Skateboard Buying Guide Part 2: Wheels & Bearings
Skateboard Buying Guide
Ah, you’ve decided to build a skateboard.
Firstly, good choice – second, what the heck do you do next? I’m sure you’ve loosely heard bits and pieces about widths, heights, lengths… but it’s crucial to have an understanding of the metrics of each component of your skateboard, not just for this first time, but for replacing individual parts that’ll be sure to wear down or blow out in the future.
Hopefully by the time you’re done reading this you’ll understand
- What is wheel durometer?
- Why does wheel shape matter?
- What is the ‘A’ measurement system?
- What are the benefits of hard wheels and soft wheels?
- What’s the difference in performance between large and small wheels?
- What are skateboard bearings, and how many do I need?
- What’s the difference between cheaper and expensive bearings?
- How do I look after my bearings?
So, are you ready to begin your training, young Padawan? Good. As you’ll soon see, there’s plenty more to a skateboard setup than just the graphic...
Wheels are a big big part of your skateboard’s locomotive capability, as without them, movement simply can’t work the same way. They’re composed of a special polyurethane compound which is effectively a plastic hard enough to withstand daily punishment, but soft enough to provide a smooth ride for us skaters. Wheels can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with each specific measurement altering the performance of the wheel (and subsequently your ride). Now, adding to your knowledge of skateboard deck dimensions, it’s pretty dang important to have a wheel that’s both comfortable for you, and optimised for the specific skating terrain or discipline that describes your style (or the style you’re aiming for) the best. Wheels are measured and categorised in the following ways:
A skateboard wheel’s diameter is - yep you guessed it - the width of the wheel along the centre from one edge to another. So when you’re looking to buy a set of wheels, the measurement in millimetres is usually used alongside the name of the product, like here for example. So naturally the larger this measurement is, the bigger your wheel will be, and vice versa.
But what effect will wheel size have on the overall performance of your setup and style?
Smaller wheels allow for a slower ride overall, but quicker acceleration – so if you’re looking to get into street or technical skating then we’d advise you choose a smaller size, as the smaller the wheel is, the closer you are to the ground - typically makes your board easier to control.
Larger wheels are more suited for the speed demons among you, as despite the lower acceleration, they can hit some tremendous speeds and as such, larger (hard) wheels are preferred by Vert and Transition Skaters, whilst soft large wheels are commonly seen on Longboards and Cruisers.
Now, you may’ve noticed the mention of hardness or softness – when referring to this aspect of a skateboard wheel, the term used to define it is known as Durometer, or Duro if you want to be down with the cool kids.
With any set of wheels, you’ll see on the packaging the wheels diameter in mm (eg. 54mm) and you’ll also see a number next to a letter, for example 100A or 99A. This’ll be the durometer of the wheel – the higher the number, the harder the wheel. The “A” at the end of the number is simply there to categorise the hardness, with a maximum value of 101 – with the overwhelming majority of standard skateboard wheels fall between 73A and 101A.
Okay that’s all well and good, but how does wheel hardness impact your ride? Well for those who prefer a smooth ride over most terrain (bar grass…never ska te on grass), softer wheels afford you the ability to comfortably roll over small cracks in the road, pavement at good speeds and even to brush aside skateboarding’s worst enemy… the tiny pebble. Though they may be ideal for getting around, if you’re looking to begin learning tricks, stick to the harder wheels, as they are dramatically more responsive to quick movements and intricate skating, whilst also being more adept at power-sliding.
The contact patch of a wheel is the area of the wheel that is in contact with the ground, much the same as tyre tread on a car, and as such this is the are of the wheel that will wear down fastest. Many companies out there employ an ultra-resistant blend of urethane which enormously reduces or totally removes the wear on this area of the wheel – a process known as flat-spotting. On a slightly more detailed level, the wider the contact patch is, the larger your surface area will e, which reduces overall urethane compression and in turn reduces rolling resistance, which can slow you down.
Skateboard bearings are a fundamental and crucial part of your set-up, perhaps more so than wheels, since you can technically skate without wheels and just bearings, but you can’t skate with wheels and no bearings - so In any skateboard you’ll always find 8 total bearings sold as a set, with two individual bearings in each wheel. But what exactly are bearings? They’re cylindrical casings that pop into any wheel, lubricated on the inside that usually hold 8 steel ball bearings that all roll around a core that allows the wheel to roll smoothly for extended periods of time.
Bearings can get pretty pricey. Entry level bearings have the benefit of being easy to access and get going straight away, however the performance capacity is very limited. This is due to the ball bearings in a more expensive bearing being of a higher grade and smoother than the cheaper counterparts, and as such can achieve both longer rolls and significantly higher speeds, while lasting longer, too. In certain cases, Steel isn’t the material used to craft the ball bearings, but instead being replaced by ceramics. The advantage of ceramic is the dramatic reduction in friction, equal durability and resistance to water damage and rust – however these are the costliest option to take, and as such we at Two Seasons recommend Spitfire Burners or Bones Super Reds to get you off to a good start.
Many bearings are categorised in terms of their ‘ABEC’ rating, in the following order (from lowest quality to highest):
Bones and Bronson bearings are held to higher standards than the ABEC system, and are instead Skate Rated.
It’s crucial that you look after your bearings, so they look after you in return. Firstly, bearings trap dirt that’s kicked up from your wheel, and so regularly taking them apart and cleaning them is super important, unless you have money to burn on bearings every few weeks, which nobody wants. Due to the nature of the ball bearings being made out of steel, they oxidise when exposed to water molecules which forms…? Yep you guessed it, rust. Here’s a handy equation to remind you to avoid skating in the rain, through puddles or on wet surfaces:
Water + Bearings = Rust
Rust + Skateboarding = Time Bomb
Time Bomb vs Skater = Time Bomb always wins
Lubricating your bearings is just as important as buying them in the first place. We recommend Bones Speed Cream to keep you rolling true and keep your bearings healthy.
That’s all for this second section of Two Seasons skate buying guide, click here for our Trucks buying guide to help you complete your training!
If you missed the pervious instalment of the Two Seasons skate buying guide, >click here< .