Loose trucks are harder to skate than tight trucks. There, I said it.
That’s not to say that tight trucks are easier, or that loosening up the kingpin nut a few turns is going to make you lose all your tricks. I’m talking about skating them loose enough to wobble when you shake the board side to side. You can’t just unscrew the nut to get that. If you don’t believe me, give it a try and tell me your painful story of how your hanger flew off mid-ollie.
Skating really loose trucks requires good balance, but you also need some creativity. Getting them really loose is pushing your trucks beyond what they were designed for. We tracked down some pros (and an am) who are known for skating them loose to ask how they’ve tweaked their setups to make it work. They all ride for different truck brands and have different methods for loosening them up, so you’ve got some options if you want to give it a try on your board (or you’ve got a bunch of new excuses to use when you can’t land a trick).
How do you get your trucks so wobbly?
I just use the bottom bushing and the washers in the front truck, and in the back truck, I sand down the little bushing for a bit more give. What I have to do is switch out the washers because they get so bent and mangled in there that there’s a point where I can barely even get off my kingpin bolt. The washer almost turns into a venus fly trap and starts to wrap around the bolt.
So my back truck is a little more stable, and my front truck is really just wobbling and dangling. When I ride my board backwards it feels so crazy. It’s like you’re on a marble with a piece of wood, but it’s the raddest feeling. It’s so hard to explain, but once you get used to riding it a certain way you can never go back.
Why’d you start riding them so loose?
It all started when I used to ride these Grind King trucks back in the day. A thing about Grind Kings was that they loosened by themselves a lot. I skated those for two years and through time I just got over adjusting them. It’s loosening up by itself, the kingpin is free, my trucks are getting wobbly, who cares? I got so used to it that it felt good.
Then I ended up getting on Tensor, and the trucks were completely different. They’ve fixed a lot of things with Tensor trucks since then, so now they turn great, but in the beginning, people were saying they weren’t turning so well. I went to this demo in Australia and was just having the worst time, like, “Wow, I can’t skate these trucks,” just because they were so new to me. So I took all my bushings out and just had the washers in both trucks. It was flimsy but I skated around and did some random things.
Once I got back from that trip I started thinking to myself, I can’t skate ’em like that, but I need to figure out a way to get my trucks looser. So I was like, I’m gonna try to sand down my back bushing, and on the front, I’m going to sand down the top bushing to almost a quarter. The first person I seen with the crazy-wobbly trucks, and this is who should get all the credit for that, is Matt Rodriguez.
It feels like I’ve lost so many tricks from my front truck being that way, but, the way I feel when I’m just rolling feels so good that I’d rather have it than worrying about losing a few tricks.
How do you feel about young kids trying to get their trucks as loose as yours?
It’s almost like they’re forcing themselves to ride loose, like they’re looking for a shock factor, but it’s just more whatever you’re comfortable with. Some of the best skateboarders ride the tightest trucks. For me, I stand on their board and I can’t roll forward, it’s the most awkward feeling in the world. But nobody should be knocked for riding tight, loose, medium – it’s all just preference.
Max Palmer aka Loose Trucks Max
How do you get your trucks so loose?
I just ride Independent trucks with the extra-soft Independent bushings or the soft Doh Dohs. I don’t really care that much. The bushings just break in and get like that. I switch them out when they break, but the new ones are always way tighter, and it takes a while to break ’em in.
Have you always skated them so loose?
I’m not really sure. I just remember that the first pair of trucks I got, I had them for about three years and they got really loose and really fucked up. I guess I liked it like that and just kept riding them loose like that. I guess it just started on its own, by accident.
Have you had any bad slams from riding them so wobbly?
I just remember one time, skating super fast somewhere with my friend Pete, and I ollied over a sewer cap and my truck just fell off. I fell so hard. I just got destroyed. He saw it and couldn’t believe it.
Any advice for the kids who want to loosen their trucks up?
Uh, not really. If they want to, then they should go for it.
What do you do to new trucks do get them so loose?
Now I use these yellow Bones bushings that are really soft, so it’s not as scary to switch to new trucks. I try to keep the bushings as long as I can and I still keep the old nut, especially for smith grinds because it’s so high up the kingpin. I use ground-down nuts so it feels kind of “worked in” still. The nut is barely on there, but super glue helps.
I’d be scared bombing a hill — sometimes the whole thing vibrates off and I lose half my truck and don’t even know where it fell off. So I started supergluing the top so you don’t have to screw it down all the way. It could be as loose as possible, just one thread on, but then it won’t really come off. That’s a good move.
Why did you start riding them so loose?
I can’t remember as far back as when I started, but it was never a choice. As far as I can remember in skating, they were loose. So it must have just felt right, you know? I have no idea why it would have been like that. Actually, I remember at one point, I was trying different trucks because I was riding Venture at the time and Venture changed their format so the trucks were different and they wouldn’t’ get loose anymore, so I was like, “Shit, I need to find something else.” I guess it’s always been a thing.
Any advice for the kids who want to loosen their trucks up?
Just do it if it feels right. You’ll see if you have really tight trucks you’re gonna tic tac, and if you have really loose trucks you’ll get speed wobbles or something, but I would just say do what feels comfortable and take it from there. If you want loose trucks, super glue the nut down or try to find soft bushings or something that will allow you to get your trucks looser. Or you can shave new bushings down, take off new bushings and rub them on the cement and kind of shave off the edges and that helps too. Or you can get rid of the washers, or wax the wheel wells of the board so you don’t get wheel bite. There’s a lot of stuff you can do.
What’s your set-up like?
I’m really light compared to most people — I’m like 130 pounds — so it’s always a bitch for me to get my trucks as loose as I want them. I don’t like em rattly. I don’t mind ’em if they start rattling, but I just like ’em loose. I switch out the original top bushing for a smaller one so I can get the nut on, but still keep the trucks as loose as they can possibly be without the nut falling off.
I’m a truck goon when it comes to fucking with them. It took me like four years to figure out how to get them the way I ride ’em now, and I’ve been riding them like this for like ten years. When I figured out that fucking low top bushing I was stoked. My life is better.
Have you always skated your trucks so loose?
Always. When I first started skating there was this kid, Dave Drummond, who used to ride his trucks wobbly-loose, like Matt Rodriguez. When I first started I would do it like that for a bit – extremely loose is fun, but it’s a pain in the ass, it’s not conducive for some hills and shit like that. When they’re that loose your board just fuckin’ drifts around and shit. Which is fine, but my main thing is I don’t want the pivot cup popping out when I’m going downhill. I just have nightmares of the hanger coming out of the pivot cup. It’s a weird one that’s never happened to me, but that’s one of my biggest fears.
Have you had any bad slams from riding them so loose?
No real speed wobbles or anything like that, but when I was younger, I remember getting lots of wheel bite because I was riding them rattly. It wasn’t that fun. That’s the only part I don’t like about it is the extreme wheel bite. A little wax in the wheel wells can’t cure everything.
Any advice for kids who want to loosen their trucks up?
Kids are rad because they’re not only into doing tricks, they’re also tinkering with their skateboards. I know I was. I think that’s also a part of skateboarding: you can identify your board like, “That’s mine. That’s how I ride it.” There’s a certain weird pride in somebody standing on your board and saying, “You ride your shit this loose?” And you’re like, “Fuck yeah I ride it this loose, that’s the only way I would ride it!” Of course you could make it easier by tightening your trucks, but why would I? Then I wouldn’t be able to turn or do cool shit or get out of the way of stuff.
What do you do when you get a new pair of trucks to get them the way you like them?
I try to not get a new pair of trucks. In the circumstances where I get new trucks and don’t have worn-in old bushings already filed down, the best thing to do is just razor blade the bushings down or grind ’em down however you can. Just get the bushings down and carve around, really try and break in that pivot cup. Other than that there’s not much you can do besides grinding them – hit some curbs and get some gouges on those hangers.
How’d you get started on riding them so loose?
It was a process. I grew up watching a lot of the old Sacto heads: Windsor and Snaggle and Jeff Toland that were just ragers, ditch skaters in Sac. This was way before flip tricks came out, so these dudes all had loose fuckin’ trucks. I learned from watching these outsiders of skateboarding, just the banter that went on with these guys and the way they skated, like, “No, fuck that! Faster!”
And then I would say right before Tincan Folklore came out was when I was loosening my trucks. I’d ride ’em a certain way for a week or two and just kept loosening them. It got to the point where that shit was fuckin’ dangling. I used to rock it where I didn’t care if my bolt came off. I would just put it back on with my hand. Eventually I was like, “Oh wait a minute, you can shave down the top and bottom bushings and it’ll be on there bolt-tight!” and for the most part never have to worry about shit falling off in the middle of a downhill or in the middle of the air. I’ve had some of those ones. You’re in the air and you see your truck fucking landing before you do – those are a little comical.
If you’re totally used to tight trucks, it’s not going to be a fun introduction. When your trucks are shitbag loose, your board is really only as wide as the baseplates. All that tension from rail to rail doesn’t exist. You definitely have to muffle your flip tricks or whatever shit you’re doing because you don’t have that spring.
Any advice for the kids who want to loosen their trucks up?
I would say cut those bushings. You don’t have to go all full-fledged. Just break it in and see how you like it. I can fairly say that when your trucks are hella loose, you really have no help from anything. You have to land on that 2×4 beam that’s running right down the middle of your baseplates. Really, it’s more of a challenge. Skateboarding is already hard as it is, but, it’s just kind of making it even more like, “Oh shit.” I think if someone slowly works their way into it instead of going full blown wobbly they’ll be able to appreciate it. Not just, “Oh, look at me, I can do flip tricks with my shit looser!” If you do it slowly you’ll learn to appreciate the carving. That’s what’s lost in skateboarding: the element of carving. Fuckin carve!