In my short time as a longboard dancer, it has come to my attention that many riders, even experienced ones, don’t have too much input on what hardware you should be using to hold your board together.
Sure, it’s easy to give all of the love to the deck, and the trucks, and the wheels, and you certainly won’t find any shortages of discussions on these topics, but hardware? Who wants to talk about that?
Well guess what boys and girls, hardware matters! Because without good hardware you might be causing unnecessary damage to your deck, unknowingly hindering your performance, or worst case scenario, you could end up hurting yourself.
So I decided to take it upon myself to write up this guide for newcomers to the sport and experienced riders alike, and I hope it’s the last guide for hardware you’ll ever need. If you’re looking for advice on creating your first entire setup, be sure to hit up our guide for setting up your first longboard dancing board.
So alas, prepare yourself for the most boring but still important longboard dancing article ever.
Let’s talk about nuts and bolts
Literally, I want to talk about nuts and bolts and what they mean for longboard dancing. For those new to the sport:
- The Bolt is the long thing that you push through the hole from the top of your board.
- The Nut is the thing you screw on to the bolt, after it’s been put through the board to keep your trucks attached to the deck.
There are three things you need to keep in mind when selecting your nuts and bolts – length, head type, and turning method. Lets dig into each type and talk about advantages and disadvantages.
Bolt head type
When selecting bolts, you’ll have two options – flat heads or raised heads. Let’s look at the options in depth and what they mean for longboard dancing and freestyle.
Flat head bolts (also referred to as countersunk)
These are the more typical bolts you’ll find in most skate shops and in a lot of online stores. As the name implies, the head is flat and as you look at the bolt it forms a bit of a cone leading down to its long part that goes into the board.
- Easier to find in stores / online etc.
- Goes completely into the board, so you don’t feel the bolts when skating.
- Gets completely sunk into board, so these will not take damage over time.
- The “cone” shape of the bolt actually pushes into the board.
- Not feeling the head of the bolts can actually be a disadvantage for dancing.
Let’s dig a bit deeper here into the pros and cons of this bolt type.
To sink or not to sink, that is the question?
In the above listed advantages, I talk a lot about these bolts going into the board completely. And this is what the cone shape of the bolt actually does, as you tighten it down, the head of the bolt disappears into the board and becomes completely flat and flush with it.
Some people prefer this in their riding style, they want a completely flat board and just don’t want to feel 8 little bumps under their feet. If this is your preference, then this is the bolt style you want.
The problem with sinking the bolts like this is that these bolts actually make the holes in your deck wider and deeper each time you screw them in. Longboard decks are expensive, and once those holes are no longer useful for attaching your trucks to the deck, you’ve gotta replace the deck.
The second type of bolt head you’ll find here are raised head, or dome bolt heads, what they’re called will differ from shop to shop but the two are the same thing. I’m going to type dome head for the rest of this article as it is shorter and less work lol.
- Doesn’t have cone shape, so doesn’t dig into the board “as much.”
- Some people like having the bolt “signals” under their feet.
- Typically harder to find in stores, you will probably need to order these.
- Head is exposed, and they can take a bigger beating over time.
- Some people don’t like the “signals” under their feet.
Let’s talk about signals
So in comparison to the flat head bolts, the dome bolts are going to leave you with with 8 little bumps on the board that you’ll be able to feel when skating.
I like this because when I’m dancing it’s a slight signal I can interpret to know exactly where I am on the board without having to look down at the board. Not looking down at your feet = more steeeezzeeeee.
The spot on the board between the two trucks is your “safe zone” meaning as long as you’re stepping in this area, the board isn’t going to pop or shoot forwards or backwards, so it’s nice to have a little signal there to tell you where you are.
Also, these will help your board last longer, because while they will still dig a little bit into the board every time you tighten down (at the end of the day it is metal against wood and metal will always win this battle) they don’t have the cone shape of the flat head bolts that pushes them into the board.
Please buy skate-intended hardware
Now that that has been cleared up, I need to emphasize that you should only buy skate rated hardware, basically anything from your local skate shop or a reputable online dealer. Yes, it will cost more…like WTF 10€ for some nuts and bolts?!
You might be asking yourself, will stuff from a home improvement store work? Yeah, it will serve its purpose, buttttt you’re putting a lot of risk at play here.
Good skate hardware is meant to take hits and impact, the last thing anyone needs is four cheap bolts breaking when you land an aero flip which will in turn send you flying off the board and into your untimely demise.
Don’t skimp out here, buy skate rated hardware. Brands I can recommend for hardware are Loaded (USA), Bolzen (Germany), and Independent (USA).
Let’s talk about size
Because it’s not about the size of the boat, it’s about the motion in the ocean…errrr…wait…hahaha #jokesgonebad
So this part is pretty self explanatory, but nonetheless I want to talk about this because if you’re new to the sport, this is an easy thing to overlook.
Generally speaking, the length of the bolts you’re going to choose is likely going to be between 1.25 – 1.5 inches. (3.2 – 3.8cm).
The rule for longboard dancing and freestyle, is that when your board is assembled, you want just a bit of of the bolt to stick out past the nut.
You don’t want the bolt to be too short, because then you risk the nuts falling off. At the same time, you don’t want excessive length on the bolts because that can unintentionally really mess up your hands and fingers when going for a grab trick that involves grabbing the trucks.
The 1.25” size has always worked for me. Currently I ride a Loaded Boards Bhangra V2 which is one of the biggest and thickest boards out there, with 1/8” riser pads (more on these later), and Station trucks and the 1.25” size bolt size works for this setup as intended.
Bolt turning method
I didn’t know wtf the technical term for this was, but basically you have two options here:
- A hex or allen key head. This bolt is going to have a little hexagon in it, and thus will use a hex wrench or allen key.
- A Phillips head. This bolt has your typical screwdriver setup.
Some people swear by one or the other, to be perfectly honest I say this is just completely preference.
The only true “advantage” I will give Phillips heads is that they will work with all skate tools. I’ve never had a problem with this, whereas I HAVE had problems with certain skate tools allen wrenches not fitting into my hex bolts.
Doesn’t happen too often, but it does, and when it does, it usually sucks.
Riser pads, useful or just blah?
Riser pads are basically small pieces of either rubber or plastic, that go between the truck and the board when being assembled. They add varying degrees of distance between your wheels and your deck, hence the very creative name – riser pads.
Riser pads serve two purposes:
Riser pad benefit number 1
Prevent Wheel bite. Depending on how your deck is built, and your weight, and your riding style, and like 40 million other things, riser pads can help you avoid wheel bite. For those unaware with the term, wheel bite is when you lean hard into a turn and the wheel makes contact with the deck.
When this happens, the wheel “bites” into the deck, because it stops moving immediately. When this happens you go flying off the board and it sucks, especially if you’re going fast.
Riser pad benefit number 2
Board preservation. Especially in the case of rubber riser pads, the pad will take a lot of the impact of each hit and prevent the truck from sending all that energy into the deck itself. (Remember our metal vs wood fight? Yeah that applies here too).
This can help increase the life of your setup.
Should I get plastic or rubber riser pads?
In most cases, I will say rubber. They’ll do everything just as good as plastic riser pads, but they’ll absorb hits much better and will also last longer.
The only time I recommend plastic riser pads, is purely for aesthetic reasons. I currently use plastic riser pads because my Station trucks have a weird base plate (part of the truck that attaches to the deck) shape and when the trucks get tightened down with rubber riser pads, they bend and look all funky and it looks ugly AF.
The plastic obviously holds it shape, so it looks nice and clean. WHAT?! I’m vain like that lol.
Riser pad size recommendations
I’ve always ridden a 1/8” (.32cm) size riser pad. I find this size keeps my board low enough to the ground to keep my center of gravity nice and solid, and I have never had wheel bite with this size.
Too many words. Boring. (Conclusion)
Don’t ignore quality hardware with any setup, it will help keep you safe, and also perform better.
For those just wanting concrete recommendations on what I ride, here’s a summary:
To avoid hurting yourself, some recap points:
- Make sure your bolt length is long enough to just barely clear the nut, but not excessively long.
- Buy skate-rated hardware. Yes it’s a lot for a bunch of nuts and bolts, but it is meant for this stuff. Plus hardware isn’t something you should need to be buying often, you can move it from deck to deck.
I hope this helps out, if you’ve got questions, hit me up in the comments below.