How Do Skateboard Trucks Work?
Skateboard trucks are the most important component of good skating performance. Learn all about them with the thoroughly-prepared OMBE guide.
Lately, flow has been on the fringes of contemporary professional surfing. So, stylish pros like Kelly Slater had to advocate for flow to be one of the judging criteria of surfing. When Clayton Nienaber asked him why and how he came up with that idea in their interview, Slater points to the Tony Hawk skating video games:
And to be honest, part of that came from Tony Hawk's video game. I think because you would get more points, the skaters realize there are more technical things together. It's worth more. And it kind of became a part of Tony Hawk Pro Skater. And so, in some way, I think that has some sort of influence, the idea that you would link one thing to another to another, so flowing it all together. And that was a way to kind of show some mastery.
Nowadays, surf skating is an essential part of surf training programs all around the world, and it’s imperative to teach novices how to accomplish turns in a more fluid style. To that end, OMBE has its very programs as well: Surf Skate Foundations and Surf Skate Advanced. Moreover, surf skating is one of the fundamental lessons of our Surf Start program.
So, there is no contesting the idea that skating will elevate your surfing to new heights. But how? How are surf skates able to replicate the feeling you get from a surfboard on a wave? Well, that is mostly down to the design of surf skate trucks.
Now, let’s see how skateboard trucks work and how surf skate trucks differ from them to provide you with that feeling as if you’re surfing.
How Do Skateboard Trucks Work?
A skateboard truck is placed under the deck, and it holds two wheels. Whereas the rear truck mostly acts as a pivot point, the front truck is responsible for the board's movement, freedom, balance, and control. Furthermore, it’s not the skateboard deck that carries your weight, but the truck. So, it’s no surprise that it’s the most crucial and vital element of a skateboard.
A regular truck consists of two axles to hold the skateboard wheels, a kingpin, a hanger, a baseplate, a pivot cup, a riser pad, and bushings. As the designs of these elements differ, the attributes of your skateboard will differ as well.
In addition, the height and width of a skateboard truck also affect your performance, be it when it comes to turns and carves, pulling off flip tricks, or skating down the line.
The Main Parts of a Skateboard Truck
Now, let’s take a better look at the main parts of a skateboard truck and see what they’re good for.
The baseplate is the part where the truck is drilled to the skateboard deck. As it’s the main connection between the deck and the moving parts of the truck, such as the wheels, it’s responsible for absorbing the most pressure.
Moreover, it affects the hanger’s angle: a high angle means that you can carve and pull off tricks more successfully, while a low angle will provide you with all the speed you need.
As it’s the connection between the deck and the truck, there are holes on a baseplate. It’s important to check how many holes there are in your deck and the baseplate you’re picking when you’re in the market for a new one.
The T-shaped hanger is placed on the pivot cup of the baseplate, and it functions as the pivot point of your skateboard truck. It also houses a part of the kingpin, so it’s possible to say that it’s responsible for the internal connection of the truck.
In addition, landing in skating depends more on the sturdiness and flexibility of the truck’s hanger than anything else.
Kingpin basically sounds like a villain out of the Hellraiser universe, but pins are actually one of the essential elements of machinery that hold together the other parts. In that sense, the kingpin is what holds the skateboard together.
It’s also one of the most fragile elements in the making of surfboard trucks. Therefore, it has to be protected from abrasion and pressure. It also shouldn’t vibrate all that much since that may affect the performance of your board negatively. To that end, they’re wrapped around by another important truck part: bushings.
If the kingpin were really a villain in some fantasy underworld, the bushings would be its henchmen, offering protection and assistance at all costs. We did mention that the kingpin shouldn’t vibrate, and that’s exactly where the bushings come in—they keep the kingpin in place and affect the stability of your board.
Moreover, the performance you’ll get from your skateboard will vary depending on the hardness of the bushings. The harder the bushings are, the more suitable your board will be for pulling off tricks. When they are softer, on the other hand, your board will be more responsive to the ground, and you’ll need to develop a smoother skating technique.
The Truck Axle
The truck axle is actually a continuation of the hanger; it’s the arms of the T-shape of the hanger. It’s no less consequential than other parts, either, since that’s where your skateboard wheels go. So, a sturdy, reassuring axle is important for a smooth ride.
Moreover, other related features such as the axle width will also affect the characteristics of your surfboard. Needless to say, for wider skateboard decks, you’ll need to get independent trucks that have a wider axle and vice versa.
The Height of Skateboard Trucks
There are three types of skateboard trucks that are distinguished based on their heights: low trucks, mid trucks, and high trucks. Low trucks are those that are between 46-49 millimeters; mid trucks are 50-53, and high trucks can reach up to 58 millimeters.
Let’s see how these different heights affect the performance.
A low truck means that the deck of your skateboard is closer to the ground, and since its truck is smaller compared to others, your skateboard has less weight overall.
Thanks to its closeness to the ground, skateboards with a low truck are mostly more stable. However, stability by itself doesn’t mean much, especially when you’re looking to train for surfing with your skateboard. On the contrary, since you’ll need to apply a push on the tail more often than not to generate speed with these boards, it’s going to affect your surfing technique negatively.
Moreover, you’ll run the risk of wheelbites with a low truck. As it’s closer to the ground, whenever you land or ride with speed down the line on surfaces that aren’t really smooth, you’ll need to handle lots of pressure and sometimes even damage. That said, they’re great when you’re on a skate ramp and want to pull off some humble flip tricks and whatnot.
Needless to say, they perform better with small wheels. Yet, no matter how small your wheels are, it might be a good idea to employ some riser pads to minimize the risk of wheelbite.
Like hybrid surfboards, the reason why mid-height trucks exist is to allow you to experience the best of both worlds: stability and performance—all in the same package.
With a mid truck, you can pull off tricks on a skate ramp, you can do some street-skating to the woe of sour and lifeless pedestrians, and if you’re a really experienced and competent skater, you can carve and cruise.
Skateboards with high trucks aren’t really the beginner’s cup of tea since they can get quite unstable. However, if you’re a good skater or a good surfer, you’ll find them very useful as they’ll allow you to perform high ollies and provide you with a stylish flow when you’re street-skating, carving, and cruising.
Moreover, getting wheelbite is much harder with high trucks. If you have really large wheels, though, that can happen with high trucks as well. So, similar to what we said about low trucks, if you want to avoid wheelbites, it’s better to employ riser pads.
Tight Trucks vs. Loose Trucks
When the truck is tight, it means that there are no parts in it that move without your volition. It provides the truck with stability and prevents your skateboard from wobbling. Therefore, they’re great for beginners to learn the fundamentals of skateboarding. Thanks to their stability, they’ll also allow you to perform bigger ollies.
However, tight trucks don’t have the liberty of movement that loose trucks provide. So, you won’t be able to carve, perform sharp cutbacks off the lip of the ramp, or even do some street cruising on the rail with a tight truck.
A loose truck, on the other hand, has a much greater turning angle, so the streets and ramps will be all yours to perform tricks on. Additionally, the looseness of the truck enables more flexibility and capacity to absorb more pressure during landings. Therefore, with a loose truck, regaining your balance after an aerial maneuver won’t be difficult.
That being said, loose trucks lack the stability of tight trucks, so if you don’t already know how to control a board on the rail and maintain balance without wobbling together with your board, they shouldn’t really be the beginner’s choice. Advanced skaters, on the other hand, can have all the fun in the world with loose trucks.
FAQ: What Are Skateboard Trucks Made Of?
Different brands may use different materials in the making of their trucks, but the most popular options are as follows:
The 5 Best Skateboard Truck Brands on the Market
So, now that you have a handle on how skateboard trucks work, you might want to purchase one. Well, let’s go over the best (our favorite) skateboard truck brands.
If you’re looking for high-performance, lightweight, and sturdy trucks for your skateboard, you need to look no further than Thunder Trucks. Operating in the business since the 1980s, they have surely gotten bigger and better over the years, and now they’re one of the most dependable brands in the skateboarding world.
You don’t get to dominate the European skateboard market without producing state-of-the-art trucks. That’s what Venture Trucks does. Moreover, you’d be amazed how lightweight their trucks are since they use hollow kingpins and hangers to make their trucks lighter.
Hailing from Santa Cruz, California, since the late 1970s, Independent Trucks has always been one of the most revered brands for skateboard trucks. And despite the toil of the years and changing technologies since their foundation, they managed to retain their respected status. So, there’s little chance of going wrong if you pick an Independent truck to elevate the performance of your skateboard to new heights.
When compared to the other brands we listed above, Tensor Trucks appear as rather a young company (founded in 2000), but their youth should in no way be interpreted as inexperience. Even better, thanks to their youthful energy, they’ve been one of the truck companies that can adapt to technological innovation better than others. And if you’re looking for extremely lightweight skateboard trucks, Tensor’s magnesium ones should be your go-to.
Polster Trucks is even a younger company than Tensor, and it’s possible to claim that they’re equally innovative and trustworthy. For one thing, it’s a company founded by skaters. Moreover, it’s a German company, so you can be sure that they’re doing a meticulous job designing and engineering these trucks.
How Do Surf Skate Trucks Differ From Skateboard Trucks?
Skateboard trucks only have one pivot point around which the truck turns: the kingpin. The rest of the truck parts are more often than not stable. Although it’s a good feature for street skateboarding, for surfers who want to have a feeling that’s akin to surfing on land, it means a restriction on mobility.
That’s what Neil Stratton and Greg Falk realized and started working on when they were founding their well-known surf skate company: Carver. So, they came up with a new gadget called “surf adapter” to endow skateboards with more mobility, flexibility, and turning capacity.
Moreover, with regular skateboard trucks, you need to use your feet to gain momentum from the ground. That’s not the case with surf skate trucks. Surf skate trucks have what we call pumpability.
So long as you compress and decompress like a surfer does when they’re on a wave, these trucks will allow you to accelerate. As a result, you’ll be able to master basic surfing aspects such as accomplishing turns smoothly and fluidly as well as riding on the rail.
If you want to learn more about how surf skating can benefit your surfing skills, we have an ample number of guides: you can listen to our head coach Clayton Nienaber’s conversation with Anthony Laye on everything you need to know about surf skates. We’ve also covered which skateboard models are most suitable for improving your surfing skills. If you’re going with popular surf skate brands, Carver vs. SmoothStar will resolve your dilemma.
Of all the other board sports, the one most beneficial for surfers is probably skateboarding. Only the fact that Kelly Slater, the greatest surfer of all times, was inspired by the Tony Hawk video games when advocating flow as a criterion of professional surfing can attest to that claim. Therefore, it’s important to add skating to our surf training routines.
However, doing that without knowing at least some basic aspects of skating would hardly be helpful. That’s why we thought that providing you with a thorough guide on how skateboard trucks work was crucial.