How To: Select a Downhill or Freeride Deck
Picking a downhill longboard deck can be a bit overwhelming because of the sheer number of deck styles available these days. The point of this article is to cover some of the different design characteristics of downhill boards and explain some pros and cons of each to hopefully help make your decision an easier one.
There are a 4 categories of downhill longboards: top mounts, drop-thrus, drop decks, and double drops. We added in micro-drops for good measure although they’re more of a subcategory of drop decks. We did a post not too long ago where we did a general overview of these deck styles; here we’ll explain the benefits and limitations of these types of decks when they’re used as part of a downhill setup.
Top mounts are the latest craze in the downhill scene. They have a higher ride height than the other styles, which has a number of benefits as well as disadvantages. Advantages – you can get your feet closer to the trucks, you have a little more leverage over your trucks and they’re a bit more nimble. You get more traction with a top mount deck because you have a higher center of gravity and you’re putting more downward force on the wheels when you lean. One problem with top mounts is wheel clearance issues- you have to run around 70 mm wheels to avoid wheel bite. They can also be less stable relative to other boards, but this can be made up for with experience and familiarity.
Although favored by many longboarders, drop-thru decks are becoming a thing of the past for downhill longboarders. Drop-thrus are like top mounts but you take away from the size of the standing platform and lower the deck a bit without the features that come with a drop deck, such as the foot pockets. The benefit is that they’re a little lower to the ground than a top mount, and can be great if you like a simplistic feeling of a top mount without all the features that come from a drop deck. Some people do enjoy drop-thru decks for downhill for this reason.
Drop decks are popular in downhill because the lower standing platform gives you a lower center of gravity which increases stability and gives you more reference points for your feet on the board so you can feel your way around the board and wont have to look down as often. The downside of that for downhill is that you’ll have a little less traction because your center of gravity is lower, which makes it so you’re putting more side-load on the wheels. This lets the wheels drift easier and may cause you to slide through a turn that a top mount could normally grip. You can check out one of our favorite drop decks, the Omen Barbarian by clicking HERE!
Micro-drops, are a special type of drop deck that combines some of the benefits of a top-mount with the benefits of a drop-deck. They’re basically a top-mount deck with a tiny bit of drop- usually less than an inch. Micro-drops such as the Madrid Bigfoot are popular because you still have the benefit of the reference points that come from the drop-deck style such as the nice curves and features that your feet can grab onto. Because the drop is so small, your center of gravity isn’t lowered too drastically so you’ll get traction that’s similar to what you’d have with a regular top-mount. Micro-drops are great if you’re looking for the feeling of a drop-deck but don’t want to sacrifice very much grip. Madrid Longboards makes some dope micro-drops, make sure to check 'em out!
Double-drops are cool if you want to get your board really really low to the ground but without a huge dropping angle at the ends of your standing platform. This is something that some people prefer because the inward-sloping angle of a drop-deck can take up a lot of your standing platform. The benefit of a double-drop deck is that you can get that super low ride without reducing very much foot space. A lot of people pick double-drops because they just feel more comfortable on a lowered deck without huge features. For example the DB DTX has a drop plus drop-through to make it so you’re really low to the ground and have little pockets for your feet.
In a nutshell, drop-decks, micro-drops and double-drops are just different ways to get your board low to the ground while also having a deck that feels the way you want it to. Picking a downhill deck that you feel really comfortable with can be a long process. Hopefully reading this post helped somewhat, although you never know if a board is right for you until you ride it. We recommend visiting your local skate shop, talking with employees and riding some of their demo boards to get a feel for ‘em. Also, ask any friends who longboard if you can try out their boards and see if they have any recommendations for you as well!