitted through the road, wheels, bearings, and trucks, resulting in a smoother ride underfoot.
Furthermore, the UHMW provides a layer of protection against abrasion and moisture. We’re not suggesting that you should use the Chubby to toboggan down a snowy mountainside; however, we do suggest that you send us a video of said tobogganing if you are so inclined.
The urethane sidewall is the Chubby Unicorn’s pièce de résistance, raison d’être, and ménage à trois. High durometer Orangatang urethane is poured around the basswood core before being pressed in the mold. The urethane solidifies, cures, and bonds with the wood, forming a sidewall along the deck’s entire perimeter. This has been a pioneering step for us in our skateboard construction capabilities; although it took a long time to get the process dialed, it’s enabled us to create what we feel is a groundbreaking product and expand our scope for future projects. Credit where credit is due, of course, so many thanks to Ernie DeLost and his innovative engineering and fabrication approach for engendering this feature.
From a rider’s perspective, you’ll appreciate a number of performance benefits. Just like the UHMW base, the urethane sidewall adds compliant mass to the core and provides vibration damping throughout the entire board. Additionally, several years of experience with urethane R&D through the Orangatang brand gave us the tools to methodically hone in on a urethane formula and durometer that holds up exceptionally well to abrasion (lasting multiple times longer than a wood tail under similar riding conditions) while still retaining a solid and crisp “pop” for snapping ollies and other tricks. Finally, 360° edge protection means your Chubby is dressed for the occasion when a fall sends it rocketing into a curb at 30 mph. While it is exceptionally durable, the Chubby Unicorn is not impervious to physical damage. But like its mythological namesake, it’ll outlast a lot of other critters out there.
Head to the Loaded Blog for a full history of the development and some more photos of the board.