Words by William Bean – Stoked Team Rider
For the basics on wheel design, please check out our Longboard Wheel Guide article found here.
Picking the correct wheel is the ultimate decision for a skater. After all, the wheels are one of the few pieces on your board that can completely change the purpose of the set up. For example, a board slapped with super drifty wheels can give a set up a freeride orientation where as grippy wheels will change it to a downhill machine.
Let’s talk about some of the choices you will come across in your search for the ultimate wheel.
First off, understand that nothing I say will be quite the same as actually getting a set of wheels under your feet and trying them out. That’s why the best advice I can give you is BUY TONS OF WHEELS (no, I am not getting any kickbacks from any wheel makers for saying this). If you are committed to the sport of longboarding you will go through dozens of wheels. Eventually, you will be a better skater because of your first hand (or foot) experience with each of these wheels.
There are SO MANY VARIABLES when riding a longboard wheel. For example, hot weather will make wheels more buttery. Cold weather can make them more icey or even more grippy. It depends on the type of longboard wheel, your ride style, the pavement, the board, your trucks, the weather, your bushings, your risers, etc, etc, and etc…
Second, understand that not all wheels act the same for all skaters. For example, a wheel is going to act differently for a 150 lb skater than for a 200 lb skater. The difference of fifty pounds is going to change the physics of the grip, slide, and roll. Also, different ride styles creates differences in the way wheels release and grip.
Next, expect that wheels are not going to be the same all the way down to the core. This rings true especially for lipped downhill wheels. About 5 millimeters in downhill wheels have the ability to be an excellent freeride wheel. In general, most wheels will get more slidey the closer you get to the core and they will shed tons-o-thane, leaving those oh–so-awesome thane lines down your favorite run.
Now with that said, let’s start hitting some specifics…
Your personal skate style is going to the biggest thing you want to take into consideration when selecting your wheels. We will talk about 3 styles that are super popular right now and then we will gloss a couple more styles/disciplines that are worth noting.
First, let’s look at the dude who wants to be going sideways more then he actually wants to be rolling down the hill. This guy is going to be spinning and flailing and whipping the whole way down the hill. If you want to be this dude you are going to want to select round lipped, icy urethane wheels. The rounded lips will keep the wheels from folding under causing excessive bouncing and killing your speed, and an icy formula wheel will help you maintain your speed as you are going down the hill. Examples of wheels like these would be: Sector 9 Butterballs, Rayne Freerides, Orangatang Moronga, Cloud Ride Ozones, and Volante Checkers.
LONGBOARD SPEED SLIDE
Second, let’s look at the speed slider/highspeed freerider dude. This is going to be the guy that wants the speed and also wants to pop it sideways and hold it out for a bit, showing a flow-y awesome control while going in and out of switch and gripping some corners. You will want a little more traction from your wheel to give you something to push against while going sideways and the ability to shave some speed when needed. A little bit of a lip on the wheel isn’t that bad in this situation either, but it is good to make sure that it is a well supported lip so that it doesn’t fold under. This allows the highspeed freerider to grip the corner but still slide. Wheels in this grouping would be wheels like the RAD Release, Fireball Scorch, Landyachtz Kyle Martin FSU’s, Volante Morgan’s, and These 727.
LONGBOARD SPEED DEMON
Third, let’s look at the speed demons, the masters of grip, drift and lean. These guys will be charging hard, pushing all out from the top and blowing off only enough speed to make the corner grippable. If you are a speed demon dude, the wheel you will be looking for is something with more grip to handle higher speeds around corners and fast roll speeds. For this you will want to zone in on a sharper lip and a fast, grippy urethane. The lips will fold and dig into the road around corners giving you max traction and the grippy urethane will latch onto the road and will blow speed fast when sideways. You will want to check out wheels like Venom Cannibals, RAD Advantages, Orangatang In Heat, and 4President.
Those are three of the hottest skating disciplines on the planet right now and a sampling of wheels that are favored in each discipline. This isn’t to say that a wheel that has been classified in one discipline cannot give an awesome ride in another discipline category. For example, I know of a lot of skaters doing crazy high speed slides on slidy freeride wheels. I have also seen riders on scrubbed race wheels do freeride and high speed. It all comes down to personal preference. Bottom line: only you can decide what you like for what.
Now let’s cover a couple of loose ends to tie in different disciplines. These are a little less main stream but are all still a part of the skating world and deserve a “shout out.” If you are into slalom boarding check out speed demon wheels. People into slalom boarding are often looking for a lot of the same qualities of those wheels. Usually they opt for something a bit smaller though, say 70mm range. Next, the long distance pusher people want a wheel that is light and will save speed, a wheel like an Abec 11 Flywheel is ideal. Note the large hollow core that saves weight. Lastly, the crazy gripper skaters like so much grip it will rip your face off. These guys are the Maryhill Rats. They want grip that lasts for days and look for super wide contact patch wheel with a grippy urethane. These guys want the Abec 11 Centrax and the Hawgz Biggie Hawg.
So now that you have an idea of what is generally used for what, buy a bunch of wheels across all the different skate disciplines and experiment! Build your style and decide what you like for what! Shred hard! Core your wheels and tell us what you like!