Skateboarding is as popular as ever and is estimated to be a $4.8 billion industry; that’s a lot of money for a sport that’s built on a plank of wood with wheels. Apparently, more than 11 million people skateboard regularly and of that number over 90% are 24 years old and younger. This means young adults and kids (or rather kids’ parents) are spending a small a fortune on the sport.
While skateboards are accessible to most people, with some selling for as little as $20, it’s the accessories that add to the costs. In 2014 the average pair of skateboarding shoes cost around $45 and according to some reports, more than 40% of skaters insist on having all the gear.
The Anatomy of a Skateboard
We joked earlier about a skateboard being a plank of wood with wheels, but there is more to it than that. It comprises of:
- The deck
- The trucks
- The wheels
- Grip tape
The deck is the board, the part you stand on and is made of multi-ply wood. The average length is around 32 inches and the width between 7.5 and 8 inches, but the measurements can vary.
The trucks attach to the deck and are found underneath the skateboard. Made up of smaller parts (axles, bushings and kingpins), they are held to the board with hardware, which includes the nuts and bolts.
Made of plastic urethane, skateboard wheels can be hard or soft and are available in different sizes. Softer wheels are used for vert skating while street skaters prefer harder types. Performance levels determine the size of the wheels a skater chooses.
The grip tape is the rough, almost sandpaper-like self-adhesive found on the tape of the deck. It provides traction when skating. It is available in different colors and designs and is an inexpensive way of personalizing your board.
Of course, there are other bits ‘n pieces you can purchase, like risers which change the height of the board but they’re not an essential part of the construction and are used more for the look of the board and to enhance its performance.
If you decide to build your own board it’s probably a good idea to invest in the deck and a decent set of trucks, otherwise, there’s a chance you’re one of the three in every 1000 who end up in the ER from a skateboard injury.
Trucks Buying Guide
The trucks are the axles of your skateboard. Because they’re the middle-man between your wheels and your deck it’s important to make sure they’re the right size. They translate your movements into your board’s movements from the way you turn, grind or ollie, which kind of tells you the sh*t you’ll be in if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to.
Our buying guide will hopefully help you with a few pointers on what to look for and make your search for the best skateboard trucks a little easier.
Probably the most important thing to look at when you’re choosing trucks is the size. The width of your deck should correspond directly to the width of your trucks to ensure the smoothest ride. If the truck is too narrow it’s not going to be completely stable and if it’s too wide it can end up in a few worst-case scenarios like shoe-to-wheel contact.
While it sounds pretty simple the confusion seems to come from the different units of measurement. Skate decks are measured in inches, while trucks use different units depending on the brand and the country of origin. To add to the challenge some brands measure the width of their trucks from axle nut to axle nut and others measure across the width of the hanger. Ultimately what you want is a truck that, when mounted on your deck, positions its axles nuts within a quarter of an inch from the edge of the deck. So, make sure the axle nuts don’t go further than the edges of your deck and that they don’t rest further than 1/4” inside the edge of it.
If you’re buying a ready-made skateboard you obviously don’t need to worry about this, or at least you shouldn’t have to, but if you’re buying the components separately it is probably a good idea to get them all together so you can measure and line things up. Also if you shop at a specialist store rather than a big sports depot you’re likely to get better advice.
A lot of the truck brands have “high” or “low” options, so you can decide which one you would like. They do offer something different in terms of performance.
A “low” truck provides extra clearance on your hanger for grinding, it stabilizes the truck and has you sitting lower to the ground. Your kicks and pushes go a little further too. Overall the response and stability offered by the low truck is what appeals to street skaters.
On the other hand, a “high” truck allows a greater turning radius and additional clearance between the deck and the axle, which means it is compatible with bigger wheels. High trucks are a good choice for transition skaters and for good old cruising.
Occasionally a brand might not specify if it’s high or low, which means it is usually high.
Nope, it’s not what happens when you don’t turn quick enough and you end up in the shrubs “bushing it”. Bushings straddle the kingpin and translate pressure from your feet into the trucks, allowing you to do turns, carves and other cool maneuvers.
While all trucks come with bushings you might, at some point, need to replace them, which means you need to know a couple of things.
Firstly they are measured in durometers, which is a very fancy way of saying they’re hard or soft. The durometer is indicated with a two digit number followed by the letter “A” and the higher the number the harder the bushing.
While soft bushings respond to pressure quickly and turn easily, hard ones are stiff and need more effort to turn. In case you’re wondering the bushings that come standard with most skateboards are usually the softer ones so if you prefer a hard set then it’s a good idea to buy them separately.
Bushings also vary in size, and while a lot are universal and fit the majority of trucks, there are a few that are specific to low or high trucks so be sure to read the product descriptions and ask as many questions as you need to.
So that’s that with what you need to look for when choosing trucks for your skateboard. Now it’s time to review our 3 top skateboard trucks for 2017.
Top 3 Skateboard Trucks
INDEPENDENT Skateboard Trucks 129mm Silver Raw STAGE 11 7.75
INDEPENDENT Trucks come highly recommended and for good reason. The baseplate and hanger are made of aluminum and the axle is made of steel, which is what makes them so durable. If we’re talking about the performance, they turn well and the grind is smooth. They’re stable and allow you to flip the board easily; you can use them in the street or take them to the park, no problem.
These INDEPENDENT mid-profile trucks are made for all types of skateboarding and fit a 7.4” to 8” deck. We suggest using this truck with a 55mm wheel. Ask any pro skateboarder which trucks they would recommend and we guarantee at least 8 out of 10 times it’s going to be these. They are known to last longer and are notably stronger than any other truck on the market.
Competitively priced (cheapest trucks on this list), sturdy, grind smooth – you’re not going to go wrong.
Venture Superlite Lo -5.0 (Set Of 2)
The Venture Superlites are low profile trucks that have a 7.75” axle. They weigh around 2 pounds and if you’re looking to perform a whole lot of tricks and stunts then these have your name all over them. Even if you’re pretty new to the sport you’ll be able to flip the board easily enough.
As far as trucks go, they are stable and the low profile means they are great for beginners too. Instead of focusing on balancing you’ll be able to practice and perfect some new crazy-ass tricks. While the Independent trucks are suitable for all types of skaters, the Ventures are better suited for vert skating. The low profile on these means they’re not ideal for cruising.
Venture trucks have been around forever and they’re well-priced. Definitely worth checking out.
Thunder Polish Hi 147 High-Performance Skateboard Trucks (Set of 2)
Thunder is another great skateboard truck brand that has earned themselves a reputation, for all the right reasons. The Thunder Polish high-performance trucks are designed for a quick response and give you complete control over your board.
Made for decks measuring between 8.0” to 8.25”, they are high profile, which means they were built for speed. They’re very stable and even if you’re on a slope or uneven surface you’re not going to feel any wobble. They turn and grind really well and the stock bushings are of a good quality.
Thunder is a brand that has been around for a long time with big names like Sean Malto, Marc Johnson, and Shane O’Neill using them.
Let’s recap. If you decide to take your skateboarding seriously and you’re moving up from a beginner to an expert or pro level then the trucks are the most important components you can buy. Essentially they are what keep your wheels in place and determine how much time you’re going to spend on your board or in the ER.
They help with turns, with maneuvering your board, and they prevent that horrible thing we call wheel bite. Most of the truck brands are pretty good, although we do recommend some more than others, and we definitely suggest you stay away from plastic ones; you know those can’t bode well.
What you need to decide on before you buy your trucks, is what you plan to do with your board. Remember that low ones are for flip tricks and work better with smaller wheels while high trucks are for the two C’s – carving and cruising. Mid-sized ones are a happy medium and work well for street or park skateboarding.
You really want to take your time choosing the best skateboard trucks, because while they aren’t the coolest part of your board, they’re probably the most important, if you want to enjoy a relatively painless skateboarding experience, for a long time to come.