Skateboard wheels are commonly made of polyurethane, a tough yet flexible substance that can withstand the impact of hard landings and rough terrain. This material is known for its durability and shock-absorbing properties, making it the go-to choice for serious skateboarders. In this article, we will take a closer look at what are skateboard wheels made of and how they are designed to optimize performance.
Skateboard wheels come in different sizes, shapes, and materials, and choosing the right set of wheels can make a huge difference in your skateboarding experience. However, before polyurethane, the wheels of skateboards were usually made of clay or steel which were definitely noisy and didn’t provide a smooth ride as compared to polyurethane wheels. So without further ado, let’s take an in-depth overview of how skateboard wheels evolved over time.
Materials Used in Skateboard Wheels
The most common material used in skateboard wheels is polyurethane. PU is a type of plastic that is durable, lightweight and has excellent shock-absorbing properties. PU wheels come in a range of hardness levels, measured on the Shore A scale. The most common hardness levels for skateboard wheels are between 78A and 101A, with 78A being the softest and 101A being the hardest.
Other materials used in skateboard wheels include rubber and plastic. Rubber wheels are soft and provide excellent grip, making them a popular choice for cruising and carving. Plastic wheels are inexpensive and lightweight, but they lack the durability and performance of PU wheels.
Anatomy of a Skateboard Wheel
A skateboard wheel consists of several parts, including the hub, bearing seat, core, and urethane. The hub is the center of the wheel, and the bearing seat is where the bearings are placed. The core is a circular shape that sits inside the urethane, and it helps to distribute weight and reduce deformation. The urethane is the outer layer of the wheel and is responsible for providing grip and cushioning.
History of Skateboard Wheels
Skateboard wheels have come a long way since the sport’s inception in the 1950s. Initially, skateboarders used steel or clay wheels, which provided very little grip and were prone to cracking. As the sport evolved, manufacturers began experimenting with different materials to improve performance. In the 1970s, polyurethane (PU) wheels were introduced, which revolutionized the industry. PU wheels provided better grip and durability, making them the go-to choice for skateboarders.
Characteristics of Skateboard Wheels
The hardness of a skateboard wheel, also known as durometer, is one of the most important factors in determining its performance. Harder wheels (i.e., those with a higher durometer rating) are faster and slide more easily, making them ideal for street skating and technical tricks. Softer wheels (i.e., those with a lower durometer rating) provide better grip and are ideal for cruising and carving.
The size and shape of skateboard wheels also affect performance. Larger wheels provide more speed and stability, while smaller wheels are more agile and responsive. The shape of the wheel also plays a role in performance. Some wheels have a rounder edge, which provides a better grip, while others have a square edge, which is ideal for sliding and technical tricks.
Tread patterns are another factor to consider when choosing skateboard wheels. The tread pattern is the design on the outer layer of the wheel, and it affects how the wheel grips the ground. Some wheels have a smooth tread pattern, while others have grooves or ridges to provide a better grip. The tread pattern also affects how the wheel slides, making it an important consideration for technical skating.
There is always a negative side to everything. Here are a few Pros and Cons of polyurethane skateboard wheels.
Q: Can skateboard wheels be made of metal?
While metal wheels were used in the early days of skateboarding, they are no longer used due to their weight and lack of grip.
Q: What is the difference between hard and soft skateboard wheels?
Hard wheels are faster and slide more easily, while soft wheels provide better grip and cushioning.
Q: How do I choose the right skateboard wheels for my needs?
Consider your skating style and the surfaces you will be skating on. Harder wheels are ideal for technical tricks and street skating, while softer wheels are better for cruising and carving. Also, consider the size and shape of the wheels and the tread pattern.
Q: Can I mix and match different hardness levels of skateboard wheels?
It’s not recommended to mix and match different hardness levels of skateboard wheels as it can affect the ride quality and balance of the board. It’s best to stick with a set of wheels with the same hardness level.
Q: How often should I replace my skateboard wheels?
It depends on how frequently you skate and the type of surfaces you skate on. Generally, skateboard wheels should be replaced every three to six months or when they start to show signs of wear and tear.
In conclusion, skateboard wheels are an essential component of a skateboard, and choosing the right set of wheels can make a significant difference in your skateboarding experience. Polyurethane is the most common material used for skateboard wheels, and durometer, wheel size, and shape, and tread patterns are important factors to consider when selecting skateboard wheels. By understanding these characteristics, you can choose the best skateboard wheels for your needs and enjoy a smooth and enjoyable ride.