If you’ve ever at least attempted to longboard or know someone who has, chances are you’ve heard of the term wheel bite.
Wheel bite can be a longboarder’s worst enemy. This disastrous skateboard mishap is one occurrence any longboarder should avoid at all costs.
All one must do to gain some background knowledge about wheel bite is search YouTube for the term. There are thousands of videos of unfortunate skaters ending up on the wrong end of wheel bite. Consider yourself warned; some of the falls are pretty nasty.
Maybe you’ve been on the business end of wheel bite yourself. It’s also possible you’re a new longboarder, and you’re just looking to avoid it.
Whatever the case is, if wheel bite has been on your mind, you’re in the right place. We’ve put together a guide about wheel bite and how to prevent it.
Table of Contents
What is Wheel Bite?
Wheel bite occurs as a result of leaning into a turn too much when you’re carving on a longboard. When the bottom of the deck makes contact with the tops of the wheels, this is what is known as wheel bite.
This untimely longboarding accident will stop a skater dead in their tracks. When a longboarder leans into a turn while carving, the board shifts in the direction of the turn. This shift causes the edge of the deck to dip down lower than normal.
Combine this weight distribution with the fact that longboards have oversized wheels, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for wheel bite. Honestly, the size of the longboard’s wheels is the primary cause for wheel bite in the first place.
Luckily, there are several ways to prevent wheel bite. These prevention methods lie mostly in changing or adjusting certain components of the longboard, so you should be prepared to purchase some upgraded gear or at least have your skateboard tool ready.
Continue reading for the best ways to prevent wheel bite.
How Can I Prevent Wheel Bite?
The first step in preventing wheel bite is examing some of the main components of your longboard. We will examine these components one by one, so have your checklist ready.
The Kingpin Nut
The kingpin nut is the main connecting nut that goes through the middle of the trucks. You can’t miss this component. It’s located directly between the wheels, right in the center of each set of trucks. The kingpin nut is what allows the trucks to shift, giving the longboard tighter or looser turning.
The kingpin nut should be tight enough to where the nylon locking ring is flush with the top of the bolt the nut is attached to. If the nut is too loose, it could cause the giant bolt to back out, leading to the truck turning too sharply. The sharp turning of the trucks is what allows the board to shift low enough to cause wheel bite.
When you tighten the nut, take your time, doing it in small increments at a time. Remember, tiny adjustments make huge differences on components like this. Turn the nut a half-turn, and hop on the board to inspect the difference. If it’s not where you’d like it to be, adjust another half-turn. Continue this adjustment pattern until you reach the desired setting.
The deck of the longboard can also make a substantial difference in the battle against wheel bite. Truthfully, some longboards have funky shapes specifically to prevent wheel bite.
The Cutout Skateboard Deck
You’ll notice that certain longboards have cutouts near the tips where the wheels are. These cutouts exist to prevent the deck from leaning down and contacting the wheels when you turn.
If your deck doesn’t have these cutouts and you can’t purchase a new one, there are ways to fashion your own.
Creating Wheel Wells
A cutout is essentially another term for a wheel well. Using a drum-sander, we’ll teach you how to create these wells.
1. Using a pencil, mark the area you want to sand down to fashion the wheel wells.
2. Holding the sander at a 45-degree angle, start chipping away at the wood slowly.
3. Remove the top two or three layers of wood on the bottom of the board. This should give you enough space to prevent wheel bite when you lean.
Flaring is a method to prevent wheel bite that requires the edges of the deck to be bent upwards and away from the wheels. These flares will create a concave or hump on the top of the deck, which may or may not affect the way you ride. Some riders consider these flares a distraction.
There are other options if the wheel well methods don’t seem to be working as well as you need them to, or you just don’t want a longboard with cutouts.
Risers are a great alternative to wheel wells for longboarders who don’t want their board’s edges or corners to be altered. These risers are attachments added to the underneath the trucks to add space between the deck and wheels.
Trucks already have baseplates installed between the bottom of the deck and the truck itself. A riser is a plastic pad that is installed between the deck and baseplate, which increases the distance between the deck and wheels.
Normally these components increase the height anywhere from 1/8” to ½.” Risers are cheaper than purchasing a new deck with cutouts, but there are some drawbacks.
Although they do add distance between the deck and wheels, the increased height can have a negative impact on the rider’s balance. Longboards and skateboards that are lower to the ground give a rider a lower center of gravity, leading to an increased amount of balance.
The added height risers bring negates this element and can lead to negative consequences. Only riders that are very confident in their balance should choose risers.
Shock pads are another alternative that doesn’t require cutouts or wheel wells. Essentially, shock pads are the same as risers but are made from rubber instead of plastic. Shock pads don’t decrease balance and stability as much as normal risers.
Other Potential Remedies
Other remedies could help protect against wheel bite. If the above methods weren’t effective, try these and see what works for you.
Using Smaller Wheels
Smaller wheels could be a much more practical alternative than using risers or shock pads. Since both the risers and shock pads can decrease balance and durability, smaller wheels may also be more efficient.
Going with a smaller wheel size won’t have a significant impact on your balance or the board’s stability. You don’t want to go too small, because the larger wheel size on a longboard gives it the ability to navigate rougher terrain.
A medium-sized wheel could provide the change you need to prevent wheel bite. One thing to consider about choosing smaller wheels; a decrease in wheel size leads to slower speeds. If you’re a speed demon, you may have to slow it down a bit to avoid the problem.
Another method you can attempt to prevent wheel bite is swapping out the bushings and trying different configurations.
Bushings have two shapes, and three different setups can be used. There is cone-and-cone, barrel-and-barrel, and barrel-and-cone. Cones allow for greater pivoting while you’re riding, while barrels are more stable.
When you choose your bushings, your riding style is the most important dynamic. However, you also need to keep wheel bite in mind.
If you normally are a looser skater and use cones, switch to a barrel and see if that prevents wheel bite. Maybe the cones prevented the wheel bite but are too tight for your tastes. In that case, select a cone-barrel combo for the perfect medium.
Bushings use a durometer that rates the softness or hardness the same way as wheels do. The average firmness on the durometer scale for bushings is around 85A.
Depending on your style, you can go as low as 75A or as hard as 92A and still keep a comfortable ride. However, just like a pair of pants or pair of shoes differ in size depending on the brand, bushings work the same way.
Different brands could have the same rating but feel totally different. Because of this factor, it’s important to shop around and try different ratings and brands until you come up with the configuration that prevents wheel bite and still feels comfortable. You might want harder bushings if you have a tighter style of longboarding.
Sometimes switching to harder bushings could instantly reduce wheel bite. However, the board may also be too hard for you to steer. This is why it’s important to try different setups, ratings, and brands. It’s a game of trial and error.
Preventing wheel bite is very important to decrease your chances of getting injured. However, be prepared; it’s a long trial and error process. You might knock the problem out with the first adjustment you make, or it could take several.
Take your time and test out different methods and configurations until you find what works for you. It’s important you have patience and not get discouraged. A positive attitude is the key whenever you’re mastering any discipline in skating.