Choosing Skateboard Wheels. Part 1: Profile and Diameter

Skateboard wheels… One might wonder, what’s the fuss about them — just some round pieces of various sizes made of rubber. But things are not as simple as they may first seem. To see why just visit a skate shop at least once and approach a showcase of wheels. There they are — of numerous colors, large and small, expensive and cheap, with different digits written on them… How can one make a final choice out of all this variety?

In both this and the following post, we are going to answer this question and tell you everything you need to take into consideration while choosing wheels for your skateboard.

What are Skateboard Wheels Made of?

A long time ago — before the 1960s — wheels were made of rubber, plastics, ceramics, and even metal! Can you imagine the ‘joy’ of riding back then? It’s so great these times are bygone! 

Ancestors of the polyurethane

Nowadays, skateboard wheels are made of polyurethane, which seems to have been designed specifically for riding the asphalt: it features perfect grip and allows skating on rougher terrains with comfort. And it can be of multiple colors too!

How to Choose Skateboard Wheels

When choosing wheels, the following parameters must be considered: diameter, width, contact patch, corner shape/profile, hardness/durometer, rebound, and the location and shape of the hub.

Diameter of Skateboard Wheels

Wheels diameter is one of the most apparent and key parameters. 

When choosing a wheel diameter, keep in mind the following rule: 

  • A larger diameter means a higher maximum speed of the skate;
  • A smaller diameter means faster acceleration.

Fewer efforts are needed to start turning a small wheel — that’s why smaller diameter wheels feature a faster acceleration. 

As for the maximum possible speed, though, a skateboard equipped with larger diameter wheels will ride faster. The reason is, with the same rate of angular rotation, a larger diameter wheel will cover a longer distance compared to a smaller diameter wheel. The same reason accounts for larger coasting: a large-diameter wheels skate will slide farther after foot pumping.

Size matters

Another difference between larger and smaller diameter wheels is the way they move over rough terrains. Due to a larger circle radius, a larger wheel will experience less shaking and jolting on bite-size hubbles of poor quality asphalt.

If the only place you’re hanging out is a skatepark, then there’s no need to worry about skating on a poor surface. If you regularly skate over the city streets, though, a cheesy asphalt may be quite a problem. 

Here is a recommended choice of a wheel diameter depending on your preferred skating style:

  • 48-58 mm: street, skatepark;
  • 58мм+: ramps, bowls, pools;
  • 60-75мм: cruising, surfskate;
  • 64-80мм+: longboard.

Some longboards may even have wheels reaching 101 mm in diameter. However, such wheels may hit the deck when making turns, which is really dangerous at high speed! To avoid wheel biting, skateboard manufacturers provide for indents designed for the wheels. Additionally, riser pads can be mounted between a deck and a truck.

This should not be happening!

Width of Skateboard Wheels

A wheel’s contact patch is determined by the wheel’s width and the shape of its edges. The wider the contact patch, the higher the grip and slide control, which is good if you aim to practice strong carving turns

Slides are easier to make on narrow wheels, but they wear out quicker. And if you make sideway powerslides regularly, flat-spotting is likely to occur, causing irregularity in the wheel circle. And as you can guess, this will directly impact the way the wheel moves. 

Corner Shape

The corner shape of the wheel may significantly influence a rider’s experience when skating on rough asphalt. It also affects the wheel survivability and sliding capability. 

Rectangular or sharp corners wheels provide for strong road grip because the wheel corner kind of wraps around any surface roughness. Such wheels feature the widest possible contact patch.

Rectangular corner wheel

Rectangular corner wheels are good for high-speed maneuvering. Still, the sharp corner will eventually rub out and turn into a rounded one. 

Rounded corner wheels feature a lesser grip and predictably lose less speed when getting into a slide.

Rounded corner wheel

A larger corner radius results in a wheel that is more wear-resistant but has reduced grip.

A flat angled corner wheel, or conical wheel, is an intermediate option between rounded and sharp corners.

Flat angled corner wheel

A corner shape/profile is a matter of principle for longboard riders, but it is not critical for a surfskate or a cruiser.

In the following posts, you will learn everything about the skateboard wheels’ hardness/durometer, rebound, and hub.