Choosing a wheel can be very difficult if you don’t know what you want to do on your longboard. There are a couple of wheel types that suite different types of riding. Mainly the shape, size, and durometer (how hard the wheel is) of the wheel. Lets go over some of the vocabulary associated to wheels:
- Size:The diameter of the wheel is measured in millimeters and is referred to as the size.
- Durometer:Is how hard the wheel is, the lower the number the softer the wheel. Longboard wheels are generally from about 78a to 88a.
- Contact Patch:Is the width of the wheel that actually contacts the ground, measured also in millimeters.
- Wheel Bite:When the wheel comes in contact with the board when turning or carving, generally causes you to stop abruptly.
- Core:The core of the wheel is what holds the bearings inside the wheel straight. Also the verb ‘to core’ means that you’ve slid your wheels so much that you have no more urethane covering the core of the wheel.
- Cone: Coning a wheel means you slide and wear down the urethane to the point that the wheel actually looks like a cone, generally happens in sideset and offset wheels.
To understand why a wheel is good for your style, it’s important to understand the different shapes of wheels. The core’s placement inside the polyurethane, and the shape & edges of the polyurethane are the deciding factors to what the wheel is meant for. There are 3 positions the core can be in: Centerset, Sideset, and Offset.
Centerset: The core is in the exact middle of the wheel. This provides a smooth wear pattern as your weight is distributed across the whole surface of the wheel. However, these wheels provide a great amount of stability and grip thus they are not the best wheel for sliding. They also have a long life and when they do start to wear you can flip them on the axle to wear them down evenly. Centerset wheels are more prone to wheelbite.
Sideset: Sideset wheels put the core on the edge of the wheel closest to the board. This is key placement for getting very slidey wheels because it puts all the pressure where the wheel does all the work for sliding. For a freeride setup, sideset wheels are one of the most fun types of wheels, but the disadvantage to having a sideset wheel is that they cone the fastest; it could be expensive to ride sideset wheels.
Offset: Offset wheels are not centerset nor are they sideset, they are perfectly balanced between the two. This provides great grip but leaves the inner lip shorter to allow slight slip if needed. Depending on the edge of the wheel they may be a good wheel to break free into a steezy slide while maintain more stability down a hill. These wheels are a good all-around wheel for freeriding and downhill.
The edge of the wheel is also a very important to how the wheel will react, wear, and feel while riding. The general shape of the wheels depends on the edges, there are usually 3 types: square, beveled, and rounded.
Square: Square edges provide the best grip and slight slip, best for carving, downhill, and going fast. The square edge bends to roll over rocks and pebbles that stand in your way without you even feeling them. As you wear down these wheels you could round out your squared edge and it may become a slight bit more slippery for sliding.
Beveled: A bevel on the edge of the wheel is going to give you a slightly more rounded wheel for going fast and gripping, but allows you to slide the wheel easier than a squared lip, providing a good grip with more slip. This wheel is good for downhill and a little freeride. Wearing down this wheel will not damage the lip.
Rounded: Rounded wheels are great for breaking free and getting that perfect slide. The rounded edge gives the wheel slip and less grip, it allows the rider to get a good slide out of a small carve. This wheel is best for freeriding and all around skateboarding. Not a good choice for downhill because it can be unstable at higher speeds. This is a good wheel to drop speed off by sliding your board sideways. Wearing this wheel down will not effect the edge too much until you’ve cored the wheels.
Longboard wheels usually range from about 58mm to 90mm. The smaller the wheel the faster it will accelerate and the better it will be for technical sliding, technical tricks, bowls, and general skateboarding. Having a smaller wheel will allow you to push easier but it will have a rougher ride. The large wheels are hard to commute with because they have so much grip, but it will be a smooth ride because the wheels will roll over just about anything.
Cruising: For a cruiser style wheel, anything from 68-72mm would work perfect, not too big for commuting but not small enough to feel every single pebble on the way to wherever you’re going. It is still big enough for some carving and speed checks.
Freeride: For a freeride setup, look toward getting wheels from 70 to 75mm. For a perfect sliding wheel you’re looking for a medium sized wheel with a smaller contact patch with a durometer anywhere from 78a-86a. Any core setup will be able to slide but the easiest to slide is a sideset wheel. Here are a few of the popular freeride wheels absolutely perfect for sliding:
- Venom Tweakers
- Cult Classics
- Duval Hurricanes/Killowatts
- Sector 9 Butterballs
- Abec 11 Freerides/Flashbacks
- Metro Motions
- Mega Tsunamis
Downhill: Downhill wheels are generally bigger wheels from 72mm and up. The bigger the wheel the more speed it can maintain and the grippier it’ll be around those hairpins. The contact patches on these wheels are generally much wider to give more grip around tight turns. Make sure to get a square lip and look for a duro of 78-80a for good grip. Some of the most popular wheels for downhill are:
- Abec 11 BigZigs
- Sector 9 Race Formula
- Venom Cannibal
- Seismic Black Ops
- Abec 11 Centrax
The durometer of the wheel is going to drastically change the feel of a wheel while riding. The softer duros, anything from 78-82a, are going to be good for commuting, carving, and general sliding. The softer the duro, the smoother and grippier it’ll feel on the road. The harder durometers are good for sliding to give it more slip quicker, higher duros can get too slippery and icy. Finding a good balance for what you want to do on your board is going to just time and experience. Generally speaking if you want to downhill with grip and no slip, anything from 78-80a. Carving, Cruising, and Freeride from 80-84a.
Now that you’ve read about wheels, check out bearings.