Longboard Buyers Guide
Keen on getting a longboard and not sure where to start? Want to buy a longboard as a gift for someone else but have no idea what's what? You're a fairly experienced longboarder and it's time to upgrade your set-up? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this buyers guide is for you!
Where to start
If you're reading this, you've come to right place. What ever your longboarding requirements are, we will help you get to a solution. If you don't find the answers you are looking for, feel free to get in contact with us with any questions.
What you need
Longboards are available as "Completes" where everything is pre-assembled or you can pick and choose each component separately and build a "Custom Set-up". It usually works out cheaper to buy a complete so thats usually what beginners go for. Once you have an idea of what you're looking for you'll want to start customizing your longboard with trucks, wheels and bushings that are more suitable for your skating style. Some beginners know what they want with their first board and go straight for a custom set-up. There is no "best longboard" that will suit everyone. The many options are one of the things that makes longboarding so much fun and quite different from regular skateboarding.
If you've decided to go for a complete, click here to check out the completes we have in stock.
(if there aren't enough options for you there it's because our customers generally prefer custom set-ups.)
If you've made the brave decision of going for a custom set-up then there many choices awaiting you! But don't worry, we're here to guide you through every step.
A longboard is made up of the following components:
(when ordering a custom set-up, be sure not to forget any of these items otherwise the board will be incomplete. You can also request that we set the board up for you)
1x Griptape (some decks come with the grip already applied)
Choosing a longboard Deck
The deck is the obviously the most important component of a longboard. It's what makes it... long. Otherwise it would just be a skateboard. There are loads of different types of longboard decks out there for a multitude of different styles of skating. The styles can generally be grouped into Downhill, Freeride, Cruise/Carve and Dance. Once you know what style of skating you're into, choosing a deck will be a lot easier. And if you're interested in different styles there are hybrid boards that are good for multiple styles of skating.
The main things to consider when choosing a longboard deck are shape; length; drop through or top mount; camber or rocker; single, double or no kicktails; drop-deck or flat deck etcetera, etcetera. There are plenty more descriptors we could go into but we'll leave it there for now.
For beginners, we would usually recommend a drop through or a drop-deck as being closer to the ground makes the board more stable and easier to initiate a slide. That said, top mount decks are most popular these days as they give you more control in everything you do once you know how to do it.
Choosing longboard trucks
Longboard trucks are different to skateboard trucks. Longboard trucks are Reverse King-Pin (RKP) Trucks and skateboard trucks are Traditional King-Pin Trucks (TKP). You can put TKP trucks on a longboard but RKP trucks are usually more suitable because they are more stable and allow for more controlled, deeper turns than TKP trucks.
The baseplate angle is the most important thing to consider when deciding what longboard trucks to buy. The lower the angle, the more stable. The higher the angle, the more responsive. So if you plan on going really fast you can choose trucks with an angle as low as 38 degrees and if you're more interested in freeriding then trucks with a baseplate angle of around 50 degrees will be more suitable.
Next you will want to consider the bushings. Most trucks come standard with bushings with a hardness of around 90a which is a good place to start but as you become more advanced you'll want to find bushings that work for you. If you're getting wheelbite then getting harder bushings is a good way to prevent it.
The hanger width affects the stability and grip to the road of your longboard but the difference between 170mm and 190mm is minimal so the most common size is 180mm. Trucks as narrow as 150mm and smaller are available but are usually only used for slalom and are usually impossible to find in South Africa. (We have a set or two. If you're desperate, email us.)
Choosing longboard wheels
If there is one thing that a longboarder can never have too many of, it's wheels. There are so many different types of wheels out there and every one is different from the next. You really do need to try them all! It's totally normal for a longboarder to change their wheels at every session depending on the surface they will be skating and how they plan on skating that surface. But we will help you choose a set that will best serve the purpose that you want to use them for.
The shape and hardness (durometer) are the main things that affect the performance of a longboard wheel. A wheel with rounded edges and a durometer of 82a or higher will slide quite easily whereas wheels with square edges and a durometer of 80a and lower will typically be quite grippy. But wait, there's more! Diameter, width, core placement, core size and lip profile all have different effects on how a wheel performs under different conditions. In fact, there is too much to discuss here. We'll put it in another article soon. In the meantime, just tell us what you want to do with your wheels and we'll make some recommendations.
Choosing longboard bearings
Choosing bearings is easy. As a general rule, the more they cost, the faster they will be and the longer they will last. There are no rip offs when it comes to bearings, you really do get what you pay for. But here are some things besides the price that are worth considering when buying bearings for your longboard...
The ABEC rating of a bearing is a measure of how precise they are. The more precise, the better they will perform, faster they will be and longer they will last. We wouldn't recommend using less than ABEC 5 for longboarding. ABEC 9 is the top of the scale and there aren't many options available with such a high rating. Most bearings are rated ABEC 7 since that's the best balance between price and performance.
Bearings perform best when they are installed with a "spacer" between them and "speed rings" on the outside. Some bearings come with these in the box and others have them built-in. Biltin Bearings for example have both the speed rings and spacer built into the design of the bearings. The spacer helps keep the bearings aligned correctly and prevents the balls from pinching against the inner and outer race, allowing the bearings to run smoother. The speed rings are washers that help protect the bearings from the axle nut and the truck hanger. Having the spacer and speed rings built-in makes changing wheels a lot easier as there are fewer parts to deal with.
Most bearings are made from steel but you can also get ceramic bearings which will last longer since the ceramic balls will never rust. Ceramic bearings are also faster since the balls are lighter than steel and much harder too which means they will stay perfectly round throughout their life.
Choosing longboard bolts
There is not much to consider when choosing bolts except for the length. But don't forget the bolts otherwise you'll have no way of attaching the trucks to the deck!
For a longboard you would generally use 1.25" bolts unless you plan on using risers in which case you would need longer bolts.
Choosing longboard griptape
In South Africa there isn't much to choose from when it comes to griptape brands and that's because they're all pretty similar. We stock two brands that are good quality and reasonably priced. Blood Orange Grip is available in 1m sheets and 6 colours. (if you're ordering a custom set-up we will make sure you get enough to cover the deck. And if you want to mix and match colours you can do that too, just let us know in an email) Vicious Grip is available in packs of 3 (black) or 4 sheets (red and clear). The clear is really cool if your deck has a graphic on the top that you want to show through or you can put stickers under the grip.
Once you've decided on everything for your complete set-up, you might want to add some of these accessories to make your longboard feel just right for you and to keep it in peak condition.
A T-tool (truck tool) is something that every longboarder needs. Just this one too has everything you need to take apart and put back together every part of any skateboard.
Bushings are the easiest way of changing the feel of your longboard. It will take a bit of testing to find the perfect bushing set-up that's just right for you but luckily bushings are not expensive. If you want to try lots of options you can save a lot by getting a Fat Ant Boom Box which includes 6 sets of 4 bushings from 83a to 95a.
Bearing Lube is a good thing to have if you want to look after your bearings, especially if you live at the coast where they will tend to rust if they go without lube for too long.
Risers can be used to increase the clearance between your board and wheels and help to prevent wheelbite if you want to use bigger wheels. Angled risers can also be used to change the effective angle of your trucks. It's a good idea to use angled risers to increase the angle of your front truck and decrease the angle of you back truck to make your board turn more in the front than in the back which helps a lot with stability and control through corners.
Last on this list but most definitely not least important. Safety gear is really important when it comes to longboarding. There are stories of people ending up with brain damage after falling from a standstill. Saying you "don't plan on doing anything hectic" is no excuse to compromise on safety gear. Ask anyone with a few years of experience, the worst accidents happen when you least expect them. So please make sure that you always wear a helmet whenever you're longboarding.
Helmets for longboarding can be split into two categories: half-shell and full-face. If you plan on bombing hills as fast as possible then you're going to need a full-face helmet to protect your whole head and face. The faster you're moving the faster things can go wrong so you want to make sure you're protected at high speeds. The visor on your full-face helmet will also keep the tears out of your eyes when you hit top speed. The Predator DH6 is great full-face helmet that is certified to suitable standards. It comes in a one-size-fits-all shell with fit pads that can be adjusted to fit almost any head.
In the half-shell category we have two options: the Predator FR7 or the Predator SK8. The FR7 is a certified designed specifically with freeride longboarding in mind. It's really safe for a half-shell helmet and comes in 3 shell sizes, each with adjustable fit pads so you can be sure to get a comfortable, snug fit. The SK8 is not certified and is designed with street skating in mind. Although it's not certified it has adequate protection where you need it most. The sacrifice on a little safety makes the SK8 helmet extremely light and comfortable so it's a lot better to wear at least the SK8 helmet than nothing at all.
Sliding Gloves are the second most important piece of safety equipment for a longboarder, after helmets. In about 90% of all falls from a longboard it's your hands that hit the ground first. In fact, some of the pros don't wear knee pads because a lot of the time they're able to avoid injury by landing on their pucks and sliding on the tops of their shoes. Longboarders also need gloves with pucks to be able to perform manoeuvers like the Coleman slide and plenty of other slides that make longboarding a lot of fun. If you're just going to be freeriding your going to want something breathable like the Landyachtz Spirit Gloves. If you're more into racing, go for leather gloves like the Landyachtz Burley Gloves. We also sell Sliding Pucks separately since they wear out after a while.
Knee and Elbow pads help to keep your skin in one piece and prevent your joints from looking like bruised peaches. Knee pads are more important than elbow pads but if you're just starting out you're going to want both. G-Form Protective Gear is really popular with longboarders as it's very low profile, non-restrictive and comfortable while still providing really good protection. G-Form padding hardens on impact to distribute the impact, that's why they're able to make it so thin. It's amazing stuff. Do some research.
That's all we have for you right now. If you have any questions, please drop us an email or a phone call. If there is anything you think should be added to this article, put it in a comment down below.
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