Friday, November 27, 2020

The Secret "defect" of Thunder Trucks (and why your nose/tailslides may be suffereing)

(I apologize for some weird font/text formatting issues on this post, and for the misspelling of "axle" in the first photo!) 

What you are about to read may forever change the way you view Thunder trucks. Depending on who you ask Thunder trucks may, or may not, have a "serious design flaw." Moreover, this flaw may impact your nose and tail slides. If you ride Thunders and you read the rest of this blog post, from this point forward, any time you “catch” on a nose or tailslide, you might forever be doubting your equipment. Once you “see” this design "flaw," it cannot be unseen.
If you ask me, I say there absolutely IS a design flaw. Just what is this flaw? It is related to the length of the base plate that sticks out beyond the outer most mounting holes/bolts (and the position of the axle in relation to that). And yes, that simple little issue may be fucking-up your nose/tails slides, but more on that later. While this design issue is commonly known among hardcore skate tech nerds, it isn’t as common knowledge among those who aren’t super fussy about their equipment. However, that does not mean the "problem" goes away if you are unaware of it.
For starters, let’s look at this tracing of an Independent and Thunder baseplate.


There are two significant things to note here. First, is that Thunder baseplates sit further inward on your deck than Indys. Conversely, Indy baseplates stick further outward towards the nose/tail than Thunders do. See that “Note this difference” arrow? That is distance that Thunders are “shorter” than Indys. The second significant thing to note is where the axle sits in relationship to the baseplate. The red lines marked “center of axle” are (duh) where the center of the axle (on the hanger) sits over the baseplate. Note that Indy axles are closer to the center of the board than Thunders. Nothing of surprise here. Indys have a shorter wheelbase than Thunders, so it makes sense that Indys would have an axle closer to the center of the deck (and Thunders would be further out). Now, where all of this gets interesting is what happens when put wheels on your trucks...and then try doing a nose/tailslide.
Let’s start with Indys. When you do a nose or tailslide with Indys, the outermost end of the baseplate “grinds” along the vertical edge of what you are sliding, and the wheels do not come in contact with that same vertical edge. The reason the wheels do not contact the edge is because the baseplate sticks out further than the wheels do. I think you may now see where all this is leading to. With Thunders the opposite is true. Thunders have a “shorter” baseplate than Indys. Moreover, the axle (and thus the wheels) sits further toward the end of that baseplate. So, when you do a nose/tail slide with Thunders, the baseplate often never touches the vertical edge you are sliding on, but the wheels do. These two photos will help visualize the difference (both trucks have the same set of 53mm Spitfires on them).
Indys. The baseplate touches the “ledge,” but the wheels are free and clear.



Thunders. The baseplate does NOT touch the "ledge," but the wheels rub against it

Thus, there is a much greater chance to “stick” when doing nose/tail slides on Thunders because the wheels will “catch.” Ben Degros also often mentions this issue on his (fantastic) YouTube channel when talking about Thunder trucks (as can be seen in this video around the 2:47min mark). It's also commonly discussed on the SLAP Forum. Now, this is not to say that nose/tailslides are impossible with Thunder trucks. Clearly such a claim would be demonstrably false. But what it does mean is that (a) you probably need a lot more wax to compensate for “catching wheels” if you’re running Thunder trucks, (b) your margin of error is much thinner, and (c) nose/tails slides on Thunders are often more akin to a power slide (e.g. wheels rubbing) than on any other brand of trucks. Next time you are at a park, and you see someone over-waxing the fuck out of a ledge for nose/tail slides, look what trucks they have. Usually it is Thunder skaters that are doing this, and the reason why should now be obvious. Of course, the secondary problem with this is getting too much wax residue on your wheels (sketchy landings), and pissing everyone else off at the park who doesn’t want turboclown amounts of wax on a ledge to compensate for a poorly designed truck (e.g. Thunders). Further, Thunders are the only truck on the market (that I am aware of) that have this “problem.” Indy, Ace, Venture, Krux, etc. all have baseplates that stick-out beyond the wheels. Only Thunder has “catching wheel syndrome.” When something is designed radically different than every other product on the market, that often says something. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. Here, I side with the latter.   

All of this I find very disheartening. Deluxe is such a rad company. I just wish they could make trucks as good as everything else they do.* Until then, I am stuck on Indys…they nose slide great!

*For some reason DLX can not figure out how to make a proper baseplates. Everything else they do is top-notch. Their baseplates, however, leave me utterly confused. The Thunder problem is explained above. Ventures have that inane design where the outer most mounting holes are so far under the hanger that it is next to impossible to get anything but a combination wrench on the mounting hardware. Absurd. What is going over at DLX that they can rule at everything else, but are still producing nearly XR-2 level baseplates?

POST-SCRIPT: Here is another example that shows how much of an "outlier" Thunder baseplates are. Here is a Thunder truck, and an industry standard shock-pad. Look at how much the shock pad sticks out beyond the baseplate when the holes are lined-up. This does not happen on any other truck, only Thunders. Any other truck, and the end of the baseplate and the shock pad (or riser) would be almost flush.


  1. So, can’t help but to notice that Trackers and Gullwings were left out. #socalmakestruckstoo!

  2. I agree the baseplate should be extended, but putting the trucks against a wall may not be entirely accurate/fair. They actually can touch the ledge if you sit up on your slides, the angle of the kicks pulls the wheels away from the ledge. Although your wheels can catch with Thunders, it is possible to slide without catching.

    A disadvantage that I think gets overlooked is how the shifted plates don’t shore up the kicks as much as other trucks. It makes them feel noticeably less rigid than Indy’s as you pop. It also makes for weaker kicks if you switch to thunders on the same deck - the stress point against the baseplate created from other trucks becomes exposed. Conversely, if you switch from thunders, I feel decks tend to regain leverage/pop because the stress point gets shored up by regular plates.

    1. Agree with both points, but maybe for different reasons. Yes, you can get Thunder plates to touch on nose/tail slides, but you have to (a) get into it (and remain in it) perfectly, and (b) the margin of error (compared to other trucks) is much thinner. As to how Thunders alter the pop, I think that is much more a function of their lowered height and wheelbase length than a shorter base plate design.