In Part 2 of this series of skating a board sized to my particularly large frame, I discussed the board measurements and their relation to certain body measurements. The fitting guide is holding up well to other skaters' experiences.
I introduced the idea of using reverse kingpin (RKP) trucks, also sometimes called "longboard trucks". I still like the RKP trucks, and the more I skate them, the more I realize their benefits and drawbacks.
- Geometry: RKP geometry is profoundly different than TKP. The kingpin goes under the axle, and the pivot is flat instead of angled/curved. This gives more turn with less lean and higher stability at speed. Many RKP hangers are often flippable to change from a "high" truck to a "low" truck. RKP geometry offers a wider range of bushing options and kingpin lengths, as well as no kingpin hangup on grinds. RKP trucks become unstable on decks with wheelbases shorter than, probably, 16". Flatter nose/tail angles with longer noses/tails can be more friendly for RKP trucks, as can using low angle RKP trucks such as downhill trucks. Sometimes, the kingpin, even the mushroom head Surf Rodz inverted kingpins, gets in the way on tail and nose tricks on the lip of ramps. Not terribly in the way, but enough to give me a little bit of self-doubt before I do a drop-in.
- Height: The average height of RKP trucks is 64mm, compared to Low TKP at 48mm (RKPs are 34% higher), Mid TKP at 52mm (RKPs are 25% higher) and High TKP at 55mm (RKPs are 16% higher). I flipped my Bear Grizzly hangers to get a 59.5mm height, which has been fairly accommodating of deep turning with my 62mm x 40mm wide wheels. Wheelbite is practically gone, and has only thrown me off the board twice: 1 bail and 1 slam. Not bad. Using eliminator bottom bushings tames wheelbite pretty effectively.
- Axle Displacement: The axles on RKP trucks are relatively closer to the center of the board. This gives high leverage on the nose and tail, meaning it takes less effort to lift on kickturns and manuals and ollies. Ollie effort is a lot lower, which comes in handy when I'm tired. Manuals and kickturns require more precise board control, because a little bit of movement goes a long way in a high leverage situation. Manuals feel a little "soft", but I've gotten used to it. At first, I didn't get that locked in feel on manuals that I get with TKP trucks, but I became accustomed to the newer, more variable feel. Kickturns also feel soft, and at first I was not able to get the front wheels as high as I would like, but, once again, I got used to it. A stiff deck really helps with using the extra leverage to your advantage. On a softer big pops deck that I have, I redrilled my deck to get the trucks 3/8" further back on the tail, and that helped a lot while not giving up too much of the low ollie effort. I haven't had to redrill my stiffer big pops decks, such as my Earthwing Yoni or Crewzer.
In a not-surprising development, I have settled on the same truck width, more or less, that I preferred in 1990, at the height of my youthful skating experiences. I've been skating 9.75" wide Bear Grizzlies. I've flipped the hangers to give me a low-down, stable feel. I also pounded the stock kingpins out, drilled out the kingpin hole in the baseplate, and modified the baseplate to fit a standard kingpin nut on the underside. That allowed me to put in some inverted Surf Rodz mushroom head kingpins. The Bear trucks grind awesome, turn great, are super strong, and highly stable when flipped.
Over the years, on the smaller and smaller freestyle/street boards that became the norm, I learned many more tricks than what I had in 1990, and I became a relatively more skilled skater, but I don't think I became a better skater. In all those years, skating streetstyle boards, I never felt as comfortable on the board as I did in the summer of 1990 on my 9.75" wide deck with a 16.5" wheelbase and 9.7" trucks.
It's amazing how meaningful the measurements actually are to feeling comfortable on the board. My legs back then had a 32" inseam, and I felt comfortable on a 34" long board. Nowadays, my inseam is 34", and I feel most comfortable on a 38" board. If I were to cut my current board to the shape of my 1990 board, it would be 36" long - noses were a lot shorter back then. My shoe size was 13 then, and 14 now, but my feet are the same size, it's just that a European 13 (actually, United Kingdom size 13) is the same as a United States 14. I preferred 9.5- 9.75" wide boards back then, and I prefer about that size now, too. My shoulders were narrower back in 1990, when my wheelbase was 16.5". Now, with a size 46 suit jacket, I prefer a 19" wheelbase. Everything is just slightly bigger now than my most comfortable setup back in my youth, plus I have a more functional nose-end of my skateboard. Pretty sweet times to be a skater. I really hope my fitment chart can help other skaters find their most comfortable setup, too.
So, the other day I brought a 9"x34"/17"wheelbase board to the park to see how it felt to ride a moderately less large setup. I was thinking I would be all overstrong for it, like popping huge ollies and having ultimate control over the board. I couldn't have been more wrong. Everything about the board felt wrong. It was fidgety, sketchy, too busy feeling, not solid enough, unpredictable. And 9x34 is not a small board! I got an 8.5"x32"/14.5"wheelbase deck out and tried that. It didn't feel appreciably smaller than the 9x34, but it still felt uncomfortably small for me. It was a huge relief when I jumped back on my 10x38/19 board with 10" trucks. I tried skating smaller boards a few times since then, too. Just like going down to the mailbox or warming up at the park. Each time, the smaller boards felt uncomfortable. The narrowest board I can tolerate now is 9.4", the shortest is 36", the shortest wheelbase is 18".
I can't go back. Now that I've found my comfort zone in skateboard sizes, I can't go back. I feel like I've gotten a business suit professionally tailored, and it feels so good that all my other suits don't feel right anymore, and I don't want to wear them. I stress about this point of no return only in that I know it is hard to find boards and trucks in the 9.75"ish range, even harder to get 18-19" wheelbases, and even harder yet to get boards this big that are stiff enough to use as normal skateboards, not as cruisers or flexy carvy longboards. Yet all the stress about finding the right sized equipment vanishes when I push off on my big pops, roll in to the flow of the skatepark, and start carving and airing it up. Then, it is just comfort that I feel. No more duck walking on an overly short wheelbase. No more landing airs on the arches of my feet because the board is so narrow my feet hang way over each side. No more accidental ollie norths. Everything just fits, and I feel like a better skater because my comfort level is so high at the same time that I feel like a skilled skater because I've been able to bring all my tricks over to my big pops setup. Proper fit is far more meaningful than most anything else in skateboarding equipment. Start with proper board fit, and I'm sure your experimental period will be only months instead of years. I think skaters will advance quicker on a setup that is more personally comfortable for them.
I can't go back, and I don't mind.