Simple guide to skateboard and longboard wheels

By Ty Mixon |
Updated:
October 10, 2022 |
Long boards

Wheels are not just wheels.

A set of wheels that suits your riding style will greatly improve your skating skills.

There are many different types, and among these types there are different parameters. Each type of wheel suits a particular riding style, while each parameter better suits the individual needs of the rider.

If you’re confused about skateboard wheels and don’t know where to start, or if you’re a seasoned rider who wants to learn more, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s cover first…

What are they made of?

Skateboard and longboard wheels are made of polyurethane, a type of plastic derived from oil. Polyurethane has many characteristics similar to rubber and plastic, but unlike rubber, polyurethane has a higher rebound and hardness than plastic.

It is much more durable and flexible for different hardness. Different brands have different urethane formulas. These formulas give a wheel the feel they have.

The formula can make the wheels harder and softer, provide better grip and glide. They do this by mixing the chemicals in different proportions and using different techniques in the molding and curing process.

If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry, this isn’t something you need to know. I just thought it was cool to record.

The main takeaway is that the formula of the wheel is everything.

There are formulas for sliding, carving, cruising, freeriding, street skating, park skating, surf skating and slalom. You name it, there’s probably a specific formula for it.

I’ll suggest some solid brands towards the end of this article if you’re curious. When you’re at the store, read the packaging to get a summary of the wheel’s intended use, and it’s always a safe practice to research a wheel before purchasing. Look up reviews, call a friend. It’s better to play it safe and do your research than buy a set of wheels you’ll never use.

Durometer

The basis of durometer is the smaller the number, the softer the wheel. Softer wheels are normally 78-85a and are best suited for rough terrain and carving.

Harder wheels range from 85a-101a and are best suited for smoother terrain and slides.

This is just a simple explanation.

It goes more into the feel of the wheel than the hardness. Many soft slide formulas have a softer durometer like 83a, but slide more like a 100a wheel. There are harder wheels that work well on rougher terrain.

But when looking for a specific hardness for a specific type of skate, the durometer is the most important feature advertised. So this is where you start your assessment.

Core:

The core of the wheels is usually not advertised, but knowing how the core affects your driving can help you decide when choosing your wheels. In general, cored wheels are slightly harder and have more rebound than non-core wheels. Harder wheels may or may not have them because the effect is not as pronounced, but softer wheels with cores have less flex and slightly more rebound than soft wheels without cores. So if you’re looking for a softer slide wheel then you’re looking for a wheel with a big pronounced core, but if you’re looking for a softer cruiser wheel with more grip and less slip then try to find one that doesn’t core has .

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Mate

The bigger the wheel, the slower it will accelerate, but the longer it will hold the momentum of a push. So with this in mind, smaller wheels don’t hold momentum as well as larger wheels when faced with terrain that has cracks or bumps; however, the smaller wheels will accelerate much faster if the terrain is slippery or there are inclines.

Personal preference above all, but below is a rough guide.

50-55mm wheels

Best suited for street skating, street obstacles. Can be used in pools or bowls, and can also be used for cruising; however not preferred.

55-60mm wheels

Best suited for pool skating, mini cruisers and technical slide.

60-65mm wheels

Best suited for longboards, cruisers and surf skates. These are a good size for commuting, slides, freestyle longboarding and carving/pumping.

65-70mm wheels

Most suitable for longboards. This size is really more reserved for commuting and downhill riding. Wheels that large tend to be harder to slide at lower speeds.

70-75mm wheels

Best suited for long distance and commuting.

80mm + wheels

Best suited for long distances, commuting and electric skateboards.

To shape

Longboard wheel molds are composed of…

Width

Wider wheels have more drag than narrow wheels, but they have a few advantages.

  • Works better for rolling over bumps and cracks.
  • More grip for fast turns and carving.

Narrow wheels usually accelerate faster and slide better.

  • Roll further than a wider wheel of the same size and specification due to reduced drag.
  • Will be uncomfortable and won’t roll as far on rougher surfaces.

Carrying seat

The two most common are center and offset. If it’s in the middle, that center is set. And if it’s on the side, it’s either offset or side set.

Center set wheels are the most common.

  • Center wheels are pivotable, preferable for sliding and long distance travel to promote even wheel wear.

Offset wheels are preferred for carving.

  • Allows more polyurethane to sit outside the bearing seat and core resulting in more flex for carving.

The only downside is that you can’t spin these wheels. You can, but then you have to turn them back.

Wheel rim profile

Rounded lip or sharp edge (sharp edge is also called racing edge)

A rounded lip is generally better for slides.

  • More mass and support above the rim of the wheel provide more rebound.
  • This is usually better for slides as the wheel slips rather than grips due to the greater support.

A sharp edge is better for cutting.

  • This is because there isn’t as much support at the rim, making it more likely to sag under pressure.
  • This provides more grip and is less likely to slip under pressure.

It boils down

It’s best to try a lot of different wheels to find out what’s best for you.

If you skate in skateparks, go for a 50-55mm wheel.

If you’re cruising around campus in a mini cruiser, maybe look for a 60mm wheel.

If you travel longer distances, 65mm and more is the right choice.

Please note that this is just a reference. You can commute on a 55mm wheel, but if it’s more than a few miles to your destination, you’d probably appreciate a 65mm wheel.

Ty Mixon

In rural Southeast Georgia, I’ve devoted the last 13 years of my life to skateboarding. I hope to share my knowledge and stoke with fellow riders.

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