When it comes to commuter longboards, most people think of big, comfortable, low riding drop-throughs with big trucks and wheels that you can push on painlessly for hours. Or, for city commuting, small, lightweight, fast turning cruisers you can easily throw into a backpack or stash under your desk.
These are very different, even opposite types of longboards, designed for very distinct kinds of commuting. What if there existed a longboard that combined the best of both worlds?
Enter the Pantheon Ember, a self-proclaimed commuter mini-cruiser. The Ember is uniquely designed as a street sized mini longboard geared for traveling efficiently on short to mid-distance rides. The Ember boasts a large wheelbase for its small size, a thin narrow profile, a very low riding platform. The design around TKP trucks allows it to support very large wheels without risers and without compromising safety, comfort and turning ability.
For any rider looking for the perfect commuting longboard, this may sound like a dream come true. Does this board deliver on its promises? What is the real deal with this intriguing little cruiser? Read on to find out.
Who is the Pantheon Ember for?
The Ember was designed with distance pushing and commuting in mind. Pantheon’s founder is a skateboard marathon record holder, so he knows quite a bit about traveling on a longboard!
The board is about the size of a street board – it can safely be categorized as a mini cruiser. As such, it’s a logical choice for a street skater looking for something more comfortable to commute on.
But the Ember isn’t just for skateboarders, it’s meant to be a serious transport alternative for anyone who needs to commute relatively long distances, whatever their riding level. The board focuses on safety, pushing comfort, and riding efficiency.
Pantheon Ember design goals
The Ember’s main characteristics can be summarized as follows :
- Easy pushing: allow the rider to push with minimal effort by keeping his/her center of gravity not low and right underneath her hips. Enabling features: the Ember’s skinny profile and double drop platform.
- Riding comfort and safety: run smoothly over cracks and bumps, absorbing shocks and rolling fast while avoiding any wheelbite – which could make the rider faceplant at speed. Enabling features: support for big wheels.
- Stability and deep turning: riders who commute commonly need to carve down some hills and make sharp turns when riding on sidewalks or along crowded streets. Enabling features: a large wheelbase and TKP trucks.
What’s special about the Pantheon Ember?
The Ember is comparable in size to most mini cruisers such as the Landyachtz Dinghy (slightly smaller) or the Loaded Poke (slightly bigger). The Ember, however, is a very different beast due to the design goals mentioned above. These are three of the Ember’s key differentiators :
- First, the Ember has a huge (25″) wheelbase relative to its size! Again for comparison, the Dinghy’s wheelbase is 14.6″ for a 28″ length, and the Poke’s is 20.75″ for a 34″ length. That much wheelbase almost makes the Ember suitable for downhill – but of course, that’s not what it’s designed for.
- Second, the Ember is probably the only mini-cruiser designed around TKP trucks, i.e. street trucks. This has a crucial impact on the board’s ability to support very large wheels (up to 85mm without riser !) Most mini-cruisers run RKP trucks with much smaller wheels (Dinghy: 60mm, Poke: 7omm) to avoid wheelbite.
- Third, the Ember has a very thin profile and rides extremely low, greatly facilitating pushing. Mini-cruisers such as the Dinghy are generally top mounted, making them relatively high off the ground and so harder to push over longer distances.
So you may begin to see what’s so special about the Ember. While it’s definitely a mini cruiser in terms of size – easy to carry around and stow away in a backpack, locker, or overhead compartment – it has the main characteristics of a larger commuting board, including a large wheelbase, a low platform, and support for big wheels.
The Ember’s deck
To better understand how Pantheon achieves such as mix, let’s dig a bit deeper into the Ember’s DNA.
The main feature that jumps out when looking at the Ember’s is the double drop platform with its 3/4″ “crescent” drop – a wood bending pattern that makes it both strong and pleasant to stand on, and a 0.25″ rocker that cradles your feet in and makes the deck even lower in the center.
This deck shape is what allows the Ember to ride so close to the ground – some heavier riders report being as low as 2.25″ off the ground when standing on the deck, including with big wheels on. That’s lower than most larger commuter decks ever get.
Note that the deck is so low it might sometimes touch the ground when going over humps, something to watch out for. On the plus side, the hard maple contruction makes the deck relatively stiff, limiting the bending. Riding low, nevertheless, makes for a stable and comfortable feel when traveling distances, and a safer one for downhill.
Another aspect which adds to the feeling of stability is wheelbase, which again is uncommonly large for a board this size. A huge longboard like the 45.5″ Landyachtz Stratus has a wheelbase of 29″, not that far off from the Ember’s! Wheelbase plays a key role in stability at greater speed.
The Ember’s deck is well built. Epoxy is used to assemble the 8-ply maple laminates, making the board resistant to water and warping. Tight tolerance pressing results in a very durable board. The Ember has been reported to hold up quite well after taking a lot of abuse over a few months.
The Ember is pretty much symmetrical with tiny kick tails (4.5″ x 1.5″) – unlike other mini-cruisers like the Poke, the Ember was not designed with freestyle tricks and bowl riding in mind. The small kicks are part of the design choices to make the Ember as short, nimble and portable as possible for commuting.
Speaking of portability, the 8-ply maple construction and the large wheels make for a quite heavy setup to carry around at over 7 lb. This compares to 5.4 lb for a 31.5″ Sector 9 Swellhound mini-cruiser (14.25″ wheelbase). When it comes to distance riding ability, however, the momentum from the extra weight actually turns into an asset.
Ember’s trucks and wheels
I’ve mentioned it a few times, the Ember is designed around TKP (street) trucks. TKP trucks are shorter than RKP so your feet sit closer to the wheels when riding, providing much more leverage and responsiveness.
The TKP trucks can support bigger wheels than RKP ones without wheelbite. Of course, there also needs to be enough deck clearance, which the large cutouts on the Ember take care of.
The recommended setup from Pantheon includes Paris 149mm trucks and loose bushings. Paris trucks are among those that provide the best amount of stability for strong pushing and single foot steering.
With this setup, the Ember allows surprisingly deep turns in spite of its very large wheelbase, including when running huge 85mm Speedvent or Caguama wheels.
So there you have your last piece of the Ember puzzle: the ability to do tight carves when riding on your distance commute path, without compromising on deck length, wheel size, or ride height.
Note that, for someone with large feet, carving can sometimes be hindered by your toes touching the ground when turning hard due to the narrow width of the deck. With some practice, however, you can learn to angle your feet slightly to avoid this.
Parting thoughts on the Ember
Overall, the Pantheon Ember appears as a compelling (and only ?) choice for a compact distance skating longboard. Its street-like sized deck, long wheelbase, super low platform, narrow and responsive trucks, and support for big wheels are designed specifically for short to mid-distance travel.
The Ember is not only unusually stable and easy to push, brake and slide on for a mini cruiser, it also gives the rider very tight reactive carves and tight turns without wheelbite – no risers or special bushings.
At around $220 for a complete setup which includes 85mm Seismic wheels and 149mm Paris trucks, it’s a bit pricier than a regular mini-cruiser. What you get, however, is completely different from your average city slasher.
If you instead compare the price of the Ember with that of a regular-sized drop-through / double dropped commuter board, the Ember offers great value, without the bulk and lower responsiveness of a 38″+ longboard.
Like any other longboard, the Ember has its drawbacks. You need to get used to placing your feet at an angle on the very narrow deck to avoid shoe bite when carving, as you’re riding unusually low to the ground.
Regardless, the great riding efficiency and control you get from this little guy when traveling distance justifies each of the unique design choices its constructors have made.