Truck Buyer Guide
Posted on October 22 2020
It’s time to find some trucks to mount your board on. It’s important to choose the right style of trucks keeping in mind what kind of riding you’ll be doing, how surfy or stable you want the ride to feel, and eventually what kind of wheels you’ll want to ride too. After all, the truck bone’s connected to the board bone, and the wheel bone’s connected to the truck bone. Something like that?
This section will give you a good overview of what to look for in a truck that catches your eye, since as you may have noticed with the boards, it’s an art. The key aspects of a truck without going Mariana Trench deep are kingpin orientation, baseplate angle, hanger width, bushing seat, ride height, mounting options and construction.
The kingpin is one of the key components of the truck as it is what will influence the rider the most in terms of riding style. Traditional kingpins (TKP) are found on the inside of the hanger and are mostly seen on conventional skateboards. They allow manufacturers to come up with the ideal grinding setup for flatbar or transition skating since the tip of the kingpin (where the tightening nut sits) is out of the way.
The reverse kingpin (RKP) is set up, well, in reverse. Instead of having the tip of the kingpin inside both hangers, the RKP’s tip is on the outside of the hanger. There’s a slight disadvantage on the flatbar or on copings, but huge advantages when it comes to surfing and shredding the streets. A RKP allows the rider to make deeper, sharper turns, which translates to a much more elegant ride. Plus, it gives the board an increased ride height so it can house bigger wheels.
The TKPs should be tightened for stability while riding at higher speeds, whereas although the same can indeed be said about RKP trucks, there are a few more technological combinations to keep in mind that can make faster riding easier.
The baseplate angle is what governs the angle at which the hanger rests on the kingpin. The lower the degree of the baseplate, the more you have to lean on your board for it to turn, and the higher the degree, the less you have to lean. In general, 50⁰ trucks are the most common as they are a good truck for whatever kind of riding, and they’re what you’ll find on most all-around setups. The angle is perfect for carving since you can engage in deep turns, but its versatility and can also handle faster riding.
Riders looking to go fast might want to look at a truck that has a lower baseplate inclination, as every movement at speed is amplified. The lower angle makes for a less abrupt turn at 60+ km/h and for a damper spring when you pop out of your turn. Trucks around 45⁰ or lower are what hill bombers should be looking for.
Ride height measures the height of the truck from the top of the baseplate to the halfway point on the axle. It is an important consideration when selecting your wheels, since the height will decide whether or not those 80mm wheels are a good idea or a disaster waiting to happen. Ride height is partially dictated by the angle of the trucks, but can also be increased by adding riser pads between the truck and the board, also beneficial for dampening vibrations in the feet.
Hanger and Axle Width
While the kingpin setup and the baseplate angle are something to bear in mind, you don’t want to forget verifying the hanger width. This is what makes the trucks big enough…or not…for your board. You don’t usually want more than a ¼ inch difference between the size of your board and the size of your hangers because if they’re too narrow, you risk wheel bite (which bites), and if it’s too wide, you risk touching the wheel with your foot (which also bites). A rule of thumb is to try and keep the width of the axles flush with the width of the board.
The busings are the coloured urethane cushions that sit on either side of the hanger. They come in a variety of different shapes and durometers in order to expand the versatility of the truck and to help the rider get the perfect turn depending on the intended riding style.
Cone bushings are wider at their base -closest to the hanger- and taper into a narrower top -farthest from the hanger. Because there is less cusion where the compression from the turn initiates, there is less resistance and thus a quicker, more engaging feeling than a barrel bushing. They might be used for cruising, carving, and freestyle.
Barrel Bushings are the same size throughout and thus have an equal amount of cushion at their top and their bottom. Although they are not as surfy as cone trucks, they hold up better for faster riding since there is more urethane to provide support and a more calculated turn. They can also be used for cruising and carving, but are more likely to be found on freeride and downill trucks.
Now depending on the weight of the rider and how soft or hard they want the bushing to be, it's important to keep in mind the durometer of the bushing. Just like a wheel, a bushing can have different durometer ratings which measure the hardness of the urethane. The harder the urethane is, the harder it pushes back against the turn, and the softer it is, the less it pushes back against the turn. Each company has their own reference chart for the weight to durometer ratio, so it's important to consult that before choosing a bushing willy nilly.
The bushing seat is the part of the hanger where both bushings sit. There are three different kinds of seats: round, flat, and step.
Round seats are found on most cast trucks since it’s difficult to shape metal consistently in a mould and are attributed to more playful carving. The bushing has more room to expand under pressure on its rounded housing and is not as restricted as in a step seat, yet more controlled than a flat seat.
A flat seat is more unstable than thee other two options since the bushings are inserted onto the kingpin but have no rim on the seat to contain them. They contort horizontally under the weight of the rider only held in place by the kingpin.
Step seats are the most stable and are found on trucks designed for higher speeds. They are a 90⁰ angle that the bushing sits in, and so there is little leeway for the bushing to cause jerking at higher speeds. Caliber has been able to eliminate this slop by adding a specialized Venom Plug Barrel bushing that occupies the otherwise empty space around the kingpin between the hanger and the axle. This stabilizes the hanger’s movement and makes turns much more reliably responsive than models that lack this technology.
There are two general ways to mount trucks: the top mount and the drop-through.
Top mounted trucks are those that are mounted directly onto the top of the truck which gives the board more height and clearance to help avoid wheel bite. This option is typically used for freestyle, freeride, dancing, and street skating.
As for drop through trucks, they are set up in a special way. The holes at the nose and tail of the board are designed so the kingpin can go through the board, bringing the deck closer to the ground. As opposed to being mounted to the top of the baseplate, the baseplate sits atop the board. This technology is generally seen in boards that are going to be used for commuting and long distance pushing since it brings the board lower to the ground, facilitating pushing. I’m telling you, longboards are like an onion, man.
It's important to remember that all RKP trucks can be set up as top mounts or drop throughs, and that there are no specific restrictions as to whether you are choosing the right truck for your preferred mounting option.
The construction of the trucks refers to how the metal has been shaped into the form of a truck, and the subsequent strength of the material. The three types in increasing order of strength are cast, precision, and forged.
Cast trucks are made by pouring molten hot metal (cue Bill Nye’s maniacal laugh) into a mould and letting it cool. The advantage is that this kind of construction only requires a high amount of heating and then a careful pour, but the disadvantage is that there are often imperfections throughout the truck. Cast trucks are the least solid of the three types and are known by heavier skaters to bend under intense freestyle riding, which causes wheels to cone, amongst other issues.
Precision trucks are what downhill riders tend to turn to…and on. They are engineer programmed CNC (computer numerical control) cut trucks that are millimeter precise, thus ultra reliable at higher speeds. They are shaped from a single block of metal that is gradually cut away, which means they’ll be a little more expensive due to the cost of the material and the technology used.
Forged trucks are the strongest trucks out there. Heated then hammered into shape, they will resist impact and will survive the longest because of the metal’s integrity. The grain of the metal (like the grain of wood) follows the curves of the trucks. For people who like to freestyle and freeride or who like to have a broken in pair of trucks that will last more than a season or two, these are the ideal investment.