Many skaters are fanatic about riding their longboard to work every day, commonly traveling distances of a couple of miles to over 10 miles each way. You may be excited about the idea of riding your longboard to the office.
But how do you choose the right longboard for that among the large breadth of longboard types that exist?
The best longboard for commuting should have at least some of these characteristics :
- Pushability: maximum speed and roll with minimum foot pushing effort
- Smoothness: a comfortable ride even on rougher terrain
- Stability at speed: your longboard should not wobble or oversteer
- Maneuverability: able to avoid street obstacles and turn corners
- Portability: you may need to carry your longboard around a lot
- Easy storage: your longboard shouldn’t be too bulky for commuting
Two great examples of longboards that meet the above criteria, each in its own way, are:
- Mini-cruiser: Loaded Ballona (full review) or Landyachtz Dinghy (full review)
- Midsize: Loaded Icarus – full review
- Full size: Loaded Dervish Sama – full review
UPDATE: for midsize, the Loaded Omakase cruiser has now become my go-to longboard for commuting. Its short and super-wide shape (33″ x 10″) makes for very comfortable commuting. The low ride height (for a topmount) facilitates pushing. Comfortable rockered profile and concave. A compact and responsive board for city commutes. A great cruiser for short-to-medium commuting. See my review here.
In this article, I look at how to select the best commuting longboard with the above characteristics. But first, let’s look at some of the reasons you’d want to use a longboard for commuting.
Why use a longboard for commuting?
Longboarding as a means of transportation is very popular, and for good reason: riding a longboard for commuting to work, school, or town will give you an incredible amount of pleasure as well as a fantastic workout on a daily basis.
Commuting on your longboard typically involves gliding along low to the ground, silently and steadily, down long stretches of sidewalk or open road.
If you’re a fit person, this is something you can do in your 40s, 50s or even 60s. Through longboard commuting, you are also likely to have interesting social encounters with other people riding bikes, scooters or inline skates for everyday travel.
Those who commute on their longboard love it because it’s faster than walking, cheaper and more environment-friendly than driving, and more convenient than a bike.
Many new riders also ask which of skateboard vs. longboard is best suited for commuting. If you’re asking yourself the same question, you can check out this post, it should help you sort things out.
How do longboards compare to bikes for commuting?
Well for one thing, in many areas biking on sidewalks is against the law – or campus rules in college. Longboards, on the other hand, are often allowed or tolerated.
Bicycles are often bulkier (though you can get a pricey foldable one) and less convenient than a longboard for walking up to an apartment. At work, school or shops, you usually need to lock it up outside the building, which takes more time.
Your bike may also get stolen – happens a lot. Your longboard, on the other hand, is easy to carry around everywhere, and easy to stow away under your desk or in a closet.
Bikes also have more components than longboards, which require less maintenance.
Bicycles do have some advantages over longboards for commuting, however. Bikes are more efficient for riding long distance, namely uphill. They do better on dirt and rough ground. They are also overall more maneuverable than longboards.
All in all, longboard commuting has its advantages, but it’s not for everyone. The fantastic surfing feeling you get on a longboard has to outweigh the lower riding efficiency on rougher surfaces.
Which techniques do you need for commuting on a longboard?
If you plan to do long, 5-10 mile commutes, you’ll need to be good at long-distance pushing and long-distance pumping.
Pushing long-distance requires you to squat repeatedly on your front leg standing your longboard, and reaching down to the ground with your back foot to kick push. If you push “mongo”, it’s the other way around: your rear foot steers the board while you’re pushing with your front leg.
Pushing at a sustained pace for a long duration and over large distances can be a demanding exercise, typically more strenuous than normal biking.
Hardcore sustained pushing requires strong balancing skills as you need to maintain your center of gravity stable while kicking hard on the ground and then reaching out far with your kick leg for stronger impulses. These movements significantly engage your core muscles including abs, lumbar muscles, hips/psoas, glutes, and legs.
The most seasoned longboard commuters learn to “skog” (skate + jog), pushing alternatively with both legs, making the commuting akin to running. Doing so reduces the muscle imbalances and asymmetrical straining associated with single-leg pushing. Read more about distance skating here.
Long-distance pumping is a more advanced way of moving on flat ground, even uphill, without pushing. You create energy by swaying your body back and forth, shifting your body weight into toes and heels to perform successive turns and gain speed.
Experienced longboard commuters with well-suited longboard setups are able to go for miles on flat without setting foot on the floor. with a lot of practice, you learn to lock in a pace and your body motion gets in tune with your longboard’s momentum. Some even say it’s a meditative type of experience.
Long-distance pumping involves a very specific set of techniques that are similar to the discipline of slalom, although slaloming is about weaving back and forth between obstacles at a high speed, whereas LDP focuses on traveling on your longboard through pumping.
I find long-distance pumping fascinating and have gotten into it myself. Check out my in-depth post about the very special style of longboard pumping.
If you commute on your longboard you’d better know how to stop! If all or part of your commute occurs in narrow road shoulders and/or moving traffic, it’s vital that you master foot breaking, dragging your foot to the ground to shed speed.
If you do long commutes on your longboard, your path may go through some mild or not-so-mild hills. On small slopes, you can usually get by through foot braking or hopping off and running out your board.
For bigger inclines, sliding/speed checks is a more effective way to control your speed, but it’s also a more advanced skill that requires a good amount of practice. You’ll also need enough space to throw a slide, and you definitely don’t want to do it in heavy traffic.
Check out this post for more about how to stop on your longboard.
When longboard commuting you should give preference to bike paths and back roads with lower traffic. You can also choose sidewalks if they’re in better shape with fewer cracks and holes.
Wherever you ride, make sure to always warn pedestrians you ride by through waving or talking. And do look around before you ride off a sidewalk to cross a street.
Characteristics of the best longboards for commuting
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the ideal attributes you should look for in a commuting longboard. Finding all these attributes in a single board, however, is nearly impossible because there are some obvious tradeoffs. Let’s quickly go over these capabilities.
You want a commuter board that’s easy to push, i.e. you want the best speed and mileage for your push impulses, with minimal sweat. The most pushable longboards are the ones with :
Low riding deck: by riding closer to the ground, your pushing leg will need to bend less (less squatting) for your foot to reach the ground. Drop-through decks, drop platform, and double drop boards are the lowest (click here for more info on mount types).
Some special long-distance push boards are made of a carbon-fiberglass mix that is highly efficient at transferring your energy into board motion.
Large wheels and good bearings will get you rolling faster longer on a single push. Get wheels with at least 70 mm in diameter for commuting, ideally 75-76 mm.
Soft wheels: besides being larger, you want your commuting wheels soft enough, e.g 78A durometer, so they comfortably go over road, pavement and sidewalk irregularities such as cracks and drain covers and absorb variations.
Quality bearings will also make your riding smoother by reducing friction.
Board length also impacts comfort. Longer boards have a lower resonant frequency which absorbs the energy of small obstacles. The distance between your feet and the bearings also helps absorb that obstacle energy.
Stability vs maneuverability
If you commute long distances, you will go fast on some long flat or downhill stretches. Board length and wheelbase are important factors for stability at speed. Boards 40″ or longer are more stable and less likely to wobble at speed.
For stability, you’ll want tight trucks that don’t steer too much.
On the other hand, if you commute primarily through congested city areas and crowded sidewalks, you may need the agility and turnability of a shorter board for maneuvering through crowds. Small boards are in the 28″ to 32″ range.
Cruiser boards can be a good middle-ground for urban riding. They’re typically 32 to 38″ long, with a kicktail to help you jump on and off curbs. More maneuverable than full-sized longboards yet more stable than super-short boards.
For urban commuting, you’ll also need trucks with decent turning radius and responsiveness. You can get carving trucks like Gullwing Sidewinder, Randal, Seismic, Indy or Bear trucks.
Besides length, board height also affects maneuvrability – higher = more maneuvrable. Cruisers are usually topmount and hence higher to the ground than regular push boards. We’ve seen low decks are best for pushing, but there’s a turnability tradeoff. So your choice will really depend on your commute mix (urban / road / long distance).
Portability and storability
One important thing you need to consider when choosing the best longboard for commuting is how portable it is.
If you’re riding across the city, you’ll often need to pick up your board and walk some before you can get back on it.
If your commuting involves running errands, you’ll be carrying your longboard inside stores. If you just commute to and from work, you may still have some walking or stair climbing to do at each end of the commute.
Smaller boards are usually lighter, longer boards heavier – except for carbon boards which can be lightweight despite their length. Again, this is a tradeoff: longer boards are a hassle to carry and stow away, but they’re a far nicer ride for open long-distance commuting.
So if you plan to haul your longboard around a lot, you probably shouldn’t go for a deck longer than 40″, though some riders have no trouble carrying their 50″ longboard into stores and restaurants.
3 recommended longboards for commuting
If you’ve read this far, by now you’ve learned that just like for longboards in general, there is no single best longboard for commuting. It all depends on your usage pattern, personal choices, and tradeoffs.
Below is my personal selection of a few models I find good options for commuting on, from small and nimble for city commutes to bigger and highly pushable for longer distances :
- Landyachtz Dinghy: a quality 28.5″ inner city cruiser and commuter. Many riders love this mini cruiser for city transportation and campus cruising: small, lightweight, very agile, fast and easy to stow. detailed review here.
UPDATE: the Loaded Ballona is the Dinghy’s new great challenger for nimble sidewalk commuting. It offers a more comfortable and easier commuting experience – see my complete review.
- Loaded Icarus: a technically advanced commuting and carving board with outstanding pumping and turning capabilities. It can accommodate huge wheels, yet it has a relatively portable 38″ size and is surprisingly lightweight due to its construction. It was intriguing enough to grant a full review.
UPDATE: the Loaded Omakase has now become my new go-to cruiser for mixed urban and mid-distance commuting! Check out my full review here.
- Loaded Dervish Sama: a bigger board (42″) than the Icarus, very comfortable for distance commuting and cruising, including for older / bigger / heavier riders. Its deck is somewhat flexy yet very pushable. One caveat for everyday transportation is it’s a little big to carry around. Very durable, high-end and higher-priced. See it here on Loaded’s site.
Commuting on your longboard can be a fantastic experience that allows you to stay/get fit while having a great time in an environment-friendly and even social-rich way. With practice, a good commuter longboard will get you to your destination fast and will be much easier to carry and store at work or school than a bicycle.
Choosing the best commuter longboard for you is a question of tradeoffs, as you need to balance out things such as stability and pushing comfort, turnability and maneuverability, and portability. These choices reflect on the size and weight and ride height of the board you choose, the type of trucks and the wheel size and hardness.
Featured photo: “The Gritty City Pusher” by @ChristianRosillo – Rider: @JongbinJo – Permission: Loaded Boards
Photo: “The Fastest You Can Push” by @ChristianRosillo; Rider: @Ari_shark (Loaded Boards)