Sunday, June 17, 2012

Choosing (Quad) Skate Wheels

My fav' bout wheel so far...
Lately I was asked (for the thousandth time at least, I lost count) pieces of advice on skate wheels: What are the advantages and drawbacks of the different existing diameters, hardnesses, widths, materials...? Then I said to myself that it might be a useful article. So here it is!

I will not give names of brands and models, simply because I don't know them. Even with inline wheels, I don't really know what is on the market because I tend to skate with what I'm given. However, I know how it works and once you've got the keys, it is just a question of logics.

I'm conscious that there are already millions of articles on the subject, that is why I am going to keep it simple, clear and sober.

There are endless options because there are as many different uses, needs, types and styles of skating...
You have to find your own recipe according to your feelings and your aims.
There is no truth, only your OWN sensations should prevail. Get tips from whomever/whatever/wherever you want, but in the end, choose for yourself.

Diameter: the ultimate speed parameter

SPEED... The bigger the wheel, the more distance it covers with one rotation. A big wheel has a higher speed potential than a small wheel because with the same number of rotations, it will bring you further.
In Roller Derby, there are two main diameters: 59 mm and 63 mm. If you are a jammer, I would advise you to favor 63 mm to pace yourself.

REACTIVITY... The smaller the wheel, the faster you reach your maximum speed. Which is a good advantage for race starts because you speed up faster. The bigger the wheel, the more power you will need to lauch the first rotations... and to maintain your max speed.

STABILITY... Logically, the lower your center of gravity, the more stable you are. Now, the bigger the diameter, the higher you are, the less stable you are too. This is pure theory, right? I don't believe that less than half a centimeter more on your overall height (even if you are 1.55 m) will change a thing.

Hardness: the grip dilemma

GRIP... You must have experienced the feeling of being stuck to the ground with too soft wheels... But do not think that because your wheels are super hard, you can go faster. In fact, if they are too hard 1) they slip 2) they cannot absorb bumps on the ground and 3) as a result you'll spend more time slipping and hopping than actually rolling.
You should find your own good balance in the whole range of hardnesses: soft enough for the grip and hard enough for the reactivity.
In Roller Derby, hardnesses go around 78 A to 98 A. Apart from a few exceptions, you should be satisfied with the mid-80s range. Bouts usually take place on wood or (varnished) concrete, which are quite slippery surfaces when, as a jammer, you are at full speed on the exit of the bend. The best compromise I found for myself is 84 A, which generally suits most surfaces. As a blocker, you can afford softer (and more comfy) wheels because you do not need to optimize your full speed but your placing.

WEAR & TEAR... The softer the wheel the faster it wears off. It is more comfy but it can also become quite sticky if too soft (and particularly when it's hot in the summertime). Harder wheels will definitely last you longer, which may be a good alternative for skating in the streets. But I would advise you to avoid the mega-superhard ones... Anyway, this is just a question of priorities: Do you want to save your money or your back and knees?

Width: stability vs. reactivity

STABILITY... The more surface you have on the ground, the more stable you are. Wide wheels are more stable than narrow wheels, but you increase your chances of tripping someone (or yourself). In Roller Derby, the most common widths are 38 mm and 43 mm, which correspond to medium and large. Check out rollerdance or artistic wheels if you want to see what narrow is. Then, Roller Derby wheels are wide enough to be stable on them, whatever their width.

SPEED... Theoretically again, the more surface on the ground, the more friction there is. And friction tends to slow you down. You will need more power to speed up and maintain your speed with wide wheels than with medium wheels. Yet, wider wheels will relay more of your power to the ground and enable you to reach a higher speed than narrow wheel... as long as you've got the thighs for it!

REACTIVITY... The wider, the less easy to handle! With narrower wheels, you move faster and your skates respond more efficiently.


I will not enter the specific debate of all the materials used for the different parts of a wheel. To keep it simple, the wheel is made of two parts: the core and the on-core.

THE ON-CORE... is made of polyurethane with different hardnesses. The quality of the on-core varies according to the brands and models. Then you may find differences in grip or comfort with different wheels, even if they have the same hardness! The hardness is a good overall indication, but for details, you have to try!

THE CORE... can be made of lots of materials but the most common are plastic and aluminum. Plastic is cheaper but heavier, aluminum is more expensive but lighter. Plastic is more comfortable because more flexible, aluminum is more reactive because more rigid. Make your choice!
The core can also be full or open. The full version will obviously be heavier but also stronger, while the open version is lighter but according to its design may be more fragile.

Updated: Apr-16-2013
As always, hoping this will help. Don't hesitate to comment if questions or remarks!
If you want more precise information, test reviews, technical explanations on quad skating equipment, I invite you to have a look at the following skating website: for its French version and for its English version.


  1. Thank you very much for this article. Very clear and full of good advice. As the blog continues...

  2. thank you for this great article. I Shall be sharing. love and other bruisers from Hot wheels DBXxxx