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What do you get when you cross a surfer with a skateboarder? If you answered longboarder, you’re well aware of the latest skateboarding trend that is sweeping the nation. But longboards and their riders aren’t anything new. In fact, in 1958, California surfers became frustrated when the waves weren’t high enough to surf, so they became inventive and crafted the first longboard made out of planks and wheels taken from roller skates. The new sport was dubbed sidewalk surfing.
But today’s longboards are made of more than planks and wheels. You’ll pay $50 to $300 for a longboard, and if you’re going to shell out that much cash, you need to know how to take care of it. But before we talk about longboard maintenance, let’s take a look at some longboard basics to help you get to know your ride.
What Is a Longboard?
Before surfers created longboards, the only other forms of wheels used for athletics were bicycles and roller skates. But when the waves were flat, surfers wanted to mimic the feel of surfing the waves on dry land. So the longboard was invented. Today, some longboarders look for that same sensation while others seek the thrill of flying down a steep hill.
A typical longboard is made up of a few parts. They have a deck, grip tape, trunk, axle, bearings, a kingpin, trunk bolts, and wheels. Knowing the elements of your longboard is essential. Routine maintenance of your longboard will enable you to enjoy the ride for longer. And that means more sidewalk surfing for you.
Longboards vs. skateboards: what’s the difference?
It’s easy to get longboards and skateboards confused because the basic structure is the same, but the two are very different. The biggest difference is the length of the board. Skateboards tend to be shorter, averaging 20 to 32 inches. A longboard is longer, running 36 to 60 inches.
Skateboards and longboards are different, and riders use them for entirely different purposes. Skateboarders use their boards to do tricks and jumps, while longboarders are typically in it for the long ride.
Longboards also have larger wheels, which make them great for all that downhill racing and because longboards are longer, they are heavier. That can be a problem for downhill racers who don’t want to carry a heavy board up a hill, and that’s why manufacturers have begun to create longboards made from materials such as bamboo.
5 Types of Longboards
As you can imagine, there is a longboard for every type of rider. And as the sport gains popularity, manufacturers are keeping up with the trend by continuously making improvements to the boards. A longboard’s deck is what differentiates it for most riders. Currently, there are five types of longboards to choose from.
The downhill longboard
If you get your thrills racing down hills, the downhill longboard is a great choice for you. These longboards are typically made from high-quality materials so riders can comfortably use them in harsh and unforgiving terrain. When longboarding downhill, some boards become unstable and begin to wobble at high speeds, but this type of board eliminates speed wobbling so you can enjoy the ride without the fear of wiping out.
The downhill longboard also has a well-defined front and rear which allows you to ride in a straight line. The best decks for downhill longboards are drop-through and top-mount.
The cruising longboard
This type of longboard is the best choice for learning the sport because it offers the most stability. It has a wider deck and truck. Whether you’re going to have lunch on the pier or go to the local mall, a cruising longboard is a perfect ride. Because it offers stability and balance, it’s the ideal board for weaving in and out of crowds or around a bunch of objects. You can use almost any deck for a cruising longboard, and you should choose yours based on who you plan to ride it.
The drop-through longboard
If you’re looking for stability at high speeds, the drop-through longboard offers it. It has a dropped platform that lowers your center of gravity, and when you’re bombing hills, it will give you that all-important stability. And just like the downhill longboard, this board eliminates those downhill wobbles when you’re riding at full speed.
The carving longboard
When you don’t want speed on your ride — but you’re going downhill — you need a carving longboard. Carving is what longboarders excel at, and to do it right you need the right board. Cruiser decks are an excellent fit for carving, but longboarding experts recommend that you choose the deck that best fits your style. When riders begin picking up too much speed, they will carve out their path to slow down.
Carving longboards are also great at helping you zip past objects without having to stop and pick up your board. Do this by leaning toward your toes or heels to steer the longboard in an “S” shape rather than a straight line. That slows down the ride. Carving longboards are shaped differently to help you master the art of carving.
Because this generation is more mobile than past generations, manufacturers are making new models of longboards from bamboo. This lightweight material allows these nomad longboarders to easily carry their board without feeling weighed down. And in addition to being light, bamboo longboards look really cool, they’re organic, inexpensive, and they offer riders major flexibility.
Shapes of Longboards
You can narrow down your longboard options even further by looking at the different shapes. Each shape allows riders to use the board differently. Here are the eight most common shapes.
These boards give riders the option of riding directional and at the same time, improving their balance. Pintails have a wider base along with a sharp nose and tail. Making sharp turns with these longboards is a snap because the taper allows for a better turning radius. And you won’t get wheel bite with a pintail because they feature carved out wheels.
Just like with the pintail longboard, this board has a wider base and a sharp nose. The difference in the boards lies in the tail. The fishtail longboard has a split tail that looks a lot like a surfboard. But the board doesn’t only look cool. It also helps you take long rides with the ability to make those sharp turns easily.
If you’re looking for a longboard shape that has great stability, consider the blunt. It’s why so many beginners look for a blunt-shaped longboard to learn on. But although the board offers stability, it does have some drawbacks. Its rounded nose and tail, which are wider than other boards, are what makes it stable. But those features also keep the rider from making sharp turns.
The thing that sets this shape apart is the length. Mini cruisers are much shorter than typical longboards — coming in at 33 inches or less. And while that officially falls into the skateboard category, its options make it a longboard. It offers faster speeds and a superior turning ability, making it a great choice for experts. But beginners will likely become frustrated with this board because it takes some skill to master.
This longboard shape was introduced in the 90s and is ideal for multi-directional skating. Its wider sides make it perfect for freestyling. It has great stability because of its wider wheels, and that allows riders to feel comfortable as they learn new tricks and improve their skills.
This shape gives longboards great versatility. It’s multi-directional, which means you can switch up your direction easily. It offers superior wheel clearance and drop-through trucks which lowers the board nearer to the ground. That makes it very stable at high speeds. Freestylers and downhill riders love this board.
This board shape offers a combination of stability and great wheel clearance. And because of its lower deck, pushing is easier for the rider. If comfortable riding is your goal, a drop down board could be your new best friend.
On the other hand, if you’re a speed demon, listen up. You don’t only want a board that allows you to fly down that hill, but you want one that will keep you off the pavement. And a speed-shaped longboard offers both speed and stability.
Longboard Features You Should Know
You know the longboard types, you understand how the shape of a longboard can affect your ride. Now it’s time to take a quick look at some of the longboard features you’ll have to choose from. Each of these features will affect your longboard in certain ways so learn what each one does before you buy.
If you’ve seen regular skateboard, you know what a kicktail looks like. It’s that little “swoop” at the end of the board that allows riders to do tricks, make quick turns, and flip the board into their hands after a long ride. Longboards don’t always have a kicktail, but some models do. For instance, directional boards have a kicktail on one end while symmetrical boards have them on both ends.
Kicktails are most commonly used on cruiser and freestyle boards and allow riders to avoid an object or person that crosses their path quickly.
Wheel wells and cutouts
If turning hard is your style, you need wheel wells or cutouts to keep you from getting thrown off your board. If you don’t have them, you’ll experience wheel bite, which is what happens when your wheels connect with the deck. The result of that is never pretty.
Wheel wells allow for sharp turns, but if your trucks are too loose, you don’t have enough risers, or your longboard wheels are too large, they could still “bite” the deck. So if you’re a sharp turner, cutouts may be the answer. The wheels won’t ever bite your deck with a wheel cutout because there is no deck to bite. Instead, the wheels will hit air, no matter how sharp you turn.
When you’re flying downhill, you want your feet to stay firmly planted on the longboard, and that’s where concaves come in handy. The board is shaped with a concave in the middle to help keep your feet firm and stable. Concave levels differ depending on the board. For example, downhill boards have a deeper concave than cruiser boards.
The length of your board, also known as wheelbase length, determines how sturdy your board is. The longer the board, the sturdier it is. The downside to a longer board is that it won’t turn as easily as a shorter one.
The trucks are what allow riders to turn and pivot on the axle of the longboard. Trucks are a reversed or inverted kingpin that allows for increased stability in side-to-side movements. You can adjust the trucks to allow them to pivot easier, and that should always be a part of your longboard maintenance program. When you tighten them, your board will have a stiffer feel. And when you loosen them, you’ll be better able to turn quickly and have more stability at higher speeds.
You’ll have a choice between wheels with rounded or square edges. Each type of wheel is excellent, but the one you should choose depends on which style of longboarding you plan to do. Rounded edge wheels allow you to slid, while square edge wheels grip the road better. Either type of wheel is ideal for cruising, carving, or freestyling. But if you want to ride downhill, a square edge wheel will help you maintain better contact with the ground.
Bearings are what make your wheels go round, and if you’re going to get the most out of your longboard, you need to do regular maintenance on them. When choosing the right bearings, you should do so according to your ride style. The Annual Bearing Engineering Committee (ABEC) rates bearings. The higher rated the wheel is, the faster it will spin. So bearings rated ABEC 3 are perfect for cruising. If you want to freeride, look for bearings rated ABEC 5. And if you’re all about speed and downhill longboarding, look for bearings rated ABEC 5 to 7 and above.
How to Buy the Right Longboard for You
Wow, that’s a lot of options, isn’t it? But buying the right longboard will make all the difference when it comes to your ability to enjoy it. Here are the two major considerations you should think about when purchasing a longboard.
What is your ability level?
It’s important to select a board that fits your current ability. For instance, if you’re just starting out in longboarding, don’t choose a mini-cruiser right off the bat because you probably don’t yet have the skills to master it. Instead, choose a longer board, and once you’ve mastered the basics, you can buy a beast like the mini.
It’s equally important to think about where and how you will ride the board. If you just want to get around town, a cruiser is probably your best bet. But if all you think about is climbing the highest hill and racing toward the bottom, a cruiser would probably bore you to death.
What is your style?
What is your style? Do you want to ride your board while looking around casually? Or will you use the board in competitions or street races? Be sure that the board’s personality fits yours. If it doesn’t, it may end up taking up permanent space in the corner of your bedroom.
How to Do Maintenance on Your Longboard
You’ve found the perfect longboard and even gone riding a few times. That’s great, but did you know that you also have to perform routine maintenance on your board to keep it in tip-top shape? It’s true. But don’t worry, because, for a board that gives you this much pleasure, the maintenance is pretty simple. Below we’ve outlined a 6-part routine that will keep your longboard in perfect shape (provided you don’t wipe out on a regular basis!).
Take the board apart
The first thing you’ll do is dismantle the entire board. Take off the bearings, trucks, wheels, and deck and then separate them into organized piles. Put the nuts and bolts in a small jar or cup. Then put all the metal pieces in a container filled with alcohol spirits.
Clean or replace bearings
If you don’t do regular maintenance on your longboard bearings, you won’t get the most of it. The bearings are what allows it to perform, giving you the ability to race down those hills or quickly swerve to miss that pedestrian. You should clean your bearings every 50 hours of riding.
To do so, start by removing them. Then wash and re-lube them (Never us household lubricants such as WD-40. This will cause them to rust). If they are worn, you should replace the bearings. It’s not difficult, but this regular maintenance will go a long way in keeping you agile as you ride.
Clean plastic and rubber parts
Finally, clean plastic pieces with a detergent to remove any road grease and dirt. Then wipe them with a dry cloth to remove all moisture.
Dry the metal parts and bearings
Now you should remove the metal parts from the solution and line them up with the bearings. Let them sit for a while until they have completely drained. Be sure to keep an eye on them, so they don’t roll away and get lost. With a hair dryer set on low, dry the metal parts and bearings until there is no moisture left on them.
Test the parts and reassemble
Now that everything is clean and dry, you’ll need to test the parts to ensure they roll smoothly and don’t have any snags or jams. If they do, add more lubricant and dry them again. Reassemble the pieces the same way they came apart. If you miss any, it could result in a wipe-out.
Adjust the longboard
Now that you have performed the maintenance on your longboard, you’ll need to test that it works properly. Start by slow rolling it to look for any jams or malfunctions, and it if checks out, take it on a more ambitious ride. Next, take the board out and ride it the way you always do to make sure every part is working as it should.
Now Go Have Some Fun with Your Longboard
Now that you’ve completed your routine longboard maintenance, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go find the highest hill, the widest boardwalk, or the most crowded downtown market. Put your board on the ground and then ride it in confidence, knowing that it’s in tip-top shape.