Have you ever seen a skateboarder carving down the street and wondered what materials are used to make their boards?
While it’s easy to take a glance at all of the elements that go into making a complete board—deck, trucks, wheels—those wheels seem to be an enigma.
You may wonder what those small round discs are made out of and why certain types work better for specific tricks or terrains.
Well, we’re breaking down the science behind skateboard wheel construction so you can understand exactly why your ride is such an important part of successful boarding.
Quick Info: Skateboard wheels are made from a combination of polyurethane and other additives, such as graphite. Polyurethane, or urethane, acts as the elastic material that ensures both a smooth ride and good grip on the ground. It is combined with additives, such as graphite, to enhance the performance of the wheel while also ensuring its longevity.
How are skateboard wheels made?
Skateboard wheels are generally made from urethane, a type of plastic polymer.
The manufacturing process for skateboard wheels begins with the formation of an injection mold.
This mold is heated to a specific temperature and then filled with molten urethane, which is mixed with colorants, hardeners, and other additives to give the wheel desired properties like durability and grip.
After the urethane has cooled down, it’s ejected from the mold and transferred onto a conveyor belt where it’s cut into individual wheels.
These wheels are then buffed to achieve smooth edges that won’t catch on obstacles while skating.
Each wheel is tested for hardness before being boxed up and sent off to stores all over the world. Skateboarders across the globe depend on these quality urethane wheels to provide them with speed, agility and stability when performing tricks or navigating city streets.
Different types of skateboard wheels:
The three main types of skateboard wheels are park, street, and cruiser wheels.
These are the most versatile type of skateboard wheel and can be used for both street skating and cruising around in a skate park. They’re usually made from hard urethane that provide superior grip on smooth surfaces and are great for popping off ramps and navigating tight turns.
These wheels are typically larger than park/street wheels and offer more cushioning, making them perfect for riding long distances. They’re usually made from softer urethane that provides good grip but reduces speed.
Longboard wheels are designed specifically for downhill skateboarding. They’re usually made from a softer urethane that provides good grip and shock absorption, perfect for long rides down steep hills.
How to choose the right skateboard wheels?
Choosing the right skateboard wheels can make a huge difference in your performance. There are many different types of skateboard wheels out there, and each one has its own unique characteristics that affect how it rides.
The Hardness of Skateboard Wheels
The hardness of skateboard wheels is measured on a scale from 1-100a, with 100 being the hardest wheel available.
Softer wheels (below 80a) provide more grip, but they wear down faster than harder wheels.
Harder wheels (above 80a) are less grippy and don’t wear as quickly, but they are also more prone to slipping out when riding on slick surfaces or in wet conditions.
The size of your skateboard wheel affects its speed and maneuverability.
Smaller wheels (50mm or less) provide better acceleration and maneuverability, while larger wheels (52mm or bigger) provide more top-end speed but slower acceleration.
Most skaters find that a wheel size between 50-52mm provides the best combination of speed and maneuverability for their needs.
Durometer is another way to measure the hardness of a wheel and is often expressed as an “A” rating (e.g., 78A).
A lower number indicates a softer wheel with more grip, while a higher number indicates a harder wheel with less grip but greater durability.
Most street skaters prefer soft to medium-soft durometers in the 78A-84A range for maximum control on slick surfaces or wet conditions.
Whereas vert skaters often prefer harder durometers in the 86A-90A range for maximum speed and durability during high impacts on concrete ramps or poolsides.
Shape & Design:
Skateboard wheel shapes have become increasingly specialized over time.
Some shapes are designed specifically for street skating while others are designed specifically for vert skating or cruising around town.
If you’re unsure which type is right for you, consider talking to an experienced local shop employee who can help point you in the right direction based on your skill level and riding style.
How long do skateboard wheels last?
Skateboard wheels don’t usually last for more than 3 months, even if you take excellent care of them.
Since skateboard wheels are made of urethane, a soft and durable rubber-like material, they tend to wear out quickly.
Furthermore, the wear on a skateboard’s wheels can be accelerated by different terrain and environmental factors like extreme heat or cold, pavement wear and tear, or the general hardness of the ground.
To avoid having to replace your skateboard wheels too often, it’s important to practice proper maintenance habits.
This includes cleaning your bearings regularly and replacing them when necessary.
How often should I change my skateboard wheels?
Skateboard wheels need to be changed on a regular basis, depending on the amount of time spent skating.
It is recommended that experienced skaters change their wheels after 2 or 3 months or so to ensure optimal performance and avoid premature wear and tear.
Beginners who don’t skate as often may only need to replace their wheels once every month or two since the wheels endure less stress and abrasion.
Frequent inspection of the wheels for any damage such as cracks or deformation can help detect any issues early-on and prevent them from worsening.
A visual check provides an overall look at the condition of the skateboard wheels, while riders can also feel how rough or smooth they are when rolling, and make adjustments accordingly.
Skateboard wheels are an important part of the overall setup that can drastically change how you ride.
Understanding what skateboard wheels are made of and how they’re manufactured can help you make the most informed decision when it comes to purchasing new wheels.
Whether you choose soft urethane for better grip or hard urethane for more speed, your choice of wheels will be important in helping you conquer any obstacle on your next skateboarding adventure.
Just remember to inspect your wheels often and replace them when necessary in order to keep your setup running smoothly.