To wrench or not to wrench: Notes on gear

The internet is full of people talking about skate gear. This is perfectly understandable: you’ve got to do something when you’re not out skating and it’s a lot easier to talk about gear than riding technique. Furthermore, while anyone with disposable income can buy pro-level gear, most people can’t skate at a professional level. Life’s not fair.

Throughout, there’s a strong undercurrent of “gear doesn’t matter, just ride whatever and you’ll be fine.” While there is a great deal of validity to this statement, it isn’t quite true. Gear does matter, though not nearly as much as rider skill (and choosing gear that suits your riding style is a skill in itself). Left unsaid is the implication that if you’re someone who really enjoys trying out new and different high-performance equipment, colloquially known as a “gear whore,” you’re somehow less worthy than someone who rides basic equipment. This is mostly bullshit.

Gear does matter, though not as much as rider skill

Yeah, you’re gonna look pretty silly if you show up to the hill with custom leathers, an aerolid and a professional race setup and you can barely skate down the hill. But if you’ve got some disposable income and you enjoy skating, you might as well ride the best gear you can afford. After all, someone has to pay retail and supply the used gear market.

Whenever precision trucks are brought up by a new rider, there’s always someone there with a variation on “if you have to ask why precisions are better, you don’t need them” or “fuck precision trucks, cast4lyfe.” Once again, this is mostly skate-hipster bullshit.

You don’t need to be a super good rider who’s shredding crazy spots to appreciate the performance advantages of high-end equipment. Naturally, those advantages are more pronounced and important at the extremes of speed and grip, but the everyday rider will also see a benefit: fast rolling race wheels let you skate to the store faster while pushing less. Lippy slalom wheels enable you to grip better while you weave through the pedestrians on the way to class. Straight precision axles will make your skateboard grip better, slide smoother, and roll faster as you cruise the boardwalk.

Yes, good riders can get it done on low-end gear, but they do it better on the high performance stuff.

No, high end equipment isn’t going to make you better at skating, but it might make skating a little more enjoyable, and that’s worth it to me.

High end equipment isn’t going to make you better at skating, but it might make it a little more enjoyable

Anyway, irrespective of the performance benefits, trying new gear is fun. This is true of every hobby, not just skateboarding. When I have new camera gear, I’m extra stoked to go take photos. When the UPS man drops off a new deck or a fresh set of wheels or whatever, you’re extra stoked to go skate and see what kind of difference the new stuff makes. Even pro dudes sometimes trade boards for a run, just to try something different.

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