How Street Luge Works

By: Bambi Turner

Street Luge Basics

Picture yourself on a curvy road high in the mountains. In your vehicle, you'd likely slow down to accommodate the curves and steep terrain. Take away the car and imagine yourself in a small metal sled traveling 60 mph (96 kph) or more on the same roads. Now, imagine that the sled you're riding has no brakes. If this sounds like fun, street luge just might be the sport for you.

Before you begin, it's important to gear up with the right equipment. New riders may want to start with a buttboard (also known as a long board or lay-down board), rather than a true street luge sled. Not only will you save money this way, but you'll be better able to control your speed as you master your riding techniques. Take advantage of every piece of safety gear you can get your hands on, and don't take the danger of this sport lightly [source: O'Neill].


Most street luge riders who live to ride another day start by walking the course they plan to ride. This allows the rider to understand the terrain and prepare himself or herself for possible problems with traction or skidding. Look for imperfections in the road such as potholes or cracks, which could throw you off your board or damage your wheels. Finally, keep an eye out for obstacles like lampposts, mailboxes, fences and anything else that you could potentially crash into while you ride. Only after you know where all of these items are located should you begin to plan your route down the course.

It can be tempting to find the closest big hill and let yourself fly, but new riders should be prepared to start small. Start your first ride just a few yards before the end of the slope, making sure there's plenty of level ground beyond the hill for you to practice braking. These first few rides will seem short, but they'll allow you to get a feel for braking, steering and controlling your board. As you get more comfortable with luging, move further up the hill to enjoy longer rides and higher levels of speed.

Start by sitting on your board with your hands resting on the ground on either side. Use your hands to push yourself along the road until gravity takes over, then lie down on your board to enjoy the ride. On a sled, you'll steer by applying pressure with your feet. On most buttboards or simple sled models, you can steer by leaning in different directions. Powered street luge riders face tremendous levels of speed which may make steering difficult, so many of these boards will feature some type of mechanized steering system for better control.

Now we come to the most important part of street luge riding: braking. The majority of street luge boards don't have brakes, and competitive racers may not have any type of mechanical braking system, according to the rules of race governing bodies. Instead, street lugers stop by dragging their feet along the ground. The friction between the feet and the road surface will slow the board and eventually bring the rider to a stop [source: O'Neill].

Of course, riders need special protection to allow them to stop safely with their feet at high speeds. Most wear special riding shoes made of leather or rubber. Others add thick sections of tire treads to the outside of their shoes to help keep the feet protected. Because of the tremendous amount of friction created by braking, street luge participants should be prepared to maintain footwear often and to add new rubber after almost every day of racing [source: Lott].