Cheap Longboard Skateboards: Why Buying Cheap is a Bad Idea

Photo provided by three_if_by_bike under creative commons
Photo provided by three_if_by_bike under creative commons | Source

I have spent hours trawling the internet trying to find the best deals, and consulted with skateboard shop owners and experienced skateboarders, even a friend of Tom Penny’s! And the answer is simple: buying cheap skateboards whether they are longboards or the regular kind, is a bad idea.

The short answer to why you shouldn’t buy cheap longboard skateboards

Longboards are made of many parts, but the simplest way of looking at them is deck, trucks and wheels. The rest is fine tuning. Cheap longboards have their ‘cheapness’ spread across all these three areas. Cheap decks crack or even snap, and may risk wheel bit that risks serious injury; cheap trucks snap or actually aren’t wide enough to provide the stability you need for longboarding, which is down-hill, carving, simple longboard tricks, or even pumping; cheap wheels don’t spin as well so you don’t get a cruising longboard; and you don’t get the right softness or size for rolling over cracks if you don’t spend money.

In other words, buying cheap won’t get you a board that you want to ride, or even can ride, so it’ll just sit there.

What to look for in a longboard deck

There are three sorts of deck, if you omit Sector 9’s hybrid. These are pin tails which look like a surf board; regular, which very much look like a traditional skateboard deck; and drop throughs. After this there are various warps and curves which are designed to give you better stability at speed and manoeuvrability. If you are looking for speed, then go for a dropthrough as it takes you nearer the floor which is great for foot braking and more stability. Also there are some which curve downwards though aren’t so suitable for carving as you can get edge bite where the board edge hits the road on a slide and will tip you off.

If you are looking to pump a board then a shorter wheel base is best. Don’t think a shorter board means a shorter wheel base though. Pumping is best done on a slalom board, which has a shorter wheel base, but that requires a bit more effort. Once you get rolling, then a longer board is fine, you need to be cruising on a longboard at around 5mph before you can pump. For pumping a longboard you need a deck with less flex in it.

What to look for in Longboard trucks

The trucks are a combination of bushings and width, on the whole. Depending on which forums you read, some make of trucks are favoured over others. As I got confused with this I had a chat with our local skateboard shop owner, who told me that much of the conversation was simply about personal preference, and when it came down to it any of the major brands was fine. Really you want something that will take the pounding, so that’s why you don’t want to skimp on price. As he advised me, the price is split equally between the deck and the trucks; but the deck will wear out quickest. Spend the most money on the trucks and you can move them from deck to deck, and even replace the wheels. Save the money on the trucks and you’ll end up regretting it because you’ll have to pay for the whole board.

Look to shell out around $100/£60GBP on the trucks.

Second thing is the width of the trucks. Don’t just get skateboard trucks and assume they’ll be fine, they won’t. Longboard trucks are wider for stability.

Finally you are looking at the bushings for different purposes. Basically these parts wear out quick. The softer they are, the more easily the trucks will turn: combine this with how loose you go on the trucks. But take care because on some boards if you go too far you will get wheel bite, and once you start getting up any speed a sudden wheel bite will pitch you off. That’s like a head on crash at 30mph or more. This is one reason why some boards are cutouts which, whilst making it look slightly odd and in my opinion not as nice as a pintail, actually are far better for bombing hills or carving.

The good news is that bushings are really cheap, so you can mess around with different types until you find the one you want.

Longboard Wheels

The wheels of a longboard are a combination of bearings and the wheel itself. Ok, keep your bearings on your longboard well maintained: clean them and don’t take your board out in the rain! On the outside are wheels that are somewhat bigger than skateboard wheels. 7.8cm seem to be the largest diameter I have seen, but on cheaper longboard completes they go down to 7cm. The reason for the larger size is to help roll over the cracks in the road. After that comes the softness of the wheel. The softer the wheel the better it will stick to the road, which is great for carving and pumping. The harder it is, the better for sliding which is more appropriate for downhilling, and, as it happens, stopping. On a longboard travelling at speed the idea of skateboard ‘running it off’ when you’re travelling fast is madness. Of all the ways of stopping, though it is complex, pulling into a slide is the best way of stopping.

So, tell me again why I can’t buy cheap…and how much can I expect to pay?

It’s my opinion that you can’t get a board which meets all of these specs for less than £100. And that really is the bottom end. If you go cheaper you start to share the cost amongst the components, which inevitably means cutting corners. If you get a standard 7ply maple deck then the glues might not be so good. A bamboo deck is certainly going to swallow more than that budget. And if the deck costs that much, then the trucks and wheels are going to be significantly inferior.

To get a reasonable starter longboard complete then £150 is nearer the mark. For that you will get something that you will be able to progress with until you decide to go further into the sport.

So in the end, don’t skimp.

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