Should I Fear Bigger Wheels? [Rollerblade]


Skaters, especially beginners, often have a fear of bigger wheels. You can find many new skates with larger wheels in the market. However, the ideal size of a wheel for you depends on your skillset.

You are the one to decide on how fast you can stride on the skates. Initially, you may find yourself a little out of control as you move over hills and rough patches, but with practice, you will master the drill in due time. Eventually, you will be controlling your skates like a pro irrespective of whether they have 80mm or 100mm wheels.

So, should you fear bigger wheels? Certainly not. With a proper understanding of the wheel dynamics and your skills, you will have no issues in using larger wheeled skates. Earlier, 80mm wheels were the largest go-to size.

Lately, skaters feel intimidated by the bigger wheels. 80mm wheels can be found in the majority of beginner level skates. As you progress up your skill levels, you may find 84mm, 90mm, 100mm or 110mm wheel size in rollerblades. Here are some things you should know about bigger wheels.

What Wheel Size to Pick?

Choosing an appropriate wheel size depends on many factors such as your skillset, ability to balance on skates, and maneuverability [source].

100 mm Plus Wheel Size

Although bigger wheels offer faster overall speed, they come with their share of issues. Larger wheels often roll faster and longer. They do not require more thrust for each push. They offer less maneuverability.

Most of the time, 100mm or higher wheel sized skates are picked by skaters who are into an intense training regimen, preparing for a skating marathon, or pursuing distance skating.

Larger wheeled skates are great for long-distance skating. You should pick them up if you intend to cover 15+ miles during a skating session. Inline skates with stiffer boots and 100mm wheels provide great power transfer to skaters.

90 mm Wheel Size

90mm wheels allow you to choose your pace. You can go slow or stride at a high pace depending on your ride. Inline skates with 90mm wheels allow the skaters to cover distance cruise with enough maneuverability.

You can skate through crowded places, skate around with kids, or even roll on the busy streets of a city. You may find the boots offer a stiff fit and loads of comfort features in the 90mm range.

80mm Wheel Size

If you are seeking comfort, you should go for 80mm wheels. You can find many beginners to intermediate skates with 80mm wheels in the market. They offer great performance but not suitable for advanced tricks.

They are more or less basic skates. You can find great features suitable for beginners such as a quick closure system, utmost comfort, and a great fit. 80mm skates are perfect for moderate skating sessions.

So, to be specific, there cannot be one-size-fits-all skates when it comes to bigger wheels. Some wheels are more suitable for beginners while others are mandatory for advanced tricks.

So, a good idea is to maintain a pair of inline skates depending on your skills and type of skating you perform. You can have a pair of aggressive skates or recreational skates with 84mm wheels or a pair of fitness skates with a 100mm wheel size.

Aggressive skates are good to roll in a skate park. The 84mm inline skates are best to roll around the neighborhood or a crowded park. And 100mm skates serve best for a need to speed.

Analyzing Wheel Size Dynamics

In a nutshell, the size of wheels you select primarily depends on your skating ability or skills and your skating discipline [source]. Bigger wheels provide speed and efficiency while smaller wheels offer agility.

When you are consider bigger wheels you also should consider 3 wheels as well. I have put hours to find out if 3 wheels are better than 4 wheels. So make sure you will check this article Inline Skates 3-Wheels Or 4-Wheels?

You can glide longer between pushes on bigger wheels while the smaller wheels roll slowly. Bigger wheels need less effort to roll and save more energy for long-distance skating which makes them ideal for marathons. However, they are not suitable for tight turns, quick stops, and do not offer much agility.

To keep it simple, any wheels sized between 72 to 76 mm are light in weight, easy to maneuver, allow quick stops, and can be easily balanced. For the shortcomings, they are slow, small, and ideal for shorter rolling distance.

Bigger wheels between 80mm to 110mm are faster and roll longer. For the cons, they are heavy to push, require more power, offer less maneuverability, and a hell of a mechanism to turn or stop.

Here are some of the contributing elements for the wheel dynamics [source]:

  • Wheel diameter – The wheel diameter is believed to contribute inversely to the rolling resistance. In other words, short, bigger wheels offer smaller resistance. Moreover, if the skating surface is rough, bigger wheels may easily bridge the holes resulting in a smooth, comfortable ride.
  • Wheel hardness – Primarily indicated by the durometer, wheel hardness is inversely proportional to wheel deformation under the load. In other words, more deformed a wheel, the bigger will be its contact area touching the ground. Surprisingly, bigger wheels show less deformation.
  • Heat dissipation in wheels – Deformation often results in heat production. A smaller wheel may receive more deformations over the same distance because it makes more revolutions and heats up more quickly which may make the wheel softer over time.
  • Mass distribution of the wheels – Wheel distribution affects rotational inertia. It has been observed that bigger wheels have better mass distribution and hence effectively conserve the rotational momentum. Bigger wheels may be difficult to maneuver at first but it is easier to keep them rolling. So, they are better suited for a marathon and not for a sprint.
  • Cross-section wheel profile – Wheel profile may vary from flat and circular to more elliptical. Tapered wheels have a smaller contact area and hence less rolling resistance. Bigger wheels can be more tapered in comparison to smaller ones because of a better height-width ration of the cross-section.
  • Design of spokes – Air resistance is important for higher speeds. So the spokes of bigger wheels receive more drag. The design of spokes also influences the weight, hardness, and mass distribution of the wheels.
  • The number of ball bearings – Ideally, bearings have 5 to 7 balls. Fewer balls induce less friction.
  • Bearings size – You may find two possible sizes for the bearings – a standard 608 or a mini/micro 688. Mini bearings offer less friction but wear off quickly because of lower dirt tolerance. They also have a small contact area to bear the load.
  • Lubricant – Smaller wheels rotate faster and therefore the lubricant will offer great resistance. You can use grease on bigger wheels, but the oil may serve better for smaller wheels to get the same speed.
  • Wheel setup – More wheels decrease overall load per wheel and hence reduce rolling resistance and wheel deformation. The resulting length from more number of wheels adds stability while leaning forward or moving backward. However, it makes turns and crossover a little harder.
  • Wheel diameter – Bigger wheels affect the center of gravity of the skater and increase the flexing force that may affect the ankles.
  • Wheel frame – Bigger wheels have long, heavy and more flexible frames. They may seem stable but difficult to maneuver. Flexibility equates to the loss of energy and makes the frame more prone to cracking.
  • Shoe – Bigger wheels offer an increased flexing force over the ankles. Make sure the boots of the skates are no higher than the joints of your ankles. You can have mid-high shoes once you get your ankles strong.
  • Weight – Remember, wheels can make 60% of the total weight of an inline skate based on the number and size of the wheels. More mass may provide a longer life span but poorly conserves rotational momentum.

Considering the wheel dynamics, skillset, and skating discipline, standard speed racers often use 100mm or 110mm inline skates. Advanced fitness skaters also use big wheels (110mm) for inertia with a short frame to support agility.

They are ideal for down-hill slalom racing. Small wheels are prevalent with beginners and intermediate skaters. These skates have a lower shoe stance. Consider all these factors well before you plan to purchase a pair of skates with bigger wheels.

Some skaters also opt for rockers where they combine smaller and bigger wheels for maneuverability, agility, and functionality [source]. Using a curved wheelbase with wheel rockering allows these inline skaters to take tight turns and perform various footwork.

Full rocker inline skates are good for inline figure skating, artistic inline skating, and freestyle slaloms. Front rocker skates are good for urban skaters to manage irregular skating surfaces. An Anti-rocker setup that uses small, hard wheels on the inside is best for aggressive inline skaters.

Hope the above information helps you to decide your kind of wheels without any fear or reservations. In case, you are still fearful of falling then this article is just right for you to carry out your passion confidently, check out- How Can I Focus And Not Worry About Falling?.

Darius

My name is Darius. I have started to skate couple years ago in my 20's. From first look it looked pretty difficult to me, but once i learned it i started to love it. Right now i am passionate about inline skating and usually I am skating together with my sister, Rasa. During the years I find out a lot interesting and useful information which i am sharing on this Blog. I hope that you will enjoy my blog same as you enjoy skating!

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