Using a skateboard as a means of transportation isn’t uncommon anymore. You see lots of people commuting on skateboards, cruiser boards, and longboards. It’s a healthy way of getting to your destination and twice (or more) as fast as walking. Only the question is which one is suitable for your specific needs?
Long-distance commuting requires a different board than city commuting for example. The different types of boards also have their pros and cons. Some are heavy and big but provide more stability where others are lightweight and portable.
Do you just want to cruise around and carve or do you want to be able to hop on and off curbs? Maybe you want to ride long distances comfortably without too much effort?
You might also be looking for something portable while still being able to cruise smoothly. There are a couple of options to consider. Longboards are more expensive so you could also decide to go for a classic popsicle board.
Consider Where You Are Going to Ride
Crowded places aren’t suitable for longboards, you’ll need something maneuverable and responsive. It’s also a bad idea to commute in crowded places if you’re a beginner. You’ll likely hurt someone or yourself and traffic can be dangerous. As always, make sure you at least wear a helmet and kneepads when starting out. You still need a brain to skateboard.
Surfaces make a huge difference, if you ride rough asphalt most of the times you’ll need big soft wheels and something that provides balance. Your only options here are a longboard or a cruiser. Keep in mind that you can’t skateboard when it’s raining, the road and your deck will become slippery.
The key to a cruiser setup is soft wheels around 78a – 87a (lower is softer), with a diameter of 54mm or larger. Ricta Clouds 78a or 86a, OJ Keyframes 87a, Bones ATF, etc… If you go with bigger wheels you might want to run with some riser pads.
Short Distances and Crowded Cities: Mini Cruiser
You’ll need something portable, responsive and not too heavy. If you’re cruising a city you’ll encounter many obstacles and crowded places. You’ll need something that you can easily pick up and carry around. A longboard is a bit of a hassle. Ever seen people carrying them around? It looks a bit awkward, to be honest.
Go for a mini-cruiser and make sure you get a decent one, I tested a couple of great cruisers and you can find a summary over here. They are easy to pick up and carry, you can even carry them around using a backpack. Careful not to hit anyone though as the board sticks out. I usually put my skateboard between the backpack and straps.
Long Distances on Flat Surfaces: Longboard
You guessed it, you’ll need a longboard. Longboards are perfect for long-distance commuting and provide a comfortable ride. It will get you from A to B without problems as long as you don’t have to pick it up too often.
The learning curve is less steep than a smaller board so if this is something you’re worried about, go with a longboard first. I recently came across an excellent longboard for beginners and it’s just over $100 bucks. Check out more details here.
Once you are proficient in riding a longboard you can always switch to a cruiser style board. You could also consider just getting a bicycle if your trip has many stops, but I guess that’s not what you’re looking for.
Penny Boards, Don’t Do It
The first thing to dismiss is a Penny board. They aren’t for beginners and feel unstable. Even more so if you have large feet. Sure there are people that learn skateboarding on a Pennyboard but it will take you a lot longer if you decide to get a board like this.
They look great and last forever (except for the wheels and bearings) but are very uncomfortable. I also won’t recommend them for kids, even kids have a hard time on a Penny board. My son never got the hang of it on a Pennyboard but once I got him a popsicle he was fine. It’s still collecting dust and I may have left it in the rain a couple of times.
Longboard or Cruiser Board?
If you want to make long rides and cover larger distances go for, you guessed it, a longboard. A longboard requires less effort and will keep momentum for a long time, provided you got some decent wheels and bearing. Once you get used to riding a longboard you can start to practice carving and maybe even powerslides if you’re up for it.
Go for a cruiser if you have to commute in crowded places and cover shorter distances (less than 3 or 4 miles). A smaller board is more maneuverable and makes halting easier. Great for city transportation!
Cruiser Board or Mini Cruiser?
Both are fine, a mini-cruiser is a bit easier to carry around and a normal cruiser is just slightly bigger. There are a couple of variations here, although old school decks are not considered cruisers they are perfect for cruising around.
Cruisers are also great for riding around campus! One of the best cruisers you can get is the Landyachtz tugboat or his little brother, the Landyachtz Dinghy. They are the most recommended cruisers from the cruiser board community. They offer a smooth ride and are very portable. Here are some more details if you’re curious.
How About Just a Regular Skateboard?
That’s fine. You’ll have a bit of a harder time learning but once you know how to ride, you can ride anything. An 8.5″ deck, for example, should be fine for transportation and you can still pull off some tricks.
Just make sure you get some softer wheels like Ricta Clouds 56 mm and make sure you pick a pair of trucks that fit. It won’t be as smooth as a cruiser or longboard but once you know how to ride, you’ll have more control.
I recently slapped some Ricta’s on my 8.5″ Plan B deck and it’s the smoothest ride I’ve ever had using a regular skateboard.
You’ll need to add some riser pads to prevent your wheels from coming in contact with your deck, but it does the job. It will make you sweat a little though, nothing wrong with that unless you’re commuting to work.
Using a regular skateboard is cheaper than buying a longboard or cruiser. Decks starting from 8″ or wider are fine for cruising, Get a pair of Thunder or Independent trucks and some softer wheels. Make sure the trucks match the width of your board and get some proper wheels and bearings.
Cruising and Tricks: Old School Deck or Regular Board
If you want to cruise and still do some basic tricks I’d recommend an old school skateboard. These skateboards are bigger than the classic popsicles and you can slap bigger wheels on them. They have an angled nose, tail and concave.
The deck is wide and provides for a lot of stability, also a great skateboard to make a transition to a popsicle later on. Old school decks are a bit more expensive than popsicles but cheaper than longboards and dedicated cruisers (in general).
Just make sure you at least get a board with a kicktail to ollie up and down curbs. Make sure your wheels aren’t too soft or too hard. If your wheels are too soft it makes it harder to do tricks as the wheels stick to the ground and bounce off when you land. Slap some Ricta Clouds 92a – 56mm on your trucks, perfect for a little bit of cruising and tricks!
Don’t Expect to Hop on and Ride
I recommend practicing for a month before you really go out on busy streets. Skateboarding is hard but just learning to ride is doable, but a struggle at first. I’ve written a post about how to skateboard already so I won’t go into many details here.
Best is to start out stationary, lock your wheels or use a piece of carpet or a patch of grass. Balance on the board and lean in from side to side using your knees, toes, and heels. Jump on and off the board and learn how to fall.
Once you get comfortable, try to push your cruiser with one foot on the ground and the other on your deck. Make sure you know what your preferred front foot is. It’s harder to learn if you place the wrong foot in front. Practice on a tennis court, parking lot or your own driveway and make sure the surface is smooth.
Now pebbles are less of a problem on cruiser boards as the wheels are usually bigger and softer than a regular skateboard. Still, they can catch you off-guard and cause you to fall.
Also, be careful when you ride pavements, the cracks can be unforgiving if you are still learning to balance. Just pick a smooth pavement and you should be fine, just be aware of pedestrians. make sure you know how to slow down and stop. You can do this by sliding your push foot on the ground and applying pressure.
Keep in mind that your feet might start to hurt, it takes some time to get used to skateboarding but it will go away eventually. Your legs also might feel a bit sore if you’re not used to skateboarding, perfectly normal. Don’t worry about what other people think, and if you feel embarrassed go practice some place quiet.
Do Not Buy an Electric Skateboard
If you never skateboarded before an electric skateboard is not recommended. If you don’t know how to balance properly you’ll risk getting into an accident. E-boards are heavy and even frowned upon by skateboarders, it just looks a bit low effort and awkward. Not that you should care, if you’re having a great time e-boarding all the better.
You won’t learn skateboarding and that’s my main objection against them. They also are very expensive and for that kind of money, you can treat yourself with a top-notch longboard, a cruiser, and a complete skateboard. The parts also break down easily and they are expensive.
Avoid Toy Stores
Buying a really cheap skateboard will make it very hard to learn to balance properly. The wheels and bearings hardly spin and the deck will start to delaminate quickly. Invest in something with quality skateboard parts, it will make a huge difference. You don’t want to give up just because you bought a low-quality board.
Replacing Parts of Your Cruiser or Longboard
Now, most people buy complete skateboards but you’ll need to be aware that parts need to be replaced at some point. It will take a while for your wheels to wear down and your bushings and bearings show signs of wear and tear. Taking good care of your board is important. Don’t go out in the rain and store your board somewhere dry. It will make the bearings and deck last longer.
At some point, you also might want to replace your bushings. They allow for steering and come in different Durometers (hardness). Softer bushings will make carving a lot easier but less stability on your board. Harder bushings will make steering more difficult but are great if you mainly go downhill or ride straight roads.
It comes down to personal preference, I like harder bushings but some of my friends curse them. Just make sure to keep this in mind.
Wheels and Bearings and What to Look For
If you want to use a skateboard for transportation you’ll need softer wheels. They allow for more speed and momentum on rougher surfaces. They also make your ride smooth and comfortable and don’t make as much noise as harder wheels. You can’t bring it to a skatepark as the wheels will stick to the surface, great workout though.
As for bearings, ignore ABEC ratings as they don’t mean anything. Go for a set of Bones Super Reds bearings, not the most expensive bearings and probably the best bang for your buck.
Go for larger and soft wheels, you can get smaller wheels when you’ve got some skill. Some brands to consider are:
- Ricta Clouds (Durometer 78a or 86a)
- OJ Keyframes (Durometer 87a)
- Bones ATF (All-terrain Formula)
In general, you should get soft wheels with a diameter starting at 54 mm. As for hardness, go for Durometer between 78a – 87a. Anything. If you go for wheels bigger than 56 mm you might want to get some riser pads. This also depends on your weight and the hardness of your bushings.
If you weigh more, you should get harder bushings to prevent the wheels from coming into contact with your deck. Bushings also need to brake in a little so give it some time.
On a Budget? Try a Second-Hand or Build One Yourself
If you have the proper tools you could build a skateboard yourself. There are many detailed DIY guides out there. You’ll save some money on the deck but you still need trucks, bearings, and wheels. Buying a second hand is also an option. Facebook marketplace occasionally has very good boards at a very low price. Make sure you check if the wheels spin properly and they don’t have flat spots.
Check the deck for sharp edges and chipped nose/tail. If the bearings make a lot of noise you might need to replace them. Also, check if the bushings don’t make any noise if they do they also need to be replaced. Lastly, check for water damage. If a skateboard is waterlogged don’t buy it or make a really good deal.
Commuting on a Skateboard Is a Ton of Fun
The best skateboard for commuting depends on where you want to skate, the distance, and what you want to do. A Skateboard or longboard for transportation? It depends on the distance and if you want to learn tricks. Go for a longboard or cruiser for longer distances and a normal skateboard for tricks.
Riding a skateboard is a fun way of transportation. It’s a healthy activity and way faster than walking or in some cases, taking the bus. Once you get the hang of it that is. There are communities that ride together and it’s sort of become a lifestyle. It reminds me of the early days of skateboarding.
Just make sure you start slow and learn the basics to prevent you from slamming into the ground. Ride at every opportunity you get and you should pick it up quickly.