Wheelbase – what is it, how do you measure it, and how does it affect your riding?
What I thought was a simple concept turned out to be a little more confusing.
First, you might be wondering…
What is wheelbase?
The commercial skateboarding industry measures the wheelbase using the difference between the truck holes. Specifically the front two truck holes on the rear of the deck, and the rear two on the front of your deck.
This is what confuses a lot of people because it’s not an accurate representation of the true wheelbase. And that’s because your trucks will make it longer or shorter depending on their geometry.
So to get the true wheelbase of your setup, you need to do it the same way they do it on cars.
Measure from axle to axle.
Your local skate shop doesn’t take your trucks into consideration because they can’t control all the variables. So they use a standardized system for what they can control – the deck truck holes.
It’s easier to use a standardized truck mount system rather than have an endless graph of possible wheelbases.
Why does the wheelbase change?
The answer is truck geometry.
Traditional kingpins, reverse kingpins, surfskate adapters, you name it… all have different geometries.
Truck geometry is why your favorite trucks turn the way they do. Factors include…
- Axle width
- Kingpin angle
- Kingpin height
- Pivot cup distance
These variables can be further manipulated depending on what bushings you use. A taller bushing wedges the truck making the wheelbase longer. And a smaller bushing (you prob guessed it) will make it shorter.
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How it affects riding
In general, different wheelbases will give a different riding experience. Mini cruisers have smaller ones that will turn sharper but feel less stable.
What will happen if you have two identical setups and change the wheelbase?
The smaller one will turn sharper and feel less stable. The longer one will have a larger turning radius and be more stable.
Simple enough to understand, right? Here’s the catch though.
A 16” wheelbase with traditional kingpins won’t have the same turning radius as a 16” with reverse kingpins. The reason is that their geometry is different, resulting in a different riding feel. Truck angles, truck axle lengths, wheel sizes, and bushings contribute to your turning radius.
Several variables affect the turning radius, and the wheelbase is one part of the equation.
There are different wheelbases preferred for different riding styles. I’m gonna do my best to categorize what wheelbase fits into what riding style. The goal is to give you a rough idea.
Any wheelbase below 14 inches falls into this category. Most common on smaller decks used to get from a-b. Most of the time, you’ll find traditional kingpin trucks with this type of wheelbase, but there are always exceptions.
Street & Cruisers
This is generally between 14-15.5 inches, but I’ll say 14-16 to keep it simple. You’ll find more diversity in this category. It’s not as hard to find a deck with a wheelbase of 14in 14.25, 14.5 all the way to 15.5. This is a good wheelbase if you’re trying to do flip tricks or skate pools.
Some surfskates and downhill technical slide decks have a wheelbase in this range as well.
TKP trucks are designed specifically for this wheelbase whereas RKP trucks are designed for longer wheelbases. With RKPs the rider will find the turning radius tight and unforgiving. The setup will feel squirrely and unstable
Precision RKP trucks specifically for downhill, slalom, and long-distance are used with 15-16in wheelbases, and if you are one of these riders, please feel free to share your setup with us. We would love to feature it and gain your insights.
I would recommend a 15-16in wheelbase board for the rider looking for an all-around setup. Within this range, the rider can partake in most disciplines without discomfort; however they will feel a deficit in the riding styles more catered to longboards. If you want to commute, do some slides and flip tricks, go to the skatepark, and bomb a hill on the same setup, I would be sure to use a board with a 15-16in wheelbase.
Surfskates & Hybrids
I’m making this one up for boards that range between 16-20 inches because they are longer than street boards and cruisers, but not quite long enough to really be a longboard.
You’ll find this range on surfskates and cruisers. This is the range that I ride the most because I find it a good mix between the comfort and stability of a longboard and the versatility of a street board.
In this range, a standard set of RKPs can be used as well as TKP trucks. RKPs would be the preferred truck for carving and going fast; whereas a TKP truck would be more suited to cruising, street tricks, and from my understanding, technical downhill slide.
A hybrid wheelbase between 16 and 20 inches falls more toward the longboard side. So I would recommend this to a rider that wants the benefits of a longboard while being able to do street tricks.
This seems to be where the wheelbase of most longboards falls under. This is the optimum range to learn freeride, slide, and downhill and dancing. This is where stability is the strongest.
In the early days of modern longboarding, there were TKP trucks made specifically for setups longer than 30 inches, and Tracker Trucks dominated the market. They feature a longer kingpin and slack geometry allowing the rider to achieve more lean and turn with longboard specific TKPs than they would with RKPs; however, 20-30 inches, the benefits of RKPs outway the benefits of TKPs.
A short longboard featuring 20-30in is the shortest one can go if they want to have the benefits of a longboard while retaining some of the street board attributes. I would recommend this to a committed longboarder who wants a setup that is all-terrain.
This category is usually found in dancing setups and surf emulators like Hamboards. The turning radius is the widest in this category, and the stability is less, a lot less than longboards or even street boards. Depending on the setup
Reverse Kingpin Trucks are preferred at this wheelbase. There are a few TKP trucks on the market designed to work with longer wheelbases, but the mechanical limitations of modern TKP trucks make the RKPs superior for turning a longboard featuring a 30-40in.
We all have that friend that takes things to the next level. We are not sure why they supercharged and lifted their Toyota Prius when their primary form of transportation is an electric bicycle with a basket specifically for their pet iguana, but we love them.
When I think of this range, Hamboards is what comes to mind – legit life-sized surf trainers.
If you are looking for a board with something over 50in, it’s safe to say that you are looking for a life-sized surf emulator or a long-distance setup.
So, what does this all mean?
The key takeaway should be that several variables come into play when discussing wheelbase. But hopefully, this helped clear some things up.