14degrees off the beaten track
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The Board

I still have a fairly shallow experience in different kinds of boards and board setups. There are many people who have a much deeper experience in this area, and I am still exploring this area, and continuing to seek the best setup for long distance loaded longboard touring.

The end to full carbon decks
One thing that I have discovered, however, is that for me, full carbon decks are not suitable for long distance loaded longboard touring. I was foolish in buying into the ‘carbon is better’ idea when researching decks for my around the world journey. I splashed out and paid big bucks for a carbon/kevlar Rollsrolls deck, which I was, for the most part, very happy with.

However, when I finally made the switch to a Longboard Larry custom pusher (made from birch wood), I realised how much needless pain I was putting up with by riding the too-stiff carbon Rollsrolls.

The rig on National Highway 312 near Guazhou, Gansu Province, China

Many times I would end the day on the Rollsrolls hardly able to walk. My ankles and feet took the toll of the horrible vibrations that are transfered through the stiff, unforgiving carbon. Rest days were agony, with sore ankles and feet, and I never had any desire to walk around and check out the sights of where I was staying.

Wood decks are getting lighter, and development in designs including radical drops, and even carbon/wood ply composites are meaning that there is no longer any need to splurge so much money on a full carbon deck, or put up with the pain of a rough ride on a full carbon deck.

Carbon decks, in their stiffness, also have durability issues. I went through two Rollsrolls decks in 7,500km on my loaded longboard tour across Europe and the US.

Take this analogy. A full carbon racing bicycle vs a steel touring bicycle. No one in their right mind would tour for more than a few days on a full carbon bike, let alone around the world. Carbon is too uncomfortable (too stiff), and too delicate. A steel touring bike is heavier, for sure, but is more durable, and steel absorbs vibration much better.

The same is true for long board decks. On a long longboard tour comfort is very important. And check this out for example: A bamboo Loaded Dervish on sale for $170 weighs in at about 1.2kg. That’s lighter than a full carbon Rollsrolls deck. Over-drop the bamboo deck, and you’ve got a deck that is more comfortable, only slightly higher off the ground, and is even lighter . For more stiffness, go for one of the Rayne Dee Lite series of decks. Or better still, talk to Larry at Longboard Larry to see what he can do for you with a sweet custom made deck.

In my humble opinion, carbon decks are are a thing of the past. Too expensive, too uncomfortable, too much hype.

Skating across China:

Deck: Longboard Larry custom pusher
Trucks: Holey 175mm trucks with standard red bushings
Wheels: 97mm Abec 11 Flywheels
Bearings: Rotated between Bones Swiss Ceramics and Bones Swiss Six

The Longboard Larry custom pusher was kindly provided for me by Larry himself, so thanks to Larry for that. It is a great platform to skate on, with a lively concave. It is super durable, with a layer of fibreglass on the bottom. The drop through truck mountings allow you to drop the deck up to 2cm. I haven’t had a chance to weight the deck to see how it compares with other decks, but due to it’s super durable contruction, I would imagine it weighs in a little more than the lightest decks you will find.

The rig got new wheels in Hong Kong - Seismic 85mm Speed Vents at 3,400m near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

Bones donated three sets of bearings to me. One set of ceramics, two sets of Bones Swiss Six bearings. The ceramics are fast enough, but since I use grease in my bearings (cuts down on maintenance) there is no difference between them and the steel Swiss Six bearings. I share in Pavedwave’s opinion that ceramics can be overkill and too expensive for the harsh riding conditions of long distance longboard touring.

Wheel size is a point of contention. I see great value in the opinions and experience of long distance skaters such as Adam Colton and Nat Halliday, who have both mentioned that 75mm to 85mm is perhaps the best size for long distance, because of the lighter weight. Larger wheels have long been the choice of long distance skaters, because they have been thought to have less rolling resistance, especially on rough chipseal surfaces. However realistically, when you’re travelling over rough chipseal for a long time (like, days on end), the extra 10mm of the bigger wheels does not give you a big enough advantage to make them worthwhile. The lighter 75mm wheels however give the advantage of contributing to an overall lighter board, making it easier to accelerate over the rough stuff.

So why use 97mm wheels across China? Partly because I didn’t get around to getting some smaller wheels in the US before going to China, and because of the trailer, my entire board setup weighs almost 20kg anyway, so I wouldn’t gain much benefit in acceleration with smaller wheels! When your board essentially weighs 20kg, you’re always going to be slow when accelerating. When you’re rolling though, so long as the road surface is smooth, the momentum keeps you rolling!

When I skated across Europe and the US, my setup was as follows:

Deck: Rollsrolls carbon/kevlar (black with stripes) – bad choice on deck
Trucks: Holey 175mm trucks with standard red bushings
Wheels: 97mm Abec 11 Flywheels
Bearings: Rotated between Bones Swiss Ceramics and Bones Swiss Six