Skateboard wheelbase is a pretty untapped subject. You hardly see anyone talk about it. Deck and truck brands rarely mention it on their products. Neither do most skaters—that is, if they even suspect its existence.
The thing is, it can have a pretty big impact on your ride. It can affect the way your skateboard maneuvers and the force required to do certain tricks.
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge about skateboard wheelbase, sit along and dive with us into the world of measurement and optimization. In a constant search of the perfect set-up.
What Is the Wheelbase of a Skateboard?
Skateboard wheelbase is unique because there isn’t one, but two distinct measurements.
Unlike car wheelbase, which is the distance between the center of the front wheel and the center of the back wheel of the same side; skateboard wheelbase is a vague term that can refer to either the deck or the trucks depending on the situation.
The wheelbase of a skateboard is essentially the distance between the front and back, mounting holes closer to the middle of the deck. It gives you a good sign of how far your trucks are set-up apart.
We measure truck wheelbase the same way as car wheelbase. Taking the distance between the center of each wheel on the same side.
Obviously, truck and deck wheelbase directly affect one another. A longer board will have further space between the two trucks. But it also varies depending on the brand and model of the trucks.
For instance, Venture and Thunder trucks have a shorter wheelbase than Indies.
How Is the Wheelbase of a Skateboard Measured?
If you can’t find the wheelbase on the specs, or you want to make sure those are correct, you can measure the wheelbase of a skateboard with a simple ruler.
To measure the deck wheelbase, draw a straight line between two mounting holes on the same side for each truck.
To measure the truck wheelbase, fix your trucks to your deck and compare the distance between the two axles.
Bolts are one of the center-point for measuring the dimension of a skateboard. More than the wheelbase, you can measure the length of the nose and tail. To do so, go from the tip of the nose to the middle of the two bolts closer to it—which is essentially the base of your truck.
The average wheelbase for a street deck is around 14.25”. However, some decks have a longer wheelbase that can go above 14.75”. Note that this is an average for the same size street decks (8”-8.25”).
Does Wheelbase Even Matter?
Technically, wheelbase matters. However, it should be none of your concerns if you’re looking for picking up your first skateboard. I brought the subject to some of my friends who rip on a board. Most of them had no clue what I was on about.
So, it can’t matter that much, right?
Well, you can measure the wheelbase of your old decks and compare them. Maybe it can explain why a certain deck would have felt better to ride than another; despite them being the same size and shape.
For instance, you might have noticed that some decks have a steeper nose and tail. Well, it all comes down to wheelbase.
What Effects Does Wheelbase Have on Your Skating?
Switching between set-up with widely different wheelbase might alter the way you roll and do tricks. In short, it impacts your turning radius, ride comfort and pop.
Turning Radius & Stance
First, the wheelbase affects the turning radius of your skateboard. For example, a 9” deck is not only wider than an 8.5”, but it’s also significantly longer. Because of your trucks being further apart, your skateboard is less responsive, but better at reducing the asperity of the concrete.
We can easily summarize this point in two sentences: The shorter the deck, the sharper the turns. The wider the deck, the smoother the ride.
Then wheelbase can directly change your stance. A long wheelbase leaves more space between your trucks, which gives the rider a wider stance overall. This last point is key. If you’re tall, pick decks that have a longer wheelbase. Your knees will thank you later.
The Lever Phenomenon
The lever phenomenon refers to the motion your skateboard does when you pop.
The further apart your trucks are, the heavier the board feels to lift high up. And the harder you’ll have to pop to do so. This also makes the nose and tail feel shallower.
A deck with a longer wheelbase is more responsive. It’s easier to do tricks. But you get less yield, meaning you’ll have a harder time popping your tricks compared to a deck with a shorter wheelbase.
I don’t know if it’s the extra-weight, or the longer wheel-base, but it typically feels harder to perform scoop-heavy tricks, like 360 flip or any 360 shoves, with Indies then with Thunders or Ventures.
How Long Should My Skateboard Be?
There isn’t an optimal length for a skateboard deck, it all depends on what you want to do with it.
If you’re looking for a steady and comfortable set-up to tackle big transition, you want a long and wide deck. If you want to make many flips and slides, you want a shorter and more nimble deck.
Adult sized skateboards are between 31” to 33” long. However, the length should be none of your concerns if you’re looking to buy your first skateboard deck. The width is what you want to look for.
The only time you could notice the length difference is when you switch, for instance, from an 8.1” deck to an 8.25”. Indeed, most 7.9” to 8.1” wide decks are 31.75” long while 8.25” are 32.25” long.
What Size of Skateboard Do Pros Ride?
Like any skaters, pro-skaters ride all size of decks. They usually range from 7.5” to 8.5” wide for street skaters, 8.5” and over for transition riders.
Sadly, someone has yet to make a study on the most popular size of skateboard. However, if you look at the pro-models available in skate shops, you can get a decent estimate of the preferred dimension for both casual and pro riders. From our own data, people seem to favor 8.0 and 8.25, both are fine for most skaters.
Most street pro-models are towards the 8” to 8.25” mark. When it comes down to professional transition deck, it’s a little more hectic. The same rider often has two pro decks of widely different size. For example, Ben Raybourn, notorious for riding the steepest ramps, has both 8.3” and 9” decks at its name.
Wheelbase is a complicated matter. It might be tricky to visualize its intricacies, only reading about it. If you want visual cues to get a better understanding, I suggest checking out Ben Degros series of videos he did on the subject, which does an amazing job explain it.