Skate Finder

About Roller Skating Wheels

Today, roller skate wheels are formulated for their intended use. The simplest industry vernacular used to describe their known performance characteristics is: "Indoor Wheels" and "Outdoor Wheels".

Indoor Wheels are firmer and roll more easily than outdoor wheels. Indoor wheels are formulated to perform best on smooth surfaces with the known reliable floor coatings now used in over 95% of commercial roller skating centers. Most importantly, indoor wheels skate smoothly while gripping the floor coatings safely, even at high speeds negotiating sharp turns. Indoor wheels are never recommended for outdoor use. Used on smooth concrete they wear out sooner than designed. Used on rough concrete, they "ride rough" and wear out much too quickly. On outdoor trails, small stones become embedded into the wheels causing problems in stability for skaters.

Outdoor Wheels are a result of exotic polyurethanes perfected for skate wheels in the early 1970's. Their unique characteristic is called "Rebound". Owing  to the formulations of the wheels, small stones won't become embedded in the material as the skater rolls across them. These wheels throw debris out and away as it rolls across it. This phenomenon earned wheels of this formulation the "outdoor" signature, as they roll well in unfriendly environments. These are softer than indoor wheels and take more energy for acceleration and sustain speeds while skating. The cost of outdoor wheels is greater (owing to the formulation) than indoor wheels by an average factor between 35 and 50%.

HARDNESS OF THE WHEELS - There are two scales of measurements used to express the "hardness" or urethane - the "A" scale (used in skating with a range from a low of 70A to a high of 103A) and the "D" scale, which, if converted to skate wheels, would turn in lower numbers like 43D to 55D. The "A" scale is centigrade (100 degrees is boiling) - the "D" scale is Fahrenheit. Skate wheels makers  use the "A" scale since 100+ is nearly the hardness of a porcelain sink by skate wheels standards. There is a dynamic and widely varying "practical" or performing" hardness is any skate wheel. Factors affecting the practical or performing hardness of these wheels include:

TEMPERATURE - Performance of a soft (70A) skate wheels on 120-degree asphalt outdoor will be different than on a 76-degree urethane floor coating while indoors.

WEIGHT - A 6' 5", 240 lb skater will clearly affect a skate wheels differently than a 5' 6", 130 lb skater. Muscle can compensate, even be an equalizer, but urethanes with "bulk extenders" or fillers (common in cheap skates) might actually break down under heavy weights and high speeds. These wheels will be seen to "chunk" or break apart or flatten. However, poor skating habits can have similar consequences. Don't be too quick to blame wheel makers for defects. We have seen skating styles destroy wheels, bearings, plates and shoes!

PROFILE (or Radius) - The profile of the wheels determines how much of the wheel is actually touching the ground (sometimes called the "footprint") and this effects the wheel's rolling resistance and grip. This gets tricky: A large hub can reduce a footprint on a high-speed turn. The narrow (or higher) the profile, the more it is suited to straight-line higher speed skating without a lot of twists and turns. Also, the narrower the wheel, (offering a thin "footprint" to the floor) the more easily maneuvered at lower speeds.

CORE OR HUB - It secures the outer race of the bearings. The larger the hub, less urethane is used to complete the final diameter of the wheel. Hubs these days are made of exotic and durable nylons, zytels, and polycarbon blends. The larger the hub, the lighter the wheel becomes and, in a dynamic way, the hub effects the point of contact on the floor surface. Larger hubs reduce potential roll-resistance, regardless of the profile.

SIZE - The industry standard measures the diameter of the wheel in millimeters from the smaller (54mm - 2 1/8") to the taller  (84mm - 3"). Taller wheels have more inertia to overcome when starting out, but sustain higher speeds for longer distances with less effort. Smaller wheels are better short-distance (or sprint) wheels since they offer faster acceleration (but without sustained roll) by being less resistant to quick starts and dashes than taller ones. In theory, a hockey goalie should be expected to use a wide profile (fat) wheel with the smallest diameter available since the longest distance the goalie travels in a game is merely a few feet in short bursts. A 22K long distance skater will have an advantage using the thinnest (just like a racing bike does) and the tallest wheel possible with the largest hub made blended with the skater's own rate of endurance.

THE SEARCH - With all of these variables there is no such thing as a universally correct set of skate wheels. There is no such thing as an indoor/outdoor wheel that works equally well on all surfaces. Although a 72mm/78A or 76mm/80A might satisfy the basics required of enjoying a nice day on park trails, once skaters decide to refine their skills or define their own goals in skating, they throw open the window looking into the world of wheels. Climbing through the window, they enter the chambers of a maze in search of the perfect set. They mix, match, lathe, trim, groove, soak and spray them to achieve a harmony of their own skills and the performance hoped for in their wheels. This search can exhaust several sets of wheels to achieve! Give us a call toll free at 1.877.277.2346 and we can help you find the set for you.