I wrote this post to explain the differences between street luge and ice luge. Before I started with ice luge, I thought they were very similar, but I found out there’s a world of difference between them, besides the fact it is a supine position (lay down on your back, feet first).
A street luge is made of a steel construction on which you lay, which is called a ‘pan’. It’s often bent a bit on the sides to follow the curve of your back/body. It is equipped with 3 or 4 (longboard) trucks ranging from 150-200 mm wide.
An ice luge is basically a sled like you know from when you were a kid, to use on the snow, but then on heavy steroids. The part on which you lay, is called a pod and it’s made of fiber glass. It has a curved form in which you lay your upper legs. It stands on 2 metal ‘legs’ on each side, known as bridges. Connected to these bridges are the ‘horns’ on the front side, known as kufens, which you use to steer (which gets more explained further down this post), as well as the steel part on which you slide down, known as “steels”.
As mentioned, the riding position is similar, namely on your back, feet first, but that’s the only thing that is similar about the position. On the ice, you need to keep your shoulders down at all times (which is harder than it seems). The steering is namely partially done with your shoulders. If you lift your shoulders, your position gets unstable because the pressure point shifts to the front.
In street luge if you feel unsafe/unstable, you sit up and you (can) put your feet down to brake if necessary. You can’t really do this on the ice. You have to keep your feet up at all times, pressed against the kufens, because that is your ‘steering wheel’. If you let go of that you’re not in control anymore, like in a car.
Wheels vs steels
On a street luge you ride on 6-8 wheels, 2x 2 in the front and 1 or 2x 2 in the back (whatever you like best). The choice between riding one or two trucks in the back is personal. I prefer one, some prefer two. I don’t have scientific proof that either one is better, but some might have a different opinion about this.
On an ice luge you slide on two ‘square’ steel bars aka steels, which are slightly tilted, so you ride on the edge of the steel. Depending on the angle of the steel (varying between 12-22 degrees) you can get more/less traction/grip.
With street luge you steer, by shifting your weight on the sled, which makes the trucks tilt and thus turn the luge. There are a few forms of steering, you can swing your legs to one side, you can move your upper body to one side, or a combination of these two.
Maneuvering an ice luge is done by letting your shoulders and legs work together. You press you legs against the kufens to steer and with your shoulders you can press down on the ‘pod’, to manipulate the direction you’re going in.