At first you might think there isn’t much to skateboarding deck rails, they’re just plastic strips with holes, look the same, and serve only one purpose. After some digging I found out that most of the rails you can buy are of inferior quality and decent rails are limited.
The title of this blog might be a bit pretentious, because it’s more about all I know and could find out about deck rails. The first rails, for example, where made of wood and called Grab Rails. It didn’t take long before someone introduced plastic rails.
I could only track down a few brands that offer high-quality rails. Fortunately there are a couple of brands you can pick from that are usually in stock. Let’s check out what rails are, who should consider them, and the best spot to place them.
- What Are Skateboard Deck Rails
- Types Of Deck Rails
- Recommended Skateboard Deck Rails
- The Origin Of Skateboard Deck Rails
- Should You Put Rails on Your Skateboard?
- How to Attach Skateboard Rails
- Do Skateboard Rails Fit all Decks?
What Are Skateboard Deck Rails
Skateboard deck rails are injection-molded plastic strips that are attached onto the bottom edges of a skateboard deck. Their main purpose is to slide your skateboard further but also protect the deck graphic. They are usually around 14.5″ and long, 0.5″ wide, and 0.5″ tall.
Back in the days the ability to slide a skateboard was challenging because skateboard decks lacked concave. Sliding a flat deck is hard because there is so much friction and surface tension. caused by the larger surface that comes into contact with rails or copings. Adding plastic rails made a huge difference.
Rails where originally used to grab a skateboard when airing in verts and bowls. With the introduction of plastic rails, skaters were able to slide boards more efficiently. Nowadays it’s also a good way to protect your graphic, if that’s important to you.
The Pros and Cons of Deck Rails
One of the things I find most annoying is that you have to constantly tighten them. Maybe it’s because I have crappy cheap rails and am still waiting for the reall stuff, but I hear this more often. Another con is that you can mess up when you attach them.
I used an electric screwdriver because I was lazy resulting in a screw that keeps spinning and doesn’t properly attach. The lesson learned is that you need to use a regular screwdriver to prevent this. You can just move them a little and re-attach the rails which solves the problem.
Got an e-mail from David who had a neat fix (thanks dude!):
If your mounting screws are coming undone on your rails, you might try applying a small drop of blue Lock Tight to the bolt threads.
Lock Tight is basically epoxy, so once you apply it to the threads, torque it in place, and allow the epoxy to cure for about 24 hours, the screw shouldn’t come undone unless it’s placed under great stress or you intentionally break the seal.
I would not recommend using the red Lock Tight, unless you own a drill press and don’t mind drilling out the bolts when you change your rails. (The red Lock Tight will usually only fail when heated.)David C.
So far that is just a minor con, and there are certainly pros the adding deck rails. I love how far I they make me slide without much effort. Some trucks are easier on rails and some are more difficult which you have to find out for yourself. Lastly, I love the look. It just gives me that old school vibe.
Types Of Deck Rails
There isn’t much difference between deck rails since most are made of cheap injection-molded plastic. It wouldn’t even surprise me if many come from the same factories. The only minor difference is size and quality.
Some are wider or longer than others, so make sure to pick a set that fits your skateboard’s wheel base. In theory, a slimmer rail should result in less friction, but the difference is so small, I’m not sure if you’ll notice at all.
Rails cost between $10 USD and $20 USD and come in different colors. Some brands like Shake Junt, Enjoi, and Santa Cruz come with 5 wood screws instead of 4. Santa Cruz also offers slimmer rails just like asymmetrical Candy Sticks from Welcome.
Do they slide better? I have no idea because honestly I haven’t tested them. Since NHS (Santa Cruz) knows how to market their products, they are probably made from the same cheap plastic like all the others.
Recommended Skateboard Deck Rails
The best skateboard deck rails are made of UHMW. Brands like Welcome, Pig, H-Street, and Powell Peralta sell UHMW rails. I recommend Candy Bars Rails from Welcome. These are produced by PS Stix and are exactly as the original. They last around 5 to 6 decks but are hard to come by because of the increasing demand.
Most of the other deck rails are made of cheap injection-molded plastic. You can pick any color or graphic you like but paying $20 USD for injection-molded rails is a bit too much. All of the stuff you see in shops are of poor quality, so far I can only count the best deck rails on two fingers. Here’s a list of skateboard deck rail brands that offer lower quality rails:
- Santa Cruz (HSR Rails are garbage)
- Shake Junt
- Rad Railz
Let’s move on to the deck rails that are made of UHMW.
1. Welcome Candy Bars Rails
The rails are sold individually comes pre-taped with a double-sided foam tape. This makes them stick better to the board and absorbs rattle sounds unlike cheap rails. They are asymmetrical and fit any type of concave.
Because of their asymmetrical shape they are easier to grab than regular deck rails. Their height also allows you to place them further apart, even with a very steep concave. No worries about the center of your deck making contact when you slide.
Lastly, these are the only rails that are made of high-molecular-density extruded plastic, which makes them considerably more durable compared to injection-molded plastic. Candy Bars Rails are basically Schmitt Stix but with a different brand name. I’m trying to get my hands on them, but so far no luck.
2. H-Street Custom Deck Rails
Oh joy! Another choice! Well, this one is also hard to get and you have to email H-street to get your custom deck rails. Not for the average skateboarder but worth a try for the dedicated old school skateboarder who wants to re-live the old days.
Just like the Welcome Candy Bars, H-street deck rails are made of high quality plastic, never rattle, and stick to your deck meaning you don’t have to tighten them every session. The only difference is (as far as I can tell) is that they are symmetrical, less exclusive.
They are handmade in San Diego and a recreation of the H-street rails from the 80’s. UHMW is very abrasion resistant and wear better than all the brands you see in skate shops.
3. Pig Rails
Pig continuous to impress me, not do they only offer high quality rails, their skate tools and skateboard hardware are the best you can get. Pig rails are durable and wont crack as soon as you hit a ledge. They aren’t even that expensive and come in many colors.
They are wider and thinner than Rib Bones, slightly harder which makes them a bit less flexible. I was able to bend them extensively without snapping, but it requires more effort compared to Rib Bones. They have soft rounded edges on the side and feel like they can last a while. I’m currently testing their durability, will update asap.
4. Powell Peralta Rib Bones
Powell Peralta was one of the first brands that ripped off deck rails from the original Schmitt Stix. This means they have been producing them for over 30 years and fortunately they are also made of UMHW.
Rib Bones are very soft and I was able to bend them to the extreme. They have a sharper edge compared to the other rails, and are the softest rails. Can’t compare them to Candy bars just yet, but something tells me they are not far off.
Rib Bones are slimmer but noticeably taller compared to Pig Rails, this means you have slightly less clearance but more plastic to chew through. Again, I’m currently testing them to see how long they last and how they handle impacts. Expect an update soon.
The Origin Of Skateboard Deck Rails
Deck rails have been around since the late 70s and quickly forgotten when wood shops introduced decks with concave. Rails were first made out of wood and were called ‘Grab Rails’ when first introduced.
You could still see them on rare occasions in the 90s and 2000s, but they made a comeback in around 2016 along with old school deck reissues. Nowadays they are still gaining popularity, some love ‘m and some just can’t get used to them.
According to Schmitt a guy named ‘Ollie’ (unconfirmed if it was actually Alan Gelfand) suggested that it would be cool if rails could slide. Wooden deck rails grabbed the lip (hence the name Grab Rails) and made it impossible to slide, making them out of plastic solved that problem.
It was Paul ‘the Professor” Schmitt (owner of the PS Stix woodshop) who first laminated rails with fiberglass and formica with a wooden core which were almost impossible to brake, but the production cost was just too high.
Schmitt, who was only 15 at the time, was looking for quality plastic that doesn’t get burn or get sharp edges from friction. The answer was UHMW plastic which is short for Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene.
The company he worked with offered UMHW scraps of which Schmitt first cut up in strips before drilling holes manually. Combined with silicon the plastic was soft and durable (Silly Sticks).
Soon enough Schmitt Stix were a huge success and Schmitt had a hard time getting scrap material. Schmitt made a deal with another plastic company which provided pre-made rails.
He didn’t come up with the name Schmitt Stix himself, the name derived from Fish Sticks which were made out of wood by pro skater Steve Fisher. When Schmitt started selling his plastic deck rails, skaters automatically called them Schmitt Sticks.
Still to this day, Schmitt Stix are the same as in the early 80’s, but the originals are hard to come by. Because of its success other companies started copying the idea, which according to Schmitt is great because if nobody copies you, the product isn’t going to be successful. Companies like Powell Peralta copied the idea and many followed soon after.
Should You Put Rails on Your Skateboard?
Skateboard deck rails are worth it when you are having a hard time sliding your skateboard. Coping tricks will feel different at the beginning because you’re slightly closer to the ledge. It will take a while before you get used to them.
Rock-to-fakies, for example, will feel quite different at first. If you do a lot of flip tricks, the behavior of your board might feel a bit off at first. It really depends on the type of skating you do. Certainly there is a cool factor which makes your setup more interesting and you have something to talk about when people ask about your rails.
If you think they look rad and want to slide your skateboard further, rails are a great choice. For those who love to do aerial tricks but have a hard time grabbing their boards, rails are worth considering.
Rails do make some tricks easier, but they also make some tricks harder. It’s something you really have to put to the test because every skater is different.
Those who want to build a custom old school skateboard, rails are required to get that vintage look. Don’t forget to add a skid tail, copers, and a nose guard to get a nostalgic setup from the 80’s.
How to Attach Skateboard Rails
Attaching rails is very easy. Just grab a screwdriver and place them vertically on the bottom of your skateboard deck. The best place to attach skateboard deck rails is around 1″ from the edge of your board, depending on the steepness of the concave and the height of your rails.
Decks with a very steep concave should be placed closer to the center (not too close). If your rails are thin and low, and mounted near the edge you will also slide the middle of your deck. This isn’t a bad thing, but it will cause more friction. Basically it’s up to you what you feel like is most comfortable.
Do Skateboard Rails Fit all Decks?
Skateboard deck rails fit all 7-ply maple decks but they shouldn’t exceed your wheel base. If you ride a Santa Cruz VX or A Powell Peralta Flight deck, it takes a bit more effort to get the wood screws in, but it works. Because they are harder than regular maple decks you can use an electric screwdriver, but be gentle or you’ll mess up.
For those who don’t like to drill wood screws into their deck you can mount them with double sided mounting tape like Gorilla Heavy Duty. I can’t guarantee that they will stay in place when you board slide but it works if you only want to grab.
Skateboard deck rails have made a comeback and are pretty hot right now. For a while rails seemed like a relic from the past but more and more skaters are discovering the benefits.
Deck rails are cheap and help you to board slide longer, makes it easier to grab your skateboard and protects your graphic. There isn’t a rule of where to place them but too close to the center of your deck is not advised.