Introduction: How to Build & Configure a Downhill Skateboard for Beginners
My name's Dale and I've been a Downhill Skateboarder for around 6 years now. In this Instructable I hope to pass on my knowledge to those just starting out, so that you can build and configure your perfect Longboard.
I can't stress enough that this Instructable is just a guide, personal preference may make your setup a bit different in the long run.
For beginners to Downhill Skateboarding, I'd recommend a setup that you can also just push to the shops on, but also slide/take down a hill, this is so you can be more in tune with your setup.
For this, you will need the following:
Longboard Deck - 34-42" Length with 9-10" Width. Stiff with Fibreglass, so that it doesn't flex under your weight. £150-350 usually.
Griptape - Extra Coarse, generally comes in rolls that are 10" wide, so just buy the length to cover your whole top part of your Deck. £10-20 usually.
Trucks (Axles) - Reverse Kingpin Trucks, these allow for a more linear turn and greater stability. 130-190cm wide and 50-15 Degree angles, always have 40-50 degrees on your front, 15-45 on your rear. £60-£500 a set.
Nuts & Bolts - To Mount your Trucks, 1.5" - 2" long. £2-4 for 8, to do your whole board. 4 per truck.
Footstop - To Mount above your front Truck, to lock your front foot in place. £10-30.
Wheels - Vary massively in grip levels, but for learning to slide and commuting, 'Slide Perfect' or 'Remember' are good brands to start with. £30-50 a set.
Bearings - Preferably 'Inbuilt Bearings' that remove the need for a 'spacer' inside your wheel. £10-40. My Favourite brand is 'Zealous'.
Skatetool - To put your board together! £10-30
Step 1: Where to Buy Downhill Skateboard Parts
In the UK:
Newton's Shred https://newtons-shred.co.uk/ - Source pretty much everything you could need.
Longboards UK https://www.longboardsuk.com/ - Less range than NS, but still a good range of everything.
Slide Perfect Wheels http://slideperfect.co.uk/ - Slide wheels from the UK, very good quality & price.
SP8 Boards (My brand of Deck) https://www.sp8boards.co.uk/ - High quality Pre-made or Custom Made Decks at a great price!
Lush Longboards https://lushlongboards.com/ - High Quality Boards, Trucks & Wheels.
Sickboards (Netherlands) https://www.sickboards.nl/ - Biggest Longboard shop in Europe, have everything you could ever need and ship worldwide.
MuirSkate https://www.muirskate.com/ - One of the biggest shops in America with huge amounts of stock.
Expect to pay around £300-600 for a complete setup. If you're in doubt as to if a board will suit you, Sickboards offer a website chat function.
Step 2: How to Choose Your Gear
For your first Downhill Skateboard, I'd recommend choosing a stiff downhill specific deck that has anything between 26 to 34 inch wheelbase. Most decks have 9 - 9.5 inch width, but if your feet are bigger than size 12 UK, then you could get 10 inch width. Most of the recommended websites filter by width and length when searching.
Most downhill skaters at the present moment ride 'Top-Mount' decks, this is due to them giving you better grip & control then 'Drop' decks. So go with a topmount deck if you can.
Some boards come pre-gripped, but for downhill it's best to have extra coarse griptape, so that your feet stay in position easier whilst sliding. Some of the best Extra Coarse brands of Griptape or RDVX, Vicious, Seismic or MOB. When buying a deck, you can usually ask a shop to grip a deck for you.
Arguably the most important part of any Downhill Skateboard, Truck technology has come a long way in the past 10-15 years. Everyone nowadays rides 'Reverse Kingpin' Trucks, which look and feel different to your 'Traditional' Kingpin street skateboard trucks aka TKPs. Most sets of trucks you buy come as symmetrical, meaning they have the same degrees of turn on both trucks. This is usually between 40-50 degrees, for lots of turn. Although 'precision' trucks exist that come as asymmetrical (less degrees of turn on your rear truck, for more stability), for your first time setup, I'd recommend symmetrical, so that you can get used to controlling any small instabilities, this will improve your board balance. Good brands to start with, are: Caliber, Paris, Randall or Seismic.
Bushings go hand in hand with Trucks, they allow your trucks to progressively turn. You will usually find default bushings come with Trucks for free, but they are usually cheap and either too hard, or too soft for you. In the pictures above is a weight guide for what 'durometer' (softness) bushings will likely suit you. A lower durometer denotes a softer bushing, meaning it takes less weight to be able to compress/turn it in your trucks. Vice versa for hard bushings. Again, this is only a guide, you may have to swap and change, but as they are cheap, it's usually not an issue. I'm 77kg/169lb and have been riding 95a 'Venom' Boardside (closest to deck) & 88a 'Riptide' Roadside (closest to the road) in both my trucks for years. There are lots of different shapes of bushings that do things slightly differently, but in my opinion it's a lot easier to just go with standard 'barrel' bushings, as they're most popular and therefore have more variety.
Wheels & Bearings
Wheels and Bearings have also advanced a lot in the last few years, it used to be that Soft wheels gave you more grip and hard wheels made it easier to slide. Although this still applies in some cases, the urethane compounds used nowadays allow some softer wheels to still slide incredibly easily. Getting a set of 'slide wheels' when learning to downhill skateboard is the best way to go, as you learn how to slide at slower speeds. Some of the best brands/wheels for this are: Slide Perfect Supremacy, Remember PeeWee, Powell Peralta Snakes & Cult Chronicles. These wheels are more than good enough to cruise around on too. Once you have learnt how to slide these wheels at low speeds, you can progress to grippier wheels that slow you down more at higher speeds.
For bearings, if you live somewhere where it's wet a lot, try to get 'metal-sealed' bearings, as they last longer, as they don't allow as much water through the bearing itself. I buy mine from 'Shiner' for £1 each and use cheap 50p spacers. For my dry wheels/summer days I use 'Inbuilt bearings' these are bearings with inbuilt spacers that connect to each other once inserted into a wheel with a skate tool. Although a bit more expensive, around £20 a set, they roll much better and last a very long time.
Although optional, footstops are very popular for Downhill Skating. They mount above your front truck and lock your front foot in place, so that your front foot cannot jump forward, especially helpful if you ride over an imperfection in the road. Riptide, EOS & Roger's Bros are good brands for this. I use a Riptide PSD, as they feel great, but you can only try and test to find your perfect one.
Nuts & Bolts
The cheapest part of your board, but it does matter what you use. Cheap bolt heads wear away a lot easier if you're taking your trucks off and on. Spend at least £4 on a set of Independent, Khiro, or any other well known brand bolts, these will be more than sufficient. Make sure they're at least 1.25", but I generally buy 1.5" bolts, so that I have space for a small shock adsorber/riser.
Step 3: Putting Your Board Together
To put your board together, you will likely need a skate tool. But you can get away with using a adjustable spanner and a Phillips screwdriver if you don't have one.
Be sure to put your board together as pictured. Nuts always tighten clockwise on your kingpin, mounting bolts or Wheel thread. Or use this step by step video.
Step 4: Board Setup Tuning
Now you're ready to Skate your new Downhill Skateboard, bear in mind that it might take time to get it to feel right.
One of the most common mistakes of Beginners to Downhill Skating, is they over-tighten their bushings in an attempt to get more stability. Although tightening works to an extent, bushings are not meant to be compressed until you're on it and turning. Tightening will reduce the amount of turn you can get. It will also make any 'speed wobble' more difficult to control. If your trucks feel too soft, get harder bushings and vice versa if they're too hard.
Despite this, with new bushings you may still need to adjust the tightness slightly, to prevent 'slop' (trucks moving without you turning it), so try loosening or tightening your front & rear trucks a quarter of a turn at a time. You may find that you like your rear truck ever so slightly tighter.
You can also try changing the wheelbase of your setup, if your deck has extra mounting holes. A smaller wheelbase increases how quickly you can turn but decreases stability. A longer wheelbase will give you more stability but will slightly reduce how much you can turn.
Step 5: Downhill Skateboarding Tips
Before learning to Downhill Skateboard, you should already be comfortable standing on and pushing your board around on the flat.
Sliding to slow down, using your hands, can be done one of two ways. Heelside or Toeside.
For Regular stance riders (left foot at the front) use your left hand to put your slide glove down on the road and turn left whilst low down to initiate a Heelside slide. If you put your right hand down on the road and turn right whilst low down, you'll initiate a Toeside slide.
For Goofy riders (right foot forward) everything above is reversed.
Having a corner to aim for helps and if the road is wet it means you can practice this at lower speeds, as there is much less grip.
Watch these videos (also above) to get a better idea:
But most importantly, have fun! Downhill Skateboarding has a very friendly community and it's usually easy to find other like-minded Skaters near you using Facebook groups. Always wear your helmet, kneepads & slide gloves!
Participated in the