Skateboarding is more than just a sport; it’s a unique form of self-expression and freedom. Whether you’re cruising down the street, shredding the skatepark, or navigating the gnarliest of terrains, one key element can make or break your skateboarding experience: the hardness of your skateboard wheels.
Welcome to our guide on “What Hardness Skateboard Wheels Should I Get?” The world of skateboard wheels is diverse, with various hardness ratings, shapes, and sizes to choose from. It can be a daunting task for both beginners and experienced riders.
In this comprehensive post, we’ll delve into the importance of wheel hardness and help you decipher which durometer rating is right for your style, terrain, and personal preferences. So, whether you’re seeking maximum grip for technical tricks or blazing speed for downhill thrills, we’ve got you covered.
What Is Skateboard Wheel Hardness?
Skateboard wheel hardness, often referred to as “durometer,” is a crucial characteristic that determines a wheel’s performance on various surfaces.
It is typically measured on a scale known as the “A Scale” or “Shore A Scale.” Wheel durometer is represented by a number followed by the letter “A,” such as 78A or 101A.
The durometer rating indicates the hardness or softness of the wheel’s urethane material. Lower durometer ratings (e.g., 78A) signify softer wheels, while higher ratings (e.g., 101A) indicate harder ones. The choice of wheel hardness depends on the type of skateboarding and the terrain.
Softer wheels provide better grip, making them suitable for rough or uneven surfaces like street and cruising. They absorb shock and provide a smoother ride.
Harder wheels, on the other hand, excel on smooth surfaces like skateparks and ramps, offering less grip but greater speed and slide control. Skateboarders often experiment with different durometer ratings to fine-tune their ride to their preferences and skateboarding style.
Hardness According to Skateboard Wheel Types
Skateboard wheel hardness varies according to the type of skateboarding and the specific demands of each style. Here’s an overview of hardness preferences for different skateboard wheel types:
- Durometer Range: 95A to 101A
- Street skateboarders typically prefer harder wheels for quick acceleration, easy slides, and precise tricks on smooth concrete surfaces. These wheels offer minimal grip but allow for greater control during technical maneuvers.
- Durometer Range: 78A to 87A
- Cruisers and longboards benefit from softer wheels that provide a smooth, comfortable ride. These wheels offer excellent grip and absorb vibrations, making them ideal for commuting, cruising, and carving.
- Durometer Range: 97A to 101A
- Vert and ramp skateboarders prefer harder wheels for maximum speed and consistent slides on skatepark ramps and halfpipes. These wheels offer stability and predictable control during aerial tricks.
- Durometer Range: 78A to 88A
- Riders who enjoy downhill racing and freeride longboarding opt for slightly softer wheels to maintain grip during high-speed descents while still allowing controlled slides when needed.
- Durometer Range: 95A to 101A
- Transition and park skateboarders use a range of hardness depending on their preference. Harder wheels provide speed and control, while slightly softer wheels can offer more grip when needed for bowl riding or transition tricks.
- Durometer Range: 97A to 101A
- Technical freestyle skateboarders value the precision of harder wheels for flat-ground tricks and flip tricks. These wheels help maintain consistent pop and slide control.
Ultimately, the choice of wheel hardness is a personal preference influenced by the type of terrain, riding style, and individual skill level.
Factors to Consider While Choosing Skateboard Wheel Hardness
Choosing the right skateboard wheel hardness (durometer) is crucial for optimizing your skateboarding experience. Several factors should be considered when making this decision:
Consider the type of skateboarding you primarily engage in, whether it’s street, vert, cruising, downhill, or park riding. Each style may benefit from different durometer ratings.
Think about the surfaces you’ll be skating on. Smooth skatepark concrete, rough street pavement, or uneven terrain will all require different durometer levels to ensure grip and control.
Heavier riders may require slightly harder wheels to maintain stability and prevent excessive wheel deformation, while lighter riders can opt for softer wheels.
Beginners often benefit from slightly softer wheels (around 90A) as they offer more forgiveness and grip. Advanced skaters might prefer harder wheels (above 95A) for precise tricks and slides.
Speed vs. Grip
Consider the trade-off between speed and grip. Softer wheels offer better grip but may sacrifice speed, while harder wheels provide more speed but less grip. Choose accordingly based on your priorities.
Larger wheels have a larger contact patch with the ground, which can compensate for the grip lost with harder wheels. Smaller wheels may require a softer durometer for adequate traction.
Ultimately, your comfort and style should guide your choice. Some skaters prefer the feel of softer wheels, even for street skating, while others adapt to harder wheels for a more technical approach.
Consider the climate in your area. Warmer temperatures can make the pavement stickier, so you might opt for slightly harder wheels to maintain speed.
The shape of your skateboard wheels, such as conical or square-edged, can also affect grip and slide characteristics. Combine the shape with the appropriate durometer for your needs.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different durometer ratings over time. Trying out various wheel hardness options can help you find the perfect balance between grip and slide control that suits your style.
Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to skateboard wheel hardness.
Hardness Maintenance and Wheel Replacement
Maintaining skateboard wheel hardness and knowing when to replace them is essential for optimal performance and safety. Here are some guidelines for hardness maintenance and wheel replacement:
Keep your skateboard wheels clean and free from debris. Dirt and grime can affect wheel performance and lead to uneven wear.
Rotate Your Wheels
Periodically rotate your wheels to ensure even wear. Most skaters rotate their wheels every few weeks to distribute the wear evenly across all four wheels.
Check for Flat Spots
Inspect your wheels for flat spots, which occur when the wheel wears unevenly in one area. Flat spots can significantly impact the ride and make your board less stable.
Monitor Wheel Wear
Keep an eye on the overall condition of your wheels. As they wear down, their hardness may change, affecting your grip and slide control.
Replace Damaged Wheels
If you notice significant damage, like chunking or cracking, it’s time to replace your wheels. Damaged wheels can be dangerous and negatively impact your riding experience.
Periodically measure the durometer of your wheels using a durometer gauge. This can help you track any changes in hardness over time.
Know When to Replace
It’s time to replace your wheels when they become too small (below your preferred size) or when the durometer rating has changed significantly, affecting your performance.
Experiment with New Wheels
Replacing your wheels also provides an opportunity to experiment with different durometer ratings or wheel shapes to find what suits your evolving skateboarding style.
Consider Riding Style
Different styles of skateboarding may require more frequent wheel replacement. For example, street skateboarders who perform a lot of power slides may wear down their wheels faster.
Keep Spare Wheels
Having spare wheels on hand is a good idea, especially if you’re an avid skater. It allows you to swap out worn wheels quickly, minimizing downtime.
Remember that wheel maintenance and replacement are not only about maintaining optimal performance but also ensuring your safety. Worn-out or damaged wheels can lead to accidents and injuries.
Why Having the Right Skateboard Hardness in Essential?
Having the right skateboard wheel hardness is essential for several reasons:
Grip and Control
The durometer rating of your skateboard wheels determines the amount of grip they provide. Softer wheels offer better grip, allowing you to maintain control during turns and tricks. Harder wheels offer less grip, making them suitable for slides and maneuvers where reduced friction is desired.
Different skateboarding styles require different wheel hardness levels to perform optimally. Having the right hardness ensures that your wheels can handle the specific terrain you skate on. Softer wheels excel on rough or uneven surfaces, while harder wheels are ideal for smooth concrete or skatepark ramps.
Inadequate grip due to the wrong wheel hardness can lead to accidents and injuries. For example, if you’re using soft wheels on a skatepark ramp, you may lose control and slip, increasing the risk of falling.
Skateboarding is about pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. The right wheel hardness enhances your board’s performance, allowing you to execute tricks more precisely, achieve greater speed, and have better slide control, depending on your chosen style.
Harder wheels tend to roll faster, making them suitable for downhill and speed-oriented skateboarding. The correct hardness can significantly impact your overall speed and momentum.
Your comfort on a skateboard is crucial for enjoying the sport. Some skaters prefer the feel of softer wheels for a more forgiving ride, while others like the responsiveness of harder wheels. The right hardness ensures you’re comfortable and confident on your board.
Using the right hardness for your style and terrain can extend the life of your skateboard wheels. Using wheels that are too soft for the surface may cause them to wear out quickly, while using wheels that are too hard may lead to excessive vibrations and wear.
Skateboarding is a highly customizable sport, and choosing the right wheel hardness is part of that customization. It allows you to tailor your board to your specific preferences and needs.
Having the right skateboard wheel hardness is crucial for safety, control, performance, and overall enjoyment of skateboarding.
What does skateboard wheel hardness (durometer) mean?
Skateboard wheel hardness, measured on the durometer scale, indicates how soft or hard the wheels are. A higher durometer rating (e.g., 101A) signifies harder wheels, while a lower rating (e.g., 78A) means softer wheels. The durometer impacts grip, speed, and slide control.
What durometer rating is suitable for street skateboarding?
Street skateboarders often opt for harder wheels in the 95A to 101A range. These provide speed and precise control for technical tricks on smooth concrete surfaces but offer less grip.
Which durometer rating is best for cruising and transportation?
For cruising and transportation, softer wheels in the 78A to 87A range are ideal. They offer excellent grip, absorb vibrations, and provide a smoother, more comfortable ride.
What about downhill and freeride skateboarding?
Downhill and freeride skateboarders typically prefer slightly softer wheels in the 78A to 88A range. This balance offers grip for high-speed descents and controlled slides when needed.
Can I use one durometer rating for all types of skateboarding?
While it’s possible to use one durometer for all styles, it may not optimize your performance. Skaters often tailor their wheel hardness to their preferred terrain and style.
Experimenting with different durometers allows you to find what suits you best and enhances your skateboarding experience.
In the world of skateboarding, the right choice of wheel hardness can elevate your performance and ensure a safer, more enjoyable ride. We hope this guide has shed light on the factors to consider when selecting the perfect skateboard wheels for your needs.
Remember that experimentation and personal preference play a significant role in finding your ideal wheel hardness. So, hit the skate shop, try out different durometer ratings, and embark on your journey to skating perfection.
With the right wheels beneath your deck, you’ll not only ride with confidence but also unlock new levels of fun and progression in the world of skateboarding. Keep shredding, and may your wheels always roll true!