Inline skate wheels have the greatest impact on your skating performance. They come in different sizes, shapes, and composition, and are made to suit different styles of skating. Therefore, selecting the right wheels based on the way you skate is of prime importance.
You should buy inline skate wheels based on your:
Speed comfort zone
Furthermore, before you head to your local sporting goods store for replacement wheels, it’s best to learn something about the physical properties that are used to describe the typical, inline skate wheel.
Learning about the Physical Properties
The four properties are hardness, size, core, and profile. You need to understand these properties so you’re in the know when it comes time to purchase a new set of wheels.
The durometer reading is a measure of the hardness of the material that makes up the wheel’s tire. The higher the hardness is, the harder the wheel. In addition, the harder the wheel, the longer it lasts, but the less it absorbs shock and vibration when skating.
Most wheels on the market range from 74A (softest) to 88A (hardest), where the letter A denotes the durometer scale. However, recreational skaters are normally interested in the narrower range from 78A to 82A. This hardness range provides good control, grip, and a smooth roll for most trail skaters.
A harder wheel with a higher, durometer reading, such as 82A, exhibits the following characteristics:
Good for skating fast on smoother surfaces
Lasts longer and is more durable
Generally used by heavier people
Better wear properties
More vibration on rougher surfaces
On the other hand, a softer wheel with a lower durometer reading, such as 78A, provides the following benefits:
Greater shock absorption
More cornering grip
Less vibration on rougher surfaces
Good for rougher surfaces
The size of the wheel is the outside diameter measured in millimeters (mm). The larger the wheel, the faster the skate due to reduced rolling resistance. Wheels in the 72-mm to 80-mm range are just right for recreational and fitness skating. They provide good maneuverability and speed for skating longer distances on trails.
However, wheels in the 84-mm to 90-mm range and up are faster wheels that provide the best performance at higher speeds. However, larger wheels are less stable and consequently require more skating ability. Racers and marathoners typically use wheels in this size range.
Check your owner’s manual or with the manufacturer to find out what size range your skates can accommodate. For example, the frames of K2 Exotech skates can hold up to an 82-mm wheel in the larger sizes and down to a 76-mm wheel in the smaller sizes. It’s important that you find out the size range supported by the wheelbase of your skates, especially if you are planning to move up or down in size versus the original wheels that came with your skates.
The core consists of the hub and spokes. The inner hub houses the bearings and spacer, which is where the axle resides. The outer hub and spokes bond to the tire material itself, which is the polyurethane.
The core design and material of construction gives a wheel its stability. A wheel undergoes stress from many different directions. The design and material determine the strength of the wheel. Cores range from a solid construction in aggressive wheels to lightly-spoked in racing wheels. The standard hub is called a 608 hub, which means it houses a 608-type bearing.
The profile is the cross-section of the wheel where it meets the ground, when viewed head on. The profile or curve determines how much of the wheel is in contact with the surface at any given time.
As an industry standard, all wheels are 24-mm thick, but it’s the variation in a wheel’s footprint that provides different functionality. The larger the footprint, the better the traction and stability.