he fat guy has written a few articles for Criddle Magazine, so we thought we'd post 'em here for your reading pleasure. There's actually some good content and some sage advice about skatin' stuff!
Bushings – the OTHER rubbers!
Many things have been said aboot slalom gear and how expensive it is to race and trucks are 85 trillion dollars and wheels are $30 each and wear out after 2 runs and kilts are waaaaay too much money and decks hafta have a plutonium core and you gotta blood dope to be competitive and Marion Karr is gonna kick your ass if you look at his daughters the wrong way and if your timing system isn’t made for NASA then why bother and if you don’t have your own start ramps you’ll never win and now that the Canadian dollar is so strong a Fullbag is now a Fullandahalfbag and if you don’t wedge your front truck 14.62549878743 degrees EXACTLY you’re wasting your time and you’re not a REAL skater if you don’t have a titanium toestop or superconductor pivot cups and you can’t possibly be serious aboot racing if you haven’t been to eleventy six events and your hill sucks and ours is better and blah blah f-in’ blah!!!!!!
Well the answer to all your problems is in this little bottle – Vitameatavegemin. That’s vitamins, meat, veg…….uh, sorry. Wrong show!
The REAL answer to all your problems is: bushings. Rubbers, cushions, clouds, l’il rings of love, dirty pillows – whatever you wanna call ‘em! Those little squishy bits of goodness in your skate trucks, THAT’S what I’m talkin’ aboot. There are literally tens of dozens of different kinds of bushings on the market and even now off the market for your racing/riding pleasure. And pound for pound, NOTHING will increase or decrease your riding pleasure like bushings. They’re the Viagra of skateboard trucks, if you will.
Bad bushings make your trucks turn crappy or not at all. Good ones transform lackluster performance into podium finishes! You can honestly transform decent trucks into great trucks simply by changing the bushings.
“But Fatboy, there’s like a gajillion different size/style/ribbed for her pleasure/durometer/thickness bushing out there – how do I know which ones are right for me?” Good question! And that’s the basis for this article – to try and help steer you into the right direction. And as usual, I’m poor so I’ll help you do it cheaply too. You really don’t hafta spend a fortune on bushings, that’s one of the great things aboot ‘em. For minimal dollars you get lots of performance – if only your last date had been like that!
As the saying goes, “Opinions are like buttholes – everybody has one….and they usually stink!” Same applies with bushings – ask 50 racers what bushings they’re running and you’ll get 49 answers, because Iacovelli never had an original thought in his life and runs whatever gear Noah tells him to. Ahh….I kid, I kid. But seriously, everyone runs ‘em just a little bit different. The nice thing is for the most part bushings are interchangeable with trucks, so if you get new trucks you can swap in your tried and true bushing combo. Unless of course you have Radikals or PVD’s. But if you have that kind of coin, you probably aren’t reading this unless you just wanna giggle at my musings. Sure, go ahead, laugh it up. It’s not like I have feelings or anything. Nope, no deep emotional scars from being overweight and picked last my whole life, nothing like that.
Where was I? Oh yeah – a lifetime of failure! Um…..no, bushings – that’s right! Who makes good ones? Well, lotsa companies do – Khiro, Radikal, Tracker, Bones, Bennett, Doh Doh, and a bunch of others designed for street/handrail kinda stuff. But we’ll just concentrate on slalom truck bushings as most of the street stuff is too hard for our purposes. I took the trouble of making a chart for all of the companies I mentioned with their different bushings and the durometers of each one – print it out and keep it in your tool/spare parts box for future reference, it’ll come in handy. Oh, and thanks to Silverfish, NCDSA, and SlalomSkateboarder for the info.
Quick lesson – lower durometer means softer bushing. But softer doesn’t necessarily mean squishy and unresponsive – you also have “rebound” to contend with. Rebound is how the bushing reacts to being compressed. Rebound is equally as crucial to the performance of the bushing as durometer is. Soft bushing + high rebound means your truck will initiate turns quicker and return in a springy manner. This is great for a front truck as you get most of your steering from the front. Something harder with less rebound is good for the rear truck as it gives you some stability and helps the rear track with the front. Of course these are just starting points and/or guidelines to get you going – you may come up with something different that works for you. Mazeltov!
The actual shape of the bushing itself is also a contributing factor and there are a few of those too. The most common ones are “barrel” which is the traditional doughnut or hockey puck shape for the Canuckistani; “conical” or “cone” which is as it sounds – like a funnel shape; and “stim” or “stepped” which is kinda like Bib the Michelin Man’s midsection.
Now when I was a youngin’, AFTER walking to school 75 miles each way, uphill, in 4 feet of snow, I rode trucks with rubber bushings. Bennett’s “Big Red Rubbers” were the bushings of choice, they were a vast improvement over any stock bushing. Now you kids with your rock-n-roll and your 8-track tapes, you have urethane bushings…….they come from oil! These are a nice improvement over real rubber, chemicals/lubricants don’t mess them up and they don’t crack from age or UV exposure. Plus they’re more consistent with their durometer and rebound characteristics. Yay for progress!!
Now, the best thing I can suggest for you to get into bushing experimentation is to purchase a Khiro Big Bad Bushing kit – they’re like $30 bucks or so and come with a couple dozen bushings in “barrel” and “conical” shapes in half a dozen different durometers. This will definitely get you started on the right path – use it to establish which durometers (ballpark) you like in your trucks. Then you can experiment further if you wish. You can also try different bushings on the top and bottom of your trucks – like white on top and orange on bottom, barrel and cone or barrel and barrel. You can even sell off the extra bushings you don’t use – take ‘em to a race, or start a thread on one of the skate forums.
Once you get a clue as to the general hardness/softness of your bushing setup, you can start experimenting with comparable durometers from different manufacturers. For instance - Khiro yellow, Tracker Stimulator blue, and Doh Doh yellows are all 92a durometer. But they all feel very different in your trucks. Yeah I know, it sounds overwhelming – and it really CAN be if you try to grasp it all at once! So…..baby steps. And don’t underestimate trying other rider’s setups – something you might’ve thought wouldn’t work well might be what someone else is is lovin’. See my previous article on Slalom For Beginners to get my advice on not being a dick and then getting to try expensive stuff you’ll never buy that other folks own.
Now ancient folklore tells us that the Holy Grail of bushings is the Tracker Stimulator – long out of production and selling for around $10-15 PER BUSHING!!!!! That’s like $40-50 to do your whole board!! No way they are worth that kinda cake – right? Wellllllllll…………….yeah, kinda. You CAN find ‘em cheaper if you search and if you don’t mind used. They really are a great bushing – lots of rebound, nice and squishy, and they really make your trucks come alive. They usually come in the “stepped” or Bib the Michelin Man shape, although some have been shaved into a regular barrel shape. You’ll also find that with Radikal bushings – also great! They are oversized barrels designed primarily for Radikal trucks only, but can be shaved into any of the popular shapes and used with regular trucks by lots of racers. Also along the lines or the legendary Stims are the JimZ bushings – straight outta America’s Attic, the home of Geddy Lee, Alex Trebek, Eddie Giacomin, and maple syrup! These are really well made bushings following the shape and rebound of the Stim closely. Pricey down in the States, but a bargain once you’re in Tim Horton country.
Tracker also makes regular bushings too, like the Hourglass which is well……..shaped like an hourglass and comes stock in RTS/X slalom trucks. They also make Superballs which are stock in their vert/street trucks. Both of these are okay to start with for their respective uses. Doh Dohs are primarily for street/vert/stair type skating, but they can work in slalom applications and people do use them as such. Bennett makes some cool clear red urethane bushings that really make their trucks come alive – swap out the rubber ones your trucks came with……….you’re welcome. Bones Hardcores are also in use by some racers, these are conical and have a hard insert so you can use them without cup washers – Khiro makes bushings like that too. And while we’re on the subject of cup washers, there’s a whole NEW area of minor tweakage. You can swap out your cup washers for flat washers or even NO washers – each will give you just a little bit of difference in performance. If you haven’t caught on yet – there are lots of variables here!
Soooooooo now you’ve got your Khiro Kit or your handful of bushings you got on eBay or stole outta my tool box at a race (I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!!!) – what next? Well like a fun drunken college girl, experimenting is the name of the game. Set up an easy course that you can kinda run without thinking. Get a ratchet wrench with a 9/16” socket for faster bushing changes – look in Pop’s toolbox, he’s got one. Don’t be a dick - ask to borrow! Now throw in some bushings. Generally harder ones in the back truck and softer up front. The front truck initiates the turn and the rear truck (hopefully) follows. You also use your rear truck for pumping and power, so you wanna have it firm so it translates your pump to the wheels – if it’s squishy, you’re not pumping efficiently, plus it will contribute to a squirrely feel.
Too hard to turn? Loosen the kingpin nut. When it gets to the point where the nylon lockring isn’t touching the threads on the kingpin anymore, it’s time for softer bushings. Too wobbly? Tighten the kingpin nut. When it gets to the point where the bushings are totally squashed and there’s like an inch of kingpin exposed above the nut, it’s time for harder bushings. That’s pretty much it. No rocket science here – you don’t hafta call the CSA (Canadian Space Association or something – who even knew Canada HAD a space program?) or NASA. Try different combos with different shapes and duros. Eventually you’ll find duros that work for you, then you can experiment with different manufacturers bushings and different rebound characteristics. You’ll probably spend a few hours doing this and while it is a bit of a pain in the ass, you’ll thank me eventually. It really is worth the time spent to get your gear dialed in right – it makes all the difference in really enjoying your board and doing well at the races.
Of course now you’re going to be obsessive/compulsive about trying every single bushing ever made as well as make your own out of random blobs of rubber/urethane/plastic/blubber/ or even out of old wheels. You’re not alone – lots of folks get nuts with the bushings. But that’s not what this is aboot – this is aboot getting you started on your appreciation of the bushing, the unsung hero of turning! Now get out there and use your rubbers!!!
Beginner’s Guide to Slalom
Okay – so you are curious about slalom skateboarding? I can help! I’ll give ya some good, cheap advice. It doesn’t have to cost a ton of money to start out, read on – I’ll hook you up. Fat guys like me don’t wanna spend too much money on gear, it cuts into the doughnut fund and I won’t stand for that type of crap. I’ll take you through all kinds of options for entry level equipment, there’s lots of stuff out there but I’ll narrow it down for ya’. I’ll tell you where to spend the money for the best performance, best bang for the buck so to speak. Well, BEST bang for a buck is probably Junior’s mom, but that’s another story for another time. But for now, I’ll concentrate on slalom skating.
First level of commitment: wait, that sounds kinda D&D-ish! Sorry, I’ll refrain from stupid categories! We’ll assume that you have a skateboard of some kind, we’ll even extend that assumption to some kind of modern set-up – double kick deck, small hard wheels. If this is what ya’ gots, no worries, we can start there. And I’ll say this only one time – you have a helmet and pads, right? Good – wear ‘em. Yes, chicks do dig scars, but not head trauma scars, ‘cause usually you’re drooling and impotent afterwards and no chick finds that attractive. The basis of slalom is turning, so we’ll concentrate on making your board turn. Start by loosening your trucks. Next step after that is replacing the bushings in your trucks with softer ones. There are literally hundreds of different bushing setups out there and everyone has opinions. And as they say, "Opinions are like buttholes – everyone has one!" And since I’m a rather large butthole by all accounts, I’ll give ya’ my advice – get a few different bushings in a couple of different hardnesses. You’ll be amazed at the startling difference it will make! And one of the cool things about bushings is they don’t go bad and you can use them in different trucks. So if you decide down the road that you really dig slalom and decide to upgrade your rig, you can still use the bushings with your new trucks.
Now, you wanna try out these new fangled bushing thingys dontcha’? "But Fatty, do I hafta drop fifty somethin’ dollars to get them fancy slaler cones – that’s a ton of money!" Well the answer for right now is "no". Go to the next kegger with a big jacket on and stuff a big pile of those red plastic cups that are near the beer in said outergarment. Next day, when you sober up and after you either take home that girl whose name you can’t remember or at least throw some pancakes down her neck, set up some of those cups in a parking lot or on a non-busy street. Double up the cups so the wind doesn’t blow ‘em away and put ‘em in a line approximately two to three good paces apart. This is a nice easy course and you can practice this till you get the hang of the motions.
Okay, so your first huge investment into slalom skating is like $10, you spent more than that on a couple of EggaMooby Muffins! You can’t even get a whole album on iTunes for ten bucks. So now you’re ready to move on up? Fatty’s got your back! I’ll give you a few chunks of advice here – ask around or check some skateboard websites (Silverfish, NCDSA, SlalomSkater) and find a contest or clinic in your area or you can even post on one of these sites that you’re a beginner lookin’ for some help and your location. Slalom skaters are a good buncha people, nice folks who are usually willing to help out newbies – unless you’re a complete tool, so my advice is to NOT be a tool.
How about this – Fatboy suggests that not just in skateboarding, but in life, don’t be a dick. It will suit you in any and all situations regardless of social or business significance.
Think of it this way, their stuff that they’re not using is most likely real good and you can save a ton by picking it up from them. What do you care if it’s last years stuff? You’re not gonna be less competitive because of that. Racers tend to be equipment junkies, so their used stuff is race caliber anyway. Plus forming a relationship with these folks will help you down the road. It’s always nice to see a friendly face at a race or event, plus you get street cred in the community……well, that sorta depends. If you’re buddies with a big name pro or race promoter, that’s good. If you’re buddies with me or any of the Jersey or Canuckistan crew, well that’s a double edged sword. At the very least there’s embarrassment and likely liver damage and that’s just the start of it!
Okay so now you go to a race/clinic/session and meet some slalom skaters,( oh and by the way they probably skate pool and street too, so if you’re not a dick they might take you to other cool spots!) and you’ve played nice and met some cool people. This is great because these guys will most likely let you try their boards and stuff, again if you’re NOT a tool. AND these folks will also give you pointers on how to ride! AND they have real cones, which at some point you’re gonna hafta pony up and buy if you wanna practice on your own. As if that’s not enough, hold on to your panties, these guys will have stuff that they don’t use anymore that they will sell you for cheap! Or possibly even GIVE to you, once more, if you’re not a dick! It also helps if you have a hot sister that you bring along, OR bring pie – everyone loves pie, or maybe doughnuts. I can’t stress the value of this situation.
"Hey you fat bastard, I live in West Bumbletwat, Nebraska – there’s no one to skate with! How am I gonna meet these racers? Isn’t there some kind of gear or setup you can recommend to learn with that won’t cost sixty bajillion dollars?" Good question! Sure, I’ll recommend some options. Richy and Maria at Sk8Kings.com have a swell beginner’s setup. You can get a complete setup featuring an Axe deck with good wheels and trucks for like $150. And they’ll even set it up with different bushings in the trucks according to your weight and ability. Longboards by Fatboy has a similar setup too, and they offer the ability to custom design your deck shape and size as well. Sorry about the shameless self promotion here, but honestly we offer a good product at fair prices – AND if you mention this article AND you’re not a dick, maybe we’ll toss you a discount.
Now let’s say you wanna "roll your own", but your last name ain’t Trump. Not to worry, most slalom deck makers have an entry type model. Usually it’s a nice maple ply deal, maybe with some fiberglass in or on it. It’ll probably retail in the $75 - $125 range for the deck. This will be fine for you – don’t get all wrapped up in camber or flex or whatever, just get one that is suitable for your weight. Now you can spend a fortune on trucks, upwards of $250 each is not unheard of. For you, I’d recommend a Tracker RTX and RTS combo – X up front, S in the back. These are great trucks for low dough – great to learn on, great to race on. And you can do all kinds of tinkering and fine tuning with them by changing bushings and by putting wedged risers under them. Wedging changes the pivot angle of the truck to make it turnier or less turny. You want your turniness up front and the back pretty stable, so run both of your wedges with the thin part facing the front of the board. Independent and Bennett are also excellent choices in the "great but not a million dollars" truck arena. Don’t get all caught up in the offset and axle/pivot hype for now – walk before you run. Have I mentioned in the last paragraph not to be a tool? How about pie – have I mentioned pie? I could really use a good recipe for coconut cream pie. Now onto wheels!
There’s a lot of really good wheels out there and don’t forget, never underestimate the power of used gear and not being a dick! ABEC11, Seismic/3DM, and Manx are all real popular with racers and enthusiasts. Sector 9 makes a good slalom wheel too, as do other companies that make wheels not necessarily designed for slalom, but will work. You’re looking for a wheel that’s softish – 78a to like 83a durometer or so, and 65-70mm in diameter. Soft equals grippy and you wanna start out being grippy – speed will come later. And the diameter is important for rolling over shrapnel and possible road crap – real small wheels stop rolling suddenly when introduced to pebbles and then physics kicks in. Look up "projectile" in your school books or Google and see the fascinating results!
Unless of course you’re contemplating a career in safe cracking and you want your fingerprints sanded off. Then by all means run reeeeeeally small wheels and no gloves and work towards your goal! Back to wheels – ABEC11 has ZigZags and Grippins for slalom, both are great. You can probably find someone looking to off their Grippins cheaper ‘cause ZigZags are the new kid on the block. In the 3DM stable, Hot Spots and Avalons are the big sellers. Same thing as before with the Avalons – Hot Spots are the new hottie, so Avalons can be found cheaper. Also worthy of mention is the Cambria – highly underrated in my opinion (please note I didn’t write IMO because I find that crap annoying and the use of it doesn’t make me LOL!!!) and a great wheel. The slightly smaller diameter can be used as an advantage on a real fast course if you wanna slow down a bit when you’re having trouble making gates because you’re simply going too fast. MANX wheels from Pocket Pistols were the big wheel a year or so ago, they are still being used and are still great wheels, and the fact that they are not in the spotlight means once again you can find ‘em on the cheap. And as I said before, there are other wheels out there that will be fine to learn on and even race with great results.
All of these are just suggestions from a fat, non-competitive racer, but they are valid! Trust me here, I’ve tried out a lot of different gear and while I’m never on the podium, I have an idea of what works and what doesn’t – especially in the realm of starting out. I consciously avoid the real expensive stuff because I can’t justify it for my limited abilities. Why should I spend $200 for a truck when it ain’t gonna make me a better skater? I won’t be any faster, I won’t enjoy skating more, and I’ll feel guilty about wasting the dough! Maybe further down the road if I get better I’ll get real expensive stuff. But generally, I kinda suck at everything I do – I still do it because it’s fun, but reality has to set in at some point! Why buy a Ferrari when you drive like a Sedan DeVille? Save your money!! Buy some bushings and experiment. Bones hardcores are good, Tracker Stimulators are the Holy Grail, Radikal bushings are great too. Or Khiro makes a great bushing kit with LOTS of different hardnesses and shapes – try different combinations. You can mix and match from different manufacturers too – the possibilities are mind boggling. It’s madness – do you hear? MADNESSSSSS!!!!!!
Here’s an idea, buy some cones – again, by NOT being a dick you can most likely obtain some from your new friends. They might have some beat up ones that they’ll give ya’ or let go for cheap. But if not, bite the bullet and buy real cones. Don’t get those stupid soccer cones! "But Fatty, they’re cheap! Can’t I just cut off the square bases and use those?" NO asshat, you can’t! Know why? Because they’re soft, and when you hit one they don’t bounce away from your board like real cones, they fold and get caught under your wheels. See my previous information in the "projectile" section of this essay. Next time you see my buddy Scooter, ask him to show you the enchanting scars on his elbow from my foray into soccer cones! You’d be better off getting some plastic tumbler glasses at your local Dollar Store. The trick here is a "cone" type device with no base that is hard and will bounce away from you when you hit it. Tumblers will work for that, but they tend to roll far away and down the hill when they get knocked over. But really, if you shop around you can find real cones for a couple of bucks a piece. Sure it’s twice as much as tumblers, but they will last much longer, and they stack on each other so you can fit like 50 in a small gym bag.
Oh, and while I’m at it, when you’re out skating one day and you see a bunch of little kids drawing on the street or sidewalk with chalk, skate on up to them and make scary threatening sounds! When they run away, steal a couple of pieces of chalk from them – you’ll need it to mark where the cones go. After you set up a course, you usually put an "X" or trace the base of the cones so that when you knock them over you can put them back in the same spot. What?............................oh screw the little kids! They have rich parents and they’ll probably end up being your boss in 15 years so a little pre-emptive revenge is fine! It’s chalk! That’s not even a misdemeanor! Mental trauma? Who cares – get used to disappointment you little bastards, there’s a whole lifetime of it ahead!
Okay, so now you have a board and you wanna learn how to slalom. Well, there’s all kinds of theories and thoughts and ideas on technique and whatnot. That’s like a whole book right there. So I’ll give ya’ the quick and dirty……like Junior’s mom! Oh SNAP! First, find a good spot to practice. A parking lot is great, a non-busy street is a good alternative – maybe an access road or something. Try to find a spot that has a good slope to it (I know, they prefer Asian) that’ll give you a nice run, but doesn’t make you go crazy fast – something not too intimidating. Smooth pavement is better than rough, and I prefer butter to cream cheese. Get out your cones, whether they’re the real ones or the beer cups I told you to "borrow".
There’s a few different kinds of slalom courses – tight, which is usually cones in a straight line, 5-6’ apart or so; hybrid, which has some straight cones and some offsets and these are all different spacings; GS, which is faster with less cones far apart and offset, often on a steeper hill; and Super G, which is the diesel version of GS, big offsets, big speed – full bag needed, dude. For now, don’t worry about the last two – tight and hybrid are where we’ll concentrate. Start simple, give yourself some room to push a little if needed and get both feet on and situated, then put down your first cone. Now, if you’re doing this on a street, set your course to the side of the road so if a car does happen to come up on you they can get around your course. People tend to freak out and stop when they see cones, unless they’re drunken inbred mouth breathers – then they’re gonna try and flatten all your cones, so keep a pocket full of rocks to throw as well as a few strategically placed incendiary devices. Oh silence, you babbling boobie, I’m only kidding about the rocks – those would hurt if you fell on ‘em. Now, stand next to your first cone and step down the course like 2 or 3 good strides and place down your next cone. Continue doing this down the hill till you have a bunch – like 10 or 20 set up. Make sure you leave yourself some run off room or you can just slam into a crappy car at the end of the road – sure it’ll hurt, but you’ve gotten toughen up to race slalom! Here’s a good philosophy on cone setting: if it’s too hard, move the cones further apart – if it’s too easy, make ‘em closer. Yeah, I know, I’m Albert Friggin’ Einstein. But it really is that easy, don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
Now, you’ve got a course that’s makeable? Cool, break out that chalk that you got from the little kids and make some marks on the street so you can put the cones back where they were if you hit ‘em. Now practice your course – plain and simple. Try doin’ it faster, but also try to "run clean" – no cones down. Fun, huh? Yeah okay, it’s no jello wrestling with Junior’s mom, but there is a certain enjoyment one gets from simple turns on a skateboard. If you wanna kick it up a notch, try moving a cone or two off of the axis of the line of cones – these are called offsets, one or two make an easy course next to impossible. Move them off the line like 6 inches or so, you may have to lengthen the gap to the next cone to make it, so refer to the "Einstein" statement previously. There are no real set rules to course setting, some folks set good ones, some don’t – not to worry, you’ll get better at it.
There’s also some course guideline suggestions online at www.slalomskateboarder.com. But the best advice is to just play around with courses. Once again, if you’re not a dick, one of your new friends can help you set a course that’s do-able for ya’, and you can make yourself a sketch of the layout so you can duplicate it at your practice spot. The truth is: any course will help hone your chops. I’ll give you my best Anthony Robbins philosophy here, "There are no failures, only results". You will learn something from every course you skate, whether it’s how to make a big offset, how to pump, how to slow down, or even how NOT to lay out a course.
So there you have it – beginning slalom made easy. From cheap gear – like Junior’s mom – to course layout, to networking. All in one easy lesson with someone who’s been there and learned by trial and error – me. Learn from my mistakes and don’t forget my biggest piece of advice – don’t be a dick! And next time you’re at a race or an all-you-can-eat doughnut buffet and you see me, let me know if I helped at all. I’m the one in the orange hockey helmet and kilt – yeah, at either event!!!