There’s more to your skateboard wheels than just looking cool. The wheels determine your speed, which kind of terrain you can tackle, and how technical your skateboarding can be.
When choosing off-road skateboard wheels, there are a few features you need to keep in mind. These are factors that will directly impact your experience on that skateboard.
Most skateboard wheels are polyurethane, so that part is easy. They are all measured in both durometer and diameter. The diameter determines the size of the skateboard wheel, while the durometer determines its hardness. While both of these factors are a simple matter of personal preference, they are key to finding wheels that match your deck, trucks, and hardware.
This guide will help you narrow down these off-road skateboard wheels and determine which factors are the most important to consider.
Does the Size of Your Off-Road Skateboard Wheels Matter?
Simply put, yes, the wheel size matters, whether it’s an off-road skateboard or not. The main thing to remember is that larger wheels offer you more comfort and a much smoother ride. They are also the kind of wheels you want if you intend to go on rough terrain.
On the other hand, smaller wheels give you agility. They are better in tight turns, and they are the kind of wheels you want when you intend to perform tricks on your skateboard. Wider skateboard wheels are better for smooth rides, but they aren’t good for high performance.
Even though off-road skateboarding naturally calls for larger wheels, the actual size you choose could depend on many factors, including your body size (height and weight) as well as your personal preference.
When it comes to wheel size, it’s the diameter that indicates what you are getting. Most skateboard wheels fall between 50 and 75 millimeters. The larger the wheel, the more balance and speed you will get. Here’s a quick breakdown of the wheel sizes for the sake of reference.
- 50 to 53 mm: These smaller wheels typically wouldn’t be fitted on an off-road skateboard. They are designed for tricks and technical riding, and you will commonly find them in skate bowls and parks.
- 54 to 59 mm: These are medium-sized wheels that are ideal for larger riders as well as beginners. Although you can technically fit these wheels on an off-road skateboard, they will limit the type of terrain on which you can enjoy your riding. These are also best for day-to-day riding and skate parks as well as a little off-road riding on rough surfaces.
- 60 mm or above: Now, these are the kinds of wheels you want on your off-road skateboard. They are ideal for rough roads, dirt trails, and specialty riding such as mountain boarding. These wheels are perfect for longboards, mountain boards, and cruisers.
Should You Choose Softer or Harder Wheels for Your Off-Road Skateboard?
The durometer of the wheel measures just how hard or soft it is, and that determines which surfaces are best suited for those specific wheels. There are two main durometer scales used in the skating world today:
- Durometer A Scale: This 100-point scale is mostly used by skateboarders and determines wheel hardness.
- Durometer B Scale: This does the same thing, but instead of measuring to 100 points, it’s an 80-point scale.
On average, a skateboard’s wheel durometer often falls at 99 on the Durometer A Scale or 80 on the Durometer B Scale.
A harder wheel is technically much faster than a softer wheel. That’s mostly because softer wheels offer more grip and, as such, are ideal for off-road skateboarding. In some cases, you will find brands offering dual-durometer wheels. These wheels have a softer wheel core and harder outside.
These types of wheels are for people who would rather build their custom off-road skateboards and know exactly what they want to do and where they want to ride. Here’s a quick breakdown of wheel durometer measurements that should help guide you towards the best off-road skateboard wheels for you.
- 78 to 87 A: This is a soft wheel, ideal for an off-road skateboard or longboard. They offer significant grip and easily roll over almost any type of terrain. These are perfect for skating over small rocks, hills, cracks, and uneven terrain. As an off-road skateboarding enthusiast, the wheels you choose should ideally fall under this range.
- 88 to 95 A: While these wheels don’t offer you as much grip as the group above, they are still good enough for off-road skateboarding and longboarding. These are ideal for people who want to do a little bit of both: some off-roading as well as some street skating.
- 96 to 99 A: These wheels fall under the “all-around” category, making them ideal for almost every type of skateboarder. They can be used at the skatepark, pools, and ramps and are also ideal for beginners. They aren’t quite as soft as any of the options in the above categories and are therefore not the ideal choice for off-roading or dirt trails, but they can work if you have no other available options.
- 101 and above: These are hard wheels. Although they are good for quick acceleration, they don’t offer you much grip and are therefore not ideal for off-road skateboarding. They are, however, great for urban and street riding. This is the rating that most pro skaters use.
What about Narrow or Wide Skateboard Wheels?
Apart from the diameter and the durometer, there’s one other criterion by which skateboard wheels are measured: the width. These fall under two categories.
- Narrow lip wheels: As the name would suggest, these are the narrowest of the bunch and give you a smooth ride with less friction, making them perfect for street riding, tricks, and typical urban use. They are also the kind of wheels that riders who enjoy doing tricks use. That’s mostly because they are the most agile and responsive of the group.
- Wide lip wheels: These are the kinds of wheels that offer you the best kind of grip, which makes them ideal for off-road skateboarding. They are also perfect for larger riders, beginners, and regular commuters. Standard wide lip wheels are both sturdy and well-balanced. You can just as easily use them at the skate park as you can on the side of some hill in the middle of nowhere. Remember, they do not handle tricks that well because they are wider and, therefore, slower and less agile.
Finally, there’s something to be said about the wheel shape or profile. There are two main types: rounded and squared skateboard wheels. As an off-road enthusiast, you are better off with a square-shaped wheel, mainly because it offers you the maximum amount of contact with the ground and, as such, more grip when compared to rounded wheels.
All this might sound a bit overwhelming at first, but the truth is that it will only take a few rides before you realize which types of wheels you are most comfortable with based on the kind of off-road skateboard you have, your body weight and height, as well as the terrain you tend to ride on the most. The tips offered here are meant to start you off in the right direction.