Thursday, January 03, 2013

Surf-Rodz TKP for Parks and Pools

Who are you, gentle reader?

Let's assume that if you found this post you are already interested in the Surf-Rodz TKP (née Indeesz) truck. If not, go here first to save me trying to explain the damn things myself. Lets also assume you're skating transition, generally have a sense of "Is that all there is?" regarding the truck market, and at least sort of enjoy tweaking your setups.

Who am I?

Basically, the typical old man skater who, after barely skating for 20 years, suddenly realized there are now skateparks everywhere and got hooked all over again.

This time around, it is all about carving and grinding surf style.

So basically, I know how these trucks turn. I've ridden the 159mm hangers on all sorts of parks and bowls over the course of a year, on wheelbases from 15.5" to 14.5". I don't know what they'd be like for technical street or park skating.

A lot of the background knowledge here comes from the pavedwave and silverfish fora, but the actual evaluation is based on my experience.

I'm particularly interested in learning to ride these things on transition while set up for maximum turning speed and precision. That is, for me part of the challenge is mastering these trucks; mostly people aren't going to look at it that way. At the beginning of a session, sometimes my board seems barely rideable, even to me, but once you get it locked in, the fluidity and responsiveness is unequaled.

They are different.

The weirdest thing about these trucks original name, Indeesz, is that it implied they were some kind of Indy knockoff, when they really are unique. I have tried the traditional truck variations, Indy, Tracker, and Bennett, as well as newer options like Ace, Theeve and Thunder, and the Surf-rodz have their own combination of properties unlike any of those alternatives. You might not love them, but you won't feel like you just spent twice as much for the exact same thing you already have.

What are the implications of their "precision?"

In terms of the ride, there are two big differences between these machined trucks and traditional cast trucks:

  1. The relationship between lean and turn is more direct.
  2. There is no binding in deep turns.

To turn a skateboard, you lean the deck and the trucks turn. Normally there is a certain amount of play or slop in this relationship. Mostly we don't perceive it because it has always been there, but a "precision" truck reduces or eliminates it. For me, what I feel is the back truck being much more engaged and active. When you lean into a carve, both trucks lock in at the same angle, like there is some kind of mechanical linkage between them. I guess in a traditional truck the back truck probably has a tendency to keep tracking in a straight line a little more than the front.

I'd note that this strict lean/turn relationship is probably not desirable for a lot of modern skating since you are spending a lot of time landing on the board after some kind of jump, flip or spin, and you don't necessarily want to efficiently transfer an off-center landing into a sharp turn. Same goes for hitting a crack or abrupt transition.

Everyone who has looked at a skateboard truck understands that downward, pinching pressure on the kingpin bushings provide resistance to turning and return the truck to center. Most skaters realize to some degree that pressure against the pivot bushing does the same thing to a lesser degree. Fewer understand that when a traditional truck turns deeply, the hanger twists away from the kingpin, in effect squishing the kingpin bushing sideways.

This is perfectly fine for most street or pool skating, because it provides a quick initial response but then rapidly increasing resistance which helps prevent wheelbite.

In the Surf-Rodz TKP's the hangar rotates around the center of the kingpin, and the pivot does not actually pivot within its bushing, it rotates. This means the only increasing resistance comes from the kingpin bushings themselves. It also means that the basic geometry and performance of the trucks remains consistent throughout the practical turning range. The old Bennett design is like this, but with a relatively sloppy casting. The basic reverse kingpin design truck popular on longboards works this way, but those trucks turn more slowly, ride much higher, and generally aren't grindable.

Enough Theory, How Do They Ride?

What you get from all this is even turning response from centered to as tight a turn as your setup allows. If you approach riding a bowl or flow park like a banked slalom course, this is what you want. If you like to mix in little turns, pumps and slashes in the course of an arcing carve around a bowl end, these trucks are for you.

The downside is that generally you don't have a stable center in these trucks, and they have less of a tendency to mechanically stop you before you get wheelbite. Both can be mitigated through bushing selection and the other standard adjustments (riser, wheel size, wheel wells, etc). The question of whether these trucks feel like they turn slowly or quickly is hard to answer. They are very responsive so every little twitch can make the board wiggle, but really initiating a turn probably takes more lean than an Indy-style truck. But then the Surf-Rodz can keep going pretty much as deep as you want. Similar to the old Tracker beef, if you put hard bushings in them, they'll feel like they don't turn at all. You need to allow more lean.

My "other" trucks right now are Ace 55's with Khiro standard blue (soft - 85A) bushings, and their minimum practical turning radius feels slightly larger than the Surf-Rodz, but I don't think it is enough to make a decisive difference either way.

Degrees of Precision

There are a number of adjustments that you can make to change the actual and perceived precision/twitchiness of these trucks.

  • Surf-Keeyz: This is a little oblong nylon donut that fits inside the kinpin hole in the hangar and restricts the hangar from deflecting away from the kingpin. It locks in that strict lean to turn ratio even more.

    Without the Surf-Keeyz, they still basically feel like a variation on or refinement of your standard trucks. With the Surf-Keeyz, it feels more like you're riding some kind of high performance slalom truck. I use these front and rear.

  • Delrin pivot bushings: It is the pivot that defines the Surf-Rodz truck. It doesn't pivot at all; it rotates. The entire pivot/bushing/baseplate assembly is machined to such a fine tolerance that getting the pivot in all the way can be difficult, and this is after they started drilling holes in the bushing cup to let the air out.

    With the stock urethane bushings, there was a lot of friction due to the tight fit and grippiness of the urethane. You can lubricate that, but it is a pain, since you probably will end up having to remove and disassemble the truck, and it isn't entirely clear what lube is safe to use with the bushing material.

    Since this "pivot" really rotates, it makes sense that you might want something that works more like a bearing than a bushing. What the slalom and long distance pumping guys use sometimes is a hard low-friction nylon pivot bushing made out of delrin or something similar. The downside to this is a somewhat harsher ride, but that doesn't come into play in a skatepark.

    Surf-Rodz was experimenting with producing nylon pivots, and I goaded Wayne into sending me some prototypes. It's a big change. With soft kingpin bushings and delrin pivots, the trucks don't want to go straight at all; it feels like you're balancing on a broomstick running the length of the board. The only thing holding you up is the kingpin bushings, so you may want to go down as much as 5 durometer points in the main bushings if you switch to the delrin pivot bushings. I'd also note that it probably makes no sense to use these without Surf-keyz. I use the delrin pivot.

    Unfortunately, Surf-rodz didn't put these into production, in part because Riot was going to, but they're not listed on their new site, so... I don't know where you can find them.

  • De-wedging: In the downhill or slalom worlds, "de-wedging" the back truck with an angled riser pad to make it turn more slowly is pretty standard. This would be a reasonable thing to do if you found the ride to be too squirrely, but I haven't tried it. The obvious drawback is that the board would be hard to control riding switch/fakie.


The Surf-Rodz take a .65" bottom bushing (or a smaller one with washers) and you can fit up to a .50 top bushing in with the grind series kingpins if you want (you'll occasionally scrape the top of the kingpin on grinds). I use 89A Reflex cones (I weigh about 180). Riptide FatCones are popular on these trucks because the extra urethane around their base helps restrict deep turns (and wheelbite). I think the trucks now ship with the "hard" 91-92A Surf-Rodz bushings. They should be fine.


The paradox of these trucks is this: "Wow, I love how deeply these trucks turn... how can I stop these trucks from turning so deeply so I don't get wheelbite?" I can understand why people want to set up their trucks to eliminate wheelbite, especially if they're going 30+ mph down a hill. I don't try to make wheelbite impossible (with any of my trucks), I just make sure that the trucks have to be turning so sharply and the deck tilting so steeply that I'd basically have to be out of control anyhow by the time I'd get to that point.

If you want to get the most out of these trucks, you're probably going to need to use some bigger risers or smaller wheels than you might otherwise. Or maybe find a deck with wheel wells.

I'm riding a SMA Jesse Martinez, with wheel wells, a 1/4" riser and 65mm Rainskates Hornets. I've also used the same setup on a Black Label deck with no wheel wells and 53-57mm wheels. I can easily get the wheels to touch the deck, but in practice I make very tight carves in the bowl and never feel any bite.

Other details:

  • Grinding: I can't say I do any technical, or even very extended grinds, but I've had not trouble grinding with the old "hex" hanger. Of course, the new "grind" hanger is probably preferable. You definitely want the grind kingpin.
  • Spacers: I'm a fan of precision wheel spacers, so I'm glad Surf-Rodz has started shipping them with their trucks. With these trucks and hangers, and a high quality cored wheel like Rainskates and good clean bearings, you can tighten your axle nut down on the wheel and still get a nice smooth spin.
  • True East: Made in Connecticut!
  • Trend-setter: Surf-Rodz has started a welcome trend of longboard truck companies making traditional kingpin trucks, which can only be good for quality and innovation. The Bertrand loves his Polar Bears, and I'm very curious about the new Sabre TKP-170, which appears to be the first grindable truck that'll fit two full size barrel bushings.
  • Short Longboard: I am curious about this thing which is designed specifically to work well with with the Surf-Rods TKP's.

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