10 Things about Bushings

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I had some idle time, and after ordering some new ones (Bones Hard Core) to try and spares, I thought: “what are the 10 things to know about bushings?”

So, to help, my 10 things to know…

  1. They are important – a bushing is a simple polyurethane item, but with a really complex job to do (including keeping you safe) balancing complex multi-directional forces. It is worth understanding how they work and getting the right ones for you.
  2. Guides, not rules – there is no definitive rule here – use what works for you. Mix what you want. There are some good guidelines on what to use for your riding style, board, trucks, and weight, but they are just guidelines. They are relatively inexpensive, but impact so much – buy a few, buy some spares. Try different ones. Buy a bagful.
  3. Different shapes – they come in different shapes (cones, barrels, stepped…) and construction (hard center, soft center…), which all work slightly differently depending on how you want to ride. It is OK to mix shapes on the top and bottom side to tune how the board performs.
  4. Different durometer – they come in different softness/hardness (rated in durometer or “duro”) which you match to your weight and riding style. It is OK to mix the duro on the top and bottom. There are plenty of guidelines for matching your weight and style to the duro.
  5. Different sizes – they come in different sizes (people often miss this): short, tall, fatter etc. Again it is OK to mix them and mixing is common; plus two that are tall can often not fit on the same kingpin.
  6. Match the truck – Some (it is rare) trucks are different to all others and need to work with specifically designed bushings – just make sure you don’t get mixed up.
  7. Cup AND bushing – don’t think just “bushing”, think “cup/washer+bushing”. The cup/washer, that the bushing sits on, also impacts how the board performs. Match the size and shape of the cup/washer to the bushing size and shape.
  8. Never cut to fit – never ever cut a bushing to make it fit. Cutting it will introduce micro cuts and tears which can sheer under pressure and leave you in a whole world of pain. If it does not fit, change it or the cup/washer.
  9. Replace? – if damaged, in any way – swap them out and throw away. Any damage can introduce a fault line which can then sheer under pressure. As said, they are inexpensive – just change.
  10. Good ones? – Yes, good ones are worth paying for – they are not “all just some plastic”. The formulas are different and how they perform can be very different – surprisingly so. Bad ones also run the increased risk of sheering. Even the best, however, are relatively inexpensive, so it is worth paying for the good ones from trusted brands like Venom, Riptide, BloodO, Oust, Orangatang, Shorty etc. if not sure, trust your local skate shop.

Note, virtually all boards/trucks come with stock cheap bushings, set up for whatever they consider is the ‘average customer’ weight and riding style. I would recommend always changing to what works for you – your weight and riding style. The Paris ones that came with their trucks I like, but some of the cheap ones used on e-boards are poor and I would replace straight away.

Regarding e-boards, there is not much difference between a conventional longboard and an e-board in terms of bushings. The trucks are generally the same. Most people just set-up their e-boards as a downhill longboard, for greater stability at speed, using stiff (high duro) barrel+barrel – but you can do what you want and run them differently if you want greater carving etc.

And finally, note that there is a small optimum range for the tightness or looseness of the kingpin nut. Too tight and you will deform the bushing and it will perform worse or, worse, sheer. Don’t over tighten to change the performance (or help reduce speed wobble), change the bushing.

Further information:

A great thread on Electric Skateboard Builders on setting up bushings: link

Hot-cast & cold-cast Urathane

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I have learned something new and interesting – the difference between hot-casting and cold-casting of polyurethane wheels (I did not even know there were two processes for making polyurethane wheels).

There have been a growing and significant number of posts on various e-board forums about how the polyurethane of hub-motors is cracking and breaking up far too quickly; and not just the usual budget companies, top end boards like Entertion’s Raptor seem to also have batches with the issue (Entertion aparently identified a bad batch). A few companies, inc. Backfire, Entertion and Verreal, offer replacement polyurethane for the motor; however, there is a concern, which I share, that there is a fundamental problem here with a lot of the hub-motors in the market right now.

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https://www.reddit.com/r/ElectricSkateboarding/comments/88ttji/raptor_new_97mm_already_cracking/

Part of the challenge, and why hub-motors require high-quality and not cheap low-quality polyurethane, is that the polyurethane unlike with a real wheel is effectively just a wrap or sleeve around the hub-motor. Not only this the amount of polyurethane much less than a real wheel (why there is more vibration to the ride), but the hub-motor will also be getting hot and heating up the core of the wheel.

One of the posts on /r/electricskateboarding highlighted (thanks Predator Boards) that the potential biggest issue is how the sleeve is made, namely if the polyurethane has been cold-cast or hot-cast. In summary (and I am far from being an expert here): hot-cast, where the wheels are baked in an oven, is more expensive but produces high-quality polyurethane wheels (all duros); as opposed to cold-cast, where it is set in a mold at room temperature. In addition, cheap cold-cast wheel often don’t use a vacuum as part of the process, to take the air (micro-bubbles) out of the wheel.

And, in response to “how do we spot if a wheel has been cold cast or hot cast?”:

This isn’t a guarantee, but hot-casted thane usually goes through a vacuum/compression process. You can inspect the inner edge of the wheel and see if there are any air bubbles. If there are, then it’s likely cold-casted. If there aren’t any, then it may still be cold-casted and vacuumed.

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I have not 100% understood all of this, and I need to do more reading, but it has first-off helped me with the question: “why don’t I just buy those cheap wheels from Ebay?“. As for hub-motors on e-boards, I just think that you have to accept it as part of the downsides (against their upsides), especially if you are buying a budget board which will almost certainly use cold-cast urethane sleeves. Having replacement sleeves is a distinct advantage with some makes, although there is an argument that just replacing the whole hub motor is actually the right/safer option. I think it all just reinforces the recommendation to only buy an e-board where you can fix and replace the parts easily. Cold-cast wheels are just going to damage easily and need replacing.

 

 

 

 

 

Short e-Boards and Long e-Boards

With Riptide entering the market with their two short e-boards, and Boosted Boards announcing yesterday the Boosted Minis, there is now more than ever interest in shorter e-boards, as opposed to the well established bottle-nose longboard. We have had short boards, typically based on sub-30” decks, for a while, but it is Riptide and Boosted who have generated the latest marketing noise. Plus, I also suspect that, as e-boards become more established, a lot of people are thinking about portability for last-mile commuting.

Note: I stand by my views on commuting on an e-board: unless you are already familiar with skateboarding/longboarding, get a scooter or cycle – they are cheaper, easier, safer, usually faster A-B and more robust. Not as fun as an e-board, IMO, but better commuting options for the mass majority of people.

For those who do want a shorter e-board (putting aside hub-motor vs belt for a minute), I would consider that there are actually two very different types of short boards available:
  • Kick-tail and short wheelbase
  • No kick-tail and longer wheelbase
For example, a 28″ Predator Banshee is shorter than the 31″ Riptide, but has a longer wheelbase at 23″, compared to the Riptide’s 14″. This is because roughly a third of the Rip’s deck is a kick-tail hanging off the rear drive wheels. Having such kick-tail means that changing your stance (pressure on the kick-tail) will quickly change the ride and balance of the board – way more than on a shape like the Predator. If you know what you are doing, skateboard already, this will not be an issue and give you lots of control for quick turns, even an olly. If, however, you are not used to this type of short kick-tale deck, you could easily move your stance too heavily and be off the board.

Why I would get one?

For me personally, the main reason to get one (and I am considering) would be that it would be fun and different from our existing longboards. Although I don’t need one to commute on (I prefer cycling), I can also see the portability advantages, especially as a last-mile commute option: easier to take on public transport, put under your desk, even stick in a backpack.

 

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Arc Board portability

 

When to not get a short-board?

It is a (relatively) free world, so if you want one – get one; however, I would advise caution if:
  • You have not skateboard/longboarded before – longer boards are easier to get used to, more stable at speed and help build up your confidence quicker.
  • You are a heavier rider – given they are all top-mounted and not bottle-nose, you have an increased risk of wheel-bite, especially if you are a heavier and more aggressive rider. Wheel-bite at speed is a whole world of pain.
  • You are riding constantly over rough roads and pavements – a lot fo the ride dampening and bump handling comes from deck flex. Short-boards have little or no real flex to take the bombs. Especially with hub-motors their rides are harsh and really need smooth surfaces.
  • You like going fast – longer wheelbase will just be more stable, shorter less so.

Hub vs Belt?

The pros and cons of hub Vs belt are well documented (overly documented), however, I think the choice is a key part of choosing a short-board. Short-boards have little or no deck flex, as the battery has to go the length of the board and make the best use of the space that it can, this means that there is little protection from vibration in the deck. Although hub-motors have their benefits, being quieter and with more clearance, they will add to that the vibration and can produce on short-boards a harsher ride. Using all real (soft) wheels, with a belt system like on the Rip or Boosted mini, will give some help and protection on bad street surfaces. Not a reason to ride hub-motor short-boards, just that the surface you want to ride over most of the time needs to be taken into account in making your choice.
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Medium Article: https://medium.com/@michaelgatti/raptor-2-part-2-the-comprehensive-comparison-1c8bf438f1b8
Personally, I would accept all the downsides of a belt-motor for the ride comfort, given I live in London with all our crappy Victorian pavements and roads, but that is just my preference.
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So what short-boards to consider?

For me, the #1 rule still stands: get a board you can fix easily and cheaply, the company has great customer service and you can get individual parts easily and fix things yourself. This applies even more to short-boards, which are probably going to lead an even harder life than longboards, especially if you are using that kick-tail to slam up and down curbs.
Some options to consider:
There is also one other excellent option for a short-board, which is to assemble (from a kit), build (from parts) or adapt (using a unit) your own deck. A good option because there are lots of decks you can use and lots of options for building, assembling or adapting; plus fixing any issues after can be relatively simple especially if you built it using a kit or parts. People have been doing transplants to short boards ever since the first board sold, this is nothing new.
See:
As ever, let me know if I have missed some make/board?
(I am sure others will come to market quickly with an option and I will try and add them as quickly as I can)
UPDATE: Added Ownboard & Bolt Motion.

E-board Myths

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(myth – “a widely held but false belief or idea”).

I see a lot of people looking, who are new to e-boards, many who are also new to skateboarding or conventional longboarding – which is great, the more that get to enjoy it, the better the community and the industry will get. Come on in. Consequently, I thought it worth getting some of the re-occurring myths busted to help new folk – so my starter for 5:

  1. E-boards have brakes and can stop – any abrupt stopping capability would be highly dangerous, the good ones have an ability to progressively slow you down, that’s it. You need technique and riding skill, as well as finger control.
  2. It is safe and legal to ride through city traffic (like some no-helmet reckless social-celebrity fuckwit in NY) – in most cities, it is not legal and certainly not safe (god-forbid no helmet).
  3. E-boards are good for long commutes – they are actually a PITA: slower, more stressful, more dangerous and certainly less robust than any cycle. Get one for fun, and the occasional commute, but really just fun.
  4. You can ride happily in the wet – a few e-boards have water-resistant ratings on some parts, but that does now include things like the bearings, which will rust quick. More importantly, you significantly lose grip both on the road and deck in the wet – 20mph with minimal grip..? I can show my accident photos as to why it is not worth it.
  5. They are consumer ready items, just buy and go – this is still early days in the market evolution. Based on the community and personal experience, more e-boards turn up with faults or quickly develop faults, than not; hence, be ready and think how you are going to things fixed. Equally, they all need a basic set-up and importantly set-up for your weight and riding, which may mean changing the bushings. I am still amazed that e-boards don’t ship with a range of different duro bushings and some instructions as to why they are important and how to change.

Disclaimer – sure, these are just my opinions, nothing more. I am happy if you disagree, just not on the no-helmet riding bit – just don’t do it folks. Brain damage is not cool.

 

Buying your first e-board

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I see quite a few people looking at, or who have bought, e-boards who are completely new to the whole scene, including conventional skateboarding or longboarding. It looks cool, which it is; fun, which it is; and a good commuting option, which it is not. The last point I will save for a separate post, but let’s assume the first two work.

Before I get into some good ways to start and what you will need, there is the fun bit of choosing your e-board and, to me, if you are new to this whole scene, there is one really big question to ask yourself first when choosing your e-board: “what am I going to do when something breaks (they all do) or when I brake it (we all do)?”.

If you are DIY handy, and with a little experience of, electrical and mechanical DIY, then it is much easier – simply buy a board which you can get spare parts for and you are good to go.

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However, most people in today’ consumer world are not that capable and don’t need to be for most other things. If you aren’t DIY handy, then choose your board very carefully, is the best advice I can give you. When something stops working (and it will) do you really want to be trying to send back to China? You can buy off Amazon or eBay, but they don’t fix things when they stop working. Answer this question, work out your plan for fixing, before taking any more steps and certainly before parting with any of your hard-earned money.

What does this mean, well, if you have a local retailer, a friend with one already, someone selling in your country, choose that e-board over anything else you read is ‘awesome’ online. Even if your local option is more expensive, not as fast or, quite frankly only available in pink stripes, yellow polka-dots and with unicorns patterns in the grip-tape (hey, actually I am first in line for that).

Remember, it WILL break or you WILL break it and then what?

If you need help then there is a list of European retailers that I know of here: https://longboardlife.org/european-makers/

Answered that, then go ahead and choose what works for you and your need for speed, range, terrain, looks, carry-ability, riding style etc.

How much are you going to pay?

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When you do your calculations just be aware of any import duties and shipping that might apply, not just from the purchase but when you need spares or even, depending on your country, when getting an existing board fixed and shipped back. Those belts that you need to replace might only be £8 each, but £60 in total to get two of them shipped to you.

I keep thinking about getting a Meepo kit and fitting it to one of our existing longboard decks, but the import duty in the UK, shipping from China, would add on at least 22.5% to the cost, as I would have to import it and be subject to both import duty and VAT.

What to learn on

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Next, I have a suggestion for you, which you may not have considered – buy a conventional push longboard as well to learn ok and get early confidence. If you are new to all this, the last thing you want to be doing is trying to learn how to start, brake, switch-ride etc when you are doing 20mph or more with cars, people, and rough old pavements. Conventional push longboards are relatively cheap, easy to resell, and much easier to get confident on; as well as being fun in their own right. Knowing and being confident with a few skills will make a huge difference in enjoying your e-board or not.

Helmets and more

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Next, choose your helmet – it is essential, a must; don’t do it without one and ignore all the irresponsible tossers and fuckwits on YouTube weaving in and out traffic with no helmet – arrghhhhh.

I very sadly have one friend already with permanent brain damage after a minor no-helmet cycle fall. Not a life for anyone. After the helmet, get whatever protection you want, it is your legs, arms, knees etc. And it is not just other traffic, people, dogs or roads that you have to worry about, remember… it will break… if it disconnects at 20mph or the wheel shears off or the motor jams, you are most likely have a trip to a hospital. The perfect empty smooth tarmac road is still not danger free. Adopt the view that your e-board, as well as everything else around you, want to kill you and you get it.

Tools & Checks

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Finally, pick up a few tools (you don’t need much), like a T-tool and anything else your board needs, and get familiar with some basic maintenance checks – if there is nothing from your board maker (use that as a judge on quality and support), then start here: https://longboardlife.org/2018/02/01/checking-before-riding/

Check, tighten and loosen.

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When you board arrives always check the trucks, connectors, nuts, bushings, washers, cups etc. Personally, I would always take off the wheels and check there are spacers, speed-rings etc. in place – one of our boards previously turned-up missing speed rings, so we now always check. It is easy for it to happen if the quality control is not great and with most cheap boards right now, it does not seem to be.

Tighten or loosen the wheel nuts and kingpin screws – there is an optimum for them, just like with wheel nuts, neither too loose or too tight. Remember, over-tightening the kingpin nut onto the bushing cup does not increase the stability, it just deforms the bushing and reduces its ability to progressively manage all multi-dimensional forces it has to balance.

Earlier post on “how tight“: https://longboardlife.org/2018/01/27/truck-bushing-how-tight/

Get the right bushings.

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Finally, on the bushings, find out what the stock/default bushings are and if necessary replace them. Personally, I have yet to be impressed by any stock bushings, so personally would always change them for ones from a reputable make, like Venoms, Blood Oranges, Riptides, Oust etc.

If you are not sure what bushings to use, I would set up your board like a conventional downhill board with barrels, board–side and road-side and a durometer rating that matches your weight for a stiff downhill ride.

If you are not sure of the durometer to use, this post includes some calculators: https://longboardlife.org/2018/01/27/bushing-duro-calculator/

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Checking before riding

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Thought it worth getting down on virtual paper what I check before riding, as I was asked a few days ago by someone who had just taken up skateboarding.

When I take any of the boards (conventional or electric) out of the under-stairs cupboard, I always do the same quick 30-second check with a T-tool in hand.

At the end of the day, the last thing I want when traveling at 10, 20mph or more is anything jamming, disconnecting, losing grip or breaking.

What I do:

  1. Check the grip-tape is not coming off.
    (turn over the deck)
  2. Trucks are screwed tight to the deck – no wobble or any movement.
  3. Bushings are not deformed or cracked.
  4. Kingpin nuts are not too loose or tight (at their optimum)
  5. Wheels not torn or cut (and about to shred).
  6. Wheel nuts not too tight or loose.
  7. Wheels bearings run smooth and quiet (each wheel) and not rusted.

As said, usually no more than 30 seconds.

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Dual-motor Boosted.
For the E-Boards, I then spend a few extra minutes on:
  1. Battery status – remote controller and board.
  2. Ensuring all exposed electrical connectors are tightly connected.
  3. All compartments (battery and controller) are tight to the deck.
  4. The motors tight and aligned (we run belt drives).
  5. No belt wear or damage – anything, and I will change them.
  6. Remote control wheel/trigger moving freely (not switched on).
    I then switch on the board and put on the ground (I am not stood on it) to give it some resistance.
  7. Remote pair the board and handset and quick forward and back.

That’s it, done; only takes a couple of minutes. Happy to know if I have missed anything you do.

 

UK Law & E-Boards

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I have been doing some digging into what is the current situation with UK law and using our e-boards on public roads and pavements.
First off, it is important to note that I am not a lawyer, nor transport official, just an enthusiast with a vested interest, so please take this as nothing more than my interpretation and comments.
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I have seen a number of people comment on various forums that the situation is a “grey area” or “unclear”. Personally, I don’t think it is unclear, I think is very clear – it may wrong, based on antiquated laws and little understanding, but it is still clear and unfortunately illegal for us to be on the public road or pavement.
With the exception of cycles (with pedals) where there is specific classification, it looks very strongly that our e-boards are classified as “motorized transport” on public roads and therefore, subject to UK road law. Plus, unless you are on an OneWheel, as e-boards have four wheels, they are classified as cars and not motorcycles or mopeds. This means they need to meet safety, registration and licensing laws.
Ref: Department of Transport, Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986. 
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So unless you can get your e-board through an MOT, with insurance, seat-belts, working brakes, lights etc., we are illegal on public roads; great on emissions, but still illegal. The situation is no better it seems with regards to riding on pavements; as under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 (yes, 1835!) it’s is an offense to ride a vehicle (and we are on motorized vehicles) on the public pavement.
At some point, the UK, even Europe, may do something to classify e-boards (and e-scooters) separately, like bikes and e-bikes, but there seems to be no sign that will happen in the near future or more – sadly, and frustratingly, we will be illegal on all public roads and pavements for many years to come. If you want this stupid and antiquated situation to change – write to your MP, join a (responsible) action group etc.
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Not wishing to incriminate myself, if I was (I stress “if I was“) to consider taking my e-boards out in the UK, in an emergency situation or after a moment of illness induced memory loss, I would choose to not antagonize the authorities and keep my riding to empty back-roads (not weaving ‘NY-Casey-style’ through city traffic!) or slowly on relatively empty pavements. It would wise to even be careful with cycle lanes and paths, which are generally still public roads or pavements.
My personal experience with law-enforcement in the UK has been nothing but good. A few police officers have shown interest and just asked general questions on the technology and how you control an e-board; but then at the time I had been both riding safely and respectfully of the environment and people around me. I do fear, however, that over time the situation will change for the worse and the authorities (as with aerial-drones now getting increasing banned in public places), after some high-profile dangerous incidents, will be forced to publically enforce the laws. All it will take is one or two serious injuries, the videos on YouTube and we will all be left with only our home driveways and group-hiring of privately owned racetracks. Want to know when e-board prices will drop? This is when there will be a flood of pristine second-hand e-boards on the market, but sadly nowhere to use them.
Why do I write all this – well, besides protesting responsibly and making our views known to those in power, we need to learn a lesson from what is happening to flying drones in the UK. Please, please, ride responsibly, not just for your own safety, and those around you, but because right now we have a special time in the UK and we could lose it very quickly.

Truck bushing how tight?

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A common question I see on various forums, and talking to new boarders, is “how tight should I run my trucks?“, which is really how tight should the kingpin nut be in compressing the bushings and holding the hanger in place.

The thing to understand is that the bushings on a conventional truck have to do a very complex job of reacting to multi-dimensional forces and keeping you out of hospital. Importantly, there is an optimum for the nut tightness and bushing compression. Too slack and the hanger will move unpredictably and reduce control, especially with speed wobbles; however, too tight and the bushing will deform and not work properly with poor progression, even damage. Meaning there is an optimum for tightness and over tightening does not help, it can actually make things more dangerous. Better stability and control does not come from overtightening tightening the kingpin nut, it comes from using a different bushing shape and durometer. Similarly, if a board won’t turn well, requiring too much brute force, loosening the nut more also does not work; use a different shape or software durometer.

Below is an excellent video from New Zealand skater Crunchie, which shows how to tighten on the bushings.

Bearing Grease

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Found this interesting and very helpful video on bearing grease from the excellent guys at Longboard Technology (OuterPlanet).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsXhSao7EEw

Youtube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsXhSao7EEw

Summary of their recommendations:

  • Schaeffer 274 Moly Extreme Pressure – most waterproof, Nano MOLY Anti-Friction, very cheap.
  • SuperLube High Temp Extreme Pressure – waterproof, PTFE Anti-friction, a little expensive.
  • Archoil AR8300 Severe Duty Nanoceramic – very high water resistance, nano ceramic anti-friction, VERY expensive.
  • Bones Speed Cream – gold standard conventional bearing lubricant. Low water resistance, no anti-friction additives, extremely good ease of use, widely available, cheap.

Lots of other interesting videos of there, especially on truck design.

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