Rock ‘N’ Roll - A Well-Rounded Overview of Skateboard Wheels
It was only in the 50’s that the first surfers decided to screw wheels to the bottom of their surfboards so that they could ‘surf’ the streets. A few things have changed since then, especially when it comes to the materials. The skate scene is constantly evolving with consistently changing and increasing demands. Over time, simple planks of wood became bespoke skate decks and the metal rails were replaced with skateboard trucks. Even wheels are radically different these days. Originally, skaters would repurpose wheels from inline or roller skates, but today there’s a specific skate wheel for every type of rider. Let Blue Tomato give you a quick overview!
If your setup isn’t quite right, skateboarding can be a bit of a drag. It’s not just a matter of matching up your deck to your trucks though; wheels also play an essential role in building your perfect skate setup. Wheels come in all different sizes, materials, and hardness ratings allowing you to adapt your skateboard to suit your style, whether you skate park, street, vert or bowl.
Size Matters… At Least When it comes to Wheels
The size of your skateboard wheels, or more precisely, the diameter, is normally measured in millimetres and is usually somewhere between 50 to 75 mm. If you paid attention in physics class, you probably already know a little about the potential difference the size of a wheel can make… If not, here’s a quick reminder: Smaller wheels accelerate noticeably quicker as there is less friction for them to overcome, but larger wheels have greater top speeds.
As you would expect smaller wheels will bring your setup lower to the ground than larger diameter wheels.
Here’s a quick overview:
- 50 - 53 mm: As a street skater, you’ll probably favour smaller wheels as they give you a little extra stability when it comes to landing flip tricks. On the vert ramp, you’ll definitely notice the acceleration which will give you a little performance boost in the pipe or mini-ramp.
- 54 - 59 mm: The all-rounder size, a versatile wheel for skate parks, vert skating and more. No park, bowl, vert ramp or mini-ramp is safe!
- 60 mm and up: Cruiser wheels! Plenty of speed with very little effort.
Hardcore! Skate Wheel Hardness Ratings
The hardness rating of skateboard wheels is, theoretically, given on a scale of 1 to 100; the higher the value, the harder the wheel. The value also comes with a letter: either ‘A’, which signifies a polyurethane mix similar to the consistency of rubber, or ‘B’, which is more similar to the hard plastic wheels of old-school 80’s boards.
Once again, physics plays an essential role here. If you primarily ride parks or smooth, flat terrain, there’s no limit to your choices: Soft wheels will give you more grip and therefore a smoother ride. Harder wheels, on the other hand, will make slides and grinds that bit easier and the lack of friction between harder wheels and the ground will help you reach higher speeds than with a softer wheel.
A simple guiding principle for buying skate wheels is this: Between 70 and 90, you’re guaranteed a comfy ride, but between 90 and 101 you’re perfectly equipped for any trick you can think of, and your slides will blow minds.
Year in, year out, brands like Jart and Spitfire develop new material formulas for their wheels to enhance skate performance. New shapes, new materials and new features - these brands know what they’re doing, and you can rely on them for a good skate. There are wheels for every skating style: Bones offer the STF (street formula for street skating) or the SPF (skate park formula for any park) and Spitfire offer a similar range under the names F1 Street Burners and F1 Park Burners.
Round meets Long - the Setup
Regardless of the brand of wheels, the aperture is always the same so all bearings will fit all wheels. Making sure there is a spacer between each bearing, press them into the wheels, then mount the wheels on your trucks, putting the so-called speed rings inside and out. Once you’ve fixed all four wheels on with nuts, you’re ready to shred!
Now it’s up to you! Find the perfect wheels for your setup at Blue Tomato!