The proper choice of skateboard wheels influence the board in a couple of ways. Wheels affect the ability of controlling the movement of the board as well as the feeling on the board and the movement.
In the early days, skater didn’t have much of a choice. They used metal or clay wheels for their skateboard setup. Clearly, this wasn’t a perfect setup because metal wheels tend to be slippery. As of today, there is a large range of wheels.
For starters, it’s hard to make a decision, which wheels are the right ones. This article should bring some clarity to the topic. But first things first. Let’s have a look at the material of which skateboard wheels are made from.
Today, most of the skate wheels are made from Polyurethane(PU). Polyurethane is a composite material made of polyisocyanate and polyol and is used in a wide range of applications and therefore is relatively cheap, regarding manufacturing costs.
This material is perfect for wheels, because its resistant to abrasion and has a long durability. Usually, Polyurethane is transparent. To give wheels different colors, the material is mixed with different plastics. Colored wheels tend to show different characteristics regarding durability and abrasion.
Durometer – Hardness
The Durometer scale defines the hardness of a plastic material and was developed by Albert F. Shore. Originally the scale has letters ranging from A to D and a few other letters. In addition the letter has a number, ranging from 0 to 100. The letter A denotes softer plastic while the letter D denotes harder ones. For further information see this link.
In the skateboard industry, the scale has been modified and only the letter A is used. The following is a short overview of the approximate ranges:
- Soft wheels range somewhere between 75A and 90A
- Medium wheels range somewhere between 85A and 98A
- Hard wheels are above 95A
Choosing the appropriate durometer depends on the favored style of riding:
Excellent for riding vert. They go very fast and are perfect for really smooth surfaces. Hard skateboard wheels allow the rider to perform slide tricks, ollies and a lot of other tricks more easily.
These wheels are well suited for technical skaters who ride vert or street. A big disadvantage is the loud noise they make. Hard wheels don’t absorb vibrations and tend to wear out.
Are a good trade-off for all-around rider. They go acceptably fast and provide better grip in skate halls than hard wheels. Medium skateboard wheels are perfect for cruising around as well as performing tricks. They absorb some vibrations and impacts. A disadvantage may be that they don’t go as fast as hard wheels on smooth surfaces.
Excellent for cruising and longboarding. The only purpose of these wheels is to be used for cruising around. These wheels are not suited for performing tricks. Soft wheels provide the ultimate grip on smooth surfaces and absorb impacts and vibrations pretty good.
Diameter – Size
The diameter of skate wheels is measured in millimeters and the common ranges are between 45 and 75 millimeters. The size effects the ability to turn, how fast one can ride and the acceleration.
Big wheels are faster than small wheels because they don’t have to rotate as much as the small ones for the same distance. Small wheels provide a lower point of gravity.
Again, choosing the right wheel size depends on the style of riding.
- Vert riding: 55mm to 65mm or even bigger might be a good starting point
- Street riding: the smaller the wheels, the less weight but too small wheels will make ollies much harder
- All-Around: middle sized wheels between 52 and 60mm might be a good starting point
- Longboard: large sized wheels from 65mm upwards
Some companies provide wheels with a soft inner core and hard outer core or the other way around. Therefore the wheels benefit from being fast and absorb some impact.
Choosing the appropriate skateboard wheels depends on the style and personal preferences of each skater. In this article we provided some rules of thumb for starters, who don’t know which skate wheels to choose.