We longboarders are always looking for ways to make our longboard faster. Many of us often feel there are things slowing us down as we cruise, carve, freestyle, dance, and race downhill.
Indeed, many factors can hinder your longboard’s speed, but there are simple ways to make it faster. Here are some of the most common actions you can take to speed up your board, ranging from easy / cheap to more involved / costlier :
- Loosen you axle nuts
- Clean up and lube your bearings
- Upgrade your bearings
- Change your wheels
- Improve your riding
Action 1 : Loosen your axle nut to make your longboard faster
This is an easy one : if your axle nuts are too tight they can keep your wheels from spinning freely. That may be a reason why your longboard feels slow.
Loosening the nuts a bit can allow your wheels to spin normally again. Untighten the bolts just enough to have a little play side to side. Don’t make them too loose though, or they’ll eventually come off the axle.
Side note : if your wheels are spinning fine but you have trouble taking your longboard to faster speed because of speed wobbles, try tightening your trucks. This should make them less turning and help postpone the wobbling to when the board reaches higher speeds.
If loosening your trucks does not help making your longboard faster, move on to the next step.
Action 2 : clean up your longboard bearings for better rolling speed
If your wheels are still spinning slow after loosening your axle nuts, you may need to clean and lubricate your bearings. When you ride through wet sidewalks, mud, leaves etc, dirt accumulates in your bearings quite fast, creating friction and slowing down your longboard over time.
Cleaning your bearings is a relatively simple operation once you learn to do it, but it has a bit of a learning curve the first time around. Here are the steps to follow :Step 1 : Remove the wheels and extract the bearing from inside them
- Unscrew and take out the nut that holds the first wheel onto the axle (see picture in section 1 earlier)
- Pull the wheel out a bit without taking it out of the axle completely
- Now wiggle the wheel on the axle until you feel the bearing pop loose inside the wheel
- Then, pull the wheel out completely : the bearing should remain on the axle
- Flip the wheel around and slide it back onto the axle next to the first bearing
- Wiggle the wheel again on the axle to pop out the second bearing from inside the wheel.
- Again, remove the wheel from the axle: the second bearing should be there.
- Follow the above steps in the same way for your other 3 wheels
- Clean up dust and dirt on the outside of the bearings by wiping them on a clean cloth
- The next step is to soak the bearings in a cleaning liquid.
- Take out the bearing shield (removable rubber sealing that closes the bearing on both sides to protect the balls) from each bearing using a sharp, pointy object
- The bearings are now open with the steel balls visible to the eye
- Pour some paint thinner, acetone or alcohol into a bottle
- Dip your bearings in the bottle, shake it for a few minutes to clean the inside of the bearings
- The liquid should turn dark from the dirt in the bearings
- Dump out the liquid and lay out the bearings on a clean cloth
- Dry out the bearings thoroughly by dabbing them onto a sheet of paper one by one
- Use a silicon based lubricant such as the reputed Bones Speed Cream (from a skate shop or Amazon page) or something like Prolong (auto parts store or Amazon)
- Do not use WD40 or equivalent as it will draw even more dirt to the bearings
- Spray / pour a bit of lubricant onto each bearing and wait for it to spread inside
- Flip each bearing around and apply the lubricant again on the other side of it
- Place the bearing shields back onto the bearings, push them back on
- Clean up the wheel axles with a rag
- Place one bearing onto an axle, then slide a wheel onto it and press gently to pop the bearing back in place inside the wheel
- Take out the wheel, place another bearing onto the axle, flip the wheel around and push it onto the second bearing to pop it in place as well.
- At this point you’re done mounting back the bearings inside the wheel, just screw the axle nut back on (don’t tighten it too much, see section 1 above).
- Repeat the above steps for each of the 3 remaining wheels, mounting the remaining bearings.
For pictures of some of the main steps described above, check out this page (external site).
That’s it, you’re done cleaning and lubing the bearings. Get on your longboard, give it a strong push, and feel how fast and how far the push now gets you !
Action 3 : upgrade your bearings to speed up your board
If you’ve cleaned up and lubed your bearings, yet your longboard still feels quite slow, you may want to upgrade your bearings, particularly if using low quality bearings that came stock with your average longboard.
Note : free spinning your longboard wheels without any load on it is not an indicator of how fast your longboard rolls when you ride it. Therefore you can’t really use this test to determine whether your bearings need to be changed. If you hear squeaking when riding however, you probably should either clean and lube your bearings (see previous section) or replace them.
Choosing quality replacement bearings is a broad topic that always gets hotly debated, but here are a few key considerations to keep in mind :
- The most important qualities in a bearing are curvature, plastic cage, and removable rubber seals
- ABEC ratings are not correlated with bearing quality in regard to longboarding
- There is only a handful of quality bearings manufacturers in the world
- Bearings are made in Germany, Switzerland, Thailand and China
- The best quality bearings are those made in Switzerland and Germany
- High quality bearings often have built-in spacers
There are lots of bearings on the market, but among the best brands for longboarding are Reds, Zealous, Spaceballs and Tektons. Reds and Zealous in particular are long-time favorites among longboarders. Depending on your budget, you may want to get your hands on :
- A set of Zealous bearings with built-in spacers : inexpensive and reputable, good quality bearings, pre-lubed with a special nano grease (Amazon link)
- A set of Bones Reds with separate spacers (Amazon) – or just standalone bearings if you already have spacers.
Note : make sure to get genuine Bones Reds, not an imitation, from a well-known skate shop or from Amazon.
- High quality but more expensive, over $50 : Bons Super Swiss 6 competition bearings (Amazon page). One of the best bearing by design, made by one of the best manufacturers. Optimal polishing, reinforced plastic cage designed to withstand high revolutions, SpeedCream pre-lube, friction free removable rubber shields.
- Bones Ceramic Reds : ceramic bearings have special heat reduction properties that allow them to spin faster. Ceramic bearings are more fragile and much more expensive than steel bearings, however. Many knowledgeable longboarders prefer the steel Bones Swiss 6, which they say can’t be beat. On the other hand, serious longboard racers use ceramic bearings to take their longboards to very high speeds. See Amazon page.
Action 4 : get different wheels to make your longboard faster
We’ve talked about upgrading bearings as an effective way to speed up your longboard. In addition to bearings, the wheels themselves can also play a big role in how fast your longboard runs. Choosing the fastest wheels for your board can be tricky, let’s go through some of the main aspects to look for in a wheel.
Bigger wheels are faster than smaller ones as they cover more distance with an equal amount of spinning, and suffer less from bearings friction. Smaller wheels, on the other hand, have better acceleration as they pick up momentum quicker.
Bigger wheels also run better over small bumps and obstacles on rough surfaces than smaller wheels at speed.
In other words, if you want to make your longboard faster on rough ground, go for bigger wheels – as big as you can without causing wheelbite. Wheelbite will also depend on your deck height (mount type, platform drop) and shape (cutout / wheel wells), trucks tightness, bushing hardness, washer setup etc.
Wheel hardness (durometer) is another key factor for speed. Softer wheels (e.g. 75A-78A) compress a lot on road bumps and cracks, resulting in more grip but more speed loss. Harder wheels (82A or more) have less compression and so are normally faster on smooth surfaces. On rough surface however, hard very wheels can make for a bumpy ride, which can end up slowing you down.
In short, get harder wheels, but not too hard, to make your longboard faster on rough pavement and sidewalks. For similar reasons, choose higher rebound wheels for those rough surfaces.
Wheels with larger cores also undergo less compression (since wheel core is made of hard material). As a result they can run faster on smooth surfaces, but slower on rougher ones.
As a longboarder, unlike traditional skateboarders, you ride on irregular surface and rough pavement most of the time. The best way to make your longboard faster is to mount bigger, medium-hard wheels with small to medium-size cores, so they have enough urethane to go fast and smooth on bumpy roads.
Which exact wheels you will choose depends on your setup. In case you don’t know where to start, look for some Orangatangs that match your deck size and truck width. For example, you may get 70mm Presidents (Amazon) for a larger commuter / cruiser board.
Note : the main focus of this post is on improving speed, ignoring other aspects of longboarding such as sliding. If your thing is sliding, however, it’s a whole new ball game. In that case you would need just the opposite, smaller, harder wheels with low rebound and bigger core. You’d also need as to protect your bearings with washers and spacers. But that’s another story.
Action 5 : improve your riding
The last topic I’ll bring up regarding making your longboard faster, is you, the longboarder. After you’ve tuned up and upgraded your longboard, the next thing you should do is work on your longboard riding skills :
- Learn to stop at higher speeds : fear of not being able to stop can be a huge psychological impediment which can prevent you from going faster, even if your longboard is fully capable of it. Confidence in your ability to brake is essential to making progress. Read this quick survival guide on how to slow down / stop on a longboard.
- Get the right protective gear : this is another confidence booster that can help you overcome the fear of taking your longboard faster. Get a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads – you can actually use the latter for stopping by sliding on them – and if you plan on sliding, some good quality gloves with pucks.
- Improve your speed stance : even if you’re not keen on bombing steep hills at record speeds, learning to get into a decent tuck position can help you go faster on your well-tuned longboard. Read more about the tuck stance here and here.
- Learn to tame speed wobbles : as mentioned before, speed wobbles can deter you from going fast on your longboard. Tightening your trucks or reducing your truck angles only postpone the appearance of the wobbles. What you need to do is learn to relax and put more weight on your front truck. Read more about wobbles.
All in all, making your longboard faster isn’t hard, it’s a matter of upgrading a few components of your setup, primarily wheels and bearings. Using good quality bearings, and cleaning and lubricating them periodically, will likely keep your longboard running nice and swift.
Swapping things around may impact the rest of your setup. For example, bigger wheels may result in increased wheelbite if your trucks are small, loose, or highly turny, if your deck is too low or close to your wheels, etc. You need to be careful in your choice of wheels, and tweak your trucks or add risers if necessary.
Finally, even with a super fast and highly tuned setup, you’re riding skills may limit how fast you’re able to take your longboard. You can easily improve them by protecting yourself appropriately, learning to stop effectively, improving your stance, and learning to deal with speed wobbles.
Photo credits :
Featured image “Nico longboarding HDR” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Foreshock
“ABEC 11 70s Flashbacks” (CC BY 2.0) by Podknox
“Paris Silver Trucks @ Epic Longboard Sh” (CC BY 2.0) by Epic Longboard Shop
“Bones Speed Cream @ Epic Longboard Shop” (CC BY 2.0) by Epic Longboard Shop
“Bones Ceramic Bearings @ Epic Longboard” (CC BY 2.0) by Epic Longboard Shop
“99 Factory – Yellow longboard wheels” (CC BY 2.0) by 99 Factory