The wheels of skateboards are usually the most commonly replaced part, simply because it’s the part that undergoes the most abuse. With that said, every skater should know when is the right time to buy new skateboard wheels. Buying new wheels may seem like something pretty straightforward, but it actually isn’t. There are various different types, shapes, colours and sizes of skateboard wheels, and while yes, most of these decisions come down to personal preference as is the case with almost anything skateboard related, some decisions are dependent on the type of skating you do, how large your board is, and the durometer of the wheels.
When you’re out to buy skateboard wheels, you’ll find wheels of different size – the most common ones being 48mm, 52mm, 56mm and 60mm. Smaller wheels are suitable for flatground skating, because they allow for faster acceleration, which is ideal for performing tricks in skate parks. On the other hand, larger wheels accelerate slower, but are capable of reaching higher speeds. Additionally, larger wheels have a lesser chance of getting stuck in rocks or cracks. If you’re into cruising and longboarding, then you’re better off with buying larger wheels.
Once you’ve decided on the size you want/need, check the durometer the wheels have. The durometer scale is used to determine the toughness or hardness of skateboard wheels. The scale consists of 100 points and is used by most manufacturers. For instance, you can buy skateboard wheels that are close to 100A durometer if you want them to be hard and tough, or you can opt for wheels that are 80A on the durometer scale, if you want softer wheels that offer a smoother ride.
Moreover, there are different types of wheels based on their shape. The most popular shapes are the standard (normal), conical, radial, core and cruiser. The standard shaped wheels have a slim contact area and curved bevelled edges. Conical wheels, on the other hand, have a wider contact area and sidewalls which slightly cone inwards. Radial skateboard wheels have robustly bevelled edges and a large contact area. Core wheels have a separate inner area typically made of plastic which is where they host the bearings. Lastly, cruiser wheels have a low durometer so that cruisers can experience a smoother ride.
Most skateboard wheels are made of polyurethane, as it’s reliable and durable. In the past, skaters relied on clay wheels or roller-derby wheels. But once urethane was introduced, it became the standard for the industry.