Choosing Skateboard Wheels. Part 2: Hardness

To continue the previous post‘s topic about skateboard wheels, here we’ll talk about wheels’ roughness and rebound and how these properties affect skateboard performance. 

Magical Polyurethane

Skateboard wheels have changed a lot since when they used to be made of metal or hard clay. Anyone who has shifted from those materials to polyurethane wheels will tell you there’s some drastic difference between them. Polyurethane wheels allow gaining more speed and offer a greater grip with the terrain. And, in general, it’s much more comfortable to ride them.

Polyurethane seems to have been tailored for wheels


One of the polyurethane’s properties is a rebound, which allows polyurethane to regain its original shape after being restrained.

To see this working in real life, let’s take wheels of different hardness and drop them on a concrete floor. A wheel with a higher hardness/durometer value will jump higher because of its’ larger rebound. 

Actually, it is rebound that gives polyurethane so much advantage against other materials. To understand how it works, imagine a slightly deflated rubber tire mounted on a skateboard wheel. When you stand on the board, the tire will be slightly compressed. That’s exactly what polyurethane does, too, except this process goes undetected by a human eye.

As you start moving, the rear part of the ‘tire’ returns to its original state in the course of rolling. This is accompanied by a tiny energy outburst that slightly pushes the wheels and thus accelerates them.

If the wheels are too soft, this will result in a rather weak spring-back, and some of the energy released will get lost. Too hard wheels, though, will cause the terrain to ‘shrink,’ resulting in some energy loss too. So, for an ideal skate ride, the choice of the wheels’ hardness (and hence — of its rebound) shall be determined by the kind of your preferred terrains. The rougher the surface, the softer the wheel must be, and the other way around. 

How to Choose a Skateboard Wheel’s Hardness/Durometer

A skateboard wheel’s hardness is measured by a durometer. This is the wheel’s second most important property that must be considered when choosing a wheel.

Hardness is measured by the Shore Durometer Scale. This scale is used mostly to determine the hardness of various polymeric materials, including polyurethane. Most manufacturers of skateboard wheels use the Shore Durometer A scale. Normally, skateboard wheels have a durometer value of 75a and above.

Some manufacturers use the Shore Durometer B scale instead, which measures 20 points fewer than the A Scale. For example, a 100a durometer wheel can also be identified as 80b. The second scale is used to identify wheels with higher hardness.

For less energy loss, wheel hardness must be chosen depending on your skating style.

For instance, wheels with 75а through 85а durometer (a higher number means a harder wheel) are normally used for longboards, surfskates, and cruisers. While trick skates usually have wheels with even higher durometer value, like 99-101а (or 82-84b). The reason is that trick skateboards are mostly used for riding smooth terrains (in skateparks, for example), and a tail kick requires some decent wheel rebound. On the other hand, longboards, surfskates, and cruisers are generally used for commuting/transportation, where the quality of the streets’ pavement is far from perfect.

Hardness/Durometer and Grip

Hardness affects grip too. The general rule is, the rougher the surface, the less grip you’ve got. 

On poor-quality surfaces, harder wheels will experience less grip than softer ones. Rebound will cause strong jolting of harder wheels. While softer wheels kind of wrap around the road imperfections, thus increasing the grip. Hence, they make riding a rough asphalt or pavement much more comfortable.

The higher the grip, the stronger the turns!

So, the things that must be considered when choosing the wheels’ hardness are the quality of your preferred terrain, in the first place, and your skating style. Soft wheels will ride well over a third-rate asphalt and will be more difficult to slide. Hence, it will be easier to perform powerful maneuvers at high speed. Hard wheels, thought, will ride faster over smoother surfaces, but they will feature less grip. On the bright side, they are the easiest to slide too.

The following post will tell you about the skateboard wheel’s hub and how it can affect your skating.