Things Learnt

So what have we learned?

Taking into account that our main interest is primarily just cruising around 9’cafe-cruising’) on our longboards and some simple carving and tricks, this is what we have learned so far.
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1. There are lots of different types of longboards and they feel different

Longboards can feel very different depending on flex of the deck, types of wheels, truck rake angle, softness/hardness of bushings and many other aspects; it is good to try out different ones, before spending a lot of money on a board. I would recommend initially buying a decent complete (but not a cheap piece of trash) and then decide what you like and really want.
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2. Assembling boards is easy

Assembling boards is easy, changing wheels, bushings, trucks is all quite simple and for most parts are interchangeable with there being various industry standards on dimensions. This means that it is both easy to change and upgrade items, as well assemble your own board from parts (once you know what you like and want).
See below for more tips.
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3. There are lots of very cool and beautiful decks out there

There are lots of small craft and custom makers out there, making very cool and beautiful decks (and complete boards). When you know what you like, you don’t have to get the same mass produced board as everyone else. Search out that custom craftsman in your country/region and get something rare, highly desirable and perfect for you.
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4. Don’t use an un-gripped board in the wet – it hurts!

Some of my decks have beautiful top wood and I keep grip-tape or spray free, to show off the wood. This works fine when you are doing simple cafe cruising and it is dry; however, as soon it is wet, it does not matter how good your shoes are you will come off badly. If you want some grip and still show off the top wood or pattern, consider clear spray-grip or covering only part of the deck.
Blog Articles: Gripped Fish & Gripped Zenit
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5. Rough pavements need bigger wheels.

Most of my local.pavments are old and far from smooth, bigger wheels at 70cm, 80cm or more reduce the number of embarrassing and painful stumbles in front of the cafe.
Blog article:  Choosing Wheels
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6. Always used the correct bushing

For me, the biggest single difference you can make with a board is getting the bushing right for your weight and riding style/purpose. This made a big difference for me on how stable a board feels and how it turns, at 180kg, and my younger son at 70kg. Bushings are inexpensive, easy to change and make a massive difference.
Blog article: Bushings

 

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7. Good bearings are fun.

The three boards we bought complete, and every other complete friend’s boards I have tried, have all come with cheap overly resistant bearings. replacing these with decent bearings has made a big difference, making them more fun. Just ignore every ABEC reference on the spec and put in good bearings.
Blog article: Choosing Bearings

 

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8. Good help is out there.

There is a lot of help out there, both online and in your local skate shop. Read, get to know your local shops and ask questions.

 

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9. You are never too old and it is not that hard

Age is not a barrier to enjoying playing around on skateboard and longboards – I am 53 and this is fun, keeping me out of mischief, and improves my balance every day. Just cruising the street is easy with a few basic tricks/moves, pumping and craving is easy.

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Further Technical points for assembling boards

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  1. Bolts to fasten the truck to the deck can be flat-heads (aka “dome-heads”) or countersunk. Countersunk is when the bolt is going directly into the wood with a countersunk hole (if not use a washer) and dome-head where the bolt is going directly into the truck on a drop-through deck. Always use a washer with the nut, either on to the truck bottom or underside of the deck if a drop through.
  2. Avoid wheel-bite at all cost – get the right truck axle width, wheel size and use risers if needed.
  3. Choose the wheels based on purpose (and aesthetics) – shape, edge, core, size and softness/hardness all matter.
    Blog article:  Choosing Wheels
  4. Bearings sat on the axle, and in the wheel, need spacers between them to stop them twisting and laterally moving under pressure. These can be either simple tubes or built into the bearing itself (like the Bones Race Reds which we use). These are dependent on the axle diameter and the space needed between the bearings. Most are 8mm x 10mm, but it is always worth checking what is needed for the wheels and trucks you have.
  5. To grip the top or not – you have basically 3 options:
    • No grip – just the wood or deck material, which shows off the deck and works fine as long as you are not pushing the envelope (just nice easy cruising), you have good shoe grip and importantly it is not wet – if it is wet and your soles are wet, don’t use that board.
    • Grip-tape – clear, coloured or dark, pattern or complete coverage. The traditional most used way. Comes in different grades (standard, medium and heavy), as well as colours.
    • Grip-spray – like with tape comes in different grades, is generally clear and shows off the wood and pattern more than clear grip-tape. Unlike grip-tape, it is, however, not easy to remove once applied.
  6. You can clean your bearings, which will get dirty over time; however, if they are cheap in the first place, don’t bother just replace with good ones. Even clean cheap bearings will never be that good. Cleaning bearings should only be with specific citrus cleaners and lubricant – never WD40 and std 3-in-1 oil.
    Blog Article: Choosing Bearings

Guides:

Wheels

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Longboard types – choosing something to start on

  • Board types generally get classified for:
    • Cruising – general streets, easy carving/cornering; the place to start.
    • Downhill – fast boards: speed and grip is everything.
    • Freeride – downhill with tricks
    • Dancing – big extra-long board to move/dance around on
    • Carving – fast, twitching turning board
  • Cruising is where I and most people start; however, 90% of boards really do a bit of everything, so other than something specialized a lot of boards will work as starting boards. The more stable, less twitchy and less sliding is better as a starter; confidence is everything.
  • I started with a 41″ (104cm) board which worked well for my height (1.85m) and weight (85kg). Personally, I like boards that are not too small, something 32-42” works well as a cruiser for me.
  • Part of the fun is changing the feel and purpose of your board, typically by chaining the wheels and bushings, for less or more carve, grip or slide. It is relatively inexpensive to do and worth experimenting.
  • Matching your truck bushings to your weight (usually replacing the ones it initially came with your board or trucks) is a good thing and can make a big difference.
  • Buy something you really like the look of – the design, the colors etc – it does matter. Your board needs to be something you really really want to take out, it is the only way you are going to get confident. If it is not cool to you and you don’t drool, don’t buy it.
  • You can buy complete longboards, ready to ride out of the shop; which is not a bad way to start. Most complete boards, however, use lower grade parts, which you will quickly end up upgrading if you keep the board. Of the two cheaper boards we have, we have ended up quickly changing the bushing and bearings on both. The difference was very noticeable.
  • The alternative to buying a complete longboard is buying the separate parts and assembling it yourself, which is really easy and satisfying:
    • basic parts: deck, trucks, bearings, and wheels
    • plus, if needed: bolts, bearing spacers, grip-tape and replacement bushing (for your weight and style)

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Electric Boards

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I am looking to get another electric board to go with the Yuunec and wanted to share, less my thought process, more the state of the market; especially for those of us living outside the US.

First off, the market right now is almost all made up of start-up companies with little history, experience, and pedigree in manufacturing. The technology is generally not stable, not standardize and constantly evolving – it is the wild west and we all have to gamble to varying degrees with our hard earned, and not insignificant, cash.

Although electric boards are relatively simple in functionality – there is really not much to them, they are all just a deck, some trucks, wheels, motor, a battery, and controller – the reality is that the quality and functionality of the batteries, the motors, the controllers, especially the controllers, all vary massively. Some are OK, a few are actually good, a lot are crap and nearly all of them have reports of quickly developed, or “from bad batch”, faults. Add to this that most of the manufacturers are still talking only “pre-orders and hoping to ship sometime soon” and our choices seem to be choosing the

Some of the e-boards are OK, a few are actually good, a lot are crap and nearly all of them have reports of quickly developed faults. Add to this that most of the manufacturers are still talking only “pre-orders and hoping to ship sometime soon” and our choices seem to be very much choosing the lesser of evil/risk.

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So if you don’t mind the Wild West, and are prepared to risk your money, I would categorize the available options as:

  • Expensive boards, at £1000-3000, from some big marketing spend start-ups; who, on the upside, seem to at least understand skateboards and longboards, but are still spending more on their marketing than actually shipping to customers.
  • Much cheaper, at £500-1000, direct-from-china start-ups; who see the manufacturing and sale opportunity, but rarely seem to understand the skateboard and longboard experience. Lots of variable quality, no real support and often the poor experience leaves you frustrated and wishing you had bought something else.
  • Smaller start-ups with not much money (especially in marketing to take on the big start-ups), with older generation technology, trying to do their best but still charging £1000+. Not sure how many of these actually survive and, at best, you get a board, but it can not be repaired and, at worst, your order will never arrive and you lose the money.

In terms, of functionality, setting aside aesthetics and deck attributes (flex, stiffness, length etc.), for me, what differs significantly with boards is:

  • The quality of battery used.
  • The quality of the motors.
  • The quality of the controller.

Besides marketing and youtube sponsorship, this is where the money is spent, or not, and shows the good boards from the bad or just dull.

One of the big debates right now is in-hub motors or traditional belts and, although I like the engineering concept of in-hub, we need to be also aware that it is still very new in the area of e-boards with very little history to show what is actually good and what is bad. In-hub might be great on paper, but right now for me, it is still early days on reliability and quality. Personally, right now, in-hub comes with its own risks and is nice, but not a must-have.

If you are prepared to risk, because that is the big overall point here, your hard-earned money on an electric board, accepting that it will be quickly obsolete and surpassed in 12 months time, I would put two questions at the top of my decision making, ahead of interchangeable batteries, in-hub or belt motors etc.:

  1. When it goes wrong, what am I going to do?
    There is a reasonable probability, regardless of if you have spent 500 or 3000, that something will go wrong in a short space of time and then what do you do? If the answer is just “send back to Amazon” or worse, “send back to another country” then I would think hard about what you are about to buy. I have friends with all sorts of e-boards, including the high profile big spending marketing ones, and not one, not a single one, has not had a fault so far.
  2. What is the experience actually like and does that work for me?
    Some of the boards I have tried have been truly horrible, some OK and a few great. Some of the controllers are truly horrible to use and some of the boards even unable to turn or get up a small incline. If it is too slow, or not maneuverable, you will get bored quickly and leave it in the corner, if it is too fast, or too twitchy, you will not get any confidence and leave it in the corner. Hence, don’t make any choice based on a few YouTube videos, a few Reddit posts, and a website. Find someone with one and try it, even better find a shop and test ride.

More than anything, remember the boards now will become obsoletely very quickly and will retain very little second-hand value. How fast they are evolving, and their high rate of faults, makes these effectively very expensive short-term disposable purchases! Great fun, but it is still early days for these devices.

Good luck…

 

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