choosing the right longboard for me

How to Choose the Right Longboard for Me : A Simple Guide

Featured image : Vector Design by Vecteezy

Are you struggling to choose the right longboard for you ? Feeling lost in the dense jungle of longboard options available on the market ? Getting dizzy looking at the huge choice of decks all shapes and sizes, the many sorts of trucks, the countless types of wheels ?

Finding the right longboard setup requires deciding how you’re going to ride your longboard.  A longboard is the sum of its components, so choosing a longboard amounts to picking the right components, which in turn depends a lot on exactly what you’ll want to do on your longboard.

You need to know your own style of riding.  Are you mainly going to be cruising and carving ? Commuting ? Traveling long distances ? Freeriding or speed skating downhill ? Doing tricks and riding bowls ? Dancing ?

Once you know why, how, and where you’ll be riding, you have a good starting point for choosing the features you really need, including which shape, which trucks, and which wheels.

Of course, your riding style alone will not entirely determine the kind of longboard that’s right for you.  Your environment, your physical build, your experience and learning ability, and your preferences also play a major role.

In the following section, I’ll briefly go through the most important features to consider when choosing a longboard and how they can affect your riding.

Then, we’ll look specifically at each riding style.  Based on my own experience and knowledge, I’ll give you the best recap I can come up with regarding the setups that work best for each style.

Choosing the right longboard for you : what to look for ?

Here’s a quick rundown of the key features to look at when choosing the right longboard for you :

  • Deck size & wheelbase : the bigger the deck and the longer the wheelbase, the more stable the board, and the more speed it can handle without wobbles.  Larger boards, however, typically have a larger turning radius.
    Choosing the right longboard - deck length & wheelbase
  • Deck height : distance between the deck and the ground.  It affects the riding feel of the longboard.  Higher decks are harder to push / brake on (more distance for the foot) and less stable.  Lower decks (e.g. dropped decks) are more pushable and stable.
    choosing the right longboard for you - deck height
  • Mount type : topmounts (deck is mounted on top of the trucks) have more wheel leverage and are more responsive.  Drop-through decks (trucks are mounted through the deck) are lower to the ground and more stable.
    choosing the right longboard for you - mount type
  • Deck flex & profile : flexier decks (fewer maple plies, bamboo) are good for carving and pumping, not so good for speed.  Camber (upward curvature) and rocker (downward curvature) also affect flex and bounce.
    choosing the right longboard for you - deck profile
  • Deck concave and kicks  : foot pockets allow foot lock-in, good for carving, freeriding, and freestyle, not so good for cruising and dancing.  Kicktails are important for freestyle and street cruising.choosing the right longboard for you - concave
    choosing the right longboard for you - kicks
    Loaded Poke
  • Truck style : reverse kingpin (RKP) trucks, which are higher up and well turning, work best for most riding styles.  Traditional kingpin trucks (TKP) are good for freestyle tricks and sometimes downhill racing.
    choosing the right longboard for you - truck style
  • Truck width & angle : most trucks are either 150mm wide (for decks < 8.5″) or 180mm wide (decks > 8.5″).  Baseplate angle , i.e. the angle between deck and pivot, affects lean vs turn : how much the deck needs to lean to make the wheels turn.  This is particularly important for carving, pumping and freeriding.
    choosing the right longboard for you - baseplate angle
  • Bushings : bushings play a key part in suspension and turning ability.  Choose hardness based on your weight.  Softer bushings can be good for carving and pumping, harder bushings are better for tricks.
  • Wheel diameter and lip profile : bigger wheels roll faster – but require a deck with good wheel clearance.  Squared lips provide more grip than rounded lips, while rounded lips are easier to slide.
    choosing the right longboard for you - lip profile
  • Wheel durometer : harder wheels roll faster on smooth surfaces, soft wheels roll better on rough surfaces.  Harder wheels are easier to slide, softer wheels have more grip.  Softer wheels offer better suspension.
  • Bearings : better bearings can get your wheels rolling for much longer with a single push.  Ceramic bearings are the most frictionless but are expensive.  Normal bearings can work fine if you keep them clean and lubed.

 

OK, now that we understand the kind of features to take into account when choosing the right longboard for you, let’s move on to discussing the most appropriate feature mix for your own riding style.

Choosing the right longboard to cruise and carve on

Cruising refers to relaxed, leisurely pushing around on your longboard at slow speed.  When cruising, you want to be able to look around without worrying about losing your balance or constantly avoiding pebbles and cracks in the ground.

Carving involves a more dynamic riding style through continuous turns, shifting your weight back and forth and playing with the terrain to carve imaginary curves, similar to snowboarding.

Choosing the right deck shape & style

Most shapes will work for cruising and carving :

  • Pintail : classic surf shape.  Pintails are typically topmount, making pushing a bit harder.  A good pintails will turn well, though, making for comfortable and easy riding on the boardwalk.
    Choosing the right longboard for me - pintail
  • Cruiser : a more compact shaped, topmount deck, often with a kicktail, good for crowded city cruising.
    Choosing the right longboard for me - cruiser
  • Drop-through : lower to the ground and easier to push.  Typically symmetrical (or nearly) with big cutouts for wheel clearance.  More stable for cruising than a pintail, but with a larger turning radius.
    Choosing the right longboard for me - drop-through
    Loaded Boards drop-through deck
  • Drop down or “drop platform” : your feet stand lower than the truck mounts.  The deck is even closer to the ground, so the board is even more stable and pushable for cruising, but often less responsive for turning.
    Choosing the right longboard for me - drop down

Choosing the right deck size

  • For cruising on boardwalks or in spacious park areas, a deck length of 36″ to 42″ (width 9.5″+) works well as it provides comfort and stability.
  • If you’re going to be cruising mainly around congested city streets, slaloming around pedestrians, jumping on and off curbs, onconstantly picking up your board to walk, a smaller 28-34″ cruiser is a better fit.  Choose one with a kicktail for quick turns and obstable skipping.
  • If your focus is on carving a lot, go for a shorter longboard as well.  Shorter decks turn faster, all other things being equal.

Choosing the right deck flex

  • A deck with a bit of flex will help absorb shocks and vibrations, providing a better cruising experience.  Also, less stress on your ankles and knees than a super stiff deck.
  • Medium flex is good for carving as you get more energy return from your impulses during turns, helping you gain more speed through carves.  A slight cambered profile also adds feedback and helps with carving.
  • Keep in mind, however, that too much flex can actually make pushing and carving less efficient as a lot energy gets lost through excessive bouncing.

Choosing the right trucks

  • Choose reverse kingpin trucks for your cruising or carving longboard : more space for bigger wheels, more turning.
  • Choose a 150mm truck with a small city cruiser deck (width < 8.5″), 180mm for a bigger board.  For cruising and carving, a standard 50º baseplate angle works fine.
  • For more intensive carving, you may want consider “surfskate” trucks which let you carve like on a surfboard.  These are quite different from standard longboard trucks.  See my article on pumping.

Choosing the right wheels

  • Wheel diameter of 65 to 75mm is about right for most cruising and carving setups.  A wheel this size will allow you to roll at relaxed speed, while aborbing most small obstacles seamlessly.  Make sure your deck has enough wheel clearance (wheel wells or cutouts) to avoid wheel rub.
  • For both cruising and carving, you want wheels with strong grip.  Choose squared wheels with a softer durometer , e.g. 70A – 78A.  This will allow you to ride comfortably on rough surfaces while maintaining good traction throughout your carves.

For more about cruising, check out this post. Or see this article for more details about carving.

Choosing the right longboard to commute on

If you plan to use your longboard for transportation on a daily basis, you want to pick a board that’s stable, fast rolling, comfortable on rough surface, and easy to push and foot brake on.

Choosing the right board for you to commute on has similarities to picking a longboard for cruising, but with a few key differences : you’ll be riding your commuter board a lot more, for longer durations and over larger distances, and probably with more frequency than your cruiser board.

Choosing the right shape and mount type

  • Commuting typically involves a lot of pushing, so you want to choose something that rides as low as possible and that will give you maximum roll for your push.
  • This means you should opt at least for a drop-through, or even a double drop (drop-through + drop deck) for maximum stability and pushability.
  • Stay away from pintails and other topmount decks for commuting purposes – you will be exhausted after a couple of miles.
  • A shape with big wheel cutouts (or at least serious wheel flares) will provide the clearance you need to run bigger wheels for open road commuting.

Choosing the right board size

  • If your commuting involves riding on the open road or bike lanes, you should choose a longboard with a large wheelbase for stability, and wide enough to fit comfortably on.  Pick a board at least 40″ long and 9.5-10″ wide.
  • If on the other hand, your daily commute to school or work goes through busy city streets, opt for a slighty shorter setup, say a 34″-37″ city cruiser, that will let you turn and weave through obstacles swiftly.
  • With a shorter setup, while you may lose a bit of stability and comfort, your longboard will be easier to carry around in a store and stow away at work or school.

Choosing the right flex

  • As we’ve seen for cruising, a little flex can help make your pushing more efficient by adding to the energy of your kicks, potentially speeding up your commute.  Again, beware of overly flexy decks though, which can negatively affect your experience especially at those higher commuting speeds.

Choosing the right trucks

  • You’ll typically want to choose 180mm RKP trucks to match that larger commuter deck – whose width will likely be well over 8.5″ wide for comfortable daily riding.
  • For open road / bike lane commuting, you may want a lower angle truck (e.g. 45º) for stability and larger turning radius.  This will allow you to push hard without worrying about changing direction, and reduce speed wobbles on the incline sections of your commute path.
  • Conversely, if you’re commuting through inner city streets, you want more turny trucks that will let you do quick turns for dodging people, dogs, street lamps etc.

Choosing the right wheels

  • For open road commutes you’ll need bigger wheels for fast roll.  A diameter of at least 75mm is a good choice, provided your deck has enough clearance.  Wheel rub at higher speed isn’t fun.
  • If you opt for a city cruiser, you’ll probably need to go for smaller wheels, say 60-65mm wheels depending on your deck’s clearance and your truck’s height and angle.
  • Most of the time, softer wheels (70A-78A) will be a good choice for commuting because they’ll provide suspension and comfort over rough stretches of road.

Check out this article for a more in-depth look into commuting on a longboard.

Choosing the right longboard to travel on

By “travel” I mean long distance, whether you’re skating to the next town, across the country, the continent, or the planet.  So this is a step up from the concept of commuting.

Choosing the right shape and mount type

  • For long distance skating you need a very low riding dropped platform board so you can push with minimal effort (for hours or days on end).
  • Your deck should have huge wheel clearance, and be wide enough for your front foot to fit comfortably.

Choosing the right board size and flex

  • Specialized long distance longboards such as GBombs are typically under 30″ in length, lightweight, and designed to be used with bracket setups (see below)
  • Flex is a very subtle and important factor in distance skating, affected by the deck’s length, lay-up (number of plies), material (full maple, bamboo, fiberglass hybrid), and bracket type (see below).
     choosing the right longboard for me - gbomb distance deck
    GBomb high performance distance longboard

Choosing the right wheels

  • Your distance setup should have as big as possible wheels, typically in the 80mm+ range, for maximum speed.
  • For optimal and frictionless rolling you should consider investing in ceramic bearings (e.g. Bones Ceramics).
  • As mentioned, your deck should also be as low as possible to the ground.  On a normal truck setup, this would potentially result in serious wheel bite given the choice of very large wheels.

Choosing the right trucks

  • That’s why specialized distance setups use brackets which extend the deck and provide nearly unlimited wheel clearance.
     choosing the right longboard for me - gbomb brackets
    GBomb distance skating brackets
  • Brackets also allow for very extensive customization of truck angles (vs. to merely fitting wedged rubber pads), potentially making your distance setup much more pushable / pumpable for long distances.

For a more in-depth look into long distance / travel skating, read this article.  For more information about longboard pumping, check out this post.

Choosing the right longboard to freeride or downhill

Freeriding and speed skating / racing are the two main types of longboarding disciplines that involve downhill.

Freeriding involves riding at moderate, controlled speed while executing elegant slides and other skilled maneuvers.

Downhill speed boarding and racing is a search for sheer speed, finding optimal speed lines and using advanced sliding techniques only to control speed before speed corners and dangerous road sections.

Choosing the right shape and mount type

  • For freeriding, you want a symmetrical shape (for switch riding), typically 38 to 42″ in length – or a 24-29″ wheelbase.
     choosing the right longboard for me - symmetrical deck
    Loaded Boards symmetrical deck
  • You can use a freeride board for speed boarding as well, although pure downhill decks are typically directional (asymmetrical) since speedboarders don’t usually switch stance.
  • For freeriding, look for a dropped deck for stability at speed if you’re a beginner, or a drop-through with no flex if you’re intermediate.  If you’re a more advanced rider, you may go for a low flex topmount deck, less stable but with more leverage and control in turns and slides.
  • While you may use a drop deck for speed riding, a freeride-oriented concave may interfere with your speed tuck stance.  Many experienced speed boarders choose a topmount board for the control it offers.

Choosing the right flex and concave

  • For freeriding, you want your deck to have enough concave to lock in your feet as you get into slides or pull a 180º.  A bit of deck flex can help with sliding and carving at moderate speed.
  • For speed downhill, on the other hand, you want a really stiff deck, typically with rigid composite material, and more subtle concave for tucking.

Choosing the right trucks

  • RKP trucks provide better traction at speed than TKP.   Trucks should be strong enough to withstand the pressure of sideways sliding.  A width of 180mm works fine with most setups, although some riders use smaller trucks for faster turning.
  • A 50º baseplate angle provides good balance between grip and stability, and enough deck height to avoid wheelbite.  Use a higher angle for easier sliding, or a lower one for more stability at speed.

Choosing the right wheels

  • Freeriders and speedboarders alike seek to find the right balance between traction and sliding.
  • 68 to 72mm diameter wheels are a good middle ground for traction / slidability /durability.  Choose a rounded / bevelled lip profile and a durometer between 78A to 82A – or slightly harder for a heavy rider.
  • Centerset wheels with regular bearings typically work well for beginner level downhill skating, with speed rings / spacers to protect bearings during slides.
  • For more technical and hardcore sliding, choose smaller wheels (e.g. 60-65mm) with a higher durometer (85A +)

Read more here about freeriding, and here about downhill racing.

Choosing the right longboard to freestyle on

Freestyle longboarding involves tricks such as jumping on and off your board, flipping and spinning the board, and riding on your board’s nose or tail.  Skatepark riding on a longboard is another aspect, similar to skateboarding.

Longboard dancing is a special type of freestyle that’s less acrobatic and more artistic and elegant in nature.  You perform dance moves on your longboard, walking up and down your deck, spinning and cross stepping while riding.

Choosing the right deck shape & style

  • If you’re looking to perform street tricks and ride ramps and bowls like on a classic skateboard, yet you want the added comfort and versatility of a longboard (e.g. for cruising), choose a hybrid shape : similar in shape to a street deck but slightly bigger (e.g. 32″ x 8.5″), stiff flex, two kick tails, mild concave.
     choosing the right longboard for me - hybrid deck
  • If you want to do nose riding and stepping longboard tricks such as nose manuals, shuvits, tiger claws etc, go for a medium sized board (e.g. 34-38″), topmount for maximum control and  responsiveness, with a kicktail and/or nose, a little flex, mild concave (too much concave gets in the way of moving your feet).
  • For dancing you want to choose a bigger deck (42-48″) to have as much room as possible for moving around and cross stepping.  Ideally it should be flat (no concave), optionally dropped, with a bit of natural flex given its size.  A tail and nose are helpful for performing dance tricks.
    choosing the right longboard for me - dancer deck
    Loaded Banghra dancer deck

Choosing the right trucks

  • For street style and skatepark riding, you’ll want sturdy, standard kingpin (TKP) trucks, which sit higher and provide more control and maneuverability for tricks.  For hardcore grinding and jumps consider getting forged or precision trucks, more resistant than cast trucks.
  • For mellow nose tricks and dancing, standard RKP trucks will work fine.  For a dancing board, go for trucks with a higher angle (> 50º) and open bushing seats to allow for faster turning despite the large wheelbase.

Choosing the right wheels

  • For street-style freestyle, 57mm wheels come with with most hybrid decks, with durometer between 78A and 82A – harder wheels will be easier to slide but less comfortable for everyday riding.
  • If you choose a medium sized deck for fluid longboard tricks and nose rides, you can go for medium sized wheels (65-70mm).  The durometer you choose will depend on how much carving (softer) vs sliding (harder) you plan to do.
  • For a larger dancer board, pick wheels in the 70-75mm range with square lips for grippier carving turns while you cross-step up and down your deck.  A durometer of around 80A works well for most dancing styles.

Read more about freestyle longboarding in this article.

Wrapping up

Choosing the right longboard for you is a complex question due to the endless range of combinations of decks, trucks and wheels – not mentioning the subcomponents within and between these, bearings, bushings, hanger, spacers, etc.  Which combination works for you depends on your own personal usage pattern, riding style, and physical abilities.

In this post I tried to sort through the information and recap the most common choices longboarders make for each kind of riding.  Hopefully this will be a useful tool for you to start understanding what to look for in a longboard, and hone in on the type of board that’s right for you.

Nothing replaces stepping on a longboard to get a feel for how it rides, though, so armed with all this information, go hit your boardshop and try’em out before you buy !

***

Photo credits :
Featured image : Vector Design by Vecteezy!
Longboard trucks” (CC BY 2.0) by 99 Factory
Cruiser trucks” (CC BY 2.0) by 99 Factory
“Loaded Poke” with permission from Loaded Boards
“Loaded Icarus” with permission from Loaded Boards
“Loaded Banghra” with permission from Loaded Boards
“GBomb push complete” with permission from GBomb Longboards
“GBomb brackets” with permission from GBomb Longboards
“Paris Trucks” with permission from Loaded Boards

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About me

Big Kahuna

Hi I'm Jesse. All my life I've been passionate about the board riding lifestyle. Some years ago I got into longboarding, and in doing so, I discovered a whole new universe and a fantastic community. There's something for everyone in longboarding, regardless of age, gender, size, and fitness level. I hope this site can help you learn a lot about the riding styles and techniques that best suit your personal goals. Ride on !

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