Like other elements of inline skating, wheels have seen their fair share of advancements over the years. Wheels that you find on modern inline skates are manufactured from polyurethane. Seldom will you find wheels made of any other material, unlike decades ago when inline skating began its emergence. Many skates manufactured in the 1980s and 1990s had plastic wheels, which were ineffective and cracked easily. One of the most notable things about inline skate wheels is that they are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and hardness ratings (Durometers). Due to the overwhelming selection that is available, it's good to know that most wheels are designed for a specific type of use; therefore, it's easier to decipher which wheel you need to get for your skate.
Inline wheel sizing is measured by diameter and stated in millimeters (mm). Wheel diameters will vary in size from very small (57mm or below), to very large (up to 100mm). The variances exist due to the different types of skates that are available. Very large wheels are most commonly found on racing skates because larger wheels allow for higher speeds. Smaller wheels on the other hand offer faster acceleration and deceleration, which is why most skates do not utilize the larger wheel sizes mentioned previously. To provide you with a general idea of the wheel diameters you will find across the different skate types, here is a short breakdown:
Depending on the level of the skater, recreational skate wheel diameters can range from 70mm up to 90mm, and anywhere in between. Smaller sized wheels are often found on older model skates or skates designed for beginners. Wheels at the 90mm size range should be used by skaters who are comfortable at higher speeds.
Fitness skates use large wheels to help the skater with improved efficiency. The larger wheels roll better and fitness skaters will definitely notice a difference on long skate outings.
Race skates use very large wheels to help skaters get the smoothest ride with the most efficiency at higher speeds. Inline Skate racers often complete marathons in under an hour and therefore high efficiency at speed is key. Wheels for this skate type are usually larger than you'll find on any other skate type. Commonly, the wheel diameter is larger than 90mm for the purpose of higher speeds. Additionally, speed skates are unlikely to use a brake, but instead will feature a wider wheel base, and also potentially use 5 wheels instead of the typical 4 wheel set-up. Keep this in mind when you are searching for wheels for a speed skate.
Hockey skates typically use wheels which are between 72mm and 80mm. It is important to check your skates before purchasing replacement inline hockey wheels as the various manufacturers all use different wheel configurations and therefore require different sized wheels.
- Harder in-line wheels are faster but provide a less comfortable ride on uneven ground and they'll absorb even less shock. On the other hand, they're more durable and therefore will last longer and wear less.
- Softer in-line wheels are slower but offer a more comfortable ride. With softness you'll have to account for a shorter lifespan and decreased durability.
How the wheel touches the ground has an impact on the overall performance of your skates. All wheels are 24 mm thick which is the industry standard. A wider profile will provide more stability (found in children's in-line skates) while a larger diameter wheel such as a racing wheel will have a more streamlined appearance with its narrow edges.
Extending the Life of Your Wheels
- Swap the wheels in positions 1 and 3 and also the wheels in positions 2 and 4.
To determine what Durometer rating that you need, you must determine what type of skating you'll be using your skates for. Softer wheels are to be used on smooth surfaces such as indoor hockey rinks or skating rinks. A softer wheel is ideal for this type of surface because it has better grip than harder wheels. It also equates to faster acceleration. If you are looking to skate outdoors, but desire a wheel that will absorb shock, you can use a wheel with a Durometer rating at the upper-end of the soft range, usually around 78A. Keep in mind however, that if a softer wheel is used too often on a rough surface, it will wear down very quickly, and in some cases, start to fall apart.
Skaters who are planning on doing some recreational or fitness skating should look at wheels with a Durometer rating no lower than 78A. This rating will provide you with an excellent combination of grip and speed. Additionally, this Durometer rating will provide you the flexibility to take your skating indoors, without worrying about slipping and sliding on the floor. If your plan is to skate exclusively outdoors, you're probably best to get a wheel with a Durometer rating that is slightly higher, perhaps 82A or 84A. This will offer increased speeds, and it will not wear down as quickly on hard-pack surfaces.
Aggressive skaters will want to seek out harder wheels, usually no less than 88A. The reason for this is because of the terrain it will be used on, the abuse it will take, and the speeds that aggressive skaters require.
Inline Hockey players should choose their wheels based on where they intend to play, indoors or outdoors. If it's indoor hockey, the Durometer rating can range from 72A to 74A for maximum grip and maneuverability. If outdoor hockey is your passion, the Durometer rating will need to be higher to compensate for the harder surfaces being played on.