The sheer number of available options for choosing downhill longboard decks can be overwhelming. This is especially true if you’re new to the sport and all you have to go on is what your friends tell you is best.
Thankfully, the process of choosing a downhill longboard deck doesn’t have to be so complicated. In fact, you can use several factors or principles to guide you in the right direction. The first and perhaps most important of those principles should be:
Your specific longboard riding style.
How you will ride your longboard and the kind of tricks you would like to perform while riding it are good places to start when looking for the right deck. Just think of it this way: your longboard is very much the sum of all its components, from the trucks to the deck and everything in between.
Choosing your longboard amounts to picking all the right components, and this depends a great deal on what you want to do with the longboard in the first place.
There are many different longboarding styles. Carving, commuting, long-distance travel, dancing, bowling, freeriding, or speed skating downhill are all options. Since we are mainly focused on downhill skating, let’s look at how we can select the right downhill longboard deck for your board.
Tips on Choosing the Best Downhill Longboard Decks for You
Speed skating and freeriding are two of the main longboarding disciplines enjoyed by enthusiasts when going downhill. Freeriding typically involves riding at moderate and controlled speeds, with elegantly executed maneuvers being part of the thrill.
Downhill longboarding or speed skating is all about the thrill of speed. Enthusiasts strive to find the best speed lines and use advanced sliding techniques that allow them to control the speed in corners and keep off dangerous road sections.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Downhill Longboard Decks
You need to consider a few factors when choosing decks for downhill longboards. Most of the factors mentioned here are specific to downhill riding but can cross other riding styles.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to look for:
The Shape of the Downhill Longboard Deck
A symmetrically shaped board of 38 to 42 inches is often best when freeriding. You could also consider one that has a 24-29″ wheelbase. However, if you are a beginner in the sport, you should consider looking for a dropped deck, which offers you more stability when riding at high speeds.
When dealing with a drop deck, freeride-oriented concaves may cause some interference in speed tuck stances. That’s one of the main reasons more experienced riders choose a different option, such as a top-mount board. On the other hand, intermediates are better served by a drop-through board with no flex.
Finally, expert riders might benefit from a low flex top mount deck. Even though these tend to be less stable, they offer you more leverage and better control during slides and turns.
How to Choose the Right Concave and Flex for Downhill Longboard Decks
When freeriding or downhill longboarding, you ideally want your deck to offer enough concave. This way, it can easily lock your feet in when you get into crazy maneuvers such as slides or 180º.
The downhill deck should also offer you a bit of flex, which helps with sliding and carving when going at moderate speeds. However, if you intend to go downhill at high speeds, you want to consider a stiff deck. This type of deck should be made of rigid composite material with a subtle concave.
Choosing the Trucks for Downhill Longboard Decks
While the deck you choose plays a huge role in how well you can ride your longboard downhill, it’s only one component. As your longboard is a sum of all its components put together, the trucks and longboard wheels also come into direct play.
With that in mind, here are some of the factors you need to consider when choosing the right longboard trucks for downhill longboarding.
Since you will be quite literally flying down the hill, you need trucks that provide you with excellent traction. For that reason, RKP trucks might be better suited for this job rather than TKP because they provide more traction.
Another excellent reason for choosing these trucks is that they can withstand the incredible amount of pressure that comes with sideways sliding. You should consider using 180 mm-wide trucks. These work better with many different setups, but you can also go with something smaller if you value faster turning.
Your baseplate should give you a good balance between stability and grip. It should also give you enough deck height, so you don’t have to worry about wheel bite. For this reason, a 50º baseplate angle works perfectly.
However, if you want to achieve easier sliding, you can use a higher angle; if you want more stability, use a lower angle.
Choosing the Right Wheels for Downhill Longboard Decks
As you can imagine, the longboard wheels you choose will aid or hamper the effects your downhill deck has on your longboarding escapades. The idea is to find the perfect balance between sliding and traction. This means choosing 68-72mm diameter longboard wheels is a good place to start. Doing so puts you squarely in the middle ground where traction, durability, and slidability intersect.
To tip the scales in your favor, you can go with a rounded or beveled lip profile as well as a durometer that falls between 78A and 82A. You can even choose something slightly harder if you are a heavier rider.
Beginners can use center set wheels that have regular bearings. These wheels should have speed rings or spacers that protect the bearings during slides. However, if you are doing more technical or hardcore sliding, choosing smaller wheels that fall within the 60-65mm range with a higher durometer of 85A or above should work fine.
It should be noted that setting up your longboard for downhill riding is just one piece of the puzzle. If you want to have a safe ride on any given day and any board, make sure you have mastered the basic skills first.
Also, remember to wear your protective gear and only ride at your skill level on downhill longboards. That being said, the abovementioned tips will help you set up your downhill longboard deck properly for high speed, comfort, and safety purposes.