An avid skateboarder, and even the beginners among us will know: the wheels are your board’s crucial part. Granted, they are not the motor of your skateboard. That honor belongs to your legs and your skill set.
However, the wheels are your point of contact with the ground. They have a crucial impact on your speed, as well as the manner in which you achieve it. Naturally, riding is not just a matter of speed. You have to also be able to navigate and control your board. Most importantly, a good skateboarder will keep his/her balance. That is where quality wheels come into the equation.
Wheels come with different characteristics which you should keep in mind and cross-reference with other, outside factors. These include the terrain which you will be navigating the most, your speed, and the type of skateboarding that you plan on doing. For example, being a beginner or advanced skateboarder can make a big difference in terms of choice of wheels. Also, the difference between, say, doing technical tricks or riding for the sake of transportation, can be enormous. So much so that it will also greatly affect your preferred wheels.
As for the wheels’ features, there are two main ones that you should keep in mind. We will also often reference them in our review of the best skateboard wheels. These are the wheel’s diameter and durometer.
The wheel diameter is measured in millimeters. Essentially, it represents its size, and the number is usually written on the wheel itself.
Our second important parameter, the durometer, refers to the hardness of the wheel. Polyurethane is the main material for skateboard wheels and has been for the last 40+ years. For different purposes, it can be harder or softer. A 75a durometer would be regarded as soft whereas a 104a denotes very hard wheels. These would be used mainly by professionals for a trick and technical skating. You may also come across a measurement containing the letter “B”. This rating system was primarily devised to mark the hardest wheels. For example, an 84b rating would be the same as 104a.
Now, after getting the basics out of the way, let us present you with our selection of the best skateboard wheels. Mind you, as we’re trying to establish a good overview of the technical terms that you’ll need to know about, our list is primarily oriented towards someone who is a relative beginner in the skateboarding community.
This wheel model comes from a manufacturer with a long tradition, respected in the skateboarding community.
The package contains a set of four wheels, hand poured and shaped, and made in the United States. As for the technical measurements, the wheels feature a 99 durometer measure and a diameter of 50 mm.
Just a quick comparison with our previous model will underline the differences between various diameters and durometers when it comes to a skateboard’s desired purpose. Namely, according to their size and hardness, these wheels belong to a middle category. That means that the durometer is much higher than in the case of cruising wheels but still soft enough for a beginner. These wheels could thus be a good entry point for a novice seeking to practice his/her first skateboard tricks.
At the same time, the 50 mm diameter ensures greater balance. Granted, these wheels will provide less speed, but when you are accelerating at a fast pace or flipping and landing, it is stability that you’ll be looking for. So, in a nutshell, these wheels will do the trick for any type of street skating.
An advanced skater, and especially a professional, might find the durometer too soft for technical tricks. However, for an entry into the world of flip tricks and street skating, they are just fine. Moreover, one can describe the 99 durometer as the best of both worlds, as it combines a right amount of speed and slide.
Apart from that, the wheels provide more than sufficient grip when practicing tricks or street skating. Here we will introduce another technical term that is very important when choosing the right wheels for your skateboard – the contact patch.
Contact patch is the part of the wheel that in fact touches the surface on which you ride. As an example, big longboard wheels, such as our previous selection, will create a large contact patch. As a result, a wider contact patch will also provide you with more grip. In the case of longboarding, that’s what will give you the necessary stability.
In this case, however, the contact patch is naturally smaller due to the 50 mm wheel diameter. Still, compared with other wheel models meant for hardcore technical skateboarding, this will give you enough grip, and stability.
- 50 mm diameter, 99 durometer measure.
- Dimensions and contact patch measurement make for a good all-round wheel.
- Comes in a package of four wheels; made in the USA.
The next suggestion comes from another reputable skateboarding brand. Regarding their performance and target group, these wheels belong to a similar group as our previous pick. Since we are talking about good “middle of the road” wheels for different purposes and also great for beginners, we decided to give you a couple of options in that field. Also, as you will see next, this model is similar to the previous one in terms of purpose. However, the Ricta wheels feature a much softer durometer.
This model features a 54 mm diameter and a 78a durometer measurement. The 54 mm measurement is pretty much a golden average, as this size is the most common on skateboard wheels. With this average diameter, they are ideal for skateparks, street skating, bowls, as well as vert skating.
The 78a durometer means that these are among the softer wheels that you can find out there. With that in mind, they can also be used by experienced skateboarders who plan on riding on harsher surfaces which require more grip.
As for the material of the wheels, the manufacturer uses its proprietary NRG hi-energy formula. With its speed and durability properties, it is more resistant to flat spots. As we’ve stated previously, all modern skateboard wheels are polyurethane which gives them increased longevity, not the mention overall performance and speed.
All in all, this is another good choice for beginners or even advanced skaters looking to make some changes in their routine.
- 54 mm diameter and 78a durometer, 21.5 mm contact patch.
- As the name suggests, this is the softest model from this manufacturer; a good choice for beginners.
- Made with the use of Ricta’s NRG hi-energy formula.
After already presenting one model from this manufacturer, we include this one, too, for the sake of variety and greater choice.
These wheels measure 52 mm, with a 99a durometer. With the 52 mm diameter, they are a tad quicker compared with the previous model from Spitfire. Actually, that’s the main difference between the Classic Series and the Bigheads. Still, the latter model belongs to roughly the same group of wheels, performance-wise.
It’s another solid choice for street skating, bowls and park skating. For all the beginners out there, this model offers a good compromise. Namely, the 99a durometer makes sure you get enough slide to start working on your skateboarding chops, especially compared with the softer models. At the same time, you will have enough traction and stability. This is a great combo for a novice, who can then gradually move on to harder wheels. It will give you enough accuracy to performs flips and tricks, but you will be able to use the wheels for street skating, as well.
The Bighead model is also known for being hand-poured and made in the USA. The package consists of four wheels.
In addition, with regard to their durability, we found this model to offer pretty good resistance from potential damage.
Namely, another skateboarding term that you will often hear is “flat spots”. Flat-spotting mainly occurs during a sideways sliding motion when the ensuing friction and abrasion flatten the wheel. What happens next is an unpleasant sound coming from your board and, more importantly, vibrations that hamper your ride and decrease the speed. In general, this tends to be more of a problem with harder durometers.
Of course, since durability and reliability are important criteria for our guide, we have handpicked wheels that have scored well in that regard.
- 52 mm diameter and 99a durometer.
- Package contains a set of four wheels; made in the USA.
- Good size/hardness ratio for quick acceleration.
This is another set of four wheels, suitable for skateboards or longboards. The wheels measure 65 mm x 51 mm. They are made of quality polyurethane which provides all the features we expect from this type of wheels. These include general reliability, grip, and resistance to flat spots. Also, they come in a robust and sturdy design which brings another important feature to the table – long life.
The 65 mm diameter makes this product most compatible with longboards. As we said, the bigger size will make for more speed. However, you will take more time to achieve it. Hence, these wheels will work best for cruising, even on rougher surfaces, which is a very positive aspect.
The 78a durometer measurement will be a good ally in absorbing any blows to the board or rough patches on the road. All the while, these wheels will provide the necessary control and balance.
Having said that, they are hardly adequate for skate parks, vert ramps and trick flipping of any kind. If that is what you’re looking for, we advise you to seek out smaller wheels (54-59 mm, for example) with harder properties – if you are an advanced skater; or with softer measurements, if you’re a beginner.
- 65 mm diameter, 78a durometer.
- Mainly designed for longboards and cruising.
- Good absorption properties; handles rougher terrain well.
First of all, this set of wheels also comes from a reputable brand, even though it was only recently that the company began its Kickstarter-aided campaign.
The 60 mm diameter and 78a durometer make it suitable for cruising and longboarding.So, you might ask: why did we include another longboard wheelset?
Here’s the thing – this brand is known for “reinventing the wheel”, as their catchphrase goes, and rightfully so. Namely, the shape of this model is not quite a wheel but not quite square, either. One naturally asks: if it’s not wheel-shaped, how does it roll? Well, the hybrid that is the Shark Wheel combines angular edges with a sphere and a sine wave. The fact is that, when not moving, it appears to be purely square-shaped. However, this is not the case. As a result, the new concept and design generate more than a few features singular to this model.
First of all, some tests have shown them to be faster than regular wheels. While we can debate the precision and accuracy of such claims, there are other undisputable features that distinguish this technology. Let us start with the wheel’s lip – the area between the contact patch and the outer part of the wheel. For example, in the case of wheels meant for vert skating and park skating, this area is mostly round. However, as the name suggests, this model’s lip is shaped like a shark. This feature brings increased grip and better traction. Consequently, with these wheels, you are likely to have more sliding control on different types of surface. Also, this model is known for its good performance in the rain.
The 60 mm diameter gives these wheels a good degree of versatility as they can accelerate faster, unlike the bigger Shark models. Of course, the maximum speed that they will achieve will be slightly slower than, say, the 70 mm model, so keep that in mind, too.
Lastly, some of the skaters using this model have also found this hybrid “round square” technology to ease their efforts. For instance, one push will cover more ground than in the case of regular wheels.
- 60 mm diameter, 78a durometer.
- A go-to set of wheels for cruising and carving, also for downhill riding given the control they offer; they perform well in wet conditions.
- Made in the USA.
Our first suggestion is also a very practical one. It is a useful package containing a set of four wheels, as well as some additional gear. The whole bundle is quite affordable, too, especially considering the contents.
First of all, let us examine the main part – the wheels. These are 70 mm x 52 mm longboard cruiser wheels.
For the novices to the skateboard world, let’s explain this first. A longboard typically differs from a regular skateboard to a certain extent. Obviously, it is longer. Also, longboarding usually implies downhill riding and cruising, as well as transportation. As a result, and also due to the type of wheels it uses, it tends to go faster compared with regular skateboards.
This type of riding requires larger wheels. That way, when longboarding, you can get the necessary balance, stability, and speed.
In this case, the wheel size is on the larger side, although even bigger ones are not unusual in this market. But the 70 x 52 mm is definitely a good size, especially if you’re new to longboarding. Bear in mind that wheels that surpass the 60 mm threshold are generally considered longboard wheels. A larger diameter does generate more speed; however, you will achieve acceleration at a slower pace. This all makes sense given the purpose of these wheels – longboarding/cruising.
As for the second important feature, their durometer or hardness, these wheels come with the 80a measurement. What does that mean in practice? Well, the 80a is well on the softer side of the spectrum. Hence, such a wheel is designed to generate less sliding, and to give you an overall smoother and absorbing ride. Again, this is in contrast to the harder wheels that you would use for other types of skateboarding.
So, in a nutshell, these wheels have their specific purpose and are great for that. However, if you plan on doing explosive, technical trickery with your board, you should read the rest of our guide.
Along with the wheels, you also get a set of eight bearings and a set of four bearing spacers. Bearings, as you may know, are the metal parts in the middle of the wheel which are used to mount it to the axle. Simply put, their job is to ensure a smooth ride and eliminate any unwanted friction.
In this package, the bearings carry the ABEC 7 rating. The acronym stands for Annular Bearing Engineering Committee, and the system measures the degree of tolerance in the context of general industrial bearings. Hence, you cannot always rely on it as a precise measuring stick in the skateboarding context. However, generally speaking, a higher mark is a positive sign. The rating spans from 1 to 9 (odd numbers only) which means that this product is highly ranked.
Finally, the four 8 mm x 10 mm bearing spacers are there to “assist” and reduce the load which presses against each bearing. Consequently, the bearings on your skateboard will last longer. Even more importantly, they will be effective and ensure you a smooth ride.
As a side note, keep in mind that all skateboard wheels come in standard sizes. This makes it easy to install them with whichever bearings you have at your disposal, regardless of whether they are included in the package. In this case, they were, but not all wheels come with bearings. The main thing, however, is that the wheels of your choice will be compatible with the rest of the gear on your board.
- 70 x 52 mm dimensions, 80a durometer.
- Good choice for cruising and longboarding.
- Three products in one package – wheels, bearings, bearing spacers.
The Bottom Line
We hope that our selection of the best skateboard wheels has been helpful. Our main intention was not to drop a couple of popular models for your consideration. It would be the easier way, but that’s not how we roll.
Instead, we tried to cover as much ground as possible and familiarize you with technical terms and type of gear that you will surely come across in the skateboarding community. That way, you will hopefully learn about what truly matters when getting new wheels for your skateboard.
We put our guide together so that it covers various aspects of skateboarding. Even though we mainly focus on beginners, we try to offer you a bigger picture – from street skating to cruising; from technical skating to transportation. Knowing your preferred style will be instrumental in your choice of wheels.
There are also aspects such as color, look, graphics – these were not among our criteria. We figured that this guide should primarily focus on quality and overall performance. On top of that, we leave it up to you to cross-reference our main points with the design of your liking.
Of course, the price plays a role, too. Our guide includes fairly affordable models, and we urge you to make a rational decision based on your needs and budget.
And remember – especially if you are new at this – there’s absolutely no shame in trying out a couple of wheelsets before settling for your go-to model. Even that can and will change as your skateboarding style evolves. For all you know, you may be needing several types of wheels in the long run. One for cruising, the other for technical skating, etc. The main thing is to keep exploring your options and not forget to keep having fun at it!