Setup Tips: Hard vs Soft Skateboard Wheels

June 15, 2014

If you have ever shopped for new wheels you have undoubtedly seen a variety of numbers describing the hardness and size of the wheel. If you wondered what those numbers mean in regard to how the wheels will skate – SW is here to help out. Read on as we break down the difference between hard vs soft skateboard wheels. Find more Tips here at the Skate Warehouse Blog.

Hard vs Soft Skateboard Wheels

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Skateboard Wheel Size

First lets talk about wheel size. Wheels are measured in millimeters (mm) and range in size from 48mm to 62mm’s and up. Some skaters prefer a smaller wheel for the fact that it’s lighter, easier to pop and less prone to wheelbite. A bigger wheel is advantageous in situations with rough ground, when you need more speed and for rolling over potentially hazardous objects (cracks, grates etc.). Generally, wheels ranging from 48mm to 53mm are preferred by street skaters, while the 53mm-56mm range is great for most all-around type skaters. Wheels in the 56mm-62mm are generally the preference for big transition/vert skaters and wheels above 62mm are usually soft cruiser/longboard type wheels.

Granted these guidelines are just that, there are plenty of street skaters that will skate a 54mm-plus wheel and some transition skaters who like a smaller wheel for more tech tricks, it’s all about preference and what feels best for you.

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Spitfire Formula Four 53mm/99a. This is a great size and hardness for all-around skating. If you find yourself between parks, street and everything else, try these out.

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The Portland Wheel Co. The Portland Wheels 56mm/101a. This is a hard, wide wheel on the larger side of the spectrum. The 56mm size makes it great for parks and transition skating, but still lends itself to some street skating as well.

Skateboard Wheel Hardness

The hardness of a wheel is referred to as the “durometer” and is measured on the “a” or “b” scale. In regards to wheel hardness, there is room for preference but there are certainly better durometers for certain situations. For the most part, the hardness of a wheel is measured from 70 to 100 (70 being the softest, 100 being the hardest) on the “a” scale, while some brands (Bones, Autobahn) have begun to use the “b” scale to accurately rate the hardness of wheels above 100a.

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Bones 100’s 52mm/100a. A great street wheel. Average size and hardness make this a great choice for all around street skating.

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Autobahn Espinoza Rally Wheels, 52mm/83b. This is a small, hard wheel good for street and park/plaza skating. This is average size and hardness for modern street skating.

Hard Skateboard Wheels

For most street skating, park skating or any type of skating where you will be popping, sliding or doing tricks of any kind, wheels 95a and up are preferred. Harder wheels are more responsive, slide more easily and hold speed better on smooth surfaces. They absorb less energy and pop than their softer counterpart, making it preferential for popping and flipping tricks. Tail and nose slides will slide much better with harder wheels and they don’t mush out in transition skating or where a lot of pumping is required.

Soft Skateboard Wheels

Wheels in the range of 75a to 87a are considered soft wheels. These wheels are good for cruising, filming, and for very rough surfaces. If you use your skateboard primarily for transportation or non-trick related recreation, these are for you. A softer wheel will roll over hazardous objects more easily and are much faster on rough ground and street asphalt. Soft wheels are also preferred for filming setups as they are much quieter and require less pushing, thus reducing any extra wheel noise in the footage and making it easier to keep up with whoever you are filming. Sometimes a soft wheel is preferred for trick skating, for instance, in situations where the surface of the obstacle you’re skating is too rough for a hard wheel. Some drainage ditches can be too rough for 100a wheels, but 87a wheels will roll over the rough concrete with ease.

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Kryptonics Standard Route Wheel 62mm/83a. These are considered cruiser or filmer wheels.

Hard vs Soft Skateboard Wheels

OJ Hot Juice Wheels, 60mm/78a. These are soft, wide cruiser wheels best suited for rough ground and transportation purposes and are great for filming.

“All-Around” Wheels

Wheels in the 87a to 95a range are less common, but are considered to be a good “all-around” wheel. Not particularly hard or soft, these wheels are good for transitioning between cruising the streets and cruising in parks. “Old School” style wheels generally fall in this category.

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Powell Rat Bones 60mm/90a. This is considered an “Old School” style wheel. its large size and meduim duro lend it well to cruising streets, parks, bowls and ditches

Hard vs Soft Skateboard Wheels Recap

Hard Wheels:

  1. Superior in any popping, flipping or sliding situation
  2. Faster on smooth surfaces
  3. Absorb less energy
  4. More responsive
  5. The preferred choice for street, transition or park skating

Soft Wheels

  1. Roll over rough surfaces and hazardous obstacles more easily
  2. Much quieter than hard wheels, preferred for filming
  3. Require less pushing
  4. Provide a smooth ride
  5. Preferred for cruising, transportation and filming

We know that choosing the right wheel can be confusing, so hopefully this will help inform your decision on your next set! Luckily enough, wheels wear out and are easily changed, so we encourage you to try different types to find what’s right for you. Check out our full selection of wheels and other hardgoods over at Skate Warehouse.

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