Here are three big myths about urethane skateboard wheels:
Myth #1. “The harder the duro, the faster you go.”
We have to make a distinction between shortboard/trick/vert wheels and longboard wheels. Skaters tend to use hard wheels on smooth surfaces (concrete, ramps) when traction isn’t needed as much. Think of the wheels as the balls in bearings. Steel balls on steel races is super fast but soft urethane balls on steel races would be dog-slow. Harder is faster up to a certain point. After about 94a, the compound is more important than the hardness alone. Even when the duros are very hard, it’s best to have the highest rebound as possible for running over imperfections on the surface.
When it comes to rougher/asphalt surfaces however, the fastest (longboard) wheels I’ve tested are typically between 72a and 77a. It’s not just having a soft urethane, you need to have a super high-rebound urethane as well. These wheels tend to gobble up the imperfections and spring back in a way that reduces vibration and maintains momentum. Given the same wheel and hub, increasing the durometer and/or reducing the rebound tends to slow the wheel down.
Myth #2. “The bigger the contact patch, the more rolling resistance you have.” Don’t look at bikes and cars and pneumatic tires for the answer here. We are NOT a road bike with thin rubber tires inflated to 110 psi. We are skaters who need to support 150 to 250 pounds on 4 smallish urethane wheels. We started in the '70’s with wheels that were only about 30mm wide, and have slowly moved toward wheels that better suit our needs. I tell skaters to think about what you’d want if you had a car that had to drive on grass or sand. The LAST thing that you’d want is a narrow and highly inflated tire. You want to let the air out of some big wide tires. Wider urethane wheels better support the average weight skater and his deck on asphalt.
Myth #3. “Smaller wheels roll up to speed (accelerate) faster than bigger wheels.” I always loved racing against skaters who believe this myth. Their wheels were typically shorter and narrower and given the same core, felt harder. Small wheels may be nice for tight slalom where “nimble” is needed instead of high speed, but that’s about it. If you want to go fast (without a motor) I recommend having a soft high-rebound wheel that is at least 75mm tall, 58mm wide, and that has a small to medium hub in it. The best example of debunking the small wheel theory is when Mischo Erban and I were up at GMR both using Lime (80a) Centrax wheels. I had SIX 83mm x 78mm Centrax and he had FOUR 77mm x 68mm Centrax on his board. We decided to do a “rolling resistance” test because there were many people there believing that I was giving up a lot of acceleration at the start of the run and when coming out of the turns because I had 6 giant wheels that I had to get up to speed. From a dead stop we’d hold on to each other for a few feet and then let go. We traded decks and repeated the process several times. Whoever was on the board with the six bigger wider wheels started to pull away every time. We weighed about the same and aerodynamics was not a factor. The bottom line is that big fat deep soft high-rebound wheels haul ass and can handle turns better as well. Adding a motor typically just means that you’ll benefit from having wheels that are nice and fast under gravity, and that you can roll over crap better when the wheels are taller.
Dismiss these observations at your own risk.