If you’re someone who’s just getting into longboarding, you’re probably not aware of the common issues you’ll run into when you buy a cheap longboard.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve bought several cheap longboards, all under $100. Taking them apart, riding them, and doing my best to pinpoint their most common issues.
But again, I’ve seen it repeatedly where people just want to buy something new. So if that’s you, here are the things you should know.
The first issue I’ve noticed with cheaper setups is in the polyurethane mixtures.
What does this mean? Well, polyurethane is the plastic material they use for wheels and bushings.
And in my opinion, your wheels are the most important part of your setup. I say that because they’re largely responsible for how your longboard feels to ride. They’re making contact with the pavement and translating that feeling to you.
Most of the time, cheaper longboard brands will cut corners on mixing their urethane formulas. It might not seem like a big deal, but it is.
Making a urethane formula that’s high rebound and isn’t slow is the most challenging part of creating a longboard. If you don’t mix the chemicals properly or the temperature is off by a few degrees, it’s game over. When the urethane is poorly mixed, your wheels will feel sluggish, making for a bad riding experience.
And most beginner’s automatically assume it’s the bearings that slow down your setup, but most of the time, it’s your wheels.
Not only are these companies using their crappy urethane formulas for their wheels but also for their bushings.
What are bushings?!
They’re those tiny polyurethane pieces that allow the trucks to pivot.
A bad formula in the wheels and bushings makes for a slow and stiff shredding experience that frustrates anyone.
Followed by the double metal-capped bearings that cheaper brands commonly use.
The issue with these is that they’re very hard to do maintenance on. So if you get any moisture in them or the lubricant runs dry, it’s not as easy to pop off the metal shields compared to plastic shields.
But to be honest, I think most beginner’s put too much weight on bearings.
I wouldn’t worry too much about them at first. I think you’ll get more bang for your buck by swapping out your wheels and bushings, then your bearings.
The final issue I’ve noticed about cheaper longboard brands is that they’re faceless and don’t give a freakin’ fudge about the future of longboarding.
What does this have to do with anything?
Most of these companies simply see dollar signs and don’t give back to the community. Most are coming straight from a factory completely disconnected from longboarding. You can tell they have no genuine passion for their products.
They saw a market opportunity on Amazon and could care less where longboarding will be in 10 years from now.
Let me break it down like this.
You buy a cheap longboard from faceless company #1. This company does the bare minimum to make their longboards, resulting in a poor riding experience. You shred for a few weeks but stop because of your bad experience. Faceless company profits, grows, and now has the ability to capture more beginners, resulting in a dead-end growth cycle. The faceless company wins because they profit, but it’s to the detriment of the longboard space.
Let me play devils advocate real quick and try to see the other side of it, which would be; the positive of cheaper longboards is that it’s a lower barrier of entry for people to get into longboarding. While I can see that side, I would argue that the negative riding experience outweighs the low entry.
Personally, I feel like they do more harm because I think the majority of people give up longboarding after a poor experience. This is the main reason why I don’t like most cheap longboard brands.
Okay, but most people searching for a longboard under $100 probably don’t care about this, which is totally fair. Who am I to tell you what to care about, but I think it’s important for you to see that angle regardless.
Okay, enough of me telling you the bad things without a solution. If you haven’t bought a longboard yet, then the first solution I’d recommend is…
Solution #1: Search local
Go to your local skate shop that stocks longboards and ask for advice. They might even have a cheap setup laying around they’ll give you a deal on. It’s always the move to support your local shop.
Or you could ask around in your community if anyone has an old longboard collecting dust. Chances are you’ll find one that someone just wants to get rid of for free.
Solution #2: Used Marketplaces
Go on Facebook Marketplace or other used marketplaces. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a higher quality brand for a cheap price.
You might need to swap some parts if it’s really used, but it shouldn’t be bad.
Solution #3: Upgrade
Do you already have a cheap longboard lying around? I’d suggest upgrading the wheels, bushings, and bearings for a better riding experience.
For wheels, I’ve had a good experience with Orangatang, Hawgs, Powell Peralta, Seismic, and Sector 9. If you’re buying a set of wheels in the $35-60 range, the urethane formula will most likely be better than what your setup currently has.
For bushings, I’ve had a good experience with RipTide.
And for bearings, Bones Reds,