Wheelbase Explained (Cruisers, Surfskates & Longboards)

By Billy | Updated: December 30, 2022 | Longboards

Wheelbase – what is it, how do you measure it, and how does it affect your riding?

What I thought was a simple concept, turned out to be a little more confusing.

First, you might be wondering…

What is wheelbase?

The commercial skateboarding industry measures the wheelbase using the difference between the truck holes. Specifically the front two truck holes on the rear of the deck, and the rear two on the front of your deck.

This is what confuses a lot of people because it’s not an accurate representation of the true wheelbase. And that’s because your trucks will make it longer or shorter depending on their geometry.

So to get the true wheelbase of your setup, you need to do it the same way they do it on cars.

Measure from axle to axle.

Your local skate shop doesn’t take your trucks into consideration because they can’t control all the variables. So they use a standardized system for what they can control – the deck truck holes.

It’s easier to use a standardized truck mount system, rather than have an endless graph of possible wheelbases.

longboard skateboard wheelbase

Why does the wheelbase change?

The answer is truck geometry.

Traditional kingpins, reverse kingpins, surfskate adapters, you name it… all have different geometries.

Truck geometry is why your favorite trucks turn the way they do. Factors include…

These variables can be further manipulated depending on what bushings you use. A taller bushing wedges the truck making the wheelbase longer. And a smaller bushing (you prob guessed it) will make it shorter.

How it affects riding

In general, different wheelbases will give a different riding experience. Mini cruisers have smaller ones that will turn sharper but feel less stable.

If you have two identical setups and change the wheelbase, what will happen?

The smaller one will turn sharper and feel less stable. The longer one will have a larger turning radius and be more stable.

wheelbase turning radius

Simple enough to understand, right? Here’s the catch though.

A 16” wheelbase with traditional kingpins won’t have the same turning radius as a 16” with reverse kingpins. The reason is that their geometry is different, resulting in a different riding feel. Truck angles, truck axle lengths, wheel sizes, and bushings contribute to your turning radius.

Riding Styles

There are different wheelbases preferred for different riding styles. I’m gonna do my best to categorize what wheelbase fits into what riding style. The goal is to give you a rough idea.

Mini-Cruisers

Range: <14″

Any wheelbase below 14 inches falls into this category. Most common on smaller decks used to get from a-b. Most of the time, you’ll find traditional kingpin trucks with this type of wheelbase, but there are always exceptions.

Street & Cruisers

Range: 14-16″

This is generally between 14-15.5 inches, but I’ll say 14-16 to keep it simple. You’ll find more diversity in this category. It’s not as hard to find a deck with a wheelbase of 14in 14.25, 14.5 all the way to 15.5. This is a good wheelbase if you’re trying to do flip tricks or skate pools.

Some surfskates and downhill technical slide decks have a wheelbase in this range as well.

TKP trucks are designed specifically for this wheelbase whereas RKP trucks are designed for longer wheelbases. With RKPs the rider will find the turning radius tight and unforgiving. The setup will feel squirrely and unstable

Precision RKP trucks specifically for downhill, slalom, and long-distance are used with 15-16in wheelbases, and if you are one of these riders, please feel free to share your setup with us. We would love to feature it and gain your insights.

Surfskates & Hybrids

Range: 16-20″

I’m making this one up for boards that range between 16-20 inches because they are longer than street boards and cruisers, but not quite long enough to really be a longboard. 

You’ll find this range on surfskates and cruisers. This is the range that I ride the most because I find it a good mix between the comfort and stability of a longboard and the versatility of a street board.

In this range, a standard set of RKPs can be used as well as TKP trucks. RKPs would be the preferred truck for carving and going fast; whereas a TKP truck would be more suited to cruising, street tricks, and from my understanding, technical downhill slide.

Longboards

Range: 20-30″

This seems to be where the wheelbase of most longboards falls under. This is the optimum range to learn freeride, slide, and downhill as well as dancing. This is where stability is the strongest.

In the early days of modern longboarding, there were TKP trucks made specifically for setups longer than 30 inches, and Tracker Trucks dominated the market. They feature a longer kingpin and slack geometry allowing the rider to achieve more lean and turn with longboard specific TKPs than they would with RKPs; however, 20-30 inches, the benefits of RKPs outway the benefits of TKPs.

Longboards

Range: 30-40″

This category is usually found in dancing setups and surf emulators like Hamboards. The turning radius is the widest in this category, and the stability is less, a lot less than longboards or even street boards. Depending on the setup

Reverse Kingpin Trucks are preferred at this wheelbase. There are a few TKP trucks on the market designed to work with longer wheelbases, but the mechanical limitations of modern TKP trucks make the RKPs superior for turning a longboard featuring a 30-40in.

Big Boiz

Range: 50″+

We all have that friend that takes things to the next level. We are not sure why they supercharged and lifted their Toyota Prius when their primary form of transportation is an electric bicycle with a basket specifically for their pet iguana, but we love them.

When I think of this range, Hamboards is what comes to mind – legit life-sized surf trainers.

Bottom line

So, what does this all mean?

Well, I think the key takeaway should be that several variables come into play when talking about wheelbase. But hopefully, this helped clear some things up.

Billy

I've been skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding since a young age. My shredding style is surf-inspired. The mission is to publish educational content for board sports.

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