The choice for the type and size of your skate wheels can drastically alter your overall skating experience. Therefore, it is essential to gather some basic information before you plan to buy your very first pair of rollerblades.
So, why are the type and size important in rollerblade wheels. You should note that the wheels of your rollerblades are designed by combining different properties to accommodate the various skill levels and different sizes of the skaters. You can find a whole range of rollerblades for a variety of inline sport disciplines to match up varied skating surfaces or conditions. A little understanding of the various wheel components and properties can prove fruitful while purchasing a new pair or replacing older wheels on your existing skates.
Various components can influence the choice of your rollerblades. You should start by learning about the anatomy of rollerblade wheels. Learn about how the durometer of your wheels affects your skating experience.
Identify how the different wheel profiles influence your skating maneuvers. You should know the technicalities regarding wheel size or wheel diameter. Identify which type of wheels work best for your skating type and skill levels. It is also beneficial to get a few lessons on wheel rotations. [source]
Anatomy of Rollerblade Wheels
Whether you plan to be a professional or learn skating for fun; you should know the basic wheel components which may influence your rollerblade wheel performance. Your wheels play the same role in your skates as the tires of a vehicle. You will find a whole variety of wheels in the market.
These different varieties may vary in diameter sizes usually measured in millimeters, hardness identified by the numerical reading of the durometer with differing amounts of rebound to indicate grip and responsiveness, and shapes called profiles.
Each distinctive design serves as a unique footprint in determining the performance of the wheel for various skating disciplines or varied conditions of the skating surface.
For example, recreational skates usually have small to medium-sized, softer wheels, which possess good gripping properties for controlling speed and vibration. Similarly, speed skates have harder, faster, bigger wheels to offer better control for inline racing. Aggressive skates have smaller wheels to offer better maneuverability.
Irrespective of the design, all skating wheels include bearings, polyurethane, spacers, and hub as basic components. Further, the design of wheels follows industry standards for the discipline.
As bearings are one of most important components make sure you check our post: How to Choose Roller Skate Wheels Bearings?
The ideal thickness for all inline skates as per the industry standards is about 24mm. The wheels have a numerical marking in mm for the diameter size and a number with the letter A to represent the wheel’s durometer.
Rollerblade Wheel Profiles
The size and profiles of your wheels can greatly influence your skating performance. The profile of your inline skate is identified by the shape of your skate wheel from a head-on viewpoint. In other words, the profile identifies what portions of your wheels touch the ground while skating.
You should note that different wheels may differ drastically in their profile views and different profiles are suitable for different purposes in skating.
As a skater, you must acquire a basic understanding of the profile of the wheels. A wider flatter wheel may provide more traction and better grip, but also offer increased rolling resistance and does not glide well. For this reason, aggressive inline skaters prefer smaller wheels for better grip and improved control.
Speed skaters, in turn, prefer narrower taller wheels to ensure less rolling resistance and more responsiveness.
Are Rollerblade Wheels Universal?
Certainly not. A single type or size of rollerblades cannot serve effectively for different skating disciplines. For this reason, the following different wheel sizes and configurations are available for varied skating disciplines:
- 42-72mm wheels are suitable for aggressive skating. These wheels are short, wide, and have a rounded profile with a solid core. The smaller wheels serve as anti-rockers.
- 72-80mm wheels are suitable for slalom skating. These wheels have an average height and rounded profile for better maneuverability. Similar skates are used in figure skating and inline hockey for better grip and improved maneuverability.
- Hockey skaters prefer a wheel size of 64-80mm. These wheels are wide and have a rounded profile for traction and better grip.
- 68-76mm wheels work best for artistic and figure inline skating. These wheels have an average height and a rounded profile for improved maneuverability and better grip.
- 70-78mm wheel size is suitable for recreational skating. These wheels have an average height and an average profile for use in various disciplines.
- You require a wheel size of 76-90mm for earnest fitness skating. These wheels are tall and have a slightly thinner profile to support distance travel.
- Marathon skating requires a wheel size of 90-110mm, with taller, thinner, and tapered wheels to support skating on controlled surfaces.
If you are a competitive skater or professional in any inline skating discipline; considering wheel size and profile will be even more important.
How Durometer Affects Wheel Performance?
The durometer of your wheels can significantly influence your performance on your skates. The wheel durometer represents the hardness of your skate wheels. It is usually stamped as the second measurement on the wheel or its packaging by a number followed by the letter A. For example, a wheel marked with 76mm/78A will have a diameter of 76 millimeters and a hardness of 78A.
A larger number for the durometer indicates more hardness. On the bright side, better hardness indicates longevity. In other words, a harder wheel will be more durable and survive longer.
However, it may give you a rough ride and offers a poor grip on the skating surface. A smaller number for the durometer indicates a softer wheel, that offers a better grip and a smoother ride. Nevertheless, the smoother wheels may not last as long.
How to Choose a Durometer for Your Skating Discipline?
Durometer ratings never go beyond a reading of 100A. The durometer reading for recreational skate wheels lies in a range of 78A to 82A. Indoor skates usually have a durometer between 72A to 78A. The reading for outdoor skates lies between 80A to 84A.
Inline skaters prefer wheels with a higher durometer reading suitable for aggressive skating, which may reach up to the 90s. One thing to remember is that you can have wheels with different durometer ratings in your inline skates. Such a mixture of wheel durometers provides a combination of better surface grip and a smoother ride in case of speed skating, figure skating, and aggressive inline skating.
Your Skating Preferences
Sometimes, your skating preferences serve as a determining factor for the wheel durometer you prefer. For example, many seasoned skaters prefer to choose a unique assembly of wheel durometers. Contrary to the general rules, such a unique wheel durometer combinations help them achieve their skating goals and develop a personal skating style based on previous wheel experiences.
How Does Inline Skate Wheel Diameter Influence Skating?
The size of your wheels is a primary factor in determining your overall skating experience. The diameter and height of your inline skate wheel measured in millimeters can influence your skating performance.
Under ideal skating conditions, taller wheels will roll faster in comparison to shorter counterparts when you exert similar efforts. Small wheels do accelerate as fast as the big ones and therefore require more initial effort to takeoff.
Inline skaters often prefer taller wheel diameters for better speed. Experienced recreational skaters require the biggest wheel diameter for a combination of speed and durability. Small to mid-sized wheels are suitable for slalom, hockey, and inline figure skating. The smaller diameters allow quick turns and offer improved maneuverability.
Again, short wheels are suitable for aggressive inline skating where you have to perform stunts and require superior stability. You can use all-purpose recreational wheels for many inline skating styles until the wheel diameter size and other properties satisfy your specific skating needs.
Inline Skate Wheel Setup
Many skaters prefer flat wheels for their inline skates. You can get three, four or five-wheeled inline skates with the same wheel size and similar alignment on the skate frame.
The basic flat inline skate wheel setup allows all wheels to touch the skating surface at a time. Such a configuration makes the skates more stable and offers good speed but may also limit maneuverability.
A flat wheel setup called Hilo keeps all wheels touching the skating surface. Such a configuration often has smaller wheels attached to the front of the frame to support better speed, improved maneuverability, and higher stability. However, this setup will require a special frame to offer all these benefits.
Inline Skate Wheels Rockers
Sometimes skaters from different inline skating disciplines add rocker to their skate wheels. You must have seen how the curve of an ice skate blade allows ice skaters to take smooth tight turns. Wheel rockers or curved wheelbase helps inline skaters make tighter turns and maneuver complex footwork.
Wheel rockers allow your inline skates to rearrange the wheel heights to mimic the curved base seen in the ice skate blades. You can achieve or adjust this configuration by changing the position and adjustment of the eccentric spacers. You can raise the heel or toe wheels and lower the middle wheels.
You can achieve a similar configuration and results by mixing different skate’s wheel sizes. Wheel rockers make your skates easy to maneuver to support quick dance footwork, swift turns, and spins. As a result, your inline skates become more responsive overall. However, you may experience stability issues while skating.
In a full rocker configuration, your skate wheels simulate the curve of an ice blade. This configuration is used by artistic inline skaters, inline figure skaters, and freestyle slalom skaters.
This rocker setup keeps only one or two wheels in contact with the skating surface at a time. You can easily maneuver full rockered inline skates to turn swiftly, however, you may have a hard time maintaining balance on the skates.
Front rocker wheel configuration is preferred by the urban and street skaters to help manage to roll over irregular surfaces while keeping more wheels in contact with the skating surface to ensure stability at a reasonable speed.
Anti rocker setup uses small, harder inner wheels to effectively grinds on rails and ledges in aggressive inline skating.
Inline Skate Wheel Rotation
Wheel rotation plays an important role in ensuring the efficient functioning of your skates. You should keep a check of the wheel rotation during your skate maintenance program. A regular check of your inline skate wheel rotation helps manage wear and tear of your wheels and helps them last longer.
If the inside edges of the wheels show signs of wearing or the wheels vary in size, you should check your wheels for rotation. It is time to replace the older wheels with a new one for a better skating experience if they distort over time or loose configuration. Some skaters may have three or five wheels in their skates to support a different pattern.
Experienced skaters rotate their inline skate wheels according to the specific wear patterns as required by their skating discipline. Every rotation cycle involves certain basic steps.
You move your wheels from one skate to another. You may flip the wheels from inside to outside. You may shift wheel to accommodate the size, incorporate flat or rockered setup, or reduce the effects of wear pattern.
I have another article which helps to determine when you have to change your wheels 3 Signs, It’s Time To Replace Rollerblade Wheels. It is very important to replace your wheels on time as that strongly impact your safety.
In case, your inline skates feel uncomfortable after a rotation cycle, you should consider repeating the rotations of the wheels more often. You can consider adjusting to new wheel positions after a few skating sessions.
Pro Tips to Buy the Perfect Inline Skate Wheels
Now that you know about the basic insights about wheel configuration and anatomy, here are some pro tips to help you buy the perfect inline skate wheels for different inline skating disciplines [source]:
Consider Wheel Hardness
Opt for the wheel hardness according to the surface you are planning to skate on. Wheel hardness is an important attribute in determining the usage of the wheel according to the skating surfaces. For instance, a soft wheel with a durometer reading between 78A-89A is best suitable for outdoors or slippery indoor floors. A harder wheel with a durometer between 90A-103A will be more suitable for indoor use or on sticky floors.
Softer wheels with a lower durometer provide better grip and a smoother ride over small pebbles or outdoor surfaces with the normal bumpiness. You can comfortably use these wheels to glide over slippery indoor surfaces where you require more grip. A softer wheel ranging between 78A-90A works best on concrete, asphalt, and uncoated slippery surfaces. Softer wheels are more suitable for beginners as they offer better grip on the skating surface.
Harder wheels work better for coated indoor surfaces. They offer more speed and slide freely on tight floors. As a result, you can glide fast and gain more speed. Harder wheels are preferred for artistic inline skating where you need to spin freely on a tight coated indoor surface.
Check Wheel Diameter
Select the wheel’s diameter according to your skating preferences as it may affect your speed, stability, weight, and overall acceleration. The wheel diameter determines the wheel height as well as the overall height of the skates, measured in millimeters. The wheel height influences acceleration, top speed, roll time, stability, and the weight of the wheels.
A smaller diameter provides faster acceleration. A larger diameter, in turn, accelerates slowly. A larger diameter of the skate wheel supports better overall roll time and helps in achieving top speeds. For this reason, long-distance speed skaters prefer larger, taller wheels for a smooth ride.
Further, smaller diameter wheels offer better stability in comparison to larger diameter wheels. Also, roller skates’ wheels with a smaller diameter weigh less than those with a larger diameter.
Consider Wheel Weight
Consider the weight of the skate wheels before you finalize a purchase. The weight of your wheels may account for partial weight of the total weight of your skates. Heavy wheels often provide improved traction but may tire your legs quickly in comparison to lighter wheels.
You can move easily and quickly on lighter wheels. Plus, they offer better stability. Moderate to advanced skaters primarily prefer lighter wheels. However, you can opt for heavier wheels as a beginner so that you can stay grounded and feel more stable.
Examine Contact Patch
Consider checking for the contact patch on your wheels. It represents the width or profile of the wheel when measured across. The total width of the skate wheel gives you a measure of the width including any bevels.
The contact patch represents the area of the wheel that stays in contact with the skating surface. It is the actual part of the wheel that touches the ground. It does not include the edges, bevels, or lips.
The contact patch of your skate wheels may affect the grip and overall speed while skating. A wider contact patch offers a better grip and provides more stability. However, it may make the wheels heavy, slow and difficult to maneuver. A narrower contact patch makes the wheel lighter, offers less stability, and supports easier maneuverability.
Check Edges or Lips
The edges or lips of your wheel can also influence the grip of your skates on the skating surface. The lips represent the edges of the wheels and may vary according to the cuts. They alter the total available contact patch for a wheel depending on their shape.
Square lips represent a straight drop. They offer the maximum contact patch and provide a better grip on the surface. You may not find wheels with complete square lips. Some may be more rounded than the others. The square lips are commonly found in artistic wheels.
Rounded lips offer less traction and may vary in the rounded lips configurations. Outdoor skate wheels usually have the most rounded lip wheels. They are easy to slide as they have less grip and more cruise ability.
You may find many other wheel configurations that are neither extreme round nor complete square. Remember the rule that square lips offer more traction while round lips provide less grip and smooth slide.
Examine Hub Material
Check your skate wheels for hub and core materials. Hub or core is the inner portion of the skate wheels. It represents the hard inner center of the wheel where you attach the skate bearings. You can find three primary types of core named Nylon, Hollow, and Aluminum.
Nylon wheel cores are less rigid, light in weight, and more affordable. They may have a spoked pattern. They are soft and do not help much in keeping the wheel round in shape. They support a slower ride with more contact patch on the skating surface.
Aluminum wheel cores are the most rigid and strongest. They are also heavy and the most expensive. A stiff core helps the wheels roll longer and maintains the shape of the wheel keeping them perfectly round. They offer less traction and hence better speed. Also, they are easy to maneuver.
Hollow wheel cores are fairly light than the aluminum core without the drawbacks of the nylon core. They provide better acceleration along with a slightly stiffer core to support better roll.
Many skaters believe that better tread accounts for better wheel grip. However, the same is not true. Many wheels made of urethane get heated up and may grip the surface better while skating. Tread only helps when you hit the skating surface. At that time, your wheels are not heated up, so the tread keeps you stable for a while.
Watch Your Body Weight
The weight of the skater may affect the overall acceleration or roll time. It may also influence the performance of your wheels. If you weigh 200 lbs. or more, you may get a better grip from your skate wheel in comparison to an average skater.
You may compensate the weight by adjusting two or three steps on the durometer. In other words, when you are skating on wheels with a durometer 90A, you should grab a pair with 92A instead. Your extra weight will put more pressure on the wheels and automatically cause them to sink into the surface.
Opt for a rigid core if you weigh over 200 lbs. Your wheels may flex more under your body weight. A rigid core like that of aluminum will better support your weight on the skate wheels. If you weigh less than 100 lbs., you should prefer softer wheels as your body weight will not press the wheels as hard. You can select any core type from nylon, aluminum or hybrid. A skater weighing between 100-200 lbs. must use recommended wheel hardness for the skating surface.
Consider Your Skating Type
The final choice of your skate wheels comes down to your preferable skating type. You can make a preferable choice for the skate wheels if you clearly know how you will use them. Different wheels are often suitable for different uses and particular skating types.
For example, softer wheels with a durometer between 78A-88A are more suitable for outdoor skating. Many skaters also prefer a size of 65mm x 37mm size for outdoor skating, recreational skating, and speed skating on streets or sidewalks.
Most jam skaters prefer wheels within a durometer range of 93A-96A. Jam skating involves quick footwork, dance, gymnastics, and shuffle skating. These skate wheels provide better agility for quick turns.
You can find jam skate wheels in different colors and styles within a wheel profile of 40-44mm. These wheels have larger wheel diameter ranging between 62-65mm.
Speed skaters prefer harder, taller wheels to support long roll time and rapid acceleration. These wheels are commonly 62mm wide and have a hardness between 80A-101A. These wheels are wide with a larger contact patch to provide enough traction, offer stability, and support agility.
Artistic skating involves special jumps including the axle, flip, loop, lutz, and salchow. Further, there are special artistic spins such as the sit spin, camel spin, and inner/outer one-legged spins. For this reason, artistic skaters require narrow wheels to support spinning and jumping. Most artistic skaters prefer extremely hard, narrow wheels ranging over 100A to support foot movement and ensure agility.
Most roller derby skaters use wheels ranging between 59-62mm in diameter. You may find different profile sizes for roller derby skates. Also, the harness of the skate may vary between 90-96A.
Are all rollerblade wheels rubber?
Not necessarily. Most of the modern wheels are made up of polyurethane, which is a durable form of plastic.
Does a higher cost accounts for better skate quality?
For many skaters, the cost is the primary decisive factor for selecting the type of skates. Nowadays, you may find a variety of wheels with varying price points. The amount you spend depends on your skating preferences and required wheel quality. Different skate wheels may also vary in color and style. Color may not make a difference in how well or how fast a wheel rolls. However, it may be a factor worth considering in recreational skating disciplines. Cost may vary according to the style of the skate wheels you prefer.