Updated: Feb 23, 2018
Longboarding and skateboarding have much in common, including a history that dates back to the surfing boom of the 1950s and 60s. However, they also have distinct lines of evolution. Skateboards have remained relatively unchanged for more than 20 years, but longboarding has developed unique requirements and equipment all its own.
Nowhere is the difference between longboarding and skateboarding equipment more obvious than it is in truck design. We’ll examine the factors that determine which trucks you should use shortly. But first, let’s look at the parts of a longboard truck individually and explain what each one does to help a longboard respond predictively to your inputs.
The Parts of a Longboard Truck
The baseplate is the aluminum piece that connects to the longboard. Depending on the configuration of your deck, the baseplate may mount on the bottom or pass through and mount on the top. This difference is not just for show. The baseplate’s position impacts stability.
When the deck is above the baseplate (top-mounted), stability is increased because of the downward pressure on the truck. Drop-through trucks lower the rider’s feet, and the ride is quite comfortable. But, top-mounted decks are more suitable for high speeds because the downward force on the baseplates increases stability.
Axle and Hanger
The aluminum part of the truck between the wheels is called the hanger, while the threaded steel bar that passes through it is called the axle. The axle’s width is normally given in inches, while the hanger width (between the wheels) is usually measured in millimeters. The axle width is the more important measurement of the two, because it relates to the board width.
The hanger is the part that allows us to steer our boards. As the rider leans the deck, the hanger twists relative to the baseplate, causing the longboard to turn. Generally speaking, a smaller axle width will produce a tighter turn, though other factors affect a truck’s steering geometry.
The urethane bushings that fit onto the kingpin impact how the trucks will steer, but they don’t enable it. Rather, the bushings cushion the lean of the board and provide resistance. Without them, the board would have no stability at all.
The bushings may be either cone-shaped or barrel-shaped. Barrels are more stable than cones, but they are also less maneuverable. While they are interchangeable, Yocaher longboard trucks come with a barrel-and-cone bushing configuration for the best compromise between stability and agility.
The kingpins on skateboard trucks face the middle of the board. Facing inward this way, skateboard trucks are able to produce extremely sharp turns. At higher speeds, though, that agility becomes a problem. Skateboard trucks are too twitchy for downhill longboarding. They are prone to speed wobbles, which is when the trucks turn violently from side to side. If that happens, a crash is sure to occur.
To combat speed wobbles, longboard trucks typically have kingpins that face to the outside, away from the middle of the board. They still turn quickly and are plenty maneuverable, but they are also much more stable than the inward-facing kingpins on skateboard trucks. They require a bit more lean to produce the same turn, but that reluctance to turn is a result of their stability. The tradeoff is worth it.
How to Choose Trucks
The term longboard describes many different types of decks, some of which are not particularly long. While smaller boards may fit into the category, they sometimes benefit from conventional skateboard trucks. That is why shapes such as old school decks and cruisers – including mini and micro cruisers – will usually come with skateboard trucks when purchased as completes.
Board width is a major determining factor in whether a set of trucks will work with a board. Some decks have cutaways or other shapes that allow the trucks to turn freely, but otherwise the axle width should approximate the width of the deck. This way, the rider gets the maximum in stability and agility without compromising too much of either.
Longboards that will be used mainly in urban settings may function better with conventional, skateboard-type trucks. The quicker turns will make them more useable around foot traffic, and their increased carving ability ups the fun factor at slower cruising speeds. However, as speed increases, most riders benefit from reverse-kingpin trucks.
Anyone who is considering getting into downhill longboarding should opt for reverse kingpins. The moment that the riding surface pitches downward, speed becomes much more difficult to control. A short ride down the driveway is one thing, but when the road opens up, reverse-kingpin trucks are less twitchy and more user-friendly.
Transportation and Cruising
Even if you live in an area that is flat as a pancake, you shouldn’t necessarily assume you don’t need reverse-kingpin longboard trucks. The added axle width Yocaher longboard trucks offer provides a stable ride for many cruiser longboards. Whether you’re cruising around town and rolling through campus, the reduced twitchiness makes for a calmer ride.
Again, if bending tight carves is your goal, conventional kingpins are the way to go. But, if you prefer a more relaxed ride, reverse-kingpin trucks are the solution. They’ll still turn plenty tight when coaxed, but they leave options like downhill riding open as you progress in longboarding.
To someone new to longboarding, the selection of equipment usually seems pretty complicated. But, there really is no mystery. Conventional kingpins are perfect for trick skateboards and a few types of longboards. Small, agile cruisers and a few kicktail longboards (such as the Yocaher Slimkick) function better with the abruptly turning skateboard truck. Most longboards are better served by purpose-built longboard trucks, though.
To ensure you’re making the right choice, first make certain that the trucks match your deck. Remember, a wide board usually benefits from wide axles (measured in inches). Above all else, be sure the trucks you are considering are suitable for the speeds you intend on attaining. If downhill is in your future, insist on reverse-kingpin longboard trucks. Accept no compromises.