Skateboarding is an art, a lifestyle, and for many, a passion that fuels their everyday adventures. Among the crucial components of a skateboard, the wheels stand out as one of the most vital elements determining the rider’s experience on different terrains.
Understanding what skateboard wheels are made of is fundamental for skaters looking to enhance their performance, durability, and overall enjoyment. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss in deep the composition of skateboard wheels, exploring the materials that make them roll, spin, and slide effortlessly on various surfaces.
What are skateboard wheels made of?
Skateboard wheels are usually made from a material called polyurethane, which is a type of synthetic polymer. Polyurethane is a popular choice for skateboard wheels because it’s durable, provides a good grip, and can absorb shocks effectively. It strikes a balance between being hard enough for tricks and soft enough for a smooth ride.
Skaters often prefer different wheel hardness levels, measured in durometer ratings. Softer wheels (around 78A-87A) offer more grip and are great for cruising and street skating, providing a comfortable ride. On the other hand, harder wheels (around 88A-101A) are better suited for tricks and park skating, offering less grip but allowing for more precise movements.
Choosing the right wheels depends on a skater’s style and the kind of skateboarding they enjoy, whether it’s cruising down the street or performing tricks at the skatepark.
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Common Materials Used in Skateboard Wheels?
Skateboard wheels are typically made from polyurethane, a versatile synthetic material that offers a good balance of durability, grip, and shock absorption. Polyurethane wheels are popular among skateboarders due to their ability to provide a smooth ride while offering excellent traction and wear resistance. Additionally, polyurethane wheels come in various hardness levels, measured on the durometer scale, allowing skateboarders to choose wheels that match their preferred riding style and terrain.
Apart from polyurethane, skateboard wheels may also incorporate other materials or features for specific purposes:
Urethane Formulas: Manufacturers often develop their proprietary urethane formulas, tweaking the chemical composition to achieve desired characteristics such as improved grip, durability, or sliding ability.
Cores: Skateboard wheels can have different core designs, including solid cores and hollow cores. Cores can affect the weight and overall performance of the wheel. Hollow cores, for example, reduce weight without sacrificing much strength.
Sizes and Shapes: Skateboard wheels come in various sizes and shapes, catering to different styles of skateboarding. Smaller wheels (50-53mm) are ideal for street skating and tricks, while larger wheels (54-60mm) provide a smoother ride and are suitable for ramps and parks.
Durometer: The durometer rating indicates the hardness of the wheel. Softer wheels (78A-87A) provide more grip and are suitable for rough surfaces or cruising. Harder wheels (88A and above) are faster and slide more easily, making them popular for tricks and ramps.
Graphics and Branding: Skateboard wheels often feature colorful graphics and branding elements. These designs are usually printed on the surface of the wheel and serve aesthetic purposes.
It’s important for skateboarders to choose wheels based on their specific riding style, skill level, and the type of terrain they plan to skate on. The right combination of size, hardness, and shape can significantly impact the overall skateboarding experience.
Why Should You Choose Polyurethane Wheels?
Polyurethane wheels are a popular choice for skateboards and a variety of other applications. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of choosing polyurethane wheels.
- Durability: Polyurethane wheels are known for their durability. They can withstand a lot of wear and tear, making them a long-lasting choice for skateboard wheels.
- Grip: Polyurethane wheels offer excellent grip on various surfaces, allowing skateboarders to maintain control and stability while riding. This is crucial for performing tricks and maneuvers.
- Shock Absorption: These wheels have good shock-absorbing properties, which means they can absorb the impact of rough surfaces and provide a smoother ride for the skater.
- Versatility: Polyurethane wheels come in a wide range of hardness levels (durometers), making them versatile for different styles of skateboarding. You can choose softer wheels for cruising and rough terrain or harder wheels for tricks and park skating.
- Customizability: Wheel manufacturers often develop unique urethane formulas to fine-tune the wheels’ performance characteristics. This allows skaters to find wheels that match their specific preferences.
- Price: High-quality polyurethane wheels can be relatively expensive compared to wheels made from other materials, but their durability often justifies the investment.
- Flat Spots: Under certain conditions, polyurethane wheels can develop flat spots if the skateboard is left stationary for an extended period or if excessive braking or sliding occurs during skating. Flat spots can affect the smoothness of the ride.
- Weight: Polyurethane wheels can be heavier than some alternative materials, which might be a consideration for skaters who prefer lighter setups for technical tricks.
- Not Ideal for All Conditions: While polyurethane offers good grip on most surfaces, it may not perform as well on extremely wet or extremely slick surfaces, where specialized wheels with different materials or treads might be more suitable.
- Subject to Wear: Like all skateboard wheels, polyurethane wheels will eventually wear down over time with extensive use, particularly for aggressive skaters who perform lots of slides and tricks.
In summary, polyurethane wheels offer many advantages, including durability, grip, shock absorption, versatility, and customizability. However, they can be relatively expensive, are prone to flat spots, may be heavier, and have limitations in extreme conditions. The choice of wheels should be based on your specific skateboarding style and the terrain you most frequently encounter.
How to choose best skateboard Wheels?
Choosing the best skateboard wheels depends on your skating style, terrain, and personal preferences. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting skateboard wheels.
1. Wheel Diameter:
Skateboard wheel diameter greatly affects your skating experience.
- Smaller Wheels (49-52mm): These wheels are perfect for street skaters and those who do technical tricks. They offer faster acceleration and make it easier to perform flip tricks due to their lower center of gravity.
- Medium Wheels (53-56mm): Medium-sized wheels are versatile, suitable for various skate styles including street, park, and vert skating. They strike a balance between speed and stability, making them a popular choice among many skaters.
- Larger Wheels (56mm+): If you primarily skate ramps, pools, or rough terrain, larger wheels are ideal. They provide a smoother ride over uneven surfaces and allow for higher speeds, making them the go-to choice for many transition skaters.
2. Wheel Durometer (Hardness):
The hardness of skateboard wheels is measured on the durometer scale, denoted by the letter “a”.
- Softer Wheels (78a-87a): Softer wheels offer more grip, making them suitable for cruising and rough surfaces. They absorb shocks better, providing a comfortable ride, but they are slower due to increased friction with the ground.
- Harder Wheels (88a-95a): Harder wheels are excellent for street and park skating. They offer a good balance between grip and slide ability. Skaters who enjoy technical tricks often prefer these wheels as they provide a controlled slide for tricks like power slides and reverts.
3. Wheel Shape:
The shape of the skateboard wheel affects how it performs during tricks and maneuvers.
- Conical Wheels: Conical wheels have a tapered shape with a narrower contact patch. They allow for quick turns and are popular among street skaters and technical riders due to their responsiveness.
- Square-edged Wheels: Wheels with a square-edged profile provide more contact with the ground. This increased surface area offers stability, making them a favorite among skaters who need precise landings, such as transition skaters.
4. Wheel Material:
The material of the wheels affects their durability and grip.
- Polyurethane (PU): PU wheels are the standard in the skateboarding industry. They offer a good balance between grip and durability. Quality PU wheels provide a smooth ride and withstand wear and tear, ensuring a longer lifespan for your skateboard setup.
Remember that skateboard wheels can significantly impact your overall skating experience, so it’s essential to choose the right ones for your specific needs and preferences. Experimenting with different wheels may help you find the perfect match for your skating style.
Understanding what skateboard wheels are made of is essential for every skater. The right set of wheels can significantly impact your riding experience, influencing your speed, grip, and maneuverability. As the skateboard industry continues to evolve, skaters can expect even more innovations that enhance their performance on the streets and in skateparks.
How often should I replace my skateboard wheels?
It depends on how frequently you skate and the type of terrain you ride on. Inspect your wheels regularly, and replace them if you notice significant wear or decreased performance.
Are softer wheels better for cruising?
Yes, softer wheels (around 78A to 87A) provide a smoother ride, making them ideal for cruising and commuting.
What is the significance of wheel diameter?
Wheel diameter affects your skateboard’s speed and ability to roll over cracks and obstacles. Smaller wheels accelerate faster, while larger wheels maintain higher speeds.
Are skateboard wheels always made of urethane?
Yes, urethane is the primary material due to its ideal combination of durability and flexibility.
What type of polyurethane is used for skateboard wheels?
Skateboard wheels are typically made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), a type of polyurethane known for its durability, elasticity, and abrasion resistance. TPU provides the necessary grip and shock absorption for skateboarding, allowing riders to perform tricks and maneuvers effectively. Different formulations of TPU are used to create wheels with specific hardness levels and performance qualities.
What is the ideal durometer for street skateboarding?
For street skateboarding, a durometer rating between 99A and 101A is considered ideal. These wheels offer a balance of grip and slide, perfect for tricks and maneuvers on urban terrain.
Howdy is the CEO of SkatingHouse, a prominent online platform that serves as a hub for skating enthusiasts around the world. With years of experience in the industry, Howdy has established himself as a respected figure in the skating community. Under his leadership, SkatingHouse has become a go-to resource for skaters of all levels, providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help them improve their skills and stay up to date with the latest trends in the sport. Howdy's dedication to the sport of skating and his passion for helping others has helped skatinghouse.com become one of the most trusted and reputable sources for skating-related content online.