Boardsports Longboard Buyers Guide
Anyone can ride a longboard no matter of age or ability. Longboards have bigger decks, looser trucks and big soft wheels giving the rider a feeling that's more like surfing or snowboarding than regular skateboarding. There are many different aspects of longboarding, all requiring specific types of boards, trucks and wheels. This guide will help you decide which type of board you will need for your desired aspect of the sport. Unlike regular skateboards, longboards are most commonly sold in complete packages which makes the buying easier, however for those who wish to create their own we have covered every aspect of a longboard here.
Commuting and Cruising
This is the most common type of longboarding and if you're a beginner rider it's exactly where you'll want to start. Longboards are an excellent way to get from point A to point B. They are faster and easier than walking, are more fun and less cumbersome than a bike and can easily be picked up and carried on a bus or stored in a locker. If you don't want to use your longboard to commute you can simply cruise it around and make great carving turns. With big soft wheels and a big deck you'll feel as though you really are surfing the sidewalk.
Sliding is the next level of longboarding. This style takes the rider down hills but in a controlled way. The object here is to turn a lot and eventually learn to slide your board sideways. The turns and slides slow the rider down and keep them at a controlled speed. These boards are usually symmetrical, allowing the rider to easily ride it both ways. They also feature wheels with turned up edges to make sliding sideways easier.
Downhill or Racing
More advanced still than sliding, the object of downhill longboarding is to be the first or the fastest to the bottom of the hill. Stiff, stable boards that are built for speed are used in for this type of longboarding. Full protective gear is worn at all times when downhilling, sometimes even full face helmets and full leather suits.
There are a few different ways of mounting the trucks on the deck, each creating a different feeling ride and each being ideal for a different aspect of longboarding.
This is the most common way of mounting trucks on a longboard. It is the same as a regular skateboard where the hardware come down from the top and attaches the trucks under the board. This system is great for downhill since the rider can stand right over the trucks giving them maximum stability.
A dropped board refers to a board where the trucks still mount the same as a top mount but the part of the deck where the rider stands is dropped below the trucks. This style is great for cruising since the rider is closer to the ground. The wheels often have more clearance with this system allowing for better turning.
Sometimes similar looking to either of the previous two systems drop through trucks mount a considerably differently way. The board itself can be shaped any way but it will be machined out at each end so the trucks can mount from the top of the board. The baseplate sits on top of the deck and the hanger attaches to the bottom. This style brings the board 0.5- 1" lower to the ground making it excellent for sliding.
The flex of your board is very important. A flexible board will be good for cruising since the rider will be able to use the board to help pump them through turns. However if the rider is going down hills, whether it be sliding or racing, they will want a much stiffer board to give the stability they need at high speeds. The flex of the board is greatly influenced by the materials it is made from.
Maple is the most common material for making longboards simply because it is the most readily available. Maple longboards are made in a very similar process to regular skateboard decks. They tend to be stiffer and very durable.
Bamboo is much softer than maple and so it is often the material of choice for cruising boards. To make these boards the bamboo is usually wrapped around a slightly stiffer more durable material to give the board more longevity. Bamboo is also very light weight which makes carrying the longboard much easier.
Carbon fibre constructed boards are the lightest but also the most expensive. Carbon fibre longboards are for advanced riders since it takes some time to get used to this type of board.
Longboard trucks are very different from regular skateboard trucks. They are taller, wider and the most striking difference is the axel is on the other side of the kingpin. This is called reversed kingpin.
Much like a regular skateboard the width of the hangar should match the width of the deck. If the trucks are too thin there will be a greater chance the wheels will rub on the deck while turning and cause the rider to come to a dead stop.
Unlike a regular skateboard truck longboard trucks have different baseplate angles. The difference in angle will affect the turning, a lower angle will be harder to turn and a higher angle will be easier. 50 degrees is usually the standard as it is the most versatile and can be used for all types of longboarding.
The wheels are one of the most important components of a longboard. they come in many different shapes, sizes and hardnesses. A durometer measures the hardness of the urethane wheel is made from and give it a number. A lower number means a softer wheel that will be ideal for commuting or cruising since it will roll smoothly over even the roughest pavement. Those looking to slide or race will want a wheel with a higher durometer rating since these wheels roll faster. Wheels meant for sliding will also have turned up sides which gives them less grip and will make it easier for the rider to slide them sideways. Cruising wheels on the other hand will have stiff edges that make for more grip when turning.
Taking care of your board
You skateboard deck is strong and can take a lot of abuse. But here are a few things you should watch out for.
Moisture and humidity are the biggest things to worry about. On humid days, your board will tend to absorb moisture causing the board to swell. The opposite happens when the humidity drops. This expanding and contracting of your board may cause your mounting hardware to loosen and/or board veneer to crack. You can avoid all of this by storing your board inside your house, garage or wherever the temperature and humidity level stay roughly the same.
Exposure to heat or direct sunlight can also cause your deck to warp or crack. Be careful leaving your board near a window or in the car.
Riding your board in the rain is one of the fastest ways to ruin your deck. If you find yourself riding in the rain, be sure to clean off your board as soon as you get in. This can be a long process because it involves taking the trucks off the deck and making sure there is no pooling of water underneath them.
Trucks are the strongest part of your board and should last the longest. There are a few things you can do to make sure they last as long as possible. Bushings are the only part you may have to replace. After prolonged use the bushings can crack and warp causing your board to sway in one direction. This can also happen by tightening brand new bushings too tight. If your bushings are squeaking, don’t worry this is normal. You can add a little lube to the area and that should take care of the noise.
Wheels will wear away and develop flat spots or crack over a long period of time. Once this happens it is time to get new ones. There is not much you can do about this. Harder durometer wheels tend to wear away faster than softer.
Bearings are the reason you are able to roll at all. Over time they will slowly seize up from dirt and sometimes rust if ridden in the rain. You can take your bearings out of your wheels and clean them from time to time to prolong their life. There are different methods of doing this but most involve taking the bearing covers off and soaking the exposed area in a solvent like alcohol. After they have been soaked, thoroughly dry them and apply a lubricant or grease before replacing the covers. Once fully seized it is time to get a new pair of bearings.
Safety gear is very important for all longboarders but especially important for beginners. Helmets should be worn by all longboarders and those just starting out would benefit from knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards. To slide the rider must wear sliding gloves. Sliding gloves are leather gloves with hard plastic pads on the palms. Longboarders who are just getting into sliding should make sure to get gloves with full fingers so they don't rip their fingers up on the pavement. As you get better and are riding at higher and higher speeds more safety gear is required. Many downhill and racing longboarders wear full face helmets and full leather suits like motorcycle riders.