Why Does My Longboard Wobble And How To Prevent Speed Wobbles
Every longboarder faces speed wobbles at some time, and for unaware beginners it happens unexpectedly and may have discouraging consequences. So, in this post I’ll try to explain what it is, how it happens and how to come out of it alive. Hopefully, in the end you’ll be much more prepared for speed wobbles and will know the techniques to stop them.
What exactly is ‘speed wobble’?
As the name suggests, this nightmare happens when you’re going at high speed – it’s the main danger for downhill riders, however riders of other styles may also easily reach speeds which could trigger the wobble. In the sense of physics, it’s a quick oscillation (4-10 Hz) of your rear truck. It starts with a minor sideways movement quickly increasing in amplitude until you lose control. The thing is, that as soon as your body senses this movement your legs try to compensate with counter turns, however it cannot keep up with such high frequency and in turn overcompensates increasing the wobble amplitude. In the end, you and your longboard go separate ways and you eat it good. The trigger for speed wobble is usually a road imperfection or some pebble that you hit going at speed. Sometimes it can be just a poor stance, as in this example:
That’s the very basics of speed wobbles, now let’s look at some ways you can get out of them.
As you ride at speed your weight distribution should be heavily shifted toward the front truck. If you start to wobble, the very first thing to do is to lean to front even more – around 90% of your weight should be positioned in front. Also, it’s very important to lower your center of gravity. It will add stability, help to maintain control and get out of the wobble.
Here’s my recommended instructional video on the ‘tuck’ position, which is absolutely necessary when riding at high speed:
One very effective strategy to get out of a wobble is to initiate a slow carve to one way or another. However, it works only if you do this early in the wobble. When you start a turn, you counter the subconscious corrective movements which increase the wobble amplitude. Keep in mind that the carve should be slow, not a quick one.
What makes wobble worse and crash imminent are stiff muscles. Your legs should be as relaxed as possible in order to dampen the movement and stop overcorrecting. You should not give in to the panic ensued by wobbling and keep your mind calm.
These three techniques used together will help you to get out of most wobbles and maybe even avoid them at all. Of course, it might not be easy at first but practice makes it perfect.
Longboard set up
There are a few things you can adjust on your board to reduce wobble risk. However, these things are a bit controversial, you’ll see why.
‘Tighten your trucks’ is probably the most popular advice to reduce the risk of speed wobbles, however usually contradicted by more experienced riders with a saying ‘loose trucks save lives’. Tighter bushings makes your board harder to turn and actually harder to wobble. The problem is that it will still get into speed wobble but at much higher speed and you’ll have a lot less time to take counter action. And of course, since you’re going faster, the crash will be more painful.
If you really need tighter bushings, you should change the durometer instead of cranking them down.
Lower angle degree baseplates
Another option is to use lower degree baseplates – they lower your deck and therefore center of gravity, also give you less turn. This tip is better than tightening trucks but the result is quite similar – you’re simply postponing the speed at which the wobble might be triggered. However, if your trucks were not overtightened you might get earlier warning and still have time to get out of it.
Longer wheel base
On some decks it’s possible to increase or reduce wheel base by mounting trucks farther or closer to each other. Longer base also makes your board harder to turn and less wobble-prone, again, postponing the wobble triggering speed.
All three options won’t help you to completely prevent speed wobbles and when it happens, you might crash harder. To prove my point, here’s an example how quick it could happen when going at high speed:
It’s better to practice and get used to this issue with a normal setup as wobbles will trigger at a lower speed. As your skills increase, you won’t start to wobble at low speeds and will be able to get out of them at higher speeds by using those three tips in the first part of this post: • Weight distribution • Turn initiation • Relaxed muscles
Getting back to the saying ‘loose trucks save lives’ – if you won’t overtighten your trucks, you’ll have a bit harder but a lot better learning process which in the end will make you a better rider.
In my opinion, when it comes to speed wobbles it’s always better to work on improving your technique rather than cutting corners by cranking down the bushings or lowering your deck and reducing maneuverability. And when you start feeling that wobbling in your rear truck, just keep calm, double check if you’re in a proper tuck and begin a slow turn. After a few times you’ll see it’s not that scary!
Most importantly, there’s no way to completely avoid speed wobbles, so don’t ride at a higher speed than you feel comfortable at and don’t forget your helmet and protection pads!