Nowadays most of the rollerblades you find in the market have bigger wheels. Gone are the days when the maximum wheel size you can have in skates was 80mm. Now, you can find many beginners to intermediate skates with 80mm wheels.
The wheel size is even bigger for the advanced high-end skates. With so much dilemma on wheel size, it becomes arduous to make a choice. So, should you pick big wheels or little wheels?
Bigger wheels suitable for experienced rollerbladers and allow skaters to move faster, while small wheels are roll much slower and are more suitable for beginners. 110mm are more efficient and require less effort to roll the same distance comparing with 76mm.
There are various parameters in play to get a satisfactory answer to that. More importantly, it depends on your individual skillset and skating domain. Some big size skates are suitable for specific skating disciplines to get the appropriate speed and maneuverability. However, little wheels are always better for beginners and people with intermediate skills. Bigger wheels are mandatory if you seek speed and efficiency.
Pros and Cons of Bigger Wheels
The following pros and cons will help you make a more appropriate choice for the wheel size of your inline skates.
- Easy to roll on uneven roads – Bigger wheels are the ideal choice for rolling over rough and rocky terrain. The wheel size of 100mm, 110mm, or more easily move over damaged roads, cracks, and cobblestones.
- They have a compact frame despite a bigger diameter – Big wheels are often counterbalanced by reducing the number of wheels on the skate frame. The bigger wheels are mostly found in 3-wheel configuration. They roll excellently, keep you comfortable, and stay agile.
- They offer a lighter setup – Bigger wheeled skates with 3-wheel configuration weigh comparatively less and keep the body weight balanced.
- Best for the need to speed – Bigger wheels are difficult to accelerate at first, but once they are rolling, they offer the best speed. They trap more energy while rolling and can maintain the speed for a much longer duration making them a perfect choice to run marathons.
- Ideal for many skating disciplines – You can use bigger wheels to run marathons, for recreational skating disciplines, and even for inline slaloms.
- Reduced grip – Bigger wheels offer less surface contact area on the ground and hence poor grip in comparison to smaller wheels.
- Add more height – Bigger wheels add more height to the skates which can be difficult to manage for some skaters. The additional height makes these skates less safe and less stable for the beginners.
- High-end price range – Bigger wheels are found in the majority of advanced high-end skates and are slightly expensive.
- Difficult to grind – Bigger wheeled skates with three-wheel configuration are more difficult to grind if you want to slide along a railing.
Parameters to Consider
Choosing between bigger and smaller wheels can be a challenge. Here are some parameters to consider when selecting the wheel size [source].
How Wheel Diameter Affects Performance?
The diameter of your wheels not only influences the overall height of the skates but also affects other attributes such as acceleration, speed, roll time, stability, and weight.
Wheels with a smaller diameter allow fast acceleration and require less effort to move. Wheels with larger diameter accelerate slowly and require more effort to move.
Larger wheels have better roll time, low rolling resistance and can reach top speed in no time. You may have to put more effort initially to get the larger wheels moving, but once they roll, they require less effort to keep moving faster. For this reason, bigger wheeled skates are suitable for long-distance speed skaters and outdoor skating sessions.
As for stability, smaller wheels are more stable than bigger wheels. Bigger wheels affect the center of gravity of the skater and may increase the overall flexing force that puts pressure on the ankles. Wheels make almost half of the total weight of a skate.
Therefore, it is important to consider the weight of the wheels as a mandatory parameter to select a wheel size. Heavier wheels offer better traction. But you may feel fatigued more quickly with heavier skates. Light-weight wheels allow you to make quick, fast movements but they are less stable.
Lighter wheels are more suitable for intermediate to advanced skaters while heavy small-sized compact wheels provide more stability to the beginners keeping them grounded.
How contact patch affects speed?
The width or profile of a wheel is its total size measured across. The contact patch is the area of the wheel that stays in contact with the surface and actually touches the ground.
The contact patch can define the grip and overall speed of the wheels. A wider contact patch found in smaller wheels provides a better grip and improved stability.
However, these wheels are heavy, slow, and difficult to maneuver quick movements. Narrow contact patch as in bigger wheels makes them less stable but easier to make movements.
The contact patch of the wheels defines the overall mass distribution and directly affects the rotational inertia. Bigger wheels primarily have better mass distribution and therefore effectively conserve the rotational momentum making them suitable for marathons. Bigger wheeled skates usually have fewer wheels which may increase the overall load per wheel, but improves rolling resistance.
Putting everything together, the ideal wheel size depends on the type of skating and your current skating skills. So, focus on your skating discipline to pick the correct wheel size. Different wheel size is ideal for different use. Disciplines like jam skating, artistic skating, speed skating, and roller derby require bigger wheels.
Making a Choice for the Wheel Size
Some skaters may find it intimidating and overwhelming to make a choice for the correct wheel size. Here is a little more insight for individual wheel size [source].
100 mm Plus Sized Wheels
Found in most advanced skates, these wheels roll faster and longer and offer increased speed. They do not require maximum thrust for each push. However, they are less maneuverable.
These skates with 100mm plus-size wheels are more suitable for skaters who intend to have intense training, want to prepare for a skating marathon, or prefer long-distance skating.
Bigger wheels are appropriate to travel long distances over 15 miles during a single skating session. These big-size wheeled skates have stiffer boots and offer great power transfer to the inline skaters.
90 mm Sized Wheels
If you prefer to choose your pace, you should go for 90mm skate wheels. These wheels allow you can go slow and stride at a high pace according to your ride. You can cruise over long distances with these 90mm wheeled inline skates.
They offer optimum maneuverability when skating through crowded places, rolling around with kids, or going down the busy streets of a city. The boots of these skates provide a stiff fit and are amazingly comfortable for the 90mm range.
80mm Sized Wheels
80 mm wheels combine comfort with ease. These wheels are found in almost all beginner to intermediate skates from different brands in the market.
With the 80mm wheels, you get great performance for the basics but you cannot use these skates to perform advanced tricks. These are more or less basic skates with moderate maneuverability. Although these skates do have some great features more suitable for beginners. Some of these include a quick closure system, optimum fit, and utmost comfort.
If your skating discipline includes moderate skating sessions and you are still working on the basics, you should pick 80mm wheeled skates.
You should know that you cannot have everything in a single pair of skates. In other words, the most comfortable skates that helped you master the basics may not be as effective to perform more advanced tricks.
You need to work past the one-size-fits-all theory. Analyze your skating discipline and the requirements for skates accordingly.
While some wheel sizes are more suitable for beginners, the others are mandatory to perform more advanced tricks. Now, you must be wondering about maintaining multiple pairs of skates. Well, get a good pair of skates depending on your discipline and skating skills.
If you are into aggressive inline skating, grab a pair of bigger-wheeled high-end inline skates. 84mm wheels will do better for recreational skating. For fitness skates, a 100mm wheel size will be a better fit. If you just want to roll around io the neighborhood or glide along a crowded park, 84mm inline skates will work just right.
Remember, bigger wheels like 100mm, 110mm, and more serve best for a need to speed. If your idea of skating is to roll around for a long-distance, feel no hesitation in picking bigger wheels.
You may find them difficult to maneuver in the beginning, but with a proper understanding of the wheel dynamics and regular practice of your skills, you will be able to roll on them without any issues.