October 22 2020 – Sam Blondeau
Choosing the right wheels is just as important as choosing the right board and trucks. You wouldn’t put monster truck tires on a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback now, would you? The technology put into wheels has evolved enormously since the beginning of skateboarding when companies would use materials like clay, stone, and sometimes even metal. These days, urethane has been developed into so many different formulas and shapes, all with specialized purposes to make the ride perfect depending on the discipline. There are a lot of aspects to look for in a wheel. The following list is not comprehensive, rather a general guide for if you’ve never bought wheels before.
Size (Diameter/ Width/ Contact Patch)
The size of the wheel is something to keep in mind after you’ve chosen your board and truck setup. As we saw in ride height, if your wheels have too big a diameter for the board, you might meet the asphalt with your face, and we don’t want that now, do we? Keep in mind as well that if you’re getting a big dancing board for a comfy cruiser that big wheels might make it heavy for carrying. Be that as it may, you’ll have a silky-smooth ride that will make up for the weight.
The diameter of the wheels will also affect the speed of your ride. The bigger the wheel, the slower the acceleration but the faster the top speed. It’s the opposite for small wheels, as they can accelerate quickly but don’t usually have as high a top speed. Bigger wheels will maintain speed for much longer, too, so some Caguamas for a cruiser set up like the AB 2.0 would assure considerable roll time.
The contact patch of your wheel will come into play when you turn your board sideways. This is the part of your wheel that hugs the asphalt. If you have a bigger contact patch, then there’s more friction during your slides and more chances that you’ll decelerate quicker, however you’ll have more grip during turns. If your contact patch is smaller, then your slides should last longer and you’ll have a little less grip.
The durometer refers to the hardness of the urethane of your wheel. Longboarding wheels go from about 75a (soft) to 90a (hard), whereas skateboarding wheels are much harder and will average around 100a.
In general, the softer the wheel, the grippier, and the opposite is true for the harder wheels. If you want wheels that slide, you would go for a higher durometer, and if you’re looking for wheels to go fast and stay under you, you would go for a lower durometer. Freeriding wheels have a durometer around 80-85a, and racing wheels will average 75-78a. Once you’ve experimented with enough wheels, you’ll dial in your ideal durometer.
I’m telling you, this technology is layered like an onion! The lips are the outer edge of the wheel, and their profile will greatly affect your ride, dictating how easily you can go sideways. Square lips, radiused and beveled are the three different types.
Square lips like are ideal for going fast and being in confidence that your wheels won’t just slide out from under you in a sharp turn since they are designed to keep grip for racing or downhill. The abrupt edge helps the wheel adhere to the ground when subjected to the G-force in a turn and requires a more drastic weight shift when engaging in a slide than both other types of wheels.
Radiused wheels like the Morgan Pro Series are ideal for freeriding since starting slides is easier. With a smaller contact patch whose rounded edge is not a key component of the wheel’s grip, there’s no need to crank your body to be able to swing the wheels and the board sideways as required to overcome a square lip. Additionally, bringing the board back to its natural position is a smoother transition.
Beveled lips have a flat contact patch and are shaved off at an angle on both sides. With similar physics to the radiused wheels, their advantage is that the contact patch stays uniform until you shave them away past the bevel from several sliding sessions.
This is what the urethane of the wheel sits on and what the bearings rest in. You can either have a centerset, offset, or sideset core.
Centerset cores are smack in the middle of the wheel’s width. Since they can be flipped to preserve longevity of the urethane, they are great for freeriding. They do have the largest inner lip of all three options, so the extra grip should be kept in mind.
Offset cores are a little bit off centered and are the perfect wheel for riders who want to downhill and freeride. There’s a smaller inner lip to encourage freeriding, but a big enough patch of wheel on the outside of the core to keep you dialed in around fast bends.
Sideset wheels have cores that are furthest from the center. They are in line with the inner lip, and since there is little to no grip on the inside of the wheel, they will initiate slides easier than the two other types. They are the hardest slides to control, however, something to bear in mind at high speeds.
You also should keep in mind the size of your core. A larger core lowers the mass and is more efficient in terms of speed because it takes less effort to accelerate on a lighter wheel. It can also help wear the urethane uniformly since the wheel won’t deform as much under the G-force experienced while the wheel rotates.