If you've been to the University of Minnesota campus, then you've most likely noticed its vastness. It's a campus that is hard to miss, considering it looks like a small city from the moment you see it driving by on University Avenue. That is because it is home to over 47,000 students and it spans over 1,200 acres. It takes me, an able-bodied person, about 25 minutes to walk leisurely from one end of campus to the other. This includes crossing the Washington Bridge from East Bank into West Bank.
Needless to say, you have to be a resourceful when planning your commutes from one class to another. Some students decide to take the buses that cycle through campus, some decide to take the light rail train across the bridge, and some like to bike from here to there. In some cases, you may find yourself planning a combination of all three. That is what it takes to make it from one lecture hall to another in the 15 minutes between classes, and I believe that is something that most experienced Gophers have come to accept by now.
Though there are many options for getting from point A to point B on campus, some prefer a more lightweight and dynamic form of transportation: the longboard. Longboarding has become very popular on campus in the past couple of years due to its ease of use, portability, and it's overall convenience. Not to mention it's pretty darn fun to zip around campus on a longboard after an hour and a half in a stuffy lecture hall.
This mode of transportation offers the freedom from bus and light rail schedules, without the inconvenience of a bike, since it is against the law and university rules to ride a bike on the sidewalks. Not to mention that you're able to bring your longboard with you wherever you go so that you never have to return a bike rack to get your ride. It's the little things that matter.
So you may be someone who is interested in getting yourself a longboard to use on campus. Here are some pieces of information that may be beneficial to know...
Types of longboards
Very seldom will you see two people on campus with the same longboard. This is because there is a wide breadth of options to choose from in the longboard market and knowing the difference between each type will help you make better decisions in purchasing your own. Let's go over some things you may see people riding around on that aren't quite a longboard.
These boards are popular in the boarding community because of their compact size and colorful appearances. Penny boards tend to run no larger than 25" and take a greater deal of control to ride. These boards are great portability and cruising on smooth pavement, but they may be a bit tough to steer on rockier asphalt and around sharper turns. These boards tend to run cheaper than their longboard counterparts, no more than $70 each.
These boards can look very similar to longboards. You can tell them apart mostly by the smaller wheels which are designed for smoother surfaces like concrete for the purpose of preforming tricks.
Though these can be used for commuting, they can make for a more bumpy ride. If you are more interested in learning some tricks to impress your friends on campus, then this may be worth the investment. A skateboard can cost a variety of prices due to their popularity, but an average one is around $50 each.
Now that we've talked about some of the boards that are often mistaken for longboards, we can now talk about the different types of boards you can choose from depending on what you find is best for you. Please note that this portion is a very high-level overview. This is meant to address a more aesthetic set of concerns rather than the technical aspects of purchasing a longboard.
I do this because on a college student's budget ($150-200), the longboards that are available are generally similar in the capability to ride and operate on a college campus. if you are looking for a more detailed introduction to longboarding, you may find this guide helpful. With that being said, lets look at the different types of boards.
These decks are unique in the way that the trucks are installed through the wooden deck, resulting in a ride that is smoother because you are closer to the ground. This type of board has great stability and makes for fewer bumps during your commute.
These are decks are popular for their pintail shape, reminiscent of the longboard's historic roots in surfing. The pintail board is mounted on top of the trucks, unlike the drop-through boards. The extra height gives the rider more ability to lean into turns, giving this type of board more control on the road.
This type of board is a good middle ground between the other two boards. The top mounted deck is generally wider, allowing the rider to lean unto turns for better control. The lowered middle section of the deck also imitates the close-to-the-ground riding you get with a drop-through board.
Complete boards vs. Incomplete boards
In the longboard market, there are some options for how you can purchase your longboard. You can either buy it pre-assembled (complete), or you can buy each part of the longboard individually and put it together yourself. Though there are pros and cons to both ways, it is worth noting that it is usually cheaper to buy a longboard that is complete.
For longboarding around campus, the parts that come with a complete longboard are more than sufficient for getting the job done. If you are looking to do a little more serious longboarding, then it may be worth it to pick out each component one at a time.
Some people may have old longboards or old skateboards sitting in their garage that may not ride very well anymore. A good way to get them working good as new again is to just replace the trucks and the wheels, keeping the deck if it is not too damaged. This can be much more cost efficient than buying a new longboard altogether.
Before buying your longboard, I recommend that you look up a YouTube review of the product. If one doesn't exist for that board, you may be better off picking a different one.
It is important that you take care of your longboard so that you don't have to go out and replace parts so often. This will keep your wallet happy and keep you on time during your commute. To care for your deck, try to keep it as dry as possible.
Most decks are made of wood and though they are usually shielded with a protective coat, consistent water exposure can weaken the integrity of the wood. It is important that you do not apply too much weight or force onto the middle of the longboard otherwise the deck can break. Because of this, you should be careful if you find yourself doing tricks with your longboard or if you are jumping on the board in any way.
Similarly to the deck, water and force can wear down on your trucks (the metal structure that connects the wheels to the board). Your trucks are what responds to your leaning and steering so it's important to keep the part free of any dirt or water that can weaken the metal through rust and abrasions.
If after a while your wheels do not feel like they are rotating as well as they used to, try changing the bearings. These are the nuts that tighten the wheels onto the trucks. Changing the bearings can improve the spin of your tires, letting you go further with each push off the ground.
Longboarding safely on campus
Campus can be a wildly busy place with people dominating the sidewalks between classes. If this is the case, don't be afraid to extend your longboarding to the bike lanes. This will reduce the risk of any collisions. If you are longboarding at night, please wear something bright and reflective because more times than not, the lighting on campus won't be enough to make your presence apparent to cars and buses.
Finally, you should always wear a helmet even if it looks stupid. Just because you aren't on a bike doesn't mean it's any more safe without a one. I've seen way more people wipe out on longboards than I have bikes, hands down. A helmet will save your life so please wear one! Gloves and knee pads also help if you're new and are prone to falling a bit.
Longboarding can be a fun and valuable way to get around campus when you don't want to deal with buses or a bike. The versatility of a longboard is unmatched by most other forms of transportation. I know from first-hand experience that learning anything about longboards can be a difficult and confusing manner, so I hope that this guide has helped you a bit in your search. For now, I wish you the best of luck in your commuting, and I hope your time on campus is safe and fun!