Are you confused as to why everyone seems to be in an arms race to ride the skinniest trucks they can find? I was too, until I tried them out. This article is my attempt to explain why all the top pro riders’ boards are an inch and a half skinnier than they were 3 years ago.
Why are so many people switching to these narrower hangar widths and what do they mean for your setup? Before we get to that, we should ask why everyone was riding 180s for so long.
Way back in the prehistoric times of 2007, basically all of our gear sucked and the central problems of downhill skateboarding gear design were stability, the need to avoid wobbling out, and braking, the ability to slow down in a controlled manner without crashing.
180mm trucks helped solve those problems.
Wide hangars make your board more stable and less prone wobbles because getting a setup with a wide track width (the combined width of your trucks and wheels) to lean over and turn requires more force, especially when your board is relatively narrow. You won’t wobble if you can’t really turn.
Wide hangars and long wheelbases also helped with braking by smoothing out slides at a time when most wheels were prone to chatter, even when broken in, and we thought BigZigs were good freeride wheels. Ahh, good times.
Over the past ten years we have essentially solved the problems of stability and braking through advancements in truck geometry, wheel design, riding technique. At this point, the central issues of gear design have shifted away from basic issues of control and safety toward creating higher-performing gear that is easier and more fun to ride.
(As an aside, I think that we are in the middle of a radical cleavage between freeride and racing setups, with race boards becoming much narrower, shorter, and more aggressively directional slalom-type setups while freeride boards continue to look like most downhill longboards, albeit narrower.)
Through these advancements, the 180mm truck width has mostly stuck around out of tradition and inertia: most trucks were 180s, most boards were designed to fit them, and aside from some short-lived and unpopular experiments with 195s, nobody really thought to try anything else.
Why narrow hangars?
A few years ago, some downhill guys started chopping their trucks down and realized that a narrower setup can grip harder and slide more crisply than a wider setup, setting off a flurry of experimentation among high-level gear nerds. Eventually this trickled down to me and I gave narrow hangars a try shortly after the Venom Magnum came out.
I found that riding skinnier trucks has two major performance benefits: first, narrow hangars can make your board feel grippier and more responsive, especially when riding wide wheels like Venom Magnums that would otherwise make your track width (the combined width of your trucks and wheels, from lip to lip) considerably wider. That said, when you pair your narrower trucks with a narrower deck, you get the improvements in maneuverability while the grip and slide characteristics are basically unchanged. It’s not grippier or slidier or very different at all. It’s just narrower and easier to turn.
Second, and relatedly, as a dude with size nine and a half feet, I find this narrower setup noticeably easier to ride. The deck I’m riding right now tapers from about 9.25” in front to around 8.25” in back. That sounds crazy skinny; but it puts the rails directly under the ball and heel of my back foot, which allows me to do toeside and heelside slides without moving it. This also helps me get more on top of the board for more braking power, as I’m pushing straight down into the surface of the deck rather than sideways on the rail. When you stop to think about it, this makes a lot of sense: most street decks are between eight and eight and three quarters inches wide. Why should longboards be much wider?
The bottom line is that after 10 years of the 180 being THE standard, truck width is simply one more thing you can tune to fit your personal riding style.
Dialing in your setup.
Now, switching to narrower trucks requires adjusting some other parts of your setup. The main thing you need to consider, even more than absolute hangar width, is the relationship between track width and deck width. Slapping super-skinny hangars on a big wide board designed for 180s is gonna give you way too much leverage and make your setup tippy and prone to high-siding; so you are gonna want to pair your narrower trucks with a narrower board, whether this means busting out the bandsaw or buying a different deck altogether.
TRACK WIDTH VS BOARD WIDTH: Setup vs Riding Characteristics
Board wider than track width: Tippy, prone to high siding, extremely aggressive slide hookup, very maneuverable, less stable.
Equal: Good balance of stability and maneuverability, smooth slides with a crisp hookup. Ideal.
Board narrower than track width: Drifty, very stable, less maneuverable, less prone to high siding.
ACTUAL AXLE LENGTH OF TRUCK HANGAR SIZES
Hangar Width - Approximate Axle Length
140mm - 8”
150mm - 8.5”
160mm - 8.75”
170mm - 9”
180mm - 9.5”
You’re also going to want to go down a step or three in bushing hardness, especially in your front truck if you’re running splits, because your suspension needs have changed. I dropped my front truck from a 93/90 combo to double 87a, and I still might go softer if I drop down to 140/150mm hangars.
(Based on the fact that I can ride the same exact bushing setup in Rogue Slalom trucks as people half my weight, I am starting to suspect that most people’s ideal bushing setup has more to do with truck angle and hangar width than their weight, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Finally, narrower hangars really emphasize the difference between narrow freeride wheels and wide race wheels. The narrow Rogue hangars are spaceable so you can make sure your track width matches your deck when you’re riding narrow freeride wheels and when you’re riding wide grippy wheels just by running the spacer on the wide or narrow setting.
The good news is that you probably don’t need to buy new trucks because you can send your current hangars out to Rolling Tree and have them machined down to whatever width you like.
Personally, I’m never going back to 180s. Narrow hangars and narrow downhill boards are one of those gear innovations, like the original Rogue truck or grippy brake soles, that provide an immediate and noticeable performance benefit, making skateboarding easier, safer, and more fun. They’re the kind of thing you want to tell your friends about so they can have a better time skating. Give ‘em a shot.