A Skimpy Primer on Skateboard Wheels

By BRET ANTHONY JOHNSTON

  • They used to be made of clay and metal; they were often salvaged from roller skates. Now they’re made of urethane.
  • They come in different sizes, densities, and colors. The latter is pretty much just aesthetics, but the first two criteria are important.Taller and wider wheels are typically used for skating transition—ramps, bowls, and parks. Smaller, thinner wheels are better for street skating, not least because the decreased circumference makes various “flip” tricks easier. 
The harder the wheel, the faster the ride. The softer the wheel, the smoother the ride. Next time you see some hippie cruising along a sidewalk on a longboard, notice that the wheels are roughly the size of baseballs.
  • Here are some names of wheels from the past: OJ II’s, Rat Bones, Slimeballs, 8 Balls, Shredders (my first wheels, two black, two white), T Bones, Hosoi Rockets, Blurrs, Spitfires, Low Riders, Bearing Covers, Lemons, Lil’ Smokeys, Bean Cups, 4 Skins, Jugheads, Bullets, 
Bam Bams, and Nitros.
  • There was also a very cool wheel company from Australia called Cockroach. There were black cockroaches silkscreened on the riding surface of each wheel, which was innovative and eye-catching. Unfortunately, the ink wore off after just a couple of skate sessions. 
The company went out of business in the early nineties.
  • Speaking of the early nineties, this was a time when everyone wanted 
to ride extraordinarily small wheels. (The trend had not a little to do with a genre of tricks called “pressure flips,” which was all the rage then, but which is generally scoffed at now.) If the average size wheel is, say, 53mm, then during that period of history, skaters were riding wheels that were 33mm and smaller. Some companies made wheels that size, but most didn’t. Skaters tended to drive out to roller rinks and pay the guys at 
the rental counter to shave the wheels down on the rink’s lathe.
  • When you’re skating a cement pool and you do a trick near the coping, wheels make a kind of beautiful groaning noise.
  • In case this isn’t common knowledge, skateboards have four wheels.
  • There are two bearings in each wheel.
  • Skateboard wheels don’t have any kind of tread. The riding surface 
is smooth.
  • Here are some current wheel names: Autobahns, Electros, Multi-skulls, Lizard King Bloodbaths, Supercrystals, Shiners, Crackles, Dyet Hot Tubs, Charred Remains, and Keep it Wheels.
  • Two bad things that can happen to wheels are chips and flat-spots. Chips occur when you hit something sharp and/or harder than the wheel. Worse, though, are flat-spots. Flat-spots occur when you slide or skid on a surface (ramp, sidewalk, etc.) at such velocity that a section of your wheel is (for lack of a better term) scorched flat. Sometimes you can smell the burned urethane. It’s a tangy, particulate odor.
  • Chipped wheels are still pretty useable, but a wheel with a flat-spot isn’t. It’s the equivalent of trying to drive a car with a flat tire. Clunk, clunk, clunk.
  • Skateboard wheels should never be called tires

 

A Skimpy Primer on Skateboard Wheels

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