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Skateboard Wheels Buying Guide

Skateboard wheels don’t just make your board look a certain way. They also help determine how fast you’ll go, how well you’ll handle different terrain, and how technical your ride will be. There are several things to keep in mind when making a selection. Most skateboard wheels are made of polyurethane, but you will still need to pick what size and durometer is best for you. This guide helps you narrow down your needs so you can pick out the best skateboard wheels for your type of riding.

Does Skateboard Wheel Size Matter?

Skateboard wheel size helps determine how fast you’ll go and how technical your ride will be. Larger wheels allow you to have a smoother, more comfortable ride. They are also better for riding through different terrain. Smaller wheels are better for tight turns and tricks. Wide skateboard wheels will give you a smoother ride but aren’t conducive for performance riding.

The perfect size for you might be based on personal preference. Your height and weight may also help determine what size feels best. Skateboard wheels are measured by durometer and diameter. Durometer refers to how firm your wheels are. Diameter is the actual size of the wheel. Skateboard wheels are measured in millimeters. Most range from 50 to 75 millimeters. Smaller numbers indicate a lower durometer while higher numbers signal a larger durometer.

Wheel diameter dictates how tight your turns will be and how well your board accelerates. Larger wheels will give you a faster ride while smaller wheels may slow you down. However, because they are lower to the ground and easier to control, smaller wheels are the best wheels for street skating. Beginner skaters or skaters who use their board as their daily transportation may want to stick with larger wheels. This is because a wheel with an increased diameter provides more balance, which is ideal for vert skating or cruising.

Here is a breakdown of the most common wheel sizes:

  • 50 to 53 mm: these smaller sized wheels are ideal for technical and trick riding. You can use them at skate parks and bowls. Expect your ride to be slower when you use small wheels.
  • 54 to 59 mm: these medium or average sized wheels are ideal for bigger riders or beginners. You can use them at skate parks and bowls. They also work well for daily riding.
  • 60 mm and above: these large wheels are useful for specialty riding that involves speed skating, transition, or skating on rougher surfaces. They work well on longboards, cruisers, or older boards. Use a bigger wheel if you will be skating bowls and halfpipes or bombing hills. 

A contact patch refers to the part of the wheel that comes in contact with the pavement. Large wheels will give you a greater contact patch while smaller wheels provide less contact. The contact patch helps distribute your weight over the skateboard. Round wheels make more contact with the ground than square wheels. Choose a larger wheel if you want a more stable ride. Go with a smaller wheel if you will be shifting your weight around more.

Soft Skateboard Wheels Vs. Hard Skateboard Wheels

A wheel’s durometer can indicate whether it’s better suited for longboarders or skateboarders. Most skateboarders use the Durometer A Scale to determine how hard a wheel is. This is a 100 point scale that determines how soft or firm a wheel is. Some wheel manufacturers use the B scale, which has a 20 point difference regarding durometer. The average wheel durometer is around 99 on the A scale or 80 on the B scale.

Harder wheels tend to be faster while softer wheels are slower because they grip better. Harder wheels are better suited for skate parks and rides on smooth surfaces. Some brands offer a dual-durometer wheel where the inside of the wheel measures one way while the outside of the wheel is either harder or softer. This type of wheel is ideal for skaters who need a tailored or custom wheel.

Here are some guidelines to follow when making a decision about firmness:

  • 78 to 87 A: these softer wheels are ideal for longboarders or rough surfaces. They offer lots of grip and can easily roll over small rocks, cracks, and hills. 
  • 88 to 95 A: these wheels offer less grip than the group above, but enough that they can still be enjoyed by someone who longboards or does a combination of street riding and riding over rough surfaces.
  • 96 to 99 A: this wheel is a good option for someone who needs an all-around wheel. You can use it at the skate park, ramps, pools, or as a beginner. 
  • 101+: these wheels are harder and faster to provide the least amount of grip so you can do tricks. Many pros use this scale rating.

Narrow Skateboard Wheels Vs. Wide Skateboard Wheels

Along with different heights and levels of firmness, skateboard wheels come in different widths. Wheels with a narrow lip will give you a lighter ride with less friction. They are ideal for riders who do tricks because they are more responsive to agile movements.

Larger riders, commuters, and beginners may want to stick with a wider lip or a cruiser wheel because they have the best grip. Standard wide lip wheels offer the best of both worlds because they are balanced and sturdy. You can use them at skate parks for tricks as well as your daily commute. However, they are slower than narrow wheels and may not handle tricks as well.

Best Skateboard Wheels For Street Riding

Street skateboard wheels typically range from 50 mm to 53 ml. This allows the rider to make tight turns more accurately. Anything above 53 mm is ideal for cruising or riding faster. Choosing a harder wheel is a good option if you plan on doing tricks.

Best Skateboard Wheels For Cruising

If your objective is to use your skateboard as your daily transportation, then you’ll want to go with a wheel that’s 53 mm or larger. Larger wheels will give you a faster ride and they are more conducive to handling different types of terrain. Choosing a wheel that’s too small could delay your travels or cause you to wipe out if you hit a rough patch. Stick with a softer wheel that grips well and provides a smooth ride.