I-Beams And Axles

There’s something inherent in skateboarding that encourages tinkering with our equipment. Perhaps it’s because the sport is fairly young and its equipment is constantly evolving. Remember not too long ago when decks had wheel wells and flat snub noses? Most of these changes are dictated by skating’s evolving style, and equipment is usually left playing catch-up. For example, take the modern Popsicle shape that addressed the popularity of switch skating.

If there’s one thing skaters are bad at, though, it’s asking for help from the mainstream. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–usually the mainstream is stocked with a bunch of dorks who’ve burned skating more times than anybody can recall, but sometimes we seem to sit on our laurels while useful technology floats past us.

Trucks are a perfect example of using existing technology to improve the product. Unfortunately, some of the disasters of the past–suspension trucks, for example–make many innovators rear back and stick to what already works. Trucks are particularly messy because if even one fraction of anything is off, it can ruin the whole thing. Not to mention that the costs involved in developing a truck make changes very expensive. But this hasn’t stopped Grind King Owner Donald Cassel from spending two years sweating over his new truck.

SKATE Biz previewed a single sample truck, so we haven’t tested them out yet, but it’s clear that Cassel has reinvented the truck axle and hit two birds with one stone in the process. “I thought it would be an easy idea (to execute),” Cassel recalls. “But there were a lot more obstacles than I anticipated.”

The idea first came when he was musing over the constant complaint from skaters about axle slippage. From his engineering background he remembered that I-beams used in cars and other structures offer stronger support and weigh less than a regular straight beam.

The basic truck axle is pretty simple–a metal bar tooled on the end to screw nuts on. Cassel flattened the bar in the middle, put a dip in the flattened area (harder to reach and grind through), and punched holes through it to shed weight (Grind King seems obsessed with slimming their trucks, shedding weight on every curve, nook, and cranny like a Jenny Craig addict). According to Cassel, the truck is cast around the new axle, and the dip and flattened middle makes slippage on the GK-AXL model a thing of the past.

Cassel thought long and hard before undertaking the project. He says the cost of tooling the new axle was a serious commitment, and he employed outside mechanical engineers to help solve the various problems that kept arising.

One that kept him grinding his teeth at night was how to cast the axle at exactly the right angle. With a normal axle, which is round, it doesn’t matter, but the flattened surface could throw the whole truck out of whack if it’s cast a few degrees off. Cassel refuses to divulge the solution, but in his voice you can still hear residue of the giant sigh of relief he must have exhaled once it was solved.

The GK-AXL comes loaded with all the upgrades of a luxury car: a newly developed locking bolt underneath the baseplate to allow bushing changes possible without taking the truck off.

The truck will cost a few dollars more per truck retail, but for all the freaks out there who obsess over board weight, this innovation will cause some drooling. Cassel says he doesn’t plan on using I-beam technology in his other trucks because of the costs. The true test results will come back in a year or so when Grind King has some GK-AXL sales under the belt. There have been a lot of innovations in skating, and only time will tell if the I-beam axle follows the evolutionary trail of Boneite or the upturned nose.