Are cheap longboards (under £100) worth buying?
Look in pretty much any other online longboard shop and you'll see a plethora of longboards for sale for under £100.
But not at Vandem. We do have a few cruisers for less than £100 - but no longboards. Why?
The short answer is: because they're no fun to skate, and we think that they're not worth your money.
In our experience, longboards that retail for under £100 are not good for learning to skate on.
They're not good to "try out longboarding to see if you like it." If your first experience of something is rubbish - why are you going to take it further? We want you to be stoked on longboarding, and that means you need a bare minimum of gear to get started.
Cheap boards are also often more expensive in the long run, as you'll end up upgrading all the parts - bearings, wheels, trucks, even the deck - to make your board skate acceptably. It's usually way cheaper to just buy a decent complete to start with!
We're sure you're probably reading this thinking - they would say that. This shop only sells nice longboards that cost a lot more money. This review is biased.
Well, yes. We are predisposed to bin a cheap board that we don't stock. But that's because we've had customer after customer walk in through our doors, shocked to discover that their sub-£100 longboard isn't doing what they expected. Happily, we've also seen those same customers leave our shop, stoked that they now own a real longboard that actually works.
In short, we wrote this review to help you avoid wasting your money. We exist to share the longboarding stoke. We hate to see disappointed customers. We're on your side!
To prove to you that we're not making this up, we've taken two similar longboards and put them up against each other. They're both from UK brands, they're both drop through longboard cruisers, and they're both aimed at beginners.
The difference is the price. We have a Two Bare Feet 821, which we bought online for £29.99 - they're usually £59.99. It's up againist the Lush Freebyrd Pro Setup, which is available from us for £175. Ours is straight off the shelf.
Obviously we're not expecting the Two Bare Feet to be as nice as the Lush: the Two Bare Feet board cost us a fraction of the price. But we hope that this comparison will show you just how bad your average super-cheap longboard actually is, to the point that it's not actually fit for purpose.
We'll start with the deck. A longboard is a longboard, right? Wrong. Looking at the two boards in detail, the differences in quality, materials and design are marked.
The Lush Freebyrd is pressed in their custom rocker mould, which makes vastly more comfortable to stand on. The TBF longboard is a mild camber with minimal concave. This may seem like a minor diffrence to the beginner, but bear with us.
If your board is more comfortable under your feet, you'll skate it more. Which means you'll learn faster, and have more fun, quicker. Which is what longboarding is all about.
The Lush is made from Canadian Maple. You can see the burn marks from the shaping tool on the rails - maple is a hardwood, it's tough stuff.
Two Bare Feet claim that this board is also made from Canadian Maple. However, we found other similar boards on their site that are made of "Canadian Maple/Chinese Maple" - interesting. You can see that the wood colour is very different to the Freebyrd, and also that there are a few gaps in the plies. Basically, the TBF is made of shorter veneers glued together, rather than single sheets like the Lush.
Why does this matter? The Two Bare Feet has very little strength in comparison, and is much more likely to fail.
Whatever they're made of, the difference is super obvious when you stand on these two boards next to each other. The Lush feels alive, springy and full of energy. The cheaper Two Bare Feet board feels dead and floppy by comparison.
A closer look at the Two Bare Feet reveals a few more issues, however.
As soon as we stood on the Two Bare Feet outside the shop, we discovered that it gets epic wheel bite. Wheel bite really sucks, especially as a beginner. Wheel bite at slower speeds (up to running pace) almost always results in the skater being thrown off the board. If you're lucky, you can run it out. If you're not, you land on your head.
Wheel bite in this instance is a result of the deck cutouts just not being big enough - it's a design flaw. And with this board, it's bad enough that we got it just standing on it. Not a good start.
We also found that the Two Bare Feet board is drilled 5mm off the centerline at the nose, so it's more likely to get wheelbite on one side than the other....!
The Lush Freebyrd, being thought out and developed by skaters with the intention of skating, doesn't get wheelbite. So no worries there.
The trucks are probably the most important part of the whole setup. So it's worth paying particular attention to them - so we took things apart to see what is going on.
The Two Bare Feet 821 comes with a pair of unbranded (Randal copy) die cast longboard trucks.
The fit and finish is, frankly, terrible.
They have crappy plastic pivot cups with sloppy fit, and come with really small bushings - which seriously limits the turn.
Unusually, the kingpin uses a 5mm allen key to tighten or loosen, which means you can't use your skate tool.
To be honest, these trucks are pretty much junk, and the first thing you would look to upgrade.
The trucks on the Lush Freebyrd are Gravity Cast Sabre Standards, with Sabre's own aftermarket bushings and custom-fit pivot cups.
They turn amazing straight of the box and are relatively slop-free - no problems there.
We can't tell you enough how important trucks are to a longboard. A rubbish set of trucks = a rubbish longboard. It's that simple!
Wheels and bearings are a similar story.
On the Lush we have 74mm Cult Wheels, with a huge aircore and massive footprint, poured from premium urethane in the USA.
These things are seriously fast and have monster grip - perfect for learning on.
The Two Bare Feet, on the other hand, comes with unbranded wheels, with a very small core, poured from low rebound urethane.
Even just pushing around the carpark we could feel how slow they are - it's like skating with the brakes on.
The Lush Freebyrd keeps everything rolling with Sabre Built-In Race Bearings. Strong, fast, easy to assemble and clean - perfect.
The Two Bare Feet comes with unbranded ABEC5's, which are fine for the price. ABEC Ratings don't really mean much, and we'd happily skate them until they died.
Unfortunately they're not very easy to clean and maintain, unlike the Sabre Built-Ins on the Lush. And the seperate bearing spacer arrangement means that they will not last as long before the do go.
So far this has been a straight-up comparison between the two boards. To be fair, the Lush is a lot more expensive, and it's pretty obvious that £60 isn't going to get you much longboard.
However, there were a couple of things about the Two Bare Feet 821 which we discovered when we stripped the board down that were really shocking.
Like: shocking that Two Bare Feet are putting product this bad out into the wild, let alone charging money for it.
First up is a relatively minor issue - the bolts.
The bolts on the TBF board are metric. This means that they won't fit a regular skate tool. So when one of your bolts inevitably comes loose, you need to have a phillips head screwdriver and an 8mm spanner in your bag.
Worse, Two Bare Feet in their wisdom have specced a countersunk bolt, which has damaged the baseplate as it's been assembled in China.
Neither of these things affect the ride, but we think this is symptomatic of the care and attention that's been put into this board: IE none.
Much worse is what we found when we took the trucks off.
The drop-through holes on the Two Bare Feet don't provide enough clearance to allow the truck to turn - at all.
In other words, the moment you try to turn this board, you're damaging it.
The board was, in fact, damaged like this as it was assembled.
So not only did our Two Bare Feet board arrived damaged, its ability to turn is crippled straight out of the box.
And it STILL gets wheelbite!
This is a really Epic Fail on the part of Two Bare Feet. It goes right to the heart of what we mean when we say that a cheap longboard is a waste of your money.
Needless to say, the Lush has none of these problems. You get what you pay for...
So what can we learn from all this?
The obvious lesson is - don't buy a cheap longboard and expect it to be any good.
If you spend less than £100 on a longboard, you're not really getting a longboard at all. Instead, you're getting a loose collection of substandard parts, randomly assembled with very little thought put into how the board actually skates.
Brands like Arbor, Lush, Loaded and Hackbrett are often owned, or at least staffed, by people who skate.
Why is this important?
Becuase it means that their boards put the quality of the ride first. And that's what matters!!
We only stock boards that we'd want to skate ourselves. That means - no junk. In other words - no cheap longboards under £100.