Skateboarding wheels are the last line of defense between you and the pavement. They control how your board feels, it’s maneuverability, and your speed. To some people, wheels are your most important purchase—they practically dictate your riding style. Another thing to consider, wheels are relatively inexpensive—a great set runs you less than $40. You want to replace your wheels when they wear out, and perhaps have two sets of wheels for cruising around town and going to the skatepark. The point is, wheels are a big deal. If you want to get the best out of your wheels first scope our buyers guide, then let us do all the work for you and pick one of our Top 3 skateboard wheels in 2017.
Most wheels are made from Polyurethane (PU). Before that, wheels were made of metal. PU has the advantage of being firm, but still moldable when rolling at high speeds. This stops the rider from feeling the brunt of the bumpiness. With metal wheels, riding a skateboard felt like being gently electrocuted. PU skateboard wheels are cheap, so you can replace yours when they wear out without needing to buy a whole new deck. There are two factors to consider when buying wheels: diameter and durability (duro for short). Or, size and firmness. Check it out…
Big wheels on longboards; small wheels on trick boards. It really is that easy. Let us learn you a little physics here kids: small wheels can accelerate quicker because they take less time to complete one full rotation (think about it, is it easier to spin a tire or a ferris wheel? It’s a tire). But small wheels have less speed over a long distance—because they’re doing more work to keep spinning and spinning and spinning.
Big wheels take longer to speed up—again, because they’re bigger, so one full rotation takes longer—but they spin faster over a long distance because the more kinetic energy applied to the big wheel, the more space (diameter) it has to use that energy for forward propulsion. Small wheels also allow you to make tighter turns. You can more easily make sharp turns on flat surfaces with smaller wheels. However, when you’re riding on the street, you can make wide turns if you have a lot of momentum.
Skateboarding isn’t a science of course, it’s an art. But generally, big wheels are for cruising. The wheels on a longboard are cruising wheels. They grip the pavement and roll right over cracks and pebbles. That’s because they have more diameter—the wheel is wider, therefore touches more of the ground. Then, there’s small wheels. You’ll find wheels with a smaller diameter on a trick-skateboard. They’re lighter, execrate quicker (so you move faster right before pull the trick) and they spin more when you’re doing a grind.
The other consideration for wheels is durability, or duro. Usually, duro rating is in correlation with diameter, where big wheels are softer and small wheels are harder. The way duro is measured is really complicated—basically, the polyurethane wheel is poked with a hot needle and given a numbered grade on an A B or C feel. The truth is, this test doesn’t tell you much practical information about the wheel.
Harder wheels are going to accelerate fast. They’ll pop off the ground a lot easier than softer wheels (because they’re hardly sticking to it). Hard wheels make doing tricks in a controlled environment a lot easier. The downside is, if you’re cruising with hard wheels you can easily kill yourself. That’s because the wheels will stop moving if they hit a pebble or a crack. When the wheels stop, your body doesn’t, so you’re gonna fall right in the street if you’re using a hard wheel to cruise around town.
That’s why soft wheels exist. If you’re riding a longboard, you’ll feel how the wheels naturally give when encountering obstacles. They slide right over rocks, torn up street, sidewalk cracks, etc. The wheel is actually sticking to the ground better than a hard wheel. Soft wheels also turn better when going long distances because you have more momentum. It’s surface is more durable, so it rides smoother. The downside is, go out and try and do an ollie on a long board. We’ll wait…OK, so it took you a few hours to just give up. Makes sense. Because a soft wheel is sticking to the ground, it needs a lot more force to pop it off the ground.
The long and the short of it is, ride your longboard to the skatepark, then use a different deck.
Aesthetic considerations of your wheels are entirely that. How your wheels look doesn’t actually impact how you skate. But, if you’re skating to look cool (solid reason), then you want your board to look cool. You can match the color of your wheels to the design on your deck, or to your grip tape, or just have a set of crazy wheels for fun. We caution away from buying stuff that makes your wheels light up or change colors—gimmicky things like that are a) lame and b) will negatively impact performance. But if you like a set of wheels just because there’s a sweet design on them, that is a totally reasonable reaction to have toward skateboard wheels. They look really neat. Of the wheels mentioned below, we think that Spitfire has the coolest designs on their wheels—but plenty of companies are making intricate looking wheels that will add an aesthetic touch to your deck, if that’s your thing. And if it’s not your thing, don’t worry about it just get the best performing wheels instead. This guide doesn’t cover aesthetics as a main component, but it is one component of choosing wheels.
Once you buy a cool set of wheels, you want to take care of them. We recommend buying an all-in-one tool so you can adjust how tight the wheels fit on your deck. Depending on your bearings, some wheels fit better tight, while others will ride smoother loose. Usually, your wheels will come with some tightening guidance about how tight you want to set them on your deck. Also, this is something determined by personal preference. So if you like your wheels loose, keep them loose! But remember, you’ll need to tighten them after riding so they don’t fall off.
If you want a good recommendation for a all-in-one tool, we say get the Bamboo Skateboards All In One Combination Y Tool.
It’s easy to carry, works great, and has the T-bone shape that allows you to put torque behind your turns. It’s made out of sturdy metal, and even has a built in screw-driver so you can change the tightness of your trucks. Avoid the All-in-Ones that are made of plastic. These things ALWAYS break. Just get one that’s made all of metal and you won’t ever have to buy another one again.
Top 3 Skateboard Wheels
The suspense is killing you, so without further ado we present our picks for the best skateboard wheels on the market.
Best Trick Wheels – Bones STF Street Tech Formula
If you’re doing tricks at the park, these wheels are the best in class. Bones always makes great trick wheels—but these were engineered for building fast speed quick and maintaining high slide capability. Reviewers say these are the “hardest” wheels on the market—meaning they have close to 100a on the durometer scale. This is key to what makes them great. Something about the way Bones manufactures wheels allows them to get much firmer wheels than their competitors. These wheels were built for getting you off the ground and into the air. When doing 50-50 grinds, the wheels will keep spinning and let you land the trick. These are our pick for the best skateboard wheels for skateparks.
Best Middle Wheels – Spitfire Bighead Skateboard Wheels, 57mm
The name says it all with these boys: the Bighead is a quality mid-point wheel that’s great for cruising or doing simple tricks. Do you want to ride from work to school and do an ollie some point in between? Get the Bigheads. You can get them in sizes ranging from 48mm, the small size for a child prodigy skater, all the way up to 63mm, for your long boarding bros. The wheels are designed for “friction and speed”—meaning this all-utility wheel is intended for all types of skaters. These wheels are perfect for riding around town (they’re soft and big enough to get you over cracks) and they’re also great for doing tricks at the park (they still pop into the air when you try to ollie). If you only want one set of wheel, this is the set to get. If we had to give our choice for the best skateboard wheels for beginners, these would be it.
Best Cruising Wheels – Everlast
There’s a reason Everlast chose Everlast for their company name. These wheels are made to last a long time and hold up in all sorts of conditions. They’re big, wide, soft and cushiony so you’ll be riding over cracks, pebbles, potholes, whatever. Designed with city riders in mind, these are great wheels for longboarders. If you’re not trying to do tricks, and you just want to get to work or school, then get a set of Everlast. They’re also the most affordable skateboard wheels on our list. Perfect for a secondary long board setup—a just for fun board.
When you’re buying new wheels for your deck, you’re essentially choosing the weight, feel, and speed of your deck with one purchase. Granted, deck weight determines on the wood of your board, and speed depends on your bearings, and feel also depends on your trucks. But no part of your board is so connected to the other parts like the wheels are. If you want to go fast at the skatepark, get a hard wheel with a small diameter (get the Bones we mentioned above). If you’re riding a longboard across town, get a soft wheel with a large diameter (the Everlast wheels we mentioned are the top choice). If you want something that splits the difference between each wheel, get the Spitfire Bigheads—the best all-utility wheel available. Keep in mind, wheels don’t last forever, so you’ll be buying some more soon. One day, you’ll find the best skateboard wheels for your skating style and terrain. Just keep skating and the gear will take care of itself…