How to Pick Out Skateboard Wheels
Picking out skateboard wheels for your new setup can be challenging at times. You see all these numbers and ratings on the packaging and you quickly feel confused and like you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t worry, we’ve all gone through it. That’s why we’re here to help!
Picking out good wheels are obviously important for skateboarding. They’re arguably the most important part of the skateboard, because without them you wouldn’t really go anywhere. We’ve put together a helpful buying guide for you, so you know what you’re looking for.
It’s important to note here that you want to get high quality wheels. Don’t go out and buy a Walmart board, because that gear isn’t high quality and can make your progression a lot slower and harder than it needs to be. For high quality gear and wheels, check out our online shop! We have everything you need to learn how to skate, and then some.
Here’s a brief outline on what we’re going to be covering in the following blog post.
- Your Needs
- Wheel Size
- Wheel Shape
- Measuring Wheel Hardness
- Picking out wheels
The first thing to consider is what type of skateboarding are you doing? Cruising around town? Tricks? Ramps and transitions? All of these have different types of wheels that make one set of wheels over another better for each case.
For instance, if you’re going to be doing a lot of street skating. Powersliding down the street, ollieing up and down curbs, going over different types of terrain, etc… For this type of skating, harder wheels and smaller wheels are more appropriate.
Before going out and buying a new set of wheels, really take a look at what kind of skating you do. This will make your purchase worth it and help improve your skateboarding style.
Skateboard wheel sizes are simply the diameter measured in millimeters. This number can range anywhere from 48mm to 60mm and up. The most popular wheel sizes are 51, 52 and 56.
But, what does these numbers actually mean? Why does it matter how big your wheel is? Well, here’s how it breaks down.
- 48-53: Smaller wheels, good for trick riding and skateparks.
- 54-59: These sizes are some of the most common. Good wheels for all around activities. Plus, as you skate the wheels, they start to degrade and get worn down. So, if you get a pair of 54mms, it won’t take a super long time for them to get around the size of a 53mm or 52mm.
- 60mm+: These are most often used for longboards and cruiser type of boards. Anything for off roading or a super smooth ride, these are great.
You’ll see from above that you can take a look at what type of skating you’re interested in. But, picking the wheel size is only one part of picking out your wheels. Next, we’re going to take a look at shapes. And yes, there are shapes for wheels.
Surprisingly, there are different shapes skateboard wheels. Some have a more narrow surface you’ll be skating on, and others are wider.
You’ll see from the diagram below the different shapes of skate wheels. While all of them don’t look super different from each other all of them offer different types of riding.
One new type of wheel is called the Conical Wheel. Conical wheels are all the rage right now. The idea is the side of the wheels dip in, leaving less friction on the side of the wheel. The riding surface is much wider than the classic wheels riding surface, which helps when cruising around and controlling the board. Because the wheels are wider and dip inside towards the bearing, this create a “cone” shape in the wheel, hence conical. Check out the photos below to see what we’re talking about.
Now that you understand the different shapes and sizes, it’s time to dive into the hardness of the wheel. This can make or break your setup and is the most important factor when taking into consideration whatever your riding style is. If you accidentally buy super hard wheels, but you know you’re going to be mostly in street areas and encountering cracks and pebbles and everything, you’re going to have a rough go. So let’s look at what wheel hardness actually is, and how to pick out the best hardness that suits you.
Skateboard wheels are generally made of polyurethane, and their hardness is measured in a durometer sliding scale. The scale is measured a 100-point scale, but for skateboarding purposes, it starts at 73a, and goes up to 101a. The lower the number on the scale, the softer the wheel is, and vice versa.
You’ll notice the numbers have an “a” at the end of the number. This just signifies the hardness and we’re using the “a” scale to measure the durometer. If there are any scientists out there who skate, you’ll know what I’m talking about!
Some manufacturers, like Bones for instance, use a “b” scale. This is slightly different, but know that they’re generally used for harder wheels. For instance, a 101a wheel, would be equivalent to an 81b wheel. A good rule of thumb is the “b” scale is 20 points less than the “a” scale.
Okay, science class is over. Now, let’s getting to choosing your wheel hardness.
- 75a-87a: These are super soft and you’ll find these on longboards and cruiser. Anyone looking for a smooth ride around town, a soft wheel in this range will do the trick.
- 88a-95a: Slightly harder, generally good for cruiser boards. Great for rough surfaces and cruising around town. These are slightly bigger than your average trick/park wheel (above), so keep that in mind when putting on your board.
- 96a-99a: Solid, all around good wheel range. Great for street skating and for freestyle skaters. You can skate the streets, ramps, bowls, skatepark, parking lots, etc… Most popular among beginners.
- 100a and up: These are super hard and considered to be “pro wheels”. Because they’re at the top of the scale, the grip the wheel has to the riding surface is less grippy, and not ideal for anyone that’s new to skateboarding.
Picking out your wheels
Now that you know all the different qualities and aspects that go into a skateboard wheel, you have a better idea of what kind of wheel you want to get. It’s time to put them all together!
Just like everything about skateboarding, your wheel choice is personal. Some pro skaters shred a 54mm, while others like 51mm. If you’re very new to skateboarding, I’d recommend going to your local shop and looking at all their wheel options. This is a great way to see all the different sizes and shapes, so you’ll know what you actually want.
For more information, you can check out the video we made on choosing skateboard wheels. You can see the different hardness and sizes of the wheels, and it’s very detailed and informative.
Awesome! Now that you know what to look for in skateboard wheels, go out there and skate! Skateboarding is all about pushing yourself, learning new things and having fun!
What wheels are you riding on? Snap a photo of your board setup and tag @brailleskate, #brailleskate and #brailleskateboarding. We love to see you guys progressing and pushing yourself to learn more tricks. Keep them coming!
If you’re new to skateboarding and looking to improve your skills, definitely check out Skateboarding Made Simple. It’s the most detailed lesson plan for skateboarding that exists. With 9 different volumes, you’ll go from learning how to ride on a board, to skating skateparks and landing more advanced flatground tricks in no time!
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