Updated: Jan 26, 2018
What's the Difference? Drop Through vs. Drop Down
One thing new longboarders often struggle with is choosing the right one out of the sea of possible shapes. The reasons behind some shapes are obvious. Drop-through and drop-down decks look so much alike, it can be difficult to figure out which one you need. Once you understand the purpose of each shape, though, picking just one becomes much simpler.
Why drop the deck at all?
The purpose behind the dropped platform on a longboard is to get the rider closer to the pavement. With a lower center of gravity, the longboard becomes much more stable. This helps smooth out the ride at faster speeds, and virtually eliminates the dreaded speed wobbles that can happen on top-mount boards. Being closer to the ground, the rider also has a closer reach when pushing, so fatigue should set in later.
What do they have in common?
Drop downs and drop throughs both have lowered platforms, which puts each of them closer to the spinning wheels. If the wheels were to rub on the board during a turn, the results would be dangerous. It’s like slamming on the brakes. Longboarders call this wheel bite, and they dread it. To prevent the wheels from biting, drop-through and drop-down decks almost always have large cutaways above the trucks. The rider is able to lean as far possible on the trucks without fear of wheel bite.
Both shapes also typically employ reverse-kingpin trucks with wide hangers. The reason is that these trucks are more stable at speed than conventional trucks or those with thinner hangers. The stability comes at the cost of maneuverability, and neither of these shapes is the most agile available. For reasons we will discuss shortly, though, the drop through edges out the drop down when it comes to carving and cornering.
What separates them?
Because they achieve their lowered platform in different ways, drop-down and drop-through boards produce noticeably different ride characteristics. Beginning riders may notice very few differences at first. But, as they begin to specialize in a discipline, most riders tend to prefer one shape or the other. Let’s look at each shape individually to see why.
Characteristics of the drop down
The drop down is a technical rider’s shape, and it is meant for more technical skating. The platform is curved downward behind the trucks when the shape is pressed in the factory, which makes the deck extremely stiff. The trucks mount conventionally, with the deck resting on top of the baseplates. This configuration spreads the riders weight over the trucks evenly, so the ride is supremely stable — as long as the board is going straight.
Curving the board downward places the feet more in line with the axis of the truck. There is less weight forcing down on top the trucks. The net effect is that the drop-down setup is much easier to kick sideways into a slide than most other shapes. It also takes less effort to hook back up and get straight again. Once the wheels are back in line with the direction of travel, the naturally stable ride returns quickly.
These are exactly the characteristics that freeride longboarders are looking for, and the drop down is the preferred shape for these riders. If you like to go fast and lay urethane tracks on the hillside, the drop-down deck is likely for you.
Drop downs at a glance:
Very high speeds
Characteristics of the drop through
Drop-through decks achieve their lower platform by placing the baseplate above the deck. There is a cutout through which the baseplate passes, and the deck essentially hangs beneath it. The riders weight is dispersed over just the nuts on the bolts.
Another reason for the straighter drop-through deck’s flex is that it lacks the curve of the drop down. Because of that added flex, drop throughs sacrifice some stability at speed to the drop-down boards, but they makes up for it with extra maneuverability. Also, because the riding platform itself doesn’t drop, the drop through gives the rider a larger surface area to stand on.
Drop throughs are versatile shapes — the jack-of-all-trades longboard. They are quite a bit harder to get sideways than a drop down, but the tradeoff is that they have better traction in corners. A drop through will still slide. It just takes more effort to kick out and break traction. It shines as a commuter, though, because of the shortened reach to the pavement when pushing.
Drop throughs at a glance:
Moderately high speeds
Which one is right for you?
Beginning longboarders often gravitate to drop-through decks precisely because of their lack of specialization. They can go fast, but no one should attempt a land speed record on one. Their lowered profile also makes them easy enough to kick sideways, and they are great for learning the basics of freeride.
Drop throughs are also by far the more forgiving of mistakes of the two shapes. Beginners often carry too much speed into curves — especially when learning to ride downhill — and they also tend to kick out too hard on slides. Their superior carving ability and naturally better traction make drop-throughs the safest bet for new longboarders as they learn to temper their effort and check their speed before turns.
The drop down is the best choice for some experienced riders and those new ones who know for sure that they want to master the freeride discipline. Their ease of sliding is indescribable compared to any other shape. There is also much less rollover tendency during slides like there is on other downhill board types, even the drop throughs.
Just be sure to take it slow as you adjust to a drop down. The lack of traction has been known to cost overconfident riders when hairpin curves sneak up on them. However, if you’ve got an itch that only going sideways at Mach 3 can scratch, consider stepping up to a drop down.
On that note, check out line up of longboards HERE