When choosing an electric skateboard, deciding on deck material is one of the most important decisions you will make. What the board is made of will determine (1) the flex of the board – how much the deck will bend while riding it (2) speed – how fast the board will go at full throttle (3) acceleration – how soon the board will get to full speed (4) weight – how heavy the board will be and (5) durability – how hard you are able to ride the board without risk of damage. Each material type has its strengths and weaknesses in these categories, so choosing the correct deck depends on your riding style and what you look for in a board.
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3 Commonly Used Deck Materials
There are three major materials when it comes to electric skateboard decks: maple, bamboo, and carbon fiber. Each material has its own characteristics so the choice of deck material will have a high impact on the way the board feels, rides, turns, etc. Choosing the right deck material is the first essential step to making sure you will enjoy the board you buy.
Maple is the most popular material you will find decks made of. Usually, the maple will come in the form of multiple layers of thinner maple pressed together using hydraulics. Maple trees grow in wet, cold regions which have short growing seasons. As a result of all this, maple trees grow quite dense, a perfect material to build skateboard decks out of. Maple is also able to be bent and formed into different shapes while retaining its structural integrity because of the wet climate it grows in.
The process of making a maple deck starts with 7-10 pieces of maple each 4-7mm thick. These layers are stacked on top of each other some lenghth-ways and some width-ways. Orienting the layers facing different ways is a process known as cross-beaming. If all the layers were laid length-ways, the board would be prone to snapping in the middle.
By adding layers that cross width-ways, it strengthens the board and prevents it from being worn down as easily. Once the layers of maple are laid in the desired pattern, a hydraulic press compresses all the layers into one. The deck is then cut and shaped into the desired pattern.
When discussing the characteristics of skateboard decks, there is a reason that maple is, historically, the most common choice. First thing worth noting was it’s availability to the creators of skateboards and longboards in the 1970’s on the West Coast of the US.
It was chosen over the other readily available woods for its durability while still having some flex to the wood. When it comes to the five traits listed above, flex, speed, acceleration, weight, and durability; maple is the top contender for durability and in some situations, speed. Maple comes up near the bottom when it comes to weight and, by relation, acceleration.
Maple is a sturdy and durable wood that will hold up for the most rides out of any of the materials listed in this article. Its durability comes from the sturdy-ness of the wood as well as the weight of the deck. Unfortunately, the decks weight acts against the electric motor, giving it more to work against.
If four identical boards were created and the only difference between them were the deck material, the maple board would be the slowest. Carbon fiber would be at the top and bamboo would come up in the middle. However, if this same test was made going downhill instead of on a flat surface, the weight of the maple deck would help in reaching higher speeds.
The next material to look at is bamboo. Bamboo is one of the most diverse organisms on the planet. It can grow in many different climates and is one of the fastest growing organisms on earth, making bamboo a very sustainable choice for longboards. If you have ever handled bamboo in its raw form, you will see that it’s crazy strong for how raw it is, but at the same time, it is pretty easy to split from the top to the bottom. As a result, when constructing decks out of bamboo, it is usually run length-ways and is sometimes paired with fiberglass or other composites to make a slightly sturdier board.
Comparing bamboo against the five traits listed above flex, speed, acceleration, weight, and durability; bamboo comes out close to the top in reference to weight, acceleration, flex, and possibly speed. The high flex of a bamboo board lends itself to carving and quick turns. The light weight of bamboo allows for quicker acceleration and high top speeds while going uphill or on level surfaces. When going downhill, however, the light weight will keep it from reaching the speeds of the heavier materials.
Finally, carbon fiber. An extremely strong material while still remaining very light weight. Known for being lighter and stiffer than steel, carbon fiber is made of crystalized/bonded carbon atoms. The chemical makeup of carbon fiber works well in all temperatures and is water resistant. While bamboo and maple boards need to be treated with chemicals to allow for consistent riding in semi-wet conditions, carbon fiber doesn’t need to be treated with anything.
When considering flex, speed, acceleration, weight, and durability, carbon fiber wins all out with weight and acceleration while coming in second place in flex. Carbon fiber is extremely light and most carbon fiber boards will be lighter than bamboo. For the same reason bamboo has better acceleration and speed uphill than maple, carbon fiber holds first place above bamboo.
Choosing an electric skateboard deck comes down to how you plan to ride your board and what you’re using it for. A lighter weight board will do better if most of your rides involve uphill sections. If you find yourself riding your boards pretty hard, maples great durability might be the deciding factor for you. If riding a futuristic board that is lightweight and easy to carry, carbon fiber might be the right pick. If you plan to weave through a bunch of obstacles, the flex of a bamboo board would be a great choice.
If the brand of electric skateboard that you love only has a couple of these materials as options, that may narrow down your decision making as well. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to your personal riding style.