Tips For Choosing Roller Skate Wheels

When it comes to roller skate wheels, figuring out what you need to know is hard when you don't know what you don't know... and sorting through all the options can seem a bit overwhelming. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or just starting out, understanding what to roll with and where can make a significant difference in your performance.

There are a few different types of roller skating and they all require slightly different setups. Outdoor skating might need a softer wheel for rough terrain, while indoor or park skating will need something harder for slides and polished surfaces, while derby will require speed and agility from strong cores and shaped wheels. There's obviously a lot of different skate configurations for different scenarios, but let's focus on the basics of choosing the right wheels for indoor and outdoor skating.

The core of the issue

Most skate wheels are made from polyurethane, a durable plastic that has good grip and endurance. The hub or core is made from either Nylon or Aluminium. The core is where the skate bearings snap into place and holds your wheels onto the axles. Nylon hubs are light tend to be softer though slower. Aluminium hubs are stronger and more rigid than Nylon but offer slightly smoother spins and speed.

The mysteries of the Durometer

All roller skate wheels are graded according to their hardness using a scale called the Durometer. This scale can get pretty confusing if you're new to the roller world but to break it down, the hardness of a wheel is measured on the A-scale, ranging from low to high, with lower numbers like 74A being very soft and higher numbers like 105A being very hard. The hardness of a wheel will affect the durability, shock absorption, and grip on your indoor or outdoor surfaces.

For indoor skating, usually on coated wood or coated concrete, you would want something hard such as a 97A for standard surfaces, 95A for slippery surfaces, or 92A for extra slippery surfaces. For outdoor skating on normal concrete or asphalt you would want something soft in the range of 78A-85A.

It's all about height and girth!

The width of a roller skate wheel is known as the profile and ranges from roughly 31mm to 44mm. Narrower roller skate wheels are great for advanced skaters or things like artistic skating, and will lower your centre of gravity for maximum manoeuvrability. Wider roller skate wheels are great for beginners, offering a higher centre of gravity which provides more stability and traction, so they're great for rough surfaces or speed skating.

Wheel sizes are referred to in diameter and ranges from roughly 45mm to 70mm. Bigger diameter wheels are generally faster for speed skating and outdoor surfaces, whereas artistic skating requires smaller diameter wheels for stability and mobility.

Hopefully this gives you a little extra info to roll with and if you're still unsure on your feet, try keeping these extra tips in mind:

  • Maintain Bent Knees: When you’re new to skating, focus on keeping your knees bent and avoid staring at your feet.
  • Weight Shifting: Roller skating involves shifting your weight rather than just moving your feet.
  • Slow Roll Bearings: Consider using slow roll substitute bearings initially—they’ll help you learn at a comfortable pace before switching back to regular bearings.
  • Wheel Hardness Matters: The hardness of your wheels and the skating surface are crucial factors when choosing wheels.
  • Softer Wheels for Practice: Start with softer 78A wheels when practicing outdoors on roads and carparks after purchasing your skates.
  • Taller Wheels for Outdoors: Opt for taller wheels for better performance on outdoor surfaces.