Having had longboards in the past, I’m always looking for new ways to get from work and I thought I’d look into commuting on a longboard and put the tips into a post to help others decide if it’s right for them.
The main tips for longboard commuting are as follows:
- Choose the right type of longboard
- Consider the surfaces on your route
- Decide if you will be going on the road or sidewalk
- Get the right helmet
- Look into lights
- Add reflective items to your clothing
- Buy some wrist protection (but not guards!)
- Do a trial run for the time
- Consider all hills on your route (however small)
- Have a back-up plan for rainy days
Each of these tips for longboarding needs more detail to give them some proper context, as we will look at in the rest of this article.
I also want to say that not every aspect of commuting on a longboard is positive, which is why all points are included to make sure you can properly weigh up the pros and cons of longboard commuting before you buy a board.
Just to be clear, if you are asking yourself “what is a commuter longboard ?”, it is essentially a long, stretched out skateboard which is great for going faster and doing smooth, arcing turns on. As longboards are more stable, they have become popular with a small group of commuters and will likely increase in popularity with more and more electric versions likely to hit the market. You can see one in the picture below:
Choose the right type of longboard
There are many different types of longboard on the map and choosing the right one is going to help you use it often if you hope to commute on it on a regular basis.
If you are a beginner longboarder, you might like a mini-cruiser longboard, specifically the wider models which are more forgiving and have a much wider deck to stand on standard longboards.
The Elos Mini Cruiser longboards state that they have been designed for beginners and commuters, so they certainly would be a good option to look at.
That said, most longboards are quite forgiving in their design and should suit many people, although avoid the mini versions if they are not extra wide. This is because these are far less forgiving in terms of stability and will generally be slower.
Consider the surfaces on your route
This is perhaps the most crucial part of deciding whether a longboard is right for you as a commuter.
Longboards work best on smooth even surfaces, namely asphalt or concrete roads, paths and sidewalks. If you are not in an urban environment, or at least able to ride on the road, then longboard is not going to work for your commute.
You could look into the option of all-terrain wheels, but this is unlikely to still make a longboard skateboard suitable for a fully off-road commute, and you would still be better to look into a bike as an alternative.
Decide if you will be going on the road or sidewalk
Although you should do most of your longboarding on the road, you could get away with going on the sidewalk or pavement but you would have received need to know if this is going to be quiet enough to do that.
If you think you can skate on the sidewalk as part of your commute, you will also need to check but the paving is smooth enough.
Big cracks, bumps and uneven paving can throw you off a longboard so you really want to inspect the route, or find an alternative one if you can’t go on the road you had planned.
Again, you will want to go on the road wherever possible, but be realistic about this given traffic and surfaces.
Get the right helmet
Although it is possible to wear a cycling helmet for longboarding, you need to make sure that it covers enough of the back of the head.
This is because falling backwards is a very common way to fall off a longboard, where as most cyclists fall forwards or sideways.
If you have bicycle helmet and are not sure whether it is suitable, you should look at the product description online to see if it states that it can be used for other activities like skateboarding, which is essentially the same as longboarding.
If not, then look into getting a skateboard specific helmet for your longboard commute. There are many of these available and simply check they have the right certification for your country or region.
Wear lights on your commute
You’ll also want to where are add lights to your body or board when you are longboarding to work.
This is because you will inevitably end up on the road at some point and you want people to be able to see you.
The lights will also be helpful in low light or dark conditions at night-time.
There might also be some laws in your jurisdiction that States you must have lights if skateboarding or longboarding on the road, although you will need to double-check that for Where You Live.
The other thing is that people are not that used to longboard skateboards, so making yourself more visible by attaching lights will help to highlight you as a moving object!
You could have touched a light onto the front and back of your helmet, or you could look into cycling jackets that have integrated lights on the rear.
Add reflective items to your clothing
To add to your use of lights, reflective detail on your clothing or accessories will also help to make you be seen in low light or night riding conditions on a commute.
The reflective detail is key because cars will see you much more clearly if you have this at night.
Many people make the mistake of simply buying something that is high visibility in color, yet this does nothing to help you be seen at night.
I would recommend getting a good quality cycling jacket as these are breathable and designed for this purpose, so they work perfectly well for longboard commuters as well as bike commuters.
Wear protective gear on knees and wrists
As one of the most common ways to fall off is onto your wrists, you will definitely want to look into getting some protection for this part of your body!
Now, I must admit, I thought wrist guards would be prevent breaks, but having read up on this it turns out that wrist guards are more to stop taking the skin off when falling, so bear this in mind.
There are also ‘slide gloves’ available for longboarders specifically. These are for advanced riders who want to put their hands on the roads when going round bends.
You definitely don’t have to do this but slide gloves will offer more protection than wrist guards alone, and many of these come with the protective wrist guard as part of the glove, getting two for one
You should also look at knee pads for the same reason. These are generally very standardized so they are almost all identical but never go for the cheapest option and see what kind of safety certificates each product has.
One last word of caution: this protective gear might still not prevent pain when falling but it is certainly something that will reduce the impact and mean that you can get back on your longboard that much quicker.
Do a trial run for the time
As a longboard is very different to a bicycle, or walking, you will need to do a trial run for your commute to judge the time before you set off on your board to work.
The other problem here is that route planners on sites like Google Maps, for instance, do not offer options for things like skateboards yet, so you will find it very difficult to judge how long it will take.
Added to that, there are many different things that could affect the speed for your longboarding commute. Think about your level, the board you choose and the surfaces on your route, all of which can make you faster or slower, depending on your circumstances.
I would recommend trying to longboard to work on a weekend to start, although you will still have the factor in the busier traffic on the weekdays when you will likely be commuting if you do this.
I would also suggest adding 20% to the time you think it takes the first couple of times you do it because you will likely have a few hiccups along the way.
The last thing you want is to be stressing about the time while you’re trying to commute by longboard because it will only make it a lot more stressful!
Consider all hills on your route (however small)
Having even small hills on your commute can make it quite hard to go by longboard.
This is because it will require a heck of a lot more effort than going on the flat, even gentle slopes will feel like a bit of a challenge when you’re on a longboard.
These are the kind of things you can easily overlook or not notice if you’re walking or driving on the same route, so definitely give this the right amount of consideration before you decided that a longboard commute is right for you.
When you do the trial run mentioned above, then you will get a better idea of all the little bumps and hills along the way and you will see how it makes you feel.
Expect it to burn when going uphill the first few times but your leg muscles will quickly get stronger and used to it!
Have a back-up plan for rainy days
Unfortunately, one of the main limitations of longboards for commuting is that these kinds of boards have wheels that don’t often perform well in the wet.
Unless you’re an advanced rider and very confident on your route, I would strongly suggest you have some kind of backup plan for rainy days.
If like me, you live in a wet area, then you might want to reconsider using a longboard, at least with the standard wheels.
You could look into all-terrain wheels, but again this is something that you need to weigh up in combination with your ability, the number of turns you will need to make and the amount of time you will be spending on the roads while longboard commuting.
If you can commute by longboard, obviously your back-up days could mean commuting on a bicycle or other alternative option. But just be realistic about what you will do in wet conditions and how confident you feel about longboard commuting that way.
How do I get better at longboarding fast? The simple way to get better at longboarding fast is to practice often on a familiar route with smooth surfaces as these are the best conditions and will give you more confidence. You could also practice on a balance board in your home so that you can get a feel for the kind of balance needed without learning (or falling!) on hard surfaces.
Are mini cruiser longboards good for beginners? Yes, mini cruiser longboards can be good for beginners if you go for a wide one like an Elos. These kinds of mini cruisers have such a wider area to stand on that it makes them easier for beginners, but they will still require a bit of learning or getting used to!