HOW-TO: Dealing with Speed Wobbles
CJ: For starters, speed wobs can be caused by a number of different reasons. A common one being loose trucks; they can give you too much turning ability, making your set up hyper-responsive for any speed over 10-20mph. If you’re going faster than that, then you just might want to tighten your trucks. How much is dependent on how fast you would like to go and what bushings you’re riding.\
Another reason might be weight displacement! I guarantee you over 90% of speed wobs come from leaning way too far back on your board. Its very natural for the human body to lean back when going an uncomfortable speed. I tell people put at least 60% of your weight up front on the front end of the board and 40% on the back end. That way you’re putting the turning ability up front and taking away from the back; much like how a car steers from the front and not the back.
Foot placement is a big part of it as well. I see a lot of beginners placing their front in the center of the board then placing their back foot over the back truck. WRONG! Place your front foot as far forward as possible without hanging your toes or heel over the railing preferably at a 45 degree angle and your back foot about shoulder width or more away from your front foot in between 45 and 90 degrees
This being said, I do prefer some decks over others when it comes to downhill skating. I've been loving the Omen Kush for intense downhill but I've been looking for a more responsive technical downhill deck. One being the Madrid Bigfoot, its slight drop, directional cut out, slight kick tail and subtle W concave looks and feels like a dream!
Sam: Before we get in to the nitty gritty details on how to eliminate the horrible fishtailing known as speed wobbles, you must understand first what the main cause of speed wobble is.
Speed wobble occurs when the rear of the board begins turning before the front of the board, the front truck will stay relatively straight while the back truck will turn back and forth violently resulting in a hefty amount of road rash.
A few things that cause speed wobble is when:
-Your front truck is tighter/more restricted to turning than your back truck
When your front truck is tighter than your back truck that means your back truck will be turning more than your front truck, this causes the back to initiate the violent fishtailing action and fling you off your board.
Keep your trucks equal tightness or keep your back truck slightly tighter than your front truck!!!
-Your board is too tall for how loose your trucks are
Since topmount boards are much taller than drop-thru or drop-deck boards your board is going to be much easier to turn simply because you have more leverage on your trucks. Having a topmount already eliminates a good amount of stability, so if you are riding a topmount board you will have a much better time riding either a lower degree truck or having a harder/more restrictive bushing setup.
To maximize stability and eliminate speed wobble completely in your setup you will need to ride a lower board or lower degree trucks/more restrictive bushings.
-Your weight is too far on the back of the board
One of the most common mistakes that beginners encounter when learning how to ride is putting all the weight on the back truck of the board. If you think about it, the more weight that is being exerted on a truck the more it will turn because the bushings are being compressed more. When you put all your weight on your back foot you are compressing the bushings in the back truck more than the front truck which basically does the same thing as having a looser back truck than front.
When riding make sure to keep your knees bent and most of your weight on your front foot. This will allow you to maintain your center of balance as well as you will be turning more from the front of the board just like driving a car (you wouldn’t steer a car from the back tires!!)
Move Carefully & ConfidentlySudden movements make speed wobbles worse, so when you shift your weight, do so with caution and confidence. Be prepared for your board to turn a little when you shift your weight and be sure to go with the turn when it happens.
Use Wedging & Lower Angle Trucks
Wedging and truck angles are the answer to physically changing how far your trucks will turn. Lower angles will cause the truck to turn even less which will make for a more stable ride. Many downhill longboarders will ride with a low angle truck in back to ensure that the board will turn from the front and while remaining stable in the back. A lot of us here at Motion Boardshop ride with 184mm Caliber Trucks with 44 degree baseplates (in picture on left) or 180mm Randal Trucks with 42 degree baseplates (right).
Relax & Get LowIt’s easier said than done when you’re bombing a hill and start to wobble, but relaxing your body will go a long way.
Bending your knees will lower your center of gravity and give you much more stability, but it won’t always get rid of speed wobbles. The importance of relaxing and going with the flow can’t be overlooked. Get low, relax your legs and focus on keeping your upper body over your board and positioned slightly forward. Attack the hill and if your board starts to wobble, stay relaxed and confident.
Practice Slowing Down & StoppingIt’s much easier to feel relaxed while bombing a hill if you know you could throw a speed check or slide to a stop at any time. Learning various stopping techniques and being comfortable doing them is one of the most important skills any longboarder can have. We highly recommend learning how to stop and practicing it often. Call us for any time for recommendations on learning to stop.