The following are my personal views and knowledge, and may be biased or incorrect.
1) What is a LONGboard vs. a SKATEboard? What about Cruisers?
Longboards are super fun for rolling on roads and pavements which are sometimes too rough for skateboards. Riding a longboard focuses on the actual joy of rolling on terrain, especially downhill, as opposed to skateboarding which focuses on doing tricks on smooth ground, street obstacles and skateparks. Generally, Cruisers are usually more casual longboards but are smaller for convenience.
This video goes through all the basics of longboarding.
This video shows what skateboarding in a skatepark looks like.
This video shows what a cruiser looks like, although the riding is more advanced than most people would do.
For more details on the differences, see this article.
2) Why are there so many funny looking longboards?
There are many styles and disciplines of longboarding, from just chilling in style at the beach to serious business downhill racing. The different types of longboards satisfy all these different purposes.
3) What are some common longboarding disciplines?
- Casual cruising – just chill and roll about in style.
- Freeriding* – shredding a hill with slides, max fun, not max speed.
- Downhill – max speed, slides only to slow down to make corners.
- Transportation – when a bicycle is too boring.
- Dancing – when standing still is too boring.
- Tricks/Freestyle* – when you insist on using a longboard as a skateboard.
- Carving – doing tight turns on grippy wheels without sliding out.
- Long distance – pushing or pumping forever.
- Technical Sliding – 100s of ways to not roll straight on your wheels.
*The terms FreeRIDE and FreeSTYLE are commonly confused, or used interchangeably by some people. It should be clarified that FreeRIDE focuses more on high speed slides down a hill, whereas FreeSTYLE focuses more on lower speed tricks which often involve popping or grabbing the board off the ground, although admittedly there is some overlap and grey areas between them.
4) What are the key differences in longboards for different purposes?
The various components of a longboard and their variations will be addressed below:
Flexy or Stiff DECK:
A flexy board is more comfortable to ride, more fun to carve and pump, but you will need a stiff board to go fast. If you try to slide and bomb hills at speed on a flexy board you will find that you will be bouncing on the board and your feet will slip and you will die. A stiff board also allows better control since your input on the deck goes direct to the wheels instead of being absorbed by the flex.
Top Mount, Drop-through, or Dropped Platform DECK:
We are dealing with ride height here and in general, a higher deck (Top Mount) may feel better to turn and will grip better, but will be more tiring to push and harder to footbrake. A lower deck (Drop-Through or Drop Platform) will be easier to push and footbrake, is less likely to tip over, and be easier to slide, and is more beginner friendly, and generally better for all purpose use. More detailed description below.
Top mount means the deck sits on top of the trucks, so the deck is high off the ground.
Drop-through means the deck has a slot cut out for the baseplate of the truck to fit through the deck. The baseplate is secured on the top side of the deck which brings the level of the deck down slightly below the truck’s baseplate.
Dropped platform means the whole deck is bent down after the truck mounts, and forms a lowered tub for the skater. Depending on how much the dropped platform is, this can lower a deck more or less than a drop-through mount.
Note: A deck may also feature a dropped platform for the similar purpose as concave, it helps lock your feet and prevent them from slipping forwards or backwards.
Concave, Camber, Rocker, and Shape of DECK:
Concave is the upward curling of the edges of the deck, there are many types and depths of concaves. In general, deeper concaves will provide better grip for your feet which is important for sliding and cornering. The different styles of concave is a personal preference, some like a constant and gradual rise (aka “progressive”), some like it mostly flat in the middle with a pronounced straightish angle near the sides (aka “gas-pedal”), and some like the raised centerline of a “W” concave to fit under the arch of their foot. Again, theres various types of concave and the thing here to stress is that it is mostly a personal preference.
Concave can sometimes be a bad thing if you are pushing long distance or standing all chilled out or dancing because it can get uncomfortable or get in the way.
Camber is where the middle part of the deck is higher than the front and the back, this is more common in flexy boards as some believe it makes the flex more fun, and it also flexes the deck down to be flat-ish when someone stands on it. The function of camber is less obvious on stiff boards though, but one purpose is probably to raise the ground clearance between the wheels so you can go over speed humps on a lower board. Camber will also very slightly de-wedge your trucks. Some guys like camber, some guys don’t, no big deal.
Rocker is where the middle part of the board is lower than the front and back, which is the opposite of Camber. This is usually only seen in stiff boards, and it is generally believed to give better front-to-back grip for your feet because if you think about it, its basically concave turned 90 degrees. Watch out going over speed bumps on a really low rocker board though, as you might scrape the bottom. Rocker will also very slightly wedge your trucks. Some guys like rocker, some guys don’t, no big deal.
Deck Shapes in general will depend on the kind of skating you are into, your “feel”, and stylistic preferences. Wheel cut outs will allow you to run bigger wheels and lean deeper without wheelbite. Having a nose or tail with kicks will allow you to skate like a skateboard. A pintail surfboard-like shape is popular as a classic style. Guys with shorter legs tend to prefer shorter boards, a symmetrical shape is nice if you are doing lots of 180s etc. Basically, what you like would be what is right.
Generally, here are some common ways to set up your trucks based on the type of riding you want to do:
For slalom/pumping – Narrow trucks for better grip and response, soft bushings, and tune them (wedging to alter the baseplate angle) so the front truck turns more while the back truck turns less.
For cruising/carving – Narrow trucks for grip and response, wider if you want more stability. Soft bushings for max turn and response, med bushings for more stability.
For freeriding – Wide trucks for stability and less grip, soft to med bushings to lean into slides, harder bushings for stability at higher speeds.
For Downhill – Narrow trucks for grip and response, wider trucks for stability and predictable slides. Hard bushings for stability, low angle trucks for less turn angle vs lean angle = more stability at high speed. (Some people also believe having a rear truck with a very low angle will prevent speed-wobbles and make drifting more predictable.)
More info about trucks:
Modern longboard trucks are usually “reverse kingpin” designs which means the kingpin ends up in front of the axle, instead of behind the axle in the case of a traditional skateboard truck design.
For almost everything you need to know about reverse kingpin trucks, which are your usual longboard trucks 90% of the time, check out this guide. http://www.randal.com/guides_faq.html I must say however that how trucks work can get quite complicated if you dig deep and many people harbor different beliefs. For instance I (and some others on silverfish) disagree with where the “roll-center” is located in that guide.
Aside from reverse-kingpin trucks, there are a few traditional designs, notably Indy 215 trucks and narrow Tracker style slalom/pumping trucks. It is generally accepted however that reverse kingpin trucks are better for the purpose of general longboarding as the bushings are more directly activated and the hanger is able to lean more predictably.
The biggest differences between the designs would be:
Traditional trucks are lower.
Traditional trucks may be more “grindable”.
Traditional trucks usually use shorter bushings which may limit the amount of lean, and limit the amount of tuning you can do to the feel of the truck.
There are other unique truck designs that exist, some of which use metal springs for resistance or use bushings in some weird way. Most notably there are the Seismic trucks, generally these are aimed at slalom/pumping, and of course the youtube hyped Original trucks which are only meant for really tight carves and a surfy feel (don’t let their hype convince you otherwise!).
I shall state my own personal bias that it isn’t worth bothering with metal spring based trucks unless you are absolutely looking to skate the way the truck was designed to be skated. For example, Original trucks suck at everything other than surfy/tight carves at low speeds, if you try to use them at speed, you will die. One of the problems with metal spring trucks is that they have a center point that is too defined and do not have a good progressive increase in resistance as you lean. This makes them difficult to control, and it doesn’t feel “right” when you lean from one side to the other. You can definitely get used to how any truck feels however, but bushing trucks will always be more accommodating than metal spring trucks because they are easy to tune for the right feel you want.
In conclusion, 90% of the time, reverse kingpin trucks are what you want, and they are highly tunable with bushings and washers to suit almost any style of longboarding. Read this guide http://www.randal.com/guides_faq.html to learn almost everything about them!
Tuning Trucks – BUSHINGS
There are 3 main factors to consider about bushings:
Shapes determine the RATE OF INCREASE IN RESISTANCE as you lean more.
- Cones will be more carve-y, with LITTLE INCREASE in resistance as you lean more, which means its easy to dive into max lean quickly with minimal increase in input, but may also make it too sensitive or “twitchy”.
- Barrels will have MODERATE INCREASE in resistance as you lean more.
- Pumpkin/Eliminators will have a HIGH INCREASE in resistance as you lean more, which makes it less sensitive to input and more stable.
so basically for leany/surfy carves get cones, for more stability get barrels, and if you don’t like it leaning too much and want max stability at high speed, try elims/pumpkins.
The harder (higher duro) would give more overall resistance to leaning. How much resistance you like would be personal preferance and usage (carve or DH etc), and in general a heavier rider will use harder bushings. It is important to note that “Loose” trucks to someone might feel “Tight” to someone else so you really should come down with your board and try out some bushings before buying if you are unsure.
This is how quickly the bushing returns the truck to the center position, or how
“bouncy/responsive” it feels. Venom SHR (Super High Rebound) bushings for example are popular as they are thought to have a high rebound rate which gives a quick feel that lots of guys like. However, rebound is a personal preference as well, which is why the classic non-SHR Venoms exist, some guys want some dampening effect for stability. For example, too high a rebound rate may not be desirable for high speed DH as it may make the truck feel “Twitchy”,
Mixing different shapes and hardnesses of bushings is quite common, for example barrel on the board side and cone on the road side. And using harder bushings on the board side (to support your weight) and softer ones on the road side.
Bushings will wear out after extended use, things like overtightening them or excessive deformation may cause them to wear out quicker.
Tuning Trucks – WASHERS
Different types of washers will allow you to change the RATE OF INCREASE in resistance vs lean angle of a truck, similar to how bushing shapes affect their feel.
CUP washers cup a bushing and prevents it from moving around too much as a truck leans, this restriction maximizes the increase of resistance as the truck leans more. A proper CUP washer should hold the bushing tightly to eliminate slop and more importantly, to center the truck well. Unfortunately, we have never found a good enough CUP washer so we have gone and made our own precision CUP washers which you can check out on our online store.
FLAT washers (or inverted CUP washers) do not restrict a bushing as much, and as a truck leans more the bushing may shift sideways. By allowing the bushing to deform more with less restriction, the increase in resistance as the truck leans more is less compared to using a CUP washer.
Flat washers are also useful if you do not like your trucks to have a strong center feel, that is, if you like your trucks to lean from side to side smoothly without going past an abrupt center point.
Using small/undersized FLAT washers will allow a bushing to deform even more with even less restriction than a full sized FLAT washer, and this minimizes the increase in resistance as the truck leans.
Keep in mind that allowing a bushing to deform more will increase its wear and reduce its lifespan.
Sometimes big washers, especially CUP ones will hit the side of the bushing seat on the truck hanger when leaning at an extreme angle. Switching to a flat or smaller washer is nice to prevent this cosmetic damage of the hanger. However, sometimes this is useful as a “hard limit” to lean angles and may be an intentional modification. Indeed, this is a good way to eliminate the possibility of that rare occurance of wheelbite in extreme circumstances (for guys who are paranoid about getting wheelbite and dying), if you don’t mind the metal-on-metal scarring on your trucks.
Washers actually make a big difference in the feel of your truck but are often overlooked in favor of bushings. We have gone out of our way to make precision washers which feature holes that fit exactly over the kingpin and a cup that really holds the bushing well. These 2 features improve slop and centering in a great way, which is difficult or impossible to accomplish with just playing around with different bushings.
Qn: What wheels are best for Downhill, Freeride, Carving and Sliding?”
Ans: Well, those are all very different disciplines so you will not find a wheel that is good at all those. you will be able to get a general purpose wheel that is decent in all aspects but it will not be as good as a wheel that is designed for a certain discipline with no compromises. A good general purpose wheel would be something wide but without overly thing or sharp lips like Gumballs/Grippins.
Qn: Are slide wheels good for carving?
Ans: It seems a lot of guys wrongly use the term “Carving” to mean sliding or drifting. Well, Carving actually means to turn sharp & hard without sliding out or drifting so it is in fact quite to opposite of sliding, and to carve you will want grippy wheels which are usually wide, with thin, sharp lips, such as BigZigs.
Qn: What wheels are best for Downhill?
Ans: Generally, guys want the grippiest wheels (BigZigs/Centrax) to be able to hold the fastest lines. But then again, it all depends on the track and style of the rider. Grippy wheels with thin and sharp lips may not be the easiest to control in a slide or a drift, so if there is a need to do a lot of that due to the track, then wheels which have a more general shape may be preferred so that the slides are more predictable and controllable. A common wheel in this case would be Flywheels.
Qn: What wheel should I get if I am just starting out?
Ans: For beginners (and freeriding of course) I would recommend getting slidey wheels such as Sidewinders/Zombies/Freerides because one of the first things you need to learn is how to slow down by sliding, and it is extremely difficult for newbies to slide a grippy wheel well.
Qn: What is the fastest wheel?
Ans: Generally, the higher the rebound rate of a wheel, the less rolling resistance it will give. I suppose if you could design a device to bounce wheels consistently off the floor you could find out which wheel rebounds the highest and it should be the fastest wheel. But for now the brands do not publish any rebound figures for their wheels so your best bet is to just stick with wheel formulas which are proven to win races such as Abec11′s Reflex. But truth be told, all the major race wheel brands have about equally fast wheels. Even if there was a slight difference, the effect of wheel friction at high speed is likely to be negligible relative to air resistance i.e. how well you tuck your body, and rider skill.
Besides rebound, a bigger wheel is generally faster than a smaller wheel in a straight line, and especially if the ground is rough.
For more info on wheels, clink on this link:
to check out the chart made by Max Dubler of http://www.skatehousemedia.com (the best longboarding website run by pros). It is a great reference for understanding the variables of longboard wheels.
Qn: Is longboarding dangerous?
Longboarding is only dangerous if you skate recklessly and push yourself beyond your capabilities. It is generally safe as long as you take your time to progress and practice, and if you skate responsibly.
The main danger in longboarding is traffic, so never skate down a busy road, a road with blind corners, or one that ends up in an intersection, etc.
It is also much safer to skate with friends and you will also have more fun and progress with your skills quicker. At an advanced level, sometimes you will have to skate roads which are not entirely free from traffic so your friends will save your life by taking turns spotting for cars.
Qn: Do I need to wear a helmet? What about pads?
Yes you do. Due to the speeds at which you skate, you do need to wear a helmet to protect yourself. Thankfully the longboarding community is very Helmet aware so a lot of times, you will find that guys will refuse to skate with you unless you wear one.
The other required safety gear is slide gloves if you want to do any slides.
Knee pads and elbow pads are optional, though if you are just starting out they are highly recommended, unless you aren’t bothered by losing a bit a skin. Advanced longboarders commonly only wear a helmet and gloves as they have learned how to fall properly.
Wrist guards are recommended for newbies, but they are less common with experienced riders, as they sort of interfere with the slide gloves. Basically, learn how to fall without slamming your hands down and your wrists should be fine.
Check out the facebook group “Singapore Speed Movement” where the local longboarding community socializes.
A VIDEO ALL NEW LONGBOARDERS SHOULD WATCH, it covers safety to basic slides: