If you just got a longboard, or ready to order one, you may ask yourself whether you should get riser pads along with your deck or custom setup.
If you’re getting a longboard complete, risers may already be included in your stock setup. If not, chances are you won’t need risers for simply cruising. However, you may need to add risers if you’re switching to bigger wheels, if you’re a heavier rider, or if you ride really hard.
There are a few factors that affect whether or not risers are required for your longboard, including your deck shape and features, your wheels and trucks setup, your riding style, and your own size and weight.
In this post, I dig deep into when and why you may need to add riser pads to your longboard setup.
What are risers for?
The first function of risers is to prevent wheel bite – which is when your wheels rub against the bottom side of your deck during turns. Wheel bite can stop your board dead in its tracks and send you flying – definitely something to avoid at all cost.
Your longboard needs to have enough wheel clearance to allow your trucks to turn without the deck touching the wheels. Risers are placed between the deck and the trucks to lift the deck a bit further up and away from the wheels. Risers typically come in 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2″ thickness.
There are two types of risers: hard plastic pads and soft rubber “shock pads”. While hard pads are meant for clearance and are usually thicker, rubber shock pads are thinner and primarily used for vibration and impact dampening when riding.
Soft shock pads can help make your longboard slightly less wobbly and reduce the toe numbing vibrations you get when riding on rough pavement.
While some riders like to add shock pads on their board, I personally don’t feel a very big difference in terms of vibration damping on rough pavement. What works much better for me is running bigger, softer wheels e.g. 70mm or even 85mm. These make my ride a lot smoother and will roll over any cracks or rock.
That said, depending on your setup, running bigger wheels will often require adding thicker hard riser pads to maintain clearance and avoid wheel bite.
Another key use of risers is to avoid having the metal baseplate of your trucks directly mounted against the wood of your deck. Adding pads between the metal and the deck helps protect the wood. An alternative though is to use washers between the bolts and the deck.
Longboard makers usually pay close attention to wheel bite on their stock completes and do a lot of testing for that, so they’ll generally include risers in their completes if necessary.
Whether or not you need additional risers depends on how close your longboard deck is to your wheels and to the ground, how much you weigh, how loose your trucks are, and other factors. Let’s look at these factors a bit closer.
Riser factor: deck shape
The shape of your deck will affect the potential need for risers. Some decks sit on top of the wheels with the width of the deck covering a big portion of the wheels. This can result in wheel bite when you lean into turns.
In contrast, other decks have large wheel cutouts so the wheels mostly stick out from the sides of the deck. These decks have good clearance and are less prone to wheel bite and are less likely to require risers unless you run huge wheels.
Another key aspect of a longboard shape with regards to clearance is wheel wells / wheel flares. Wheel wells are small channels sanded around the wheels on the bottom side of the deck that give the wheel some clearance in turns.
Wheel flares on the other hand are slightly raised sections of the deck contour above the wheels. Flares tend to provide even more wheel clearance for bigger wheels.
The presence of wheel wells and/or flares on a longboard deck increases wheel clearance and reduces the risk of wheel bite and the need for risers.
See also: What Size Longboard Skateboard Should I Get?
Riser factor: mount style
On a topmount deck, your feet often sit atop (or near) the truck mounts, resulting in more leverage in turns and more deck lean. This in turn increases the risk of your deck touching the wheels, so risers may be required for clearance depending on your setup (keep reading).
Also, topmount decks are often cruiser (surfboard like) shapes, which means the deck partly covers the wheels as discussed in the previous section.
On drop-through decks on the other hand, trucks are mounted through holes cut inside the deck. On most drop-throughs, the foot platform, and hence your feet, sits between the trucks mounts (as opposed to on top of them).
This reduces the amount of leverage and deck lean, and hence the chance of wheel rub.
Also, most drop-throughs are associated with large cutout shapes, further reducing the need for risers.
Drop deck setups are drop-through with a lowered platform. These also don’t often need risers due to their cutout shapes and dropped foot platform, which tend to keep the wheels away from the deck:
One exception is, if you’re riding on bumpy roads, you may choose to add risers to avoid the bottom of your deck (which rides quite low) touching the ground when riding over bumps.
Some riders also like to have rubber pads on their drop-through longboard for some shock absorption resulting in a smoother ride, and to help reduce the rattling on some drop-throughs.
Some argue that shock pads will also reduce stress on the drop slots and lessen the risk of the wood splitting or breaking at the thinner mount points (“deck wings”).
Some riders also use rubber pads instead of metal washers to protect the mount points from getting damaged by the bolts – even though they will lower the ride slightly.
It’s important to note than, on a drop-through, pads will actually lower your deck instead of raising it since the pads are fitted between the deck’s top side and the truck baseplates which sit above the deck.
Riser factor: deck flex & wheelbase
The amount of flex in your deck also affects the risk of wheel bite and the potential need for risers. Flexier decks bend more and have more torsional flex, increasing the chance of the deck bottom rubbing against the wheels in hard turns.
Therefore, all other things being equal (rider weight, deck size, wheel and truck setup) a flexy deck like the Loaded Chinchiller will have greater chance of wheel bite than a stiff one, e.g. the Poke.
On a flexy deck with multiple wheelbase options, choosing the shorter option will reduce the amount of flex felt in turns and possibly allow for thinner risers, all other things held equal. See this section for how we reduced wheel bite issues on the Mata Hari with the huge Dad Bod wheels.
Riser factor: rider build
The heavier the rider, the higher the chance of wheel bite, as the deck will deform more, increasing the risk of it rubbing against the wheels. Heavier riders often need to add hard risers to increase wheel clearance. You can also switch to harder bushings and tighten your trucks a bit more.
Shoe size can also affect the need for riser pads, not because of wheel bite but for “shoe bite”. If you wear a large shoe size and your deck is relatively narrow (like on the Chinchiller or the Coyote), your feet might stick out too much and touch the ground in tight turns.
Making the ride higher by slapping on a set of 1/4″ or 1/2″ risers can solve the problem by increasing the distance between your feet and the ground.
Riser factor: wheel size
Wheel size is obviously a key factor affecting the need for risers. The larger the wheels, the more chance of them rubbing against the bottom of your longboard deck in turns.
A good example of this is when trying to fit huge 105mm Orangatang Dad Bod wheels onto a deck. With the Mata Hari, 1/2″ risers helped some but were not enough to remove wheel bite completely due to the high flex, we also had to play with washers and bushings – again, see here for more on this.
Likewise, the Ballona mini-cruiser with stock setup runs wheel bite-free with 1/2″ risers, restrictive Nipple bushings, and a cup washer roadside.
Here’s an extract from Loaded’s longboard setup guide that shows recommended riser sizes for a few combinations of Loaded decks + Orangatang wheels:
|DECK / WHEELS||65mm|
|Dervish Sama 42.8″||1/16″||1/16″||1/16″||1/16″|
Riser factor: truck looseness
Running looser trucks will increase deck lean and chance of wheel bite, all other things being equal. You may run 1/4″ risers which will make your board higher off the ground, but if your trucks are very loose you might still get wheel bite when leaning into turns.
Factors that affect how loose your trucks include your baseplate angle (e.g. 50º, 40º, etc), your bushings durometer, and how tight your kingpin is set. To reduce wheel bite without getting thicker risers, you can get harder bushings and/or tighten up your kingpin nut.
Be aware that tightening your kingpin too much can result in the bushings being popping out of their socket and hence becoming very loose.
See also: How to mount your longboard trucks?
Riser factor: riding style
The way you ride also greatly affects wheel bite and your possible need for risers:
Cruising / pushing
For cruising and distance pushing, you generally want a lower ride for comfort, so you may choose to run only thin “shock pad” risers for some vibration absorption, provided your wheel size is in the ballpark for your deck shape.
For long distance speed, you might also opt for big wheels e.g. 75 to 85mm, e.g. the Orangatang Caguamas which are particularly awesome for distance pushing. However, their sheer size will likely require some risers – see table above.
For harder carved turns, rider pads will increase the distance between your deck and wheel and help prevent wheel bite. The size of risers you need again depends on your deck, setup, weight, etc.
Wedged risers can also help turn radius and stability in hard carves – see “Pumping” below.
If you’re just learning to slide, a lower deck will make it easier for you, so you should run risers as thin as possible to prevent wheel bite. For regular slides (as opposed to high-speed drifting) you normally don’t lean the deck all the way, so wheel clearance is generally not an issue.
On the other hand, downhill riders often run risers for higher ground clearance at speed, namely to avoid their deck grinding against the road in toe side drifts. Riders also like to run tall risers for the added cornering power at speed they get from a taller setup.
Pumping & slalom
Angled risers can geometrically alter the steering angle of your trucks. You can increase turn significantly on your front truck e.g. by adding 12º to the angle, and reduce it in the rear truck (e.g. -15º) for more grip and stability. The resulting setup generates a lot of speed by pumping through turns.
Check out my article on longboard pumping for an in-depth look into this great discipline.
Freestyle setups usually have smaller (55 to 62mm) and harder wheels, so risers are generally not required for clearance.
That said, some hardcore tricks involve hard landings and leaning, so the standard wheel clearance for a setup may be put to test in some extreme situations.
Small risers also allow you to bring your board to a steeper angle during kick tricks and provide more leverage and pop on the tail. This can make some tricks easier to perform.
The main drawback of running risers is that they increase your ride height, which leads to a bit more effort for pushing and may result in a slightly less stable ride at speed. On the other hand, higher setups tend to be more responsive and turny/carvy.
If a low ride height is important to you, an alternative to risers for preventing wheel bite is to get harder bushings relative to your weight. You can also experiment with bushing shape (e.g. cone vs barrel). I will dive deeper into the topic of bushings in a future post.