Longboard Buying Guide: Longboarding FAQ

We've gotten lots of questions from aspiring longboarders over the years, so we thought making this page might help you. You can trust our longboarding streets smarts (pun intended).

All the Answers


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Q:

What is {insert any longboard term}?

A:

We thought you’d ask so we made a special page to define all the longboarding terms we could think of. So if you want to know what Wheelbase is all about, or what a Half Shell Helmet is, the Longboarding Lingo page is the place to get your answers.


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Q:

How does a beginner choose a longboard?

A:

Are you new to longboarding? There are so many options that it can give you a giant headache if you’re not careful. Check out our Longboard Guide to make sure your head doesn’t explode!


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Q:

How can i stop my longboard from wobbling when i go faster?

A:

If you are attempting to go down steep hills, you should be aware that you may get "speed wobbles" on your longboard. At higher speeds your trucks are more responsive. Every slight movement you make while riding will cause your longboard to react differently. Over corrections will lead to speed wobbles. There are three reasons why this may occur: The first is that the rider is inexperienced. Second, the bushings on your longboard are too soft. Third, your back truck is not tight enough. Anyone of these reasons or a combination of these can case extreme damage to the rider. Be sure to learn everything you can about your longboard and the best way to adjust it. Also, spend time working your way through the grades and difficulty in a hill before attempting high speeds.


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Q:

What parts make up a complete longboard?

A:

Sometimes things go missing, so here’s a list of all the parts that a completely assembled longboard (from Muir Skate) comes with: 1 longboard deck, 2 longboard trucks (these parts make up a truck: 1 baseplate, 1 hanger, 2 stock bushings, 1 kingpin, 1 lock nut, 2 speed rings, and 2 axle nuts), 4 longboard wheels, 8 bearings (2 are required per wheel), 2 risers or shockpads (1 riser per truck), 8 panhead or flathead bolts & nuts (4 per truck to assemble deck), 8 seating washers (4 per truck for secure assembly), 4 bearing spacers (1 spacer per wheel, optional), & applied black or clear grip tape (that fits the width of the deck).


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Q:

How do I protect the nose and tail of my longboard?

A:

There are companies that offer custom nose guards for specific and expensive longboards. There is also and inexpensive way to make a nose and tail guard: Gorilla Tape! We purchase Gorilla Tape from our local Home Depot store to protect our longboards. You can peel small strips of Gorilla Tape and stack them on top of each other and adhere them to the nose and tail of your longboard. The strips act as bumpers more than “guards”, but they get the job done for protecting your deck from impact at low to moderate speeds. They do wear down in time, so you will need to replace them every so often. And Gorilla Tape works well on ripped shoes, too!


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Q:

What wheels do you recommend for riding on not-so-smooth surfaces?

A:

Try using a softer wheel in the 75a to 80a durometer range. You can even increase the size of your wheels to the range of 70mm-75mm to help you absorb the rough surfaces. Combining a flexible longboard and soft wheels, the longboard will dampen the feel of a rough road.


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Q:

Why does my board stop suddenly when I hit a crack on the pavement?

A:

First check your wheels to be sure the axle nuts are not tightened down too much. If you are using wheels you found at a swap meet, chances are the urethane on them isn’t helping you out very much. Name brand wheels (like Orangatang, Retro, Abec 11, and Gravity) use premium urethanes that rebound very well. You can also try skating towards cracks in the pavement at angle. If you are moving at 5-10mph and at a 30-45° angle, you should not have a problem going right over the smaller cracks. If you are still having problems, you might consider purchasing new wheels.


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Q:

What is the difference between a “longboard” and a “mini longboard”?

A:

The generic answer to this question is that “longboards” are generally in the 34” to 60” range. Longer longboards are used for long distance, carving/crusing, freeriding and downhill. Mini longboards generally range from 20” to 33”. Mini longboards are used for quick commutes, around campus, and trips to the grocery store. Most mini longboards feature a kick tail for easy maneuverability. Longboarding manufacturers are now manufacturing quality bushings and wheels that give a mini longboards a smooth and more stable ride, much like a (longer) longboard.


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Q:

Should I get slide gloves?

A:

Slide gloves are definitely important for downhill longboarding. If you intend to do slides or ride downhill, we definitely recommend protecting your hands. Slides gloves will help you perform technical slides, drifts, and shut-down slides in the need of an emergency stop.


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Q:

Skateboarding pads are expensive! Do I really need them?

A:

If you plan on reaching high speeds downhill or practicing new slides we recommend that you wear quality protective gear. Good pads like those from The 187 offer quality fastening straps that will secure the pads to your knees and elbows. Having tight fitting pads will prevent slipping when contact to the pavement is made.


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Q:

Do helmets look funny?

A:

Falling is nearly always a surprise in the longboarding world. For that reason, a helmet is important. Pro-Tec B2 Skate helmets are low profile (read as: “less ‘goofy-looking’”) and light weight. They are great for cruising and carving. We recommend that you get a certified race helmet if you intend to race downhill. (And many races and leagues require them!) These helmets offer better protection against injury during heavy impact. Let’s put it simply: Wear a helmet!


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Q:

What are leathers and when do I need them?

A:

If your desired longboarding discipline is downhill racing and technical high speed runs, we would recommend shopping for used motorcycle leathers on eBay, SilverfishLongboarding.com and other online forums. Making contact with the pavement at any speed can cause serious injury to your body: The faster you go, the more severe the injury will be when it happens. Leathers help prevent road rash and other unfortunate impact related events. (If you can, find some leathers with knee and elbow pads to protect your body a bit more.)


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Q:

What does flipping my hanger do and how do i do it?

A:

On most reverse-kingpin trucks the hanger is flat allowing it to be removed and turned over 180 degrees. This changes two important things, first it lowers the ride height of the trucks, secondly it changes the turning characteristics of the trucks by changing how the hanger interacts with the bushings. Generally flipping the hanger will lower ride height and make the trucks less responsive. For most applications the hanger does not need to be flipped.


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Q:

My trucks are squeaking whenever I turn — what is causing this and how do I fix it?

A:

The squeaking is most likely coming from the part of your trucks called the “pivot cup”. It’s caused by friction between the pivot point (found at the base of the truck’s hanger) and the pivot bushing (the plastic cup the pivot point fits in to). To fix it simply take the hanger off of the baseplate and take soap shavings, graphite or surf wax and spread it around in a thin layer on the pivot point. Then reassemble the truck and you’re good to go. If it still squeaks, try a little more wax/soap.


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Q:

Why do I lose control when I go down hills?

A:

If you are attempting to go down steep hills on your longboard, be aware that you may experience "speed wobbles". At higher speeds, the turnability of your trucks is exaggerated and where you place your center of gravity becomes more important. Every slight movement you make while riding down hills will be magnified by your speed, causing your longboard to react differently than if it were still or on flat ground. Over-corrections are a main cause of speed wobbles. There are three reasons why this may occur. The first reason is that the rider is too inexperienced for the hill at hand. Second, the bushings on the longboard are most likely too soft. And third, your back truck may not be tight enough. Anyone of these reasons (or a combination) can be a cause of speed wobbles. Be sure to become very familiar and learn everything you can about your longboard before taking on any new hills. Get to know your setup and how the different bushing and truck combinations feel under your feet. Also, spend time working your way through the grades and gradually increase the difficulty in a hill before attempting high speeds. Ski resorts have green circles, blue squares, and black diamond ratings, but you will have to be the judge of every hill you ride. If you have doubts, take it slow and gradually work your way to where you want to be.


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Q:

Why does my longboard not go straight when it rolls along by itself?

A:

Longboards and their components are designed to be ridden, so it’s not uncommon for longboards to behave differently when not being ridden. If it rides fine while you’re on it, it’s nothing to worry about. But since we’re on the subject of turning boards: The bushings in the longboard trucks are to blame for this odd occurrence. Truck bushings are made of urethane. Bushings are formed into shapes that bend with pressure when leaning. Quality truck bushings will bend back to their natural state and keep the truck aligned. If they do not respond properly, they are most likely low-grade plastic. These bushings should be replaced with Venom, Bones or Khiro bushings. If you are still having issues, you should check your truck hanger to verify that it is not bent and also check to make sure that your washer is not digging into your bushings because of an over-tightened kingpin nut.


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Q:

How do I maintain my longboard?

A:

We recommend that you not ride your skateboard through puddles, rain, or in the sand. As often as you remember to (at least every three months for casual riding) check your bearings and make sure they still spin freely. Replacing your bearings is the simplest and most affordable way to maintain your skateboards performance. Old bushings do flatten and become stiff after time. Do a rebound test on your bushings to make sure the hanger bends back to center properly. With your board sitting grip-tape-down, press down on one of your wheels and let go. If the truck returns to its center position, you’re set. If not, consider replacing your current bushings with some that have a bit more life! It’s a good idea to change your axle and kingpin nuts once a year or after every 6 months if you frequently change your wheels and bushings. Grip tape should be changed only when necessary, but avid longboarders tend to readjust and reapply grip tape frequently.


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Q:

What's the difference between “Reverse-Kingpin” and “Traditional” skateboard trucks?

A:

Reverse-kingpin trucks are named so because the kingpin is located on the opposite side of the axle from traditional skateboard trucks. In terms of performance, the geometry of reverse-kingpin trucks allows them to turn much more efficiently than traditional trucks making them better for carving and quick turning. Reverse-kingpin trucks are taller than traditional skateboard trucks, making the standing platform of the board a little bit higher. Traditional skateboard trucks are more common on boards with kick tails. However, some longboards do work very well with traditional skateboard trucks if adjusted correctly.


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Q:

When do I know I need to get new bearings?

A:

Some bearings do make noise after time. That does not necessarily mean that you should buy new bearings. Check the speed of your wheels by giving them a quick spin. You will know if you need a new set of bearings if the wheels stop suddenly. If your wheels stop suddenly, however, make sure that the axle nuts are not fastened too tightly against the bearing. If the bearings still does not turn after loosening the axle nut, this is an indication that new bearings are needed. The good news is that quality bearings like Bones Reds are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace.


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Q:

How do I clean/maintain my bearings?

A:

Longboard bearings are generally inexpensive. It is much easier to replace your bearings when necessary. Some longboarders purchase more expensive bearings ($28 and up). If this is the case for you, purchase a Bones Cleaning Unit, Speed Cream, and some Acetone (commonly found at a local hardware store). Instructions for cleaning bearings are found all over the internet as well as inside the Bones Cleaning Unit. Note: Adding water-based lubricants (like WD40) to your bearings will attract more dirt to the exterior of the bearings and eventually inside them, too. (At that point you will be no better off than you were before!)


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Q:

Will getting better bearings make me ride faster?

A:

No, but they might help keep you rolling for longer. Wheels play a much larger role in speed than bearings. A wheel that is made by a reputable manufacturer using premium urethane will ultimately out perform an expensive bearing on a cheap wheel. If the urethane in your wheel has no rebound characteristics, it will not pass over cracks and rough surfaces even with the best of all bearings. Wheel size is also an important factor in the speed of your ride. A larger wheel (80mm+) will have slower acceleration, but a higher top speed. Smaller wheels (51mm-66mm) will have a fast acceleration but a lower top speed. Wheels in the 70mm-75mm range will have a good balance between acceleration and top speed. Also, the "hardness" of the urethane plays a role as well. A harder wheel will be faster in a skate park setting but slower in cruising setting because it is slowed down more easily by cracks and rough pavement. A softer wheel will easily roll over those imperfections and maintain speed more effectively.


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Q:

What effect does the wheel’s durometer have on my ride?

A:

Softer wheels (75a-80a) will offer a much smoother ride and tend to have more grip than harder wheels. Harder wheels (95a+) will be faster in park situations but slower in cruising applications. In these cruising applications, they will also grip less and have a much rougher ride. Wheels in the 81a-86a range tend to have a nice balance between grip and slide-ability. It is important to note that the durometer of the wheel you choose depends on the weight of the rider. For general riding and carving purposes, riders between 60-135 lbs. ride wheels with durometers ranging from 75a to 80a. Riders in the range of 100 to 165 lbs. ride a durometer somewhere in the range of 78a to 80a. Riders weighing 150 to 195 lbs. ride a durometer ranging from 80a to 83a. And riders ranging from 175 to 250+ lbs. should ride a durometer somewhere between 83a and 89a.


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Q:

What do you mean by "durometer"?

A:

The hardness on all longboard wheels are measured using a "durometer" which (in this case) is a device that measure the hardness of urethane on a standard “A” scale. The durometer rating itself is a measure of how much pressure it takes to penetrate the surface of a wheel with a small needle using a standard amount of pressure. Street skating and park wheels are usually very hard in the 98a-100a range. Longboarding wheels are usually much softer in the 75a to 89a range. Downhill longboarding wheels, freeride wheels, cruising and carving wheels, and “soft slide wheels” tend to measure from 80a to 86a. Hard slide wheels are typically 97a and above with some wheels even surpassing the 100a rating (the maximum rating possible using the urethane hardness measurement tool).