Longboard Buying Guide: Downhill
Since the advent of the skateboard in the 1950s, racing has been a staple part of skateboarding culture. Bragging rights and a hunger for adrenaline have pushed downhill skateboarders to race each other down the fastest, most technical hills in the world. Over the years, innovators have found that longer decks, soft urethane wheels, and wide trucks are better suited for handling the ever-rising speeds that downhill racers manage to achieve. The longboard market has recently exploded with new companies producing components for downhill longboards. Read this guide to help you through choosing your first downhill longboard.
Choosing Your Downhill Wheels
Covered in this Section (in order of importance)
Sharp lip, more grip
Grab a wheel in the 70-81mm range
Depends on your weight, but the 74-86a range is a good place to stay
Offset wheels will provide a good balance between speed and grip
Wider wheels lend more grip and can maintain a higher roll speed
1. Choosing Lip Profile
There are a multitude of factors that play into what makes up a good downhill wheel. To simplify things a bit, we are going to tell you to stick with a sharp-lipped wheel for your downhill setup. Why is this? Having sharp lips on a wheel will give you much more grip without sacrificing the wheel’s ability to slide. Beyond this, we will leave it up to you to determine which diameter (“Size"), durometer, bearing seat, and width are best for you. All of these varying factors come together to make up what will either be a good or not-so-good downhill wheel. (The quality of urethane also plays a big part in how a wheel performs, but we’ll just assume everything you see on our site is worth looking at.)
2. Choosing Diameter
As a general rule, wheels in the 70-81mm diameter range will be the ideal size for a downhill wheel. Smaller wheels run the risk of wearing out too quickly (from all those crazy predrifts you’ll be doing to navigate those awesome canyon runs). Larger wheels will be more likely to wheelbite. However, it must be noted that larger wheels generally keep a higher degree of traction around turns and are favored by many riders for this reason. A 72mm wheel like the 72mm Sector 9 Race Formulas is a good compromise between these different sizes.
3. Choosing Durometer
The durometer is a measure of how soft the urethane in the wheel is. As a general rule, soft wheels (lower durometer) will grip better and are highly favored for downhill riding. 80a is a great durometer for your first downhill wheel, because it gives you a nice balance of high grip with relatively long wheel life. After trying an 80a wheel, you will know whether you want a lower durometer (grippy wheel) or a higher durometer (long-lasting wheel). If you’re over 180 lbs or so, you may want to consider a wheel in the 83a+ range. (A softer wheel may feel sluggish for you. I’m sure you don’t want that... You wanna go fast, right?!)
4. Choosing Core Placement
A difference in a wheel’s core placement (how far to the side a wheel’s bearings are positioned) can change the feel of how a wheel breaks into (or returns from) a slide. There are essentially three options for core placement: centerset, sideset, and offset. Centerset wheels may be favored by downhill riders who do a significant amount of sliding. Sideset wheels offer smoother slide initiation, but tend to wear down more quickly. Offset wheels seem to have the best of both worlds and, all-in-all, have the greatest number of advantages for downhill riding. You can’t go wrong with an offset wheel.
5. Choosing Wheel Width
A wider wheel is going to give extra grip around corners, so we recommend that you start out with a wheel wider than at least 50mm. Going with a narrower wheel may leave you sliding out wide on corners. On the other end, a wheel that is wider than 60mm (+/-) will be difficult to slide out when you want to lose some speed.