Sector 9 Fractal Review
While pondering the Sector 9 Fractal for review, one theme keeps recurring: functionality. The Fractal is set up so that it will ride nicely, right off the shelf. Sector 9 sells them for a reasonable price on their website, but you should be also able to find them on Amazon.com. What you get for your cash is a functional cruiser and a fun carver in one fairly priced package.
Appearance and Main Features
The Fractal is a drop-through, eight-ply maple board with a positive camber profile. At 36 inches long and nine inches wide, it sits firmly in the middle of the road for a cruiser/carver deck. Being cambered, the Fractal features quite a bit of flex, and there is no concave or tail/nose kick to speak of.
All of the completes in Sector 9’s Sidewinder series come with Gullwing’s Sidewinder II trucks, which are 10 inches wide (up from nine inches on the original Sidewinder). They feature a double-kingpin design, meant to enhance the inputs of your lean, translating into tighter turns. The wheels are Sector 9’s Top Shelf (69mm diameter, 78a durometer) slalom style wheel with offset, PDP (Push Don’t Pollute) ABEC 5 bearings.
The Fractal is a reasonable option for the beginning rider or the more experienced skater who is content to cruise but wants a longboard that comes with the option to carve. The Gullwing trucks are a standout component. While possibly aimed at the learning rider, they limit the functionality of what would otherwise be a multi-discipline longboard.
A Super-Versatile Complete [Jack of all trades]!
As a daily use cruiser, the Fractal shines. The wood has enough flex to assist entering a turn, but not so much as to make it uncomfortable or unsettling for the beginner. When cruising, the progressive geometry of the trucks produce tight turns that never stop being fun. From gentle sweepers to sharp corners, the Fractal holds lines other setups struggle to find and is a sweet carver. Flat terrain suddenly becomes a set of breaking waves and carving quickly becomes intuitive.
]If you’re more experienced, you may actually love the turning radius of the Gullwing Sidewinders. The double-kingpin design is an interesting feat of engineering. These things produce a progressive turn-in that you didn’t know you were missing. A slight lean engages the first kingpin, and things feel normal. But, when you dig in further and the second kingpin kicks in, the carving factor increases dramatically.
As a commuter, this Sector 9 offering makes a lot of sense. It is relatively light, so it won’t load you down when you’re forced to step off and carry it (think buildings on campus or crowded streets). The grippy and relatively soft-durometer wheels smooth out rough terrain and help those over-engineered trucks produce lines that a lot of other setups just can’t match.
Not Your Hill Bombing Machine!
As a downhill ride, though, the Fractal starts to lose its luster quickly. If you’re on a mellow incline, the tight-turning Gullwings make slashing and pumping easy. On a steeper incline, though, the maneuverability that makes it kind of exhilarating on flatland terrain becomes a liability.
At the break-neck speeds of hill bombing, the Gullwings’ turn-in rate and the board’s inherent flex make stability something you left at the top of the hill, and no matter how much you crank down on the bushings, speed wobbles are a definite threat.
Skating at even moderately fast speeds is a questionable decision with the Fractal. There’s a fine line between innovation and gimmick, and the dual-kingpin Sidewinders straddle that line precariously.
Besides coming with a built-in speed limit, you can also forget freestyle slides on the Fractal as it’s set up. The Sector 9 Top Shelf wheels sport a 49mm (!) contact patch and a soft lip at the edge. While they provide excellent traction and hold their line like a train on rails around corners, sliding will require higher speeds and serious commitment. It can be done, but for slides, there are better wheel options.
Same goes for the PDP bearings. They are decent, but that’s about it. Regardless of where you stand on the ABEC rating debate, the fact remains that the PDPs are a lower-grade bearing. They are fine for learning on and for some light cruising and carving, but when the heat is on, they won’t retain their initial speed for long after break-in. A bearing upgrade is a simple thing, though, and the PDPs will last long enough for your wallet to rebound from the purchase of the Fractal.
Wait..Can You Trust Sector 9?
Sector 9 has been churning outboards since 1993. Originally started in La Jolla, Calif., by a small crew of skaters, shaping old snowboards into unique skateboard shapes in their spare time, the company has a reputation built on quality. After spending some time (2008-2016) under the Billabong International umbrella of companies, Sector 9 was purchased by Bravo Sports (makers of Maple and Kryptonics) in June of 2016. The change of ownership doesn’t seem to be having any negative effects on Sector 9’s board offerings, though.
Will This Be The Right Board for You?
And that’s really the gist of it when it comes to the Sector 9 Fractal. All of the components are solid options for their purpose, and the Fractal performs its all-around duties like a champ. Tweaking this component or that will produce a respectable setup for several disciplines, but when pushed to speeds that experienced riders typically reach, the off-the-shelf Fractal is out of its element.
Stay realistic about your bombing options, though, and the Fractal’s responsiveness keeps things interesting in a good way. This is a setup that elevates the fun factor, yet manages to reign in a lot of the issues that arise with more purpose-built sticks. If you’re looking for a complete longboard that does one thing really well, the Fractal may not be your ride. But, if you’re in the market for a serviceable stick that can do several things reasonably well, then this Sector 9 offering might be just the board you’re looking for.