Longboard Wheels: Your Connection to the Streets
It’s your wheels that make cruising on a longboard feel like you’re surfing on the streets. They are your direct link to the ground below. Just like the tyres on a Formula 1 car, your longboard wheels determine how the rest of your setup performs. These babies are almost exclusively responsible for your grip and comfort – soft wheels are grippier and ride smoother and hard wheels are slicker and absorb less shock. But remember: if you want to get the most out of your longboard, you need to make sure all your hardware works in harmony.
- Wheel size: the most obvious characteristic
- Wheel hardness
- Wheel shape
- The Bearing Seat: the home of your bearings
Wheel size: the most obvious characteristic
Wheel diameter can vary between 60 mm and 100 mm for longboards. Smaller wheels accelerate faster and make your slides nice and easy to control but won’t ride as smoothly over uneven surfaces or cobbles as larger wheels. Longboard wheels around 70 mm are an all-round solution and are used in most complete longboards, which can be ridden straight off the shelf and which are designed to get the most out of each individual component.
Wheels larger than 70 mm have the advantage of being extra stable at high speeds. Longboard wheels this size also make short work of uneven surfaces and cracks, giving you a super smooth ride and protecting your bearings from too much wear and tear. All this stability and extra grip comes at the cost of slide performance though – slides are much harder to initiate with larger, softer wheels.
Wheel bite is what we call contact between your deck and wheels. When they come together the friction causes you to decelerate - potentially so rapidly that your longboard stops entirely, sending you flying and increasing the risk of injury. To make sure your wheels don’t get too hungry, be sure to pay close attention to your longboard shape and truck width when deciding which wheels to buy.
Just remember: Wheel size
The hardness of your wheels is given an “A” value by manufacturers. This ranges from 75A (super soft wheels) to 90A (very hard). Soft wheels will give your longboard more grip and comfort, but hard wheels are better for sliding exactly because they have less grip.
80A wheels are a good hardness for short distance riding on even tarmac – such as in towns and cities. Wheels this soft are usually used with a cruiser deck. If you happen to live at the top of a steep hill, however, we would recommend harder wheels – between 85A and 90A – for long, poked out slides around those alpine hairpins.
As well as the hardness and size of your longboard wheels, their shape also plays an important part in how your setup rides. There are essentially two different wheel lip profiles: sharp and bevelled. Slides are easier to initiate with the smaller contact surface of bevelled wheels, while sharp lipped wheels will give you more grip and stability thanks to their larger contact patch.
The Bearing Seat: Where your bearings live
To give you as comprehensive a picture of the factors affecting wheel performance as possible, let us tell you a little bit about the bearing seat. As much as it sounds like technical jargon, it’s just what we call the part of the wheels where the bearings go. There are three different positions:
- Center set
- Side set
So hopefully now you know your way around a set of longboard wheels and are ready to shop for your dream board. Just figure out which riding style is for you –downhill, freeride, or carving and cruising – and let us help you on your way to your new longboard setup.