If you’re looking for a cost-effective, eco-friendly, and athletic means of transportation for getting around town or campus, you might be wondering whether you should get a skateboard or a bicycle.
Skateboard vs bike, which is better? The answer to this question depends a lot on your skills and experience, your planned usage, and your riding environment. Here’s a quick summary of my personal feeling regarding the skateboard vs bike faceoff:
- Difficulty: bike wins – easier to ride than a skateboard
- Fun factor: skateboard wins – surfing the streets is awesome
- Terrain: bike wins – better for rough terrain, uphill, steep downhill
- Exercise: skateboard wins – more energy required for commuting
- Safety: bike wins – it has brakes and a pebble won’t send you flying
- Convenience: tie! skateboard portable but can carry stuff on
- Cost: skateboard wins – lower or equal investment, less maintenance
OK if you count the points above, you’ll find that skateboard and bike are tied – bike wins 3, skateboard wins 3, plus 1 tie. So why does the title of this post say “skateboard wins”? Well if you take “skateboard” in a broader sense to include longboard, then you get less of a learning curve, a wider range of rideable terrain, more maneuverability, and even some ability to carry stuff. For those reasons, in my books skateboard beats bike.
But let me delve in a bit deeper.
1. Skateboard vs bike: required skills
Most people know how to ride a bike – that’s one of the first skills most parents teach their kids as they start growing up. Most kids start off with learner wheels and naturally learn to ride – and typically never forget it.
On the other hand, riding a skateboard is not as easy as it seems. It requires practice and a minimum amount of balancing abilities. You must find your stance, learn to balance and move on the still deck, then on the moving board, learn to push by balancing on one foot, shift your weight for turning, bail, foot brake, etc. Lots of skills involved. It takes most adult newbies a while to start riding confidently, unless they already have board sports experience.
One option you have, e.g. for campus commuting, is to choose a longboard skateboard. Longboards have larger decks and bigger wheels, making them more stable and easy to ride than traditional skateboards. Although riding a bike will still be easier for most people, the learning curve is much less steep on a longboard.
Learning curve score: bike wins over skateboard!
2. Skateboard vs bike: fun factor
Riding a skateboard or longboard is a lot of fun. You get the feeling of surfing the streets and sidewalks. The terrain you ride on feels like a wave, each piece of pavement has its characteristics and challenges. Even going slow, you’re constantly adjusting your course and position, carving, pushing, or pumping. The city becomes a big playground for you!
Riding a bike, on the other hand, is pleasant and relaxed but can get boring, e.g. when commuting over the same paths with no particular challenge. You can bike daily without even thinking about it, kind of like driving. An exception, of course, is when you have steep hills to climb or dirt roads to go across on your commute path, which may require a bit more skills. For riding around campus, however, I say skateboarding is much more fun.
Fun factor score: skateboard wins over bike!
3. Skateboard vs bike: terrain
Unless you’re a distance longboarding pro, bikes are better for
For short commutes, however, skateboards can be awesome. You can skate on sidewalks and cut through alleyways and squares, getting around super quickly. Skateboarding is often the fastest way to get to another building on campus for your next class.
One big caveat for skateboarding, though, is that you need smooth concrete and/or sidewalks. Bumps and cracks in the ground make riding painful and hazardous – even though a longboard will generally handle uneven terrain much better than a street board. Bikes, on the other hand, can roll over pretty much any sort of pavement. Biking on sidewalks, however, is typically prohibited.
Bikes are also better for hills: you can usually climb up a steep hill on your bike by switching to low gear. When it comes to skateboards, you can try pushing or pumping uphill on certain types of longboards. However, this requires significant skills and effort, and in most situations you’ll end up walking.
Likewise, bikes are easier to go down big hills as you have brakes! You can obviously ride a skateboard fast downhill, but you’d better be experienced and know how to stop! Therefore, if you’re on a very hilly campus or city like SanFrancisco, you may want to choose a bike over a skateboard.
Terrain adequacy score: bike wins over skateboard!
4. Skateboard vs bike: exercise
Skateboarding is a hard workout! When traveling for a few miles around campus or in town on your skateboard, you typically feel the burn in your legs and core muscles and you’re likely to sweat a lot. Choosing a longboard instead of a street deck can help mellow things a bit, but you still have to kick push a lot and possibly jump off curbs and constantly swerve over cracks and bumps.
Commuting on a bike is generally smooth and easy and doesn’t require hard efforts – unless you need to climb hills or you go really fast. Biking around campus buildings is usually quite mellow – although it can still give you a nice low-impact cardio workout over longer distances.
Workout score: skateboard wins over bike!
5. Skateboard vs bike: safety
Skateboards and longboards have very small wheels compared to bikes, so it’s much easier to get stopped dead when rolling on
Skateboards are less maneuverable than bikes. You also have less control when turning on a skateboard as you turn by shifting your body weight – vs steering the handlebar on a bike. It takes more skills to avoid a person or obstacle on a skateboard e.g. when riding on a crowded campus alleyway!
You stand on a skateboard, while you sit on a bike. Falling off a skateboard is typically much more frequent and painful – broken wrists and elbows, concussions, bruises and road rash are all a daily part of skateboarding.
Bikes are also safer to ride than skateboards and longboards on wet pavement and when there’s a bit of snow on the ground. Longboarding in snow can be done but requires advanced skating skills.
The only advantage a skateboard may have over a bike is that it makes much more noise when rolling! When navigating crowds, it helps warn pedestrians you’re approaching – bikes are generally quiet and can take them by surprise.
Safety score: bike wins over skateboard!
6. Skateboard vs bike: convenience
Bikes are better than skateboards if you need to carry stuff! You can fit a rack or a basket on your bike and carry your groceries or a surfboard for example. You can also easily carry a backpack with your books and latpop when biking around college.
Carry stuff on a skateboard is much more limited, aside from a light backpack. A heavy bag may throw you off balance and get in the way of your pushing and turning – be sure to fasten your backpack and not let it swing too much.
On the other hand, a skateboard or longboard is easy to carry around than a bike. You don’t need to lock it up to racks outside the building like a bike
(assuming racks are available). You can take your board with you inside the building, so there’s less chance of it getting stolen. You can carry your skateboard on the bus or train in “multimodal” transport. You can also take a skateboard on a plane much more easily than a bike.
One area where
Convenience score: skateboard vs bike = tie
7. Skateboard vs bike: cost
This one is clearly a skateboard win. In terms of initial investment, a skateboard complete will set you back $80-100, while a longboard costs between 90$ and $250 for a high-end board. Decent entry-level bikes start at around $200 but the sky is the limit. Generally speaking, it’s safe to say a good quality bike will generally cost more than a good quality longboard.
However, maintenance is where the gap between bike vs skateboard widens. Bikes have a lot of parts that can go wrong and may need fixing or replacement (including tires) which costs money over time. Skateboards have very few parts which require little maintenance aside from cleaning the bearings once in a while.
You may want to replace bearings or wheels on your skateboard, but if you merely skate for getting around campus or in the city, that’s not typically something you’ll do often.
Purchase and maintenance cost score: skateboard wins over bike!
The skateboard vs bike faceoff is raging on! If you want to commute smooth and easy over long distances or big hills, a bike may be your best bet. If, on the other, you’re looking for fast and nimble transportation that you can carry around and that will make give you a more intense workout – and assuming you’re not afraid of falling, a skateboard (or longboard) is a great option.
– Featured: “Cyclist with reflective back and ankle c” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Oran Viriyincy
– Featured: “Longboard” (CC BY 2.0) by
– “They’re going” by Laureline Charles; Permission: Loaded Boards
– “Skate on
– “Green Bicycle” (Public Domain) by Mikael Colville-Andersen
– “Cute biker” (CC BY 2.0) by Carlos Ebert