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Riser Rant

My Riser Rant from NEWBORN magazine Issue 5

I’ve been riding a few different setups and I noticed some boards feel great and some boards seem a bit hard to control. They don’t want to turn, they sometimes get stuck on one side, they’ll even spin if you lose control. I finally figured out what the cause was.

At first I blamed myself. I kept trying to compensate by putting more weight forward. That helped sometimes. I started to think that it was really important to put my feet in a certain place. But on some boards it didn’t seem to matter. They rode great without me thinking about my feet. The boards I ride have different decks, subs, and trucks but I don’t think any of that is the cause. Through trial and error I’d say the number one thing that makes a snowskate ride weird is low risers.

To me, coming from skateboarding, I thought the only thing risers were for on a snowskate was a bit of dampening and sub protection and maybe a bit more toe clearance in a turn. But what I have come to realize is that riser height is basically like tightening or loosening your trucks. Low risers are like tight trucks and higher risers are like looser trucks.

It makes sense if you think of the skate as trapezoid that runs across the deck (from left to right) and down to the sub. Each deck and sub combo will have a different relationship. If you stack them close to each other it’s harder to tip them over. If you spread them apart the shape will tip more easily. It’s about leverage. Interestingly I’ve found that a skate will stop riding weird with as little as 6/16″ more risers. That’s less than half an inch. I suspect there’s a threshold where a board can be too high but further investigation is needed.

One thing that I want to dispel is the idea that snowskates are hard to ride. Most likely if a skate is hard to ride it’s because the risers are too low. I taught a beginner to skate on a properly setup skate and she was linking turns by the end of the day with almost no prior experience on the snow. This weekend I loaned some skates to two young snowboarders and they were able to ride, in control, from the moment they stepped on the skates.

Experiment with riser height and see if it makes a difference for you. It’s easier to add risers between the deck and the trucks because you have longer bolts there that allow for different riser heights.