What Is Speed Wobble and How to Prevent it

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If you’ve ever ridden a skateboard, you may have heard the term speed wobble. The term is more synonymous with longboarding specifically, but all disciplines of boarding may have experienced this issue at some point or another.

Speed wobbles or just “wobbles” are the shaky feelings a rider gets when they’ve picked up too much speed or are getting ready to fall. It feels like the skateboard is wobbling beneath your feet.

You also get the feeling that your knees are knocking together, and it’s possible you could start trembling. Speed wobble is different for every skateboarder, but the central idea is the same.

Speed wobbles are more closely related to longboarding. This is because longboarding is generally a downhill discipline where higher rates of speed are traveled.

There is also a bigger deck area on a longboard, allowing more room for back and forth shifting or rocking. This is where the term “wobbles” came from.

Regardless of which discipline originated the term, you must learn how to prevent it. Speed wobbling can lead to some pretty nasty accidents, especially when you’re traveling at 20 MPH.

Whether you’re a rookie skateboarder with sea legs or a veteran who’s just taken up longboarding, you’re in the right place. This is our comprehensive guide to speed wobble and how to prevent it.

What Exactly Is Speed Wobble?

The term speed wobble isn’t just a clever name. This disastrous event happens when you’re going at extremely high speeds. For longboarders, this is one of the main threats they face while riding.

However, riders of other disciplines can easily reach speeds that could manifest a wobble. The exact definition of speed wobble is when your rear truck begins to turn at a high rate.

Speed wobble begins with a slight sideways movement and quickly increases until a rider loses control. When your body begins to notice this sensation, your body will begin to try and counter it without you even thinking about it.

First, your legs will try to compensate with counter-turns. This is when your bottom half attempts to go the opposite way of the wobbling. Your body can’t keep up with such a high rate of movement, and you end up overcompensating for the movement.

You go one way, your board goes another, and before you know it, you’ve just completed a nasty wipe-out. Speed wobble is known to cause some of the nastiest crashes possible on a skateboard or longboard. This is directly attributed to the high rates of speed under which this problem occurs.

Technically, there isn’t much more to speed wobbling than that. It’s a normal force of nature and science, and unfortunately, there’s no way around this reaction. The greatest contributor to the initial reaction is loose trucks. Loose trucks take away from your turning ability.

Most people think a speed wobble occurs because of a skateboarder’s riding style. However, this is only partially true. The issue starts with the equipment, and a rider’s reaction only potentiates it. Honestly, it starts with a looser back truck.

Let’s examine some basic methods of avoiding speed wobbles.

Ways to Avoid Speed Wobbles

In this section, we will review several methods for preventing this mishap. Some of them involve technique, and some of them involve equipment. Each of them has an element dealing with your turning ability. You want to somewhat limit your turning ability. Having too much turning ability is what starts the wobble. 

Either way, shuffle through as many as you’d like until you find a solution that seems to work for you.

Weight Distribution: Lean Forward With More Weight

The faster you ride (especially downhill), the more your weight should be shifted towards the front trucks. Whenever you first begin to wobble, your first reaction should never be to turn your legs in any direction. This is normally what most longboarders do. However, this motion is what ends up directly leading to a crash.

Your first move should be to lean into the front of the board. Generally, 90% of your weight should be distributed to the front of the longboard. Keep your knees bent; it’s very important to maintain your center of gravity. Your center of gravity adds to the stability of you and the board, allowing you to maintain control and skate out of the wobble.

Initiating Turns At Higher Speeds

When you’re in the middle of a wobble, a very effective method of getting yourself out is by using a method similar to a car in the snow. When you’re driving in the snow and start sliding, the most efficient way to correct the slide is to steer into the slide. By initiating a turn and steering into the slide, you regain control and correct the direction of the vehicle.

Skating out of a wobble is very similar. When you feel a speed wobble coming on, begin initiating a slow carve. One important thing to remember is that the turning method can only be used when you’re in the early stages of the wobble. If you attempt to use this method after wobbling has gotten worse, it will most likely lead to a wipe-out.

The most important thing to remember when using this method is that the carve should be slow and steady. If you attempt to initiate the carve too quickly,  you could propel yourself from the board and worsen the situation.  

Relaxing Your Muscles Riding Downhill

Locking your muscles is the worst thing you can do when a potential crash is in your future. You want to relax your legs as much as you can. By relaxing your legs, you’re essentially stopping your body from overcorrecting the situation. Do not panic and start moving your hands wildly in an attempt to regain your balance. This will only end in disaster.

Using these techniques can help you come out of or prevent speed wobbles altogether. It’s hard to deliberately practice these techniques since it takes an actual speed wobble to use them. However, you can try and practice weight distribution and relaxing your muscles on flat ground.

Longboard Setup

This section will discuss different board setups that can combat speed wobble. This will be more of a trial and error process considering that everybody is different in the styles of the board they prefer.

Adjusting The Bushings

Most people will tell you to tighten your trucks to combat speed wobble. That’s one-half of the argument. Another group of people will tell you to loosen the trucks as you’re able to steer out of a wobble better. Again, riding is all a matter of personal preference, and so is a method of avoiding catastrophe.

When your bushings are tighter, the board becomes harder to turn, and it also makes it harder to wobble. However, as we stated above, if you get into a high-speed situation and need to carve yourself out of a wobble, tighter bushings aren’t going to help the situation. This will make it much more difficult to steer out of a wobble.

An alternative to this is getting harder bushings. Instead of tightening them, get a higher-rated set of bushings on the durometer. This has a similar effect of eliminating the wobble without making it too difficult to turn.

Lower Baseplates

Another remedy is choosing a thinner form of a baseplate. The idea behind this is to bring your deck lower to the ground, giving you a better center of gravity and more control over the board. These drop deck boards can be very effective.

This will increase your balance, giving you a better chance of correcting out of a wobble. By choosing lower baseplates, you can also increase the level of speed at which a wobble starts. If you can keep your speeds lower, you may be able to avoid wobbles altogether.

There is a potential downside to this remedy. By lowering the baseplate, you increase your chances of wheel bite. You can counter this by choosing a deck that has a cutout or wheel well.

Extended Wheelbase

If you mount the trucks further apart, you can extend the wheelbase of your longboard. You can either choose a lower degree truck to decrease the wheelbase, or a higher degree truck to extend it. By extending your wheelbase, you’re making the board harder to turn and again, making it less prone to wobbling. This is the same principle as all the methods mentioned above. 

This also achieves the same effect of increasing the speed at which a wobble occurs. These three options combined can have a serious effect on the amount of wobbling your board does.

However, just like with any other method, there is a downside to these three remedies. By increasing the speed at which a wobble can potentially happen, you’re setting yourself up for a more severe accident if disaster does strike.

Because of this, it’s extremely important to ensure you keep your speeds low enough so the board doesn’t hit a wobbling point. Once this wobbling point is hit, you will be at a much higher rate of speed and could be in store for a nasty accident.

Conclusion

One of the best things you can do is practice with a normal longboard setting at lower speeds, so a wobble is triggered faster. You might be asking yourself, “why would I want to trigger a speed wobble faster?”

The theory behind this is simple. When you can trigger a wobble at lower speeds, you allow yourself to practice without being put in harm’s way as much.

Remember the first three remedies to avoid speed wobble?

·         Weight distribution

·         Turn initiation

·         Relaxed muscles

When you longboard at lower speeds with a normal deck setup, you get a much better chance at practicing these initial methods. Once you master these, your body is used to countering speed wobble.

After you’re comfortable with your body countering speed wobble, you can move on to adjusting your board to counter speed wobble. Taking the chance of increasing the speed at which wobbles occur won’t be as dangerous since you’re used to physically countering them. Make sense.