Major Arc is a new entry in this list, but they are exemplary of how irritating marketing can be. Their strategy is loud, cliché and tacky. The website is full of bad English, awkward layouts, huge lettering, texts published as images and unsubtle science-y diagrams. They have apparently recruited a bunch of amateur influencers to post regularly on Facebook groups and make Youtube videos (of passable production value, I concur; like this guy, this guy and that guy). For those (if indeed they’re hired), I guess the return is a cut from every sale. I dunno. I hope these people got an advance for producing those videos of theirs at least, because this truck smells like a flop to me (more about it, here).
Anyway, the thing I want to focus on here is the effort to convince their website visitors that the truck is somehow “turnier” than other trucks (as if the “turny-ness” of a regular skate truck is an intrinsic quality, not a result of its pivot axis angle) and that, while there are already other “multi-link” trucks – or whatever the pseudo-car-like steering is supposed to be called -, theirs wins the competition because of its supposed simplicity (as they try to explain us here). Their marketing angle is like, “we know, dear visitor, you have a short attention span, so here’s a truck specifically made for you, so you think we have innovated.” They know who they’re trying to sell to, I guess. Fair enough.
Oh, the car-like steering mechanism (that exists already in at least one more skateboard truck I know of, as well as in, well, cars since before there were engines) has purportedly been patented (!) by them. Perhaps they want to claim the patent of car steering from the time before car makers figured out that wheels shouldn’t be parallel when turning; at least 200 years retroactive. They’ve also proudly trademarked the nonsensical, but utterly banal, phrase: “redefine agility,” just in case someone else thinks “agility” is not sufficiently defined in English and tries to claim it. Oh, for fuck’s sake…
Randal is one of the companies that keeps me stepping cautiously. On the one hand, they are quiet and seemingly humble (unlike Bennett), on the other hand it seems unlikely they deserve the reverence they enjoy from the slalom/LDP community. They have probably invented the RKP template (or was it Gullwing? if you have more info on who really did, please drop me a line), but they sure have not improved upon it one bit in the last 50 years. One more cult truck maker without too much value for the contemporary consumer, me thinks.
Still, the Randal FAQ page is generally one of the most carefully written “skateboard theory” pages I came across when I was doing some research on trucks. However, they couldn’t avoid including a generous dose of dumbness. Look at the clipped part of their page on the right and take a moment to consider their awkward logic about truck width. There’s actually a few things to unpack here. But I’ll just mention the “more force to get a wider hanger to that angle”. Hey Randal, skateboards are not cars! Nor does the ground try to lean the deck; the rider does. (For an investigation on who tries to rotate what, please check here. In short: the force with which the truck resists turning is entirely independent of its axle’s length. This is another big and deeply rooted misconception about skateboards that companies seem unable to shake off.)
I expect more class from G|Bomb. They are producing useful stuff and they are the only brand that has consistently tried to invent new solutions. The adjustable PA bracket and platform deck idea is a brilliantly conceived and executed invention, a new kind of skateboard. Still, having to compete mainly in an American market, the aesthetics of some of their marketing choices hit all the wrong chords in me, on top of being nonsensical. A couple of examples:
They got this new bracket made of fiberglass out (in itself not a novelty, but the material makes it “25%” or something lighter than aluminium, plus it’s cheaper). So, how do they try to sell it to the social media? With a car rolling over a flexible board. What does G|Bomb think of it’s audience? Well, it seems like they think we’re all telemarketing consumer shitheads who stay up at night watching infomercials with bigfoot trucks rolling over cooking pans, or lorries trying in vain to squish a very resilient, yet comfy, armchair with an integrated TV remote control, or whatever (to be fair, some of us certainly are telemarketing suckers).
Too bad the prototype bracket was too brittle. Unsurprisingly, it must have been something else entirely that got to it after all (e.g. real-life skating, sudden shocks from pebbles, certainly not a car slowly driving over a flexible deck). It turns out later versions of it stand the rigors of everyday use, so, thumbs up from me again. One more round with the car rolling over to spread the news? Please, no, G|Bomb.
In addition to late night infomercial aesthetics, they also have some extra nationalist kitsch for those of us who think there’s not enough of this shit in the world already (picture above).
There is this trend in marketing to present products as if they were items in an RPG game, with scores on several attributes. It is misleading and entirely unfounded. It is not hard to avoid infantilizing the consumer and explain that flexible decks are not good for downhill, or that extremely flexible decks are not good for LDP. And it is entirely unjustifiable to present such scores for trucks, like Dont Trip used to do. There is absolutely nothing different between the RKP trucks Dont Trip produces, except for the obvious: pivot axis angles, spherical bearings and adjustable angles.
I hesitated a bit adding Curfboard in this collection. I kind of like the brand because their website generally seems to respect the reader’s intelligence and their product is interesting. I’d actually consider buying it if I knew it isn’t something I’d want to use for more than a few months. As I wrote elsewhere, as long as the consumer knows what she’s buying, it’s a fine product. However, the company didn’t resist the temptation to add a generous dose of BS on its website. I’m sure the designers would have loved their product to have a more robust return-to-center force. I’m sure they were conceptually aiming for a miraculously brilliant solution that employs the rider’s weight as that force. I’m sure they would have wanted the deck’s nose to lift up when the truck turned. But it doesn’t, it’s not and it doesn’t. And they, at Curfboard, must know this. So, why do they still say things like “the board elevates when turning?” Dear Curfboard, you had a good thing going. Why mess it up?
Riptide also seems to find it hard to understand how trucks work. In a page about pivot cups, they are trying to explain that TKP trucks have a geometry different than the more “straightforward” RKP geometry. In all fairness, the latter doesn’t give them much trouble. But, somehow TKP trucks do magic things and don’t rotate around the pivot pin and the hanger/kingpin intersection. Remember, they are professional truck component makers; of pivot cups, no less.
(This is something that mystifies a lot of the skateboard community and accordingly I’ve written extensively about it. If keen, start here.)
Another thing that I find fishy is Riptide’s claim that it’s producing its own “hand-crafted urethane compounds” (as per the company’s “about” page, up until 2021). As I wrote elsewhere (here, here and here), I’m sure there is many things that company does on its own, but actually producing the urethane (that it then dyes, mixes, molds and processes into bushings etc) seems unlikely to me. It seems more realistic that small companies like them don’t have the capacity to do this, so they all buy polyurethane from bigger factories. But I might be wrong. If anyone from the company ever reads this, please feel free to tell/show me how you produce your own PU and I will gladly publish your explanation.
Lastly, Sabre is a brand from the UK that makes some slick-looking RKP trucks. If their claims on how good their manufacturing process is are true (which I lack the competence to judge), then their offer is quite interesting indeed. I like that they also make the effort to communicate in detail what the customer can expect from their products, which in all fairness, is something other truck makers avoid by clinging to the surface with irrelevant lifestyle imagery (ah, “surf-skate,” I’m coming for you!).
However, I’ve noticed a couple of slip-ups, some of the misconceptions circulating in forums and groups in this page. While they get the truck width account right (to my best knowledge – for more, check also here), unlike Randal does, their “rake” and accompanying lean/turn graph (re: “Rake” in the screenshot on the right – check link for a full article on the graph) is problematic. There’s also one more point where the choice of words is questionable. Check the wording on “Truck angle,” which, despite what is claimed, does determine how much a truck can turn – given enough pressure from the rider of course. (Think about it, dear reader: if you could tilt a deck 90°, to which angle from rest would the axle rotate on the ground? You guessed it: the truck’s PA angle. Therefore, the PA is ultimately the limit of how much a truck can turn). It looks to me like a reproduction of the kind of language and concepts circling around in forums (not unlike Randal). To be fair to them: first of all, they’re not the only ones, certainly not the first ones, who do that, and, second, let’s be open, dear reader: the public gets what the public wants. If the public is too indifferent to understand what it buys, then I can sympathize that in an environment of unethical competition it hardly makes sense to try to survive by marketing your stuff in a way that reflects the slightly more complex facts that this blog is trying to convey (though I would argue facts paint a simpler picture; it’s the confusion that the prevalent accounts create that make it complicated to step back and see simplicity).
Not only Sabre’s, and perhaps even less so Sabre’s, but also, and mainly, the bigger fishes’ whole marketing model is to pander to those audiences. Check the other entries in this post, which I will be updating as soon as new gems come to my attention.