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How Fast Can You Go on a Longboard ?

How Fast Can You Go on a Longboard ?

Longboarding is an awesome way to move around, much faster than walking.  Longboards are typically faster than skateboards due to their larger wheelbase (distance between trucks) and bigger wheels.

Just how fast can you go on a longboard ? Longboarding speed typically ranges from 6 mph when cruising, to 50-65 mph when downhill riding. 

You actual speed will depend on your riding style, your ability to push and pump, the kind of slope you ride on, your weight, the board you’re riding, your speed tuck, and how well you can brake !

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Longboarding speed range

When pushing around town for transportation, you’ll usually get to cruising speeds of 5 to 14 mph.  If you carve down a hill, depending on how steep the hill is, your speed may go up to anywhere between 30 and 50 mph.

More advanced riders engaging in downhill racing push their speed in the 50s range, up to 65 mph for the most serious.  These speeds may seem unimpressive when driving a car, but become much scarier when you think about someone standing on a small wood deck mounted on urethane wheels.

Extreme downhill riders are able to reach speeds in the 80s and even 90s mph range.

Longboarding speed and weight

How fast you can go on a longboard is also a factor of weight.

You may think lighter means faster, but in longboard racing, a heavier rider (with experience) actually has an advantage in straight lines.  He/she and may be able to outspeed lighter riders by as much as 10-15 mph.

Between two riders using the same tuck position, the heavier rider is usually faster on a straight track.  The rider’s mass maintains more speed and counters air resistance, which more than makes up for the stronger wheels friction due by more weight.

In curves, however, a heavier rider may lose speed to a lighter rider with equivalent skills, as it’s harder for the former to hold the line without sliding out (makes him/her slow down).

The longboard weight is not a big determining factor in speed – although lighter riders sometimes choose heavier boards to partially make up for their disadvantage against bigger riders.

The speed boarding tuck

A fundamental aspect of speed riding is your tucking technique (aka the tuck).  Tucking is a position you get in on your longboard to minimize your body’s air resistance, making yourself aerodynamic.  Your tuck is a key determinant of how fast you can go on your longboard.

The best tuck for minimizing your frontal profile when riding at high speed is to tuck your back knee behind your front knee while leaning into your front thigh, with your arms tucked behing your back.

There are other variations to this tuck (the “American” tuck) :

  • back knee behind front ankle – back curved, lower position, harder to hold for a long time
  • back knee against your front calf
  • back knee onto the board deck behind your front knee – not so good for air profile, but restful for long  rides.

Mastering your tuck is important if your goal is to ride faster downhill on your longboard.  Wearing an elongated helmet and a good leather speed suit will also help reduce air friction and improve speed (in addition to saving your life).

Gaining speed on flat ground

How fast can get on your longboard when not riding slopes ? The speed you can achieve depends on two things : your pushing skills and your pumping skills.

To gain decent initial speed you need to perform an effective push.  The secret to an efficient push lies in a stable body position :  as your lower foot drops to the floor to push off, your back should remain straight and your shoulders and hips should keep facing forward (no rotation).

After the initial impulse, you need to start pumping to maintain and build up speed.  Pumping is a fantastic technique that involves shifting your weight from one rail (edge) of your board to the other, making successive turns, impulsing power and speed to your longboard in each turn.

If you master pumping, you can go relatively fast on your longboard through successive body weight shifts, without setting foot on the ground, be it on flat land or very mild slopes.  Click here to learn about the carving riding style.

Braking at speed

How fast you can go on your longboard is closely ties to how quickly and reliably you can stop.  Thus braking is an essential aspect of riding fast on a longboard.

The most basic way to stop is foot braking, that is, dragging your foot on the ground in order to lose speed through friction. Obviously, this works at low speeds, but you shouldn’t rely on foot braking when riding downhill at speeds above 20 mph .  Also, foot braking will destroy even the sturdiest shoes very fast.

Sliding is a very effective way to reduce speed and even to stop.  The better you can slide, the faster you’ll be comfortable riding on your longboard.  Sliding, however, is technical and often considered an advanced skill.

Sliding invoves pushing your longboard sideways, perpendicular to the slope instead of facing downhill, so the wheels lose grip and start sliding sideways (skidding instead of rolling).  The strong friction of the wheels against the ground will make your board lose speed fast.

Various types of slides are used in different situations, e.g. to control descent speed (speed check), before a sharp turn, or for a full stop (shutdown).

Other ways to stop include sit braking, which involves sitting on the deck and putting down both feet on the ground.  Mastering more advanced braking techniques will give you the confidence to go faster on your longboard.

Longboards for speed

If you want to go fast on your longboard, you need a board designed for speed.  When it comes to speed, there are two important characteristics for a longboard  :  stability and turning abilility.

If the board can’t turn you lose more speed in curves, affecting how fast the longboard can go overall.

Stability vs speed is a tradeoff.  If you’re a beginner speed rider, you’ll want a more stable board, and you’ll go for a drop platform or a drop through deck (click here for explanations).  With both types you ride lower, with your center of gravity closer to the ground, making it more stable.

Drop through and drop deck boards are often bigger and heavier.  They provide more comfortable and secure foot placement for going fast.  They also allow for bigger wheels (faster).

The most famous example of downhill longboard is probably the Landyachtz Evo (Amazon), which has won many contests, or the Switchblade (on Amazon), another good stable option.

On the other hand, big and heavy longboards are also harder to turn, including for sliding.

More advanced speed longboarders sometimes prefer smaller boards with topmount decks (trucks mounted under the deck), which are higher off the ground and thus less stable but more responsive to turns.

Wheel choice is also important for going fast : bigger wheels (75 to 85mm) go faster, and sharper wheels have better grip at speed.  But big wheels also cause wheel bite on many topmounts, unless the deck is elevated – which makes it even more unstable and best suited for more advanced riders.

Dealing with speed wobbles

A very common problem you may encounter with going fast on your longboard is wobbling – your longboard starts to swirl back and forth like crazy without you apparently doing anything.

Wobbles typically start when you reach a certain speed as you overcorrect your course following slight turning caused by bumps or cracks.  As a result, you correct your deck lean too much, leading to a larger turn in the opposite direction – and so on.

Wobbling is even more present on highly reactive and fast turning boards such as topmount boards, and less so on bigger, lower, more stable boards like drop decks / drop throughs – although the latter may also start wobbling at higher speeds.

To fix the problem, you may be tempted to tighten your trucks to make them harder to turn, and reduce your truck angles to make the board less turning for a given amount of deck lean.  However, these measures may just postpone the problem, which can kick back in at higher speeds.

In reality, the wobbling caused by your constant overcorrections results from not controlling your front truck when riding fast, since the front truck is what initiates turning.

Less experienced longboarders tend to lean too far back in their tuck, with their weight too much over the rear truck when at high speed, making for lower control over the front truck.

Leaning forward, lowering your center of gravity, and pushing your weight closer to the front truck will greatly reduce wobbling.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, you can go fast, or even very fast on your longboard.  You can just cruise or carve around at speeds around 5-14 mph, or you can take to the hills with the big boys and hit speeds in the 50s or much higher.

To do this however, you’ll need the right skills (tucking, braking), the right speed board, and of course the right protective gear.

Photo credits :
Featured image Bo Peep 2012 19The1Keith (CC-BY-SA-4.0)