Friday afternoons are the worst. So why not finally get something on this blog! I want to talk about one of my favoritest subjects – WHEELS! Watch out, this one is a long, kind of boring, but super important one!
Let’s start with the basics. Standard wheels are 62mm x 44mm (width), are made of poly urethane and come in a wide variety of hardness. I recommend sticking with standard sizes for your first new wheels but will get into different sizes later.
First, let’s discuss wheels level of hardness or grip. This is by far the most important factor in determining wheels. The harder the wheels, the less grip you will have, which results in less agility and more speed. The softer the wheels, the more grip you will have therefore you will gain agility but lose speed. So it is important to find a happy medium between something that is too grippy that will make you feel sluggish and something too hard that will make you feel unstable and make you lose confidence in your cross overs. I have had both ends of the spectrum, and believe me, nothing is less fun than trying out new wheels that are way too slick and literally having your feet unable to stay underneath you. “TIIIIMMMBEERRRR!!!” . . . *splat!*
A good guide to try to figure out how hard you want your wheels is the wheel’s durometer which in simple terms is a method that is used to calculate the hardness of the wheel - the higher the number, the less grippy (more hard). This is indicated by a number, followed by an A and I have seen wheels as high as 100A and as low as 78A for outdoor wheels. Most derby skaters will skate on somewhere between 88A through 95A. (yawning yet?) It is important to note though, there is some controversy regarding the durometer scale but for simplicity sake realize that a 92A in one manufacturer may be different in another, but in general it is a good guide.
Different levels of hardness/grippiness/durometer will have different results based on your skating surface. You will likely skate on wood, concrete, skate/sport court, concrete, and masonite. Derby helper actually has quite an amazing blog about skate floors that you should check out. I fear getting into this in length for purposes of discussing wheels would be a moot point, but again there is differences in concrete based on how dirty it is. There is differences in wood based on how well kept up and lacquered it is. There is significant difference in just skate court and sport court. Let’s just simply say that every surface you skate on is different and some wheels with more grip will compensate for, say, playing somewhere that has a gross ass dirty floor where pigs once ran around the week previously.
Next – that part where your bearings are, that’s your wheel hub and you can get either nylon or aluminum. Having never tried aluminum hubs, I can’t say much about them except that they are more durable (duh) and shiny (oooOOOoo... shiny things!). As far as durability goes, the only nylon hubs I have seen broken were due to a bad order which the manufacturer had to replace a lot of them. Aluminum is also more expensive and also supposedly more heavy. Again, never had ‘em, but... oooOOO... shiny! I would definitely recommend looking for something that states “hollow core” as they are substantially more lightweight than any other wheels.
Great info, right – now what? Use the resources you’ve got! Ask your other derby girls what they use. Note their brand and durometer rating (or you can find this online). A lot of girls mix them up and typically wear "pushers" on the left side of your skate and something harder on the rights, for example I use 88A on my lefts, 94A on my rights. If you can, borrow someone’s bald wheels that they have laying around. If you ask, I can nearly guarantee someone will help. If not, buy lots of them! Remember that part where I said no skating surface is the same? Well you’re going to eventually skate on all of those, so get started on collecting an arsenal of wheels because I am sure that you will use them at one point or another.
Ugh. I think I may have nearly put myself to sleep with that one but I have given this discussion 1,000 times so now I can just reference this post. Really, it’s about working smarter, not harder people… just like getting the right wheels! (like how I brought that back?)
Look at the time, ah, very productive Friday afternoon! ;)