What Are Skateboard Wheels Made Of?

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Soft VS Hard Skateboard Wheels

Skateboard wheels are made from a synthetic rubber known as polyurethane. However, before polyurethane wheels came out in 1970, wheels for skateboards and roller skates were made out of steel and clay.

Today, almost every skateboard and rollerblade wheel on the market is composed of polyurethane. Polyurethane’s progressions that were created as a result of this sector allow it to be utilized for a wide range of wheels in a variety of applications. With this amazing and versatile substance, urethane producers will continue to discover innovative methods to meet complex industry demands.

Why Should You Use Polyurethane Wheels?

Pros

Polyurethane is a good match for the wheel since various polyols and polyisocyanates can be used to alter the mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties of the material. As a result, manufacturers may control their hardness (durometer) by altering the chemical component foundation.

A urethane wheel’s abrasion resistance also contributes to its longevity. It also has great traction, allowing you to maneuver the skateboard with ease.

Cons

Polyurethane is a highly polluting product. It needs a lot of energy, both chemical and thermal, as well as produces significant greenhouse gases.

They are also harmful to the environment. Furthermore, the process of recycling them would not be environmentally friendly. It also consumes a large amount of electricity and produces a considerable amount of pollution. In a nutshell, the life cycle of a urethane wheel’s biggest problem is polluting the environment.

Is Polyurethane Good For Skateboard Wheels?

The one-of-a-kind material that allows a skateboarder to weave through a street is polyurethane. It was a revolutionary development that accounts for almost all skateboard wheels on the market today.

The elastic nature of polyurethane skateboard wheels allows for quicker turning and a faster ride without having to worry that the wheels will slide out. It wears less than previous models of wheels, has better grip, and produces a smoother ride. Polyurethane was one of the inventions in skateboarding that helped to make the sport explode. 

Skateboard wheels are manufactured from two types of polyurethane: diisocyanates, which make the best material for a better wheel, and polyols. In that manner, your skateboard wheels will have excellent abrasion resistance and a longer life.

Features of polyurethane:

  • Can slightly change shape and reform back to its original shape
  • Very elastic and flexible
  • More resistant to tearing than other rubbers
  • Shock absorbant
  • Weather and temperature proof

History Of Polyurethane Skateboard Wheels

In the early days of skateboarding, skateboard wheels were typically made of metal. Roller skates were originally intended to be used with these wheels, but skaters nonetheless attached them to their boards. This practice was fortunately discontinued when Frank Nasworthy created the first urethane wheel in the 1970s.

Skateboard wheels have been composed of polyurethane plastic ever since. It is, however, frequently referred to as urethane. Because of its many uses and flexibility, this elastic material has dominated the skateboard wheel market.

However, not all urethane is the same, and not all wheels are created equal. Skateboard wheel manufacturers constantly experiment with new proportions of materials to make the wheels more long-lasting, fast, smooth, skid better, and resistant to getting flat spots.

Does The Size Of Skateboard Wheels Matter?

The size of a skateboard wheel, also known as diameter, is another important factor. Skateboard wheels are measured in millimeters (mm). The most popular sizes are available on the market range from 50 to 75 mm.

If you buy wheels that are too small or too big, your riding speed might be altered. Wheels with a smaller diameter will make you go slower, but those with a larger diameter will go faster. Furthermore, the size of the wheels may have an impact on how your skateboard turns and whether or not it can do so efficiently.

The smaller the wheel the faster it will accelerate, but with a lower top speed. As you start trying larger wheels, the larger they get, the slower they accelerate, but the higher their top speed will be.

Three groups of wheels can impact your boarding performance:

  • 50-53mm: The smallest wheels are best for novice skateboarders that are stable on a board and comfortable performing tricks.
  • 54-59mm: Medium-sized wheels are typically the best wheels for beginners and skaters that want wheels that are the best good for tricks and commuting.
  • 60mm+: The largest wheels are best for commuting, filming, and cruising.

Does The Shape Of Skateboard Wheels Matter?

There are two types of wheels: a sharp lip and a round one. Of course, each has its own set of advantages:

Sharp Lip: a sharp lip is the better choice if you’re wanting to cruise and perform carving. This shape of a wheel provides better traction, especially when making sharp turns.

Round Lip: a round lip is best for slide-surfing and powerslides.

Understanding Wheel Durometer

When measuring the hardness of a skateboard wheel, the durometer scale is used with a 100 point system. As the points rise, the wheel becomes harder.

That being said, different companies use slightly different systems to measure durometer. Typically, wheels are measured on the A or B scale. The B scale can be converted to A by adding 20 points.

In the table below we can see that softer wheels provide more traction, less vibration, less noise, and are slower. The harder wheels offer faster speeds, less traction, more vibration, and more noise.

DurometerSoft WheelsHard Wheels
Traction+
Speed+
Vibration+
Noise+
The strengths and weaknesses of soft and hard skateboard wheels

So, if you are into street skating, you’d better choose the softer models. In contrast, when you ride on a surface full of obstacles, go for the harder ones.

Here is a brief comparison of durometer measures to help you understand more clearly:

  • 78a-87a: These soft wheels are best suited for rough surfaces like skate parks or sidewalks. They provide a quiet and less bumpy ride.
  • 88a-95a: Medium-hard wheels will make your skateboard faster but you will also feel more vibration. These are best suited for riding downhills and on rough surfaces.
  • 96a-99a: These wheels are considered hard. They are long-lasting, great for powerslides, and the best wheels to use at skateparks and in pools.
  • 100a+: These are the fastest and hardest wheels you can get. They should not be purchased or used by beginners as they are more difficult to control.

If you still want to learn more about durometer, read this article on soft vs hard skateboard wheels.

Conclusion

Nowadays, skateboard wheels are all made from polyurethane. However, some are better than others, and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. They influence your riding speed, turning ability, comfort, and durability.

So if you want to enjoy a smooth ride with less vibration and noise but still get good traction on rough surfaces — go for soft wheels; be ready to turn slower than others though. Otherwise, choose harder ones that will make it easier for you to go fast down hills or perform tricks in skate parks.

However, remember these things: avoid large diameter wheels (60mm+), sharp-lipped models (for street skating), and round-lipped ones (sliding surfing). Instead, opt for average-sized medium durometer hardness options which offer an ideal balance between speed and control!

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