What Makes A Good Skateboard? – Quick Guide In 2023
A quality skateboard assists skaters in landing tricks, hopping on curbs, and navigating road obstacles with ease and safety. Since not all skateboards are created equal, building a setup or simply buying a pre-made complete skateboard can be a daunting task for beginners. So, what makes a good skateboard?
The quality of all the components (skateboard decks, trucks, wheels, bearings, and grip tape) determines the performance of a skateboard. For beginners, acquiring these parts from reputable brands is always a sound decision.
See also: 11+ Good Quality Skateboards For Beginners To Buy
Features Of A Good Skateboard
Brand Names Sometimes Matter
If you purchase your skateboard from a reputable brand, you’re more likely to get a quality board with fewer unpleasant surprises with the purchase.
Santa Cruz, Baker, Birdhouse, Enjoi, Real, Baker are among skateboard manufacturers you can entrust. They all offer premium-quality, professional-grade skateboards.
Boards from these brands typically come with the same price range. Purchasing from one of them means that you can rest assured of getting a quality board.
That said, smaller brands, such as Polar, Stereo, Welcome, Skull Skates, can nonetheless produce skateboards of equal quality to the bigger names.
The truth is, more often than not, small and large companies have their products constructed in the same woodshops, resulting in comparable specifications and build quality.
Legitimate Skateboard Deck
True decks constitute quality skateboards. Modern skateboard decks come in various shapes and sizes.
They are technically different thin layers of maple wood or bamboo glued together with a nose and tail on either side. The industry standard is seven layers of maple wood, or even better, Canadian maple wood.
A deck should have the U shape, also referred to as concave. The more pronounced the concave, the more agile and easy-to-flip the board becomes.
A good deck should be lightweight and durable enough to withstand repeated, intense abuse. Also, it comes with a nice combination of rigidity and flexibility, better known as “pop”, which is essential for doing flip tricks like Ollie.
Spotting a poorly made skateboard deck is quite easy with a visual inspection. Low-quality decks do not come with an extended nose or concave, making them challenging to flip. Others might resemble a legitimate deck, but you can feel they are heavier and thicker owing to the cheap woods and some fillers in between.
The price can be (but not always) a good indicator of the quality. A real skateboard deck costs anywhere between $35 and $55, which means if you pay this amount for the entire board, perhaps the deck quality is not desirable.
Note: Choosing the right deck width for your shoe size is essential.
Skateboard wheels should be made of urethane, not plastic. Those constructed out of plastic or a poly blend are not appropriate for skating. These toy-like wheels do not allow you to land a trick, and in the worst-case scenario, can lead to serious injuries once they crack.
Expect to pay from $20 to $40 for a decent set of wheels. The price might vary slightly depending on the brand’s reputation and extra features. Polyurethane wheels feature various durometers, running from 76A (softest) to 101A (hardest).
A setup with softer wheels is typically ideal for skating on rough terrains by absorbing vibrations. In comparison, harder wheels are suitable for skating on flat, smooth surfaces, like in the park, and allow skaters to perform tricks more easily.
Look for wheels that have their diameters (measured in mm), durometers, and the manufacturer’s name on them. Steer clear of those without these specifications since that indicates questionable quality.
The bearings in the wheels are components in charge of spinning the wheel on the axle of the truck. While there are scores of bearings in the market, they share the same structure, and you might use them interchangeably.
Steel is one of the industry-standard materials for bearings. High-grade bearings spin easily for smooth riding, and when they’re laden with dirt and grime, you can remove them for cleaning and relubricating with ease.
A decent set costs no less than $10. Premium bearings are pricier, yet they are built from high-grade steel, making them spin faster and last even longer.
In contrast, you can recognize poor bearings right the moment you give them a spin. They won’t operate as smoothly as good bearings, and the performance declines at a faster pace.
The lubricant’s scent is another differentiator between well and poorly-made bearings: the latter smells quite stinky.
It is advisable to choose the truck’s size in line with the deck. That is to say: The wheel’s outer edges should align with the deck’s outer edge.
Avoid buying a plastic truck at all costs because it bends and comes apart easily under pressure. There are also trucks built of cheap metal, which are trickier to spot with bare eyes. The only way to tell their prowess is to hop on the board and feel it.
That’s when you need to rely on brand reputation, especially if you’re building your first board. Good trucks always bear the name of their creator on them. Also, this component is typically sold in sets of two with a price starting from $30.
Good Grip Tape
Grip tape – the gritty, sandpaper-like layer that covers the deck surface – is responsible for providing grip for your feet to stay on the board. An inferior skateboard grip tape does not give you the necessary traction, or if it does, this traction vanishes relatively quickly.
Like skateboard decks, trucks, and bearings, place your trust in long-standing manufacturers for guaranteed quality. It’s worth mentioning that a complete board setup won’t inform you of the grip tape’s brand.
When we say professional assembly, we mean that a good board should be assembled by skaters with years of experience riding and crafting. They know to make subtle yet powerful adjustments to the board for better riding performance and ensure the wheels spin properly.
For beginners who want to learn to skate, professionally custom-made skateboards will be a nice choice.
What Makes A Bad Skateboard?
Avoid Buying Off-Brands
When you’re shopping for your first skateboard, all the brand names might appear unfamiliar. If your skateboard of choice is made by a brand that you’ve never heard of, search it online to check its reliability.
Trustable brands always have an online presence, meaning if a particular brand doesn’t have a website, you’d be better off purchasing your board elsewhere.
Warped Or Damaged Boards
If you’re buying skateboards in a skate shop or any brick-and-mortar store, perform a visual check before making a payment. While a slightly warped deck is not easy to detect, heavily warped spots won’t easily escape your eyes. Don’t skip this step, as you might end up hurting yourself while skating with a damaged board.
Also, check for signs of physical damage in the paint, which might signify internal cracks in the board. For aesthetic reasons or safety concerns, do not pay for any board with visible external defects.
An abrupt transition between cold and hot weather can wreak havoc on the deck, making it warped and even unrideable. Wooden decks are more prone to break under these situations, whereas the wheels get brittle if stored in such conditions for a prolonged time.
If you already brought the newly bought skateboard home, place it on an even surface to see if all the wheels can touch the ground. If there is any wheel off the ground, take off the trucks.
Put the skateboard deck on the ground again to look for any signs of distortions or damage. Run your hands across the surface so you can feel any inconsistencies on the surface. We recommend returning the board if you’ve got enough clues for a warped board.
All components contribute to its performance on the road. Keep in mind those key pointers above so you can stay away from low-grade products while setting up your board.
Knowing what makes a good skateboard will ease the buying process, and the advice is to stick to established brands to avoid future frustration for beginners.
Besides brand names, the price tag is a great indicator. You’ll get what you pay for, and it applies to purchasing a skateboard.