At 63 years old, I came late to longboarding (skateboarding on, duh, a long board). But I'm on the early cutting edge of those trying out an innovative way of stopping on a longboard or skateboard: the Brakeboard.
I must be one of the first to order a Brakeboard, which recently started to be sold by Ben Newman, an Australian. They're pricy, including shipping from halfway around the world. However, I was drawn to buy this braking system for a simple reason:
Stopping on a longboard is important, yet not easy. Especially at speed.
Sliding (either sit-down or stand-up) takes considerable skill. Dragging a foot on the ground is problematic at higher speeds. Plus, I've become addicted to land paddling, where a stick is used on flats or mild uphills to propel the board rather than pushing with a foot. So I'm not used to balancing on one foot, which is how foot dragging is done.
Being old, I'm also not interested in learning how to stop at higher speeds through trial and error -- "error" likely involving some painful falls. Yet I wanted the option of going down steep'ish hills, like my driveway, and being able to stop safely.
So I ordered a Brakeboard, along with a set of wheels designed for the braking system (other wheels can be used with the Brakeboard, but they need to be modified).
Here's the bottom line of my first impressions: the Brakeboard is well designed and works well, albeit with a few quirks that I'll describe below.
I made a video of a test run down my driveway. Keep in mind that I've only been longboarding for about seven months, and would be utterly unable to cruise down the driveway without the Brakeboard, as I note in the video.
I haven't dealt with the Brakeboard squeaks. According to Ben this should be easy to fix by rubbing the brake parts with a lightly oiled rag.
I'm also hearing some clinking in the rear Brakeboard truck when I do my land paddling thing without braking. Some minor adjustments seem to be called for. And I decided to upgrade the bearings that came with the Brakeboard.
To my mind, these are small "shakedown" issues.
I'm impressed with the quality of the Brakeboard design. A lot of thought and testing clearly went into this longboard/skateboard braking system. Quite a few people have tried to come up with a mechanical way to stop a board. Looks to me like the Brakeboard is the best product on the market.
Being only moderately handy with tools, I was moderately worried about installing the Brakeboard on my Landyachtz Switch, since it required drilling a 3/4 inch hole through the board. This went smoothly, though.
Here's how I handled it.
Following the installation instructions on the Brakeboard web site, after taking off the original rear truck I slipped the Brakeboard truck over the screws and penned in the outline of the truck. Then I measured where the center of the hole in the truck is, and located that spot by measuring from the edges of the outline. With a small drill bit I made a pilot hole at that center-of-the-hole spot.
I bought an Ace Hardware 3/4 inch hole driller thingie that attached to my cordless drill. It uses a bit that protrudes slightly beyond the round hole driller. That fit into the pilot hole. It took a while to get through the wood, but the result was good:
After that, it was just a matter of following the Brakeboard installation instructions. I'd never removed longboard trucks or wheels before, so it took me longer to install the Brakeboard than someone experienced with this stuff would take.
Live and learn... even (or especially) at 64.
Getting the adjustment nut in the right place took some time. Too far out, and the Brakeboard won't brake. Too far in, and the wheels won't turn freely when the brake isn't being applied. Once I got one side adjusted properly, it was pretty easy to replicate that on the other side. In the end, the parts looked like this:
The metal part on the right presses on the metal part on the left when the pedal on top of the board is pressed. Having the parts quite close, but not touching, seems to be The Right Distance. Pressing the two parts together, then fiddling with the adjustment screw, was my first approach.
Putting on the wheel, complete with bearings, and tightening the wheel nut was the final test. As shown in the video I made, the goal is to have the wheels spin freely with no brake, and then to stop firmly when the Brakeboard pedal is pushed.
All in all, installing the Brakeboard was pleasantly challenging.
I learned quite a bit about longboard parts and how they fit together. As Ben says in the installation instructions, getting the upper and lower parts of the Brakeboard to mesh is a tight fit, but eminently doable. I used the small end of the wheel installation tool to nudge the pedal pin into position after wondering "how the heck is that thing going to fit?"
Some longboard/skateboard purists feel that putting a brake on a board is a horrible idea. "Learn how to stop by sliding, dude, or don't ride a board!" they say. Well, that sounds ridiculous to me. There's no Eleventh Commandment, Thou shalt not use a mechanical brake on a skateboard.
Ben Newman has made an excellent product. It will appeal to some longboarders and skateboarders, but not to others. I like the Brakeboard.
Like I said, it's fairly spendy. However, so is getting injured on your board because you weren't able to stop before you hit something, or something (like a car) hit you.