Another question by one of our readers: ‘How to make your longboard faster?’. This is probably a common question amongst adrenaline lovers, asked as soon as they learn to stand on the board. I personally am a fan of going blazing fast as well so I’ll try to give you a few tips on how to achieve that. The general idea is that you want to reduce friction as much as possible – this is basic physics. I’ll break this post down into a few parts:
Wheel bearings is a crucial part in determining how far you roll with each push and how fast. Also, they are easily replaced and quite simply maintained when needed. So let’s get into a few details.
ABEC – this is an industry accepted standard for the tolerances of ball bearings. It’s rated in odd numbers from 1 to 9, the higher the number, the tighter the tolerance and hence the higher degree of precision.
Many sellers use high ABEC rating as a selling point and there’s a common misconception that a higher rating means faster bearing. In reality this rating is important only for high tech machinery. Truth is, the difference between ABEC 1 and ABEC 7 is so subtle that it wouldn’t make a difference for longboarding. Therefore, better refer to things like brand and community reviews. To give you a few examples:
Zealous Bearings – these are probably the best value for the money bearings you can get. They are stainless steel and use a unique lubricant which contains non-ceramic compounds. When you’re using the heat builds up and this lubricant hardens on the areas of imperfection. The more you use these bearings, the faster they become. Also, they are built-in which means additional spacers and speed rings are not needed. Although you can clean these bearings, they usually last at least 2 seasons for an average rider if not maintained. After that you can just buy new ones as the price is around $15. That’s a really cheap investment and these bearings are better than most of the stock ones. Just give them around 10 miles to break in and you’ll feel a significant speed difference.
Another suggestion is on a high-end – Ceramic Super Reds by Bones. They are quite expensive at around $60 but it’s worth it for speed maniacs and hard to beat. Ceramics are lighter, stronger corrosion-free and lasts a lot longer than steel counterparts. These are the fastest bearings we’ve ever tried, the feel is quite different from other bearings – almost frictionless.
Wheels is another part you can easily replace to improve speed. I should probably separate two applications – one for fast downhill ride and another for flatland cruising, where you want more acceleration when pushing. So for downhill you want a wheel that has a large plastic core – these wheels have very high rebound, keep momentum well and therefore are stupid fast. Higher durometer would be faster but keep in mind that it’ll have less grip (hence slide easier). Here are a few examples:
Orangatang Kegels – very popular downhill wheels made in California, going around $60. They have huge core and great grip but once you break them in, slide great. Highly recommended for speed lovers.
Seismic Speed Vents – these are actually the fastest longboard wheels in the world – they were used to set multiple world speed records. They are very large diameter at 85mm, so watch out for wheel bite. Speed Vents are quite costly though – around $76.
Now for the cruising you should choose smaller wheels in both dimensions, a few suggestions:
Seismic Tantrum – these are just 45mm wide and diameter is 72mm. They also have a larger core as the previously mentioned wheels but due to their smaller size you get a great acceleration as well. Quite a perfect wheel for cruising or freeriding. Price is around $55.
Orangatang Keanu – even smaller diameter wheels at 66mm. These come pre-broken in which means they are easier to learn sliding on. Core is slightly bigger than usual and acceleration is excellent.
Aerodynamics play a significant role in longboarding, especially downhill. To ride fast and stable, you have to get used to a position called ‘tuck’. Basically, you want to get low and reduce your silhouette as much as possible. This way you also lower your center of gravity which gives you more stability. Here’s a great video tutorial about tucking:
Also, you can use it vice versa to your advantage – in case you need to slow down, you can stand up tall and spread your arms to increase air resistance. However, be careful doing this – at high speeds you can loose balance and fall.
Last but not the least factor affecting your speed – road quality. Of course, the smoother it is the better, but you can get more speed choosing your wheel durometer for the roads you ride on. On smooth pavement or asphalt you should use higher durometer wheels (usually 80A and higher), as lower ones absorb energy and reduces your speed. You‘ll still have plenty of grip if the road is really flat. The danger is that any pebble can throw you off the board quite easily.
For rough asphalt or uneven pavement lower durometer (78A and lower) will provide more comfortable and speedy ride. Basically it‘s a process of trial and error to find the best durometer for you and the roads you ride on but hopefully these guidelines will help you get started.