If you have been riding a longboard for quite some time, I am sure that you have experienced wheel bite. If not, you most likely have heard it from other riders or seen it happen. Wheel bite is something we all want to avoid and there are ways to do it. I have come up with this post to share ways how to prevent longboard wheel bite which worked for me or other riders.
What is wheel bite?
If you’ve ever leaned into a tight carve only to have everything come to a screeching halt, you have experienced wheel bite. When the bottom of the deck contacts the top of the wheels, the friction can stop a longboard cold. wheel bite leaves telltale burn marks on the deck, just above the outside edge of the wheels. It is a sign that progress-stopping contact is happening in full lean, though how far you have to lean to initiate contact varies. Luckily, there are ways to prevent longboard wheel bite, either when selecting components or after the fact. Here is a good video which shows what wheel bite actually is:
Interestingly, the term wheel bite means different things to skateboarders than it to longboarders. Skateboarders use much harder wheels than longboarders do, mainly because they slide easier across obstacles. Those hard wheels do not get along well with pebbles or other road debris. Skateboard wheels make a frightening “Burt!” sound when they hit something like that, and the skateboarder tends to go flying. Road debris is less of an issue for a longboarders and their softer wheels.
Preventing wheel bite
Whatever the cause of your wheel bite, you are not condemned to struggle with it. And understanding each of the issues that cause keep you from ever experiencing it again. Let’s look at each of the components that cause wheel bite and see how we can prevent it.
First Check the Kingpin Nut
If the bottom of your deck is biting on the wheels, the very first thing you should do is inspect the kingpin nut. It should be at least tight enough that the nylon locking ring on the outer part of the nut is flush with the top of the bolt with one thread exposed. Otherwise it may be backing out and allowing the truck to turn too sharply.
Tightening the kingpin nut restricts the turning ability of the truck, so take it easy after you make any kingpin-nut adjustments. Give yourself time to get accustomed to the new turning radius. Cranking down too much on the kingpin nut and hopping on a steep hill is a recipe for a crash.
The easiest way to prevent wheel bite is to make it less likely – or impossible – to occur in the first place. If you’ve ever wondered why certain longboard decks have such oddball shapes, wheel bite prevention may be part of the answer.
Some decks have pronounced cutouts above the wheels. These shapes allow the rider to fully lean without worrying about wheel bite. Most drop decks and drop-through decks have cutouts, and there are some other shapes that have them. Take a look at one of my boards with cutouts which prevents wheel bite in the first place.
If stability is your goal and you want to ride as low to the ground as possible, consider using a deck with cutouts for the wheels. You can find examples of boards with cutouts in our post for beginners – Longboards for beginners.
Top-mount boards without cutouts are limited in the ways they can prevent wheel bite. The typical method is for the deck manufacturer to grind out wheel wells above the wheels. Using a drum sander at approximately a 45-degree angle, the manufacturer removes material all the way down to the top two or three layers. Wheel wells provide a little more space for turning.
A less common method for eliminating wheel bite is to bend the deck upward in the wheel areas. Boards with these wheel flares have obvious bumps in the concave on their tops, which may or may not influence the way you can ride the board. For some, the flares make nice little pockets for their feet that might not otherwise be there. For others, they are an uncomfortable distraction.
If you have flares or wheel wells and you still find yourself bottoming out in turns, you may want to think about taking a sander and hollowing out more wheel-well space. This is a common customization, and it should not affect the way the board rides. Alternatively, any one of the following solutions can end your wheel bite nightmares.
Longboarders who opt for top-mount, non-cutout decks only have so many options for eliminating wheel bite. For many setups, the best one can hope to do is lessen the likelihood that wheel bite will occur. Risers are probably the most common and most effective option, but they are one that has consequences.
A riser is a plastic pad that is the same size as a truck’s baseplate. Its whole purpose is to increase the distance between the bottom of the deck and the top of the wheels. Rising the board this way also necessarily raises the longboarder that much farther from the pavement. Stability is inextricably linked to the distance from the ground, and lower always means more stability. Therefore the taller the riser you use the more unstable your board will be.
The typical size range for risers is from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch. There will always be outliers in either direction, but those smaller or larger risers usually have specific applications. Again, risers alter the way a longboard rides, and it is always wise to make any adjustments in the smallest increments possible. Risers are cheap. It is always easy to simply move to the next size of riser if the size you choose doesn’t fix your wheel bite situation.
Shock pads are a special kind of riser made of soft rubber rather than hard plastic. In the past the typical shock pad would always be 1/8 inch thick, but larger sizes are becoming available. Shock pads compress under the weight of the baseplate in sharp turns, though, which could decrease overall stability if the pad is overly thick. One-eighth-inch shock pads do lift the board slightly, but their main purpose is to dampen the vibrations that pass through the wheels, softening harsh rides.
Use Smaller Wheels
Wheel size works hand in hand with riser pad size to provide the room you need to turn the board without experiencing wheel bite. Large wheels have their benefits, but choosing too large of a wheel can easily bring wheel bite into play. Installing half-inch risers will likely alleviate the wheel bite issue, but instability and speed wobbles might result.
Without cutouts, top-mount boards need room between the tops of the wheels and the bottom of the deck. Rather than reach for the biggest wheels you can find in the formula you prefer, consider going for a mid-size wheel. Big wheels are usually pretty fast, but 65-millimeter wheels are not always that much smaller or slower. And those mid-size wheels may give you just the amount of space you need to avoid raising the deck. Take a look at our guide on how to choose the right wheels.
Swap the Bushings
The bushings that came in the trucks you purchased may be top of the line or they may be junk. If you purchased each component separately, the stock bushings may very well be quality urethane. If you purchased a pre-assembled complete, there’s a good chance that the bushings are soft and doughy. Either way, it is possible that a simple bushing swap can keep you from doing a swan dive.
Just like the urethane that makes up wheels, bushing urethane varies in durometer (hardness). The typical stock set may be around 89A, while replacements can be as soft as 78A or as hard as 92A. You also can’t always go off the advertised bushing durometer, as urethane formulas also vary. Typically, harder bushings will restrict the ability to lean more. Simply switching to harder bushings may be enough to prevent wheel bite without having to make any more adjustments. Of course, the flip side is that the board may be much more difficult to steer.
There are two main bushing shapes, and there are three possible combinations in which they are used. Trucks may have cone-and-cone, barrel-and-barrel, or cone-and-barrel bushings. Cones allow the hanger to twist more easily on the pivot, while barrels are more stable. If you are about to select trucks, narrow your choices by which ones have the bushing combination that works for your discipline. But take wheel bite into account when possible.
If you already have a complete setup and you are considering swapping your bushings, be aware that not every truck can accept every bushing type. There are specialty trucks that have their own bushing shapes, while some other trucks accept only cone or barrel bushings in certain positions (top or bottom). Most reputable manufacturers have literature online for their trucks that specify which bushings they accept. Trust the manufacturer, but don’t be afraid to experiment. You can always swap back for the stock bushings.
If you rely on just one solution for preventing longboard wheel bite, you may end up making more of a consolation than you want to make. In the absence of cutouts, it’s usually best to make several of your component selections with wheel bite prevention in mind. That way you only have to make slight consolations for each component, and the whole setup can function the way that you intended.
What's up everyone? Almost 6 years ago I have tried out my first board sport – longboarding. Ever since I have been hooked with it and other board sports. Everyday I try to share my knowledge about it with all of you. If you have any questions, comments or just want to chat, hit me up via the contact form.