If the roads around you are rough, uneven, with badly weathered pavement, bumpy, with pebbles or rocks, or are full of cracks, skateboarding for getting around can be unpleasant or even hazardous, as in, easy to fall flat on your face.
In this post, I look at how hard it is to skateboard on rough terrain, dirt, gravel, and/or bad pavement.
for riding on rough surface you need softer and larger wheels. They will absorb shocks, roll over things, and generate extra forward momentum from obstacles. They will also give you longer roll with less effort.
To run such wheels, you need the right board: the right deck with the good wheel clearance, and the right trucks to fit the wheels.
Here are some basic recommendations:
- If you’re a trick-focused rider, get softer street wheels for your skateboard deck
- If you ride long-distance with rough roads on your path, get a longboard.
- If you’re an inner city commuter, get a cruiser with big wheels.
See also: Can You Skateboard In The Cold?
Can you skate on rough roads?
You can skateboard on rough roads if you have a deck with good concave and/or foot pockets, a sturdy and stable pair of trucks, and a set of larger, softer wheels that easily roll over cracks and rocks. The bigger your wheels, the better you can roll over bumps, rocks, and potholes.
Wheels with a durometer in the 77 to 82A range help absorb impact from cracks and bumps. Bigger wheels will also make your ride a lot smoother, however they may require you to add riser pads so as to increase wheel clearance on your board.
While you can skate on rough roads with the right gear, street/trick style riding can be challenging on rough surfaces. Traditional street skating requires relatively smooth surfaces to accommodate the small, 100A+ wheels suitable for doing kick tricks, jumps, and grinds.
See also: Where can you skateboard?
Is it bad to skateboard on rough ground?
Riding on rugged terrain will generally slow you down. On smooth pavement, you get a lot more roll for your push and you can maintain balance with little effort. Bad pavement causes a lot more friction and instability.
Besides slowing you down, rough terrain can easily throw you off if your wheel gets stuck on a pebble, pistachio, or piece of glass or plastic. These can stop your skateboard dead on its tracks.
Does skateboarding on rough roads damage the wheels and bearings?
Riding on rough pavement with pebbles and cracks can quickly damage your wheels if they are on the softer side. You may soon notice big chunks of your wheels missing! Check out the wheels on my Loaded Coyote after a few weeks of riding including some nasty streets and sidewalks:
Riding on dirt-covered roads is also bad for your bearings as the dirt and other grime will get into the bearings. Over time, friction in your bearings will increase and your wheels will progressively stop turning.
Of course, you can always clean up your bearings to get your wheels free spinning again.
Can you skate over pebbles?
You can skate over pebbles with the right wheels. Soft wheels (e.g. 77A – 80A) can better roll over small pebbles by squishing around them when rolling fast.
Besides softness for cushioning, the bigger the wheels the better for rolling over pebbles, gravel, and small rocks. 70mm wheels are ideal for this type of terrain.
One thing to be aware of is that you need to have sufficient speed to roll over bigger pebbles. I’ve fallen flat on my face quite a few times because I was going too slow while hitting a small rock, bringing my (soft) wheel to a dead stop.
Note that if you run larger soft wheels for skating on rough terrain and pebbles, you’ll need a deck with enough clearance. Regular street decks generally won’t play well with big 70mm wheels. More on this below.
Can you longboard on rough roads?
Longboards are generally better suited for rough roads compared to street skateboards. The first reason is that longboards tend to come fitted with larger and softer wheels, typically with diameter 60 to 75mm and duro 77A to 80A.
Another key aspect is that a longboard deck will generally be designed to accommodate such large wheels. High wheel clearance typically results from:
- A deck shape with wheel cutouts – carved out space for the wheels
- Wheel wells – ridges cut into the deck bottom – for extra clearance
- Wheel flares – deck raised around wheel location)
- Tall trucks and riser pads to accommodate bigger wheels
As a result, a longboard can run much bigger wheels compared to a street deck without suffering from wheelbite issues.
A longboard will also have a larger and/or wider deck compared to a cruiser or street deck, often with some rocker and possibly foot pockets near the nose and kicktail.
Kicks, concave, and rocker all give you added foot lock-in that secures your stance when riding on bumpy or cracked pavement.
Can longboards go over rocks?
Most longboards with 65 – 70mm softish wheels will roll over small rocks seamlessly. When riding on my Loaded Omakase, Loaded Poke, or Landyachtz pintail, I roll across small rocks without worries and barely feel them.
Obviously, this will only works for smaller rocks, stones and pebbles. Trying to roll over a sharp 3″ high rock, unless you have monster truck wheels, will likely result in a disaster.
Are longboards good on gravel?
Most longboards will not handle well on heavy gravel – although larger longboards with big wheels generally do fine crossing a light and relatively short gravel section on a road.
If you ride across a gravely section, try to steer you longboard straight ahead, no turns – turning make make your board skid out of control.
Also, try to maintain decent speed while riding through gravel, as slowing down too much might result in gravel getting stuck under a wheel and bringing it to a stop.
How do you skate on rough surfaces?
Here are a few helpful tips for skating on rough surfaces:
- Get an adequate setup – cruiser or longboard with large soft wheels
- Maintain decent speed (e.g. 8 – 10 mph) to avoid death stops
- Keep an eye ahead of your wheels to dodge very big cracks/rocks
- When rolling on sand, gravel, dirt, keep a steady line, avoid tight turns
- When riding across a sandy or gravel section, avoid kick pushing
- When riding down a slope, make smooth wide carves to avoid skids
- Clean up your bearings after each session to keep your wheels rolling
- If you’re into pumping, do not pump hard on sand, dirt, or gravel
Which skateboard is best for rough roads?
If you’re into street tricks, chances are you have a preference for street decks. A street skateboard deck is generally not ideal for cruising or moving around on rough roads.
Street decks generally come with small hard wheels (e.g. 54 – 56mm, 99A+ duro). Such wheels will NOT do well on cracks, bumps, pebbles, gravel, etc.
Riding on rough roads with very hard wheels (100A+) is a painful experience – whereas hard wheels are the best for riding smooth sidewalks and skateparks and doing slides and rotation tricks.
Many street skaters actually ride a larger cruiser or longboard to get to their favorite street spot or skatepark, carrying their street board under their arm. They then switch to the street board once they’re at the spot.
An alternative to the above is to go softer on the wheels for your street setup. With harder wheels, you’re constantly watching out for death pebbles, while softer wheels let your ride over smaller pebbles.
Here are some examples of wheels street skaters often use for a smoother ride on rough roads:
- Cloud 55mm 86A: rolls over very rough parts (with some vibrations) but can still do tricks
- Cruise Control 54mm 85A: good for cruising around and for light tricks
- For very light riders (< 150 lbs) 78a wheels can work OK on a street deck
- 56mm 80A wheels: roll over 1″ cracks, OK for flip tricks on flat, too bouncy for hard landing tricks
- 54mm Spitfire Chargers: very good street wheels for cruising over rough terrain, still small enough for tricks
- OJ Mini Hot Juice, OJ Keyframes, Bones ATF: also good compromise street skating wheels for riding on rough terrain
In you’re heavily into street tricks, be aware that softer wheels are squishier and don’t hold shape as well as hard wheels. This results in a faster loss of speed on smooth terrain, but better shock absorption on rough ground.
Check out the Landyachtz ATV hybrid cruisers, among the closest option to a street deck but which can handle rough terrain a lot better.
Skateboard vs cruiser vs longboard for rough roads
If your goal isn’t traditional street skating and you mostly cruise and/or commute on rough pavement, your best best may be a drop-through longboard. Drop-throughs with cutout shapes may run wheels as large as 80mm.
Drop-throughs are also lower riding and typically have longer wheelbases, making them very stable which is great when rolling over cracks and bumps.
On the other hand, if you want something more portable and nimble with quick turns for sidewalks and narrow streets, you might opt for a cruiser in the 30 – 34″ range.
These generally let you run 65 – 70mm wheels, possibly with added risers to reduce wheelbite.
A cruiser will generally work better for rough terrain than a street deck because of the added width – more comfortable around potholes. It will also have better wheel clearance due to deeper wheel wells and/or wheel flares.
In contrast, you typically can’t fit large 70+mm wheels on a street deck or a mini-cruiser (26″ or less) – unless you add some serious riser pads – and you’ll probably still get some wheelbite.
Likewise, running larger 70+mm wheels on a large pintail may result in wheelbite in the front because of the deck width – deck partly covers the front wheels.
Some people report running 70mm wheels on a Penny mini-cruiser due to very narrow deck which provides some wheel clearance.