On Sunday, November 9th 2014, Herb Neumann died. It was cancer that took him down. He was one of the toughest guys there was but just one thing was tougher.
I never met Herb in person. Over the years I learned a lot about him. He was a legend in the New Jersey/NYC area. He skated and rode bikes and did it all his way. He was the guy who would go bigger and go faster. He published his ‘zine Geek Attack back in the day when zines mattered. He skated vert and down hills, he rode road and mountain bikes. He designed his own skate trucks and numerous other parts for skates and bikes. He owned a skate shop, Skate Werks, and passed his passion on to the next generation. He was a special part of his community. Many people are in mourning today.
My neighbor, Peter Werba, was a longtime friend of Herb. I’ve heard so many stories about him I feel like I was there. He touched a lot of people.
I knew Herb from online interactions. I’m sure that the first time was on the NCDSA message boards (search herbn) back in 2000 or so. In discussions about the design and use of skate trucks and bearings, we were comrades. I remember his bearing tests, figuring out what was fastest and why. He was one of the few people that would really test his ideas out and challenge mine. I knew that Herb would always have something to say about my ideas and I’m sure I always had something to say about his.
In later years, on Facebook, Herb would often chime in about something that I would post about or was working on. He was so enthusiastic and excited about bicycles and skateboards. I had a lot of respect for that. I’m going to miss that.
We interacted often, he was working on his trucks up until the end. I offered to make some proper solid models and prints of his trucks so that they could be preserved in a reproducible file for the future. I really would like if I could borrow them and do this still. I hope his estate can respond to this. I’d be happy to do it.
Herb’s trucks were, in fact, something special. In a landscape cluttered with Randal clones, Herb was making trucks that took that concept to the next level..or a two above. The trucks had 10mm aluminum axles, a novel kingpin arrangement, incredibly solid construction without being pure ballast, and an isolated pivot that would produce an incredible level of precise steering. He really had about completed the design. I would certainly have, and we actually did, argue points of execution but there really is something to these trucks. They are different, but not for difference sake. They are improvements. Improvements from a man that really did test them and continued to develop them. We need more guys out there like this.
When things were looking pretty dark for Herb, when his cancer came back and wasn’t going away. He stayed strong. He skated and rode his bikes every chance he could when outside the hospital. I’m sure his nurses and doctors were amazed by his will and strength.