Cheap Longboards – Why Pay More?
How much is a longboard?
The cheapest complete longboards in our shop start at under £50 – but if you called us with the challenge of building you the most expensive custom possible, you could end up spending upwards of £400.
Why the huge difference?
A question we are often asked is: “How can you possibly spend that much on a longboard when £50 will do the job?”
We’ve taken three different price points of drop-through boards off the shelf to try to explain where your money goes.
The three longboards we selected are also all basically aimed at the same user – they’re cruising/pumping/pushing/commuting setups. They’re all drop-through, they all have some flex, and dimensions (length/wheelbase/nose/tail) are all roughly similar.
They’re all roughly the same symmetrical shape, and have proper longboard or “reverse kingpin” trucks.
They all feature large wheel cutouts to prevent wheelbite, and they all roll on large, soft wheels to keep things fast and smooth over rough surfaces.
All of these boards are stock setups – that is to say, they are readily available from our shop any time. We could have included a crazy expensive carbon fibre one-off race board with precision trucks but that isn’t really a fair comparison!
So why the price difference?
How different can they really be?
Read on for an in depth look…
Longboard #1 – The Cheap Option (£55.00)
First up is the Neptune Drop-Through by Atlantic. They are currently available from us at £54.94 – making is the cheapest drop-through that we sell in our shop.
The board itself is pressed from a cheap maple substitute. There is flex there, but it’s not the springiest thing we’ve stood on.
The sloping shoulders do prevent wheelbite, but they do reduce the standing platform quite significantly, giving you less room for your feet.
The wheels are Atlantic’s own brand. While they do the job that a wheel should do, ie allowing the board to roll along the ground, they don’t go much further than that.
Grip is fairly minimal and roll speed is slow – this is mostly down to the lower quality urethane used.
Frankly speaking, this is a stock wheel out of China, with no real feedback into the shape, core position, or urethane formula. They roll along the ground – but that’s about it.
Turning to the trucks, it’s much the same story. Yes – they’re trucks. Yes – they turn. But not very much. Given that the trucks you ride on are probably the most important part of your board, this is really the thing that lets this board down the most. The bushings are low rebound, the metal casting is of a low quality, there’s noticable slop in the truck hanger, and we suspect that if we put these trucks through their paces, they would bend fairly quickly.
Although we believe strongly that the bearings are not as vital to your board as you might think, the bearings on the Atlantic are really the bare minimum available. They do spin, but the all-important shields are very poor metal jobs – exactly the kind that let the water in after a skate in damp conditions. With a bit of a clean you might be able to make them perform decently enough, but you’ll need to look after them.
In short, the cheap option is just that – cheap. Yes, you can skate it. But in our opinion, it’s not really giving you the best longboarding experience.
In fact, we’d go so far as to say that it gets you rolling, and very little more.
Longboard #2 – middle of the road (£145.00)
Here is where things get interesting.
The second board we;ve picked is the Lush Freebyrd “Pro” Setup. This board is actually available as cheaper “Standard” (and more expensive “Elite”) builds, but the Pro option is a good value mid-priced longboard which suits our needs nicely.
The Freebyrd is pressed with a simple cambered profile, which immediately gives the board a way nicer flex than the Atlantic, which is flat in profile.
Lush are also using superior Canadian Maple to do this, which makes all the difference – you can immediately feel that the deck has a bit more spring in it.
The shape is refined too – this board has actually been designed as opposed to pulled out of a catalogue, with the aim of maximising the standing platform whilst avoiding wheelbite. This isn’t something that you can do just by drawing a shape and sending it to a factory – Lush have clearly put this shape through some skate time to get this shape.
The most obvious difference is the wheels, trucks and bearings. Spend this much and you’re getting some pretty decent aftermarket gear on your board.
Cult Wheels are well known and loved all over the world – the Classic 66mm that comes with the Freebyrd is poured from a decent urethane, so it rolls well with grip when you need it, and controllable sliding when you don’t.
Sabre Trucks are again a quality aftermarket brand, with precisely cast pivots, quality aluminium casting, and high rebound bushings. They have very little slop compared to the janky no-name trucks that come on the Atlantic, and they turn way smoother.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – trucks are the most important part of your longboard. This is the Freebyrd’s trump card, and it’s the primary reason to spend this much money.
The Freebyrd is finished off with Sabre ABEC7 berarings, which are well shielded and fast rolling – and that’s all you really need from a bearing at any price in our opinion.
So for an extra £90, you’ve suddenly gone from a longboard that you’ll probably skate a few times and get bored with, to a longboard setup that will last, roll faster and smoother for longer, and give you a turning sensation that’s getting close to about as good as it gets.
There’s no question in our minds – you’ll have more fun on your board if you spend a bit more.
Longboard #3: all the bells and whistles
It’s a bit strange comparing a £310 complete to a similar product that costs less than a fifth of the price.
However, put the Loaded Icarus up against the Atlantic, and you can immediatey see where the money goes.
While the cheap option gets you something barely sufficient, the Loaded Icarus is a fully designed, quality piece of kit that will make you want to skate more.
The deck is pressed from Bamboo and Fibreglass, giving a crazy awesome pumpy/springy feeling that’s just not there in the cheaper decks.
Loaded have put a lot of thought into the shape of this deck – the concave and 3D wheel arches give huge clearance, and the deck just feels “right” under your feet.
Like the Sabres on the Lush Freebyrd, aftermarket Paris V2 trucks are strong, smooth and turn really well with minimal “slop.”
We build the Icarus up with high-end Cult Raptures – some of the grippiest, fastest, smoothest rolling wheels out there. Poured from high-quality urethane on a huge air core, the difference to roll speed and grip over the cheaper wheels is something else.
Make no mistake – spend this much and you’re getting your money’s worth.
And the winner is…
This depends on your expectations and your budget – the reason we stock such a wide range of longboards is because we know that there is no right answer for everyone.
If you just want to get rolling and spend as little money as possible, then by all means get something cheap.
There is a caveat here though. You need to recognise that you will be getting something that doesn’t skate as well – which means that you won’t enjoy it as much.
Seeing as we all skate because it’s enjoyable, we feel that just going for the cheapest board you can find, kind of defeats the point.
Most skaters coming into the shop tend to end up spending between £140-£200. In this price range, you’re getting decent aftermarket undercarriage, a deck that has been thought about and built from decent enough materials, all put together to make a quality package. We reckon that this is probably the best pricepoint for most people looking to get into longboarding.
If, however, you really want the best you can get, then we have to say that it is worth spending the extra.
Expensive longboards really do ride way better than cheaper ones – the design, components and materials all come together to make a vastly superior package.
There is a caveat here too though – you must make sure that you pick the right thing for you. Just throwing money at the screen and expecting your board to be perfect isn’t enough! Take your time to figure out what kind of longboard you need, and do your research first.