Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mountainboarding

Like most boys during the 90s, I too was into skateboarding for a short period. It probably started when I received a Sony Playstation for my birthday along with my first game, Tony Hawk Pro Skateboarding. Soon thinking that I could catch 30 feet of air off a half-pipe and the only consequence of falling was a little blood, I bought my first skateboard. And I’m still not surprised when after a week or so of attempting ollies, I had had enough.

Through my teenage years, I experimented with other alternative, freestyle sports such as BMX and rollerblading, but none of them stuck. The urge to give skateboarding another go surfaces every now and then when guys pass me on their long-boards on campus. But I’ve come to think that the skateboard’s possibilities are too small. What I mean is that while I was growing up, the board stayed the same size and eventually it felt like I was playing with a dinky, little toy. Plus, I live in Northwest Ohio where there’s no elevation change once so ever. If I wanted to get back on a board, I’d need something that could take some abuse; something that could go on and offroad. Yet when I first saw a picture of a mountainboard, I thought there was no way I was getting on one.


As I hinted at, mountainboards can handle a wide variety of terrain including: boardercross tracks, slopestyle parks, grass hills, gravel roads, BMX and mountain bike trails, and even ski resorts. Of course, they can also be seen with skateboarders on the city streets and at local skate parks.

The first mountain board, termed an ‘All Terrain Dirtboard’, was patented by Morton Hellig of England in 1989. His company, Supercrusier Inc., was the first to produce the board on a wide scale. It wasn’t until 1992 that the sport began to acquire buzz in the United States where three snowboarders from northern California (one of whom, Jason Lee, would end up coining the term ‘mountainboard’) were looking for an alternative option to snowboarding in the summer. They would soon find one of the sports main producers, Mountain Board Sports (MSB), in 1993.


The deck of a mountainboard is typically 90-110 cm (35-43 inches) long and made from laminated wood pressed into shape using a similar process as in the construction of snowboards. The boards have variable characteristics that can be made to suite the rider such as flex, weight, shape, length, and tip angle.

Its wheels are connected to the deck in one of two methods: skate or channel trucks. Skate trucks are almost identical in design to their skateboard counterparts, just much bigger. While channel trucks are more common and offer steering that is cushioned by shocks and springs.

channel trucks

There are five different types of bindings:

• Snowboard
• Ratchet-strap
• Velcro
• Bar-bindings
• Heelstraps

The board’s rims are made from plastic or metal fitted with pneumatic tires ranging in size from 8-13 inches (20-33 cm). The tires come in varying thicknesses and treads to suit the terrain. Also, some boards are fixed with brakes although they are generally reserved for professional riders who compete in longer runs. When they are added, they are normally attached to both front wheels rather than the rears to increase braking efficiency and reduce the risk of the wheel lockage.

Did you know?- It has been found that the 8 inch wheel is the perfect size for freestyling, while 9-10 inch wheels are reserved for events where speed and greater stability are favored. They are operated by a hand lever in one of three different designs:

• Drum brakes
• Hydraulic rim/disc brakes
• V mounted brakes (set up similar to standard bicycle brakes)

Since you’re going down hills of dirt and not snow, you should wear a good amount of protective gear. The following is list of everything you should wear:

• Helmet
• Wrtistguards
• Elbow and knee pads
• Padded shorts
• Body armor

Four event categories:

Downhill (DH)/Big Mountain- Timed, single man descents on long courses (+1 Km)
Boardercross (BoardeX, BX)- Two to four man racing on a specifically designed track.
Freestyle (FS)
o Slopestyle
o Big Air
o Skate Park/Jib
Freeriding (FR)- Non competitive over natural terrain.

dirtsurfer

A similar activity is dirtsurfing, an Australian board sport defined as ‘inline boarding’. Composed of an aluminum tubular frame, composite deck, and two 16/20 inch BMX wheels, this extreme sport replicates snowboarding even better. You can view this company’s patented products at their official website, dirtsurfer.com.

If you’re interested in getting started in this sport but not sure where to begin, click here to see MBS’s board selection guide which will help you choose a board based on what competition styles you’re most interested in. After that you can visit mbs.com or groundindustries.com and search through their many models.

I want to know…While I think mountainboards are perfectly designed for freestyle and racing purposes, what about traversing mixed terrain? I can envision that the majority of kids who buy a mountainboard will only be able to use it in their back woods. And if you don’t have a special course to ride on, what’s the point in having a fancy suspension system that will just get banged to pieces?

Be Unlimited mountainboard

Through some research I found an alternatively designed mountain board called Be Unlimited made by an old company called Beyond Boards. It’s unique in that the trucks are placed on top of the deck making the transition from one terrain to another (let’s say rock to grass) much easier. I believe the company no longer exists so the only place I could find one is RIGHT HERE.

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