Updated: Aug 25
by Mel @troubleon8wheels
Our Shop & Skate evenings where you can try a selection of the wheels we stock seems to be going well. Having had very similar conversations over the last few weeks of the shop being open, now seems like a good time to try and collect some of the conversations I've had.
As always, everything contained here is from my own experience, and after 10+ years of roller skating, I still have a lot to learn. Everyone's experience of wheels will be slightly different, as the right wheel for you will be based on your body as well as the type of roller skating you enjoy, the surface you regularly skate on and your experience. The purpose of the Wheel Library and this blog post, are to try and save you money! I've spent (aka wasted) a lot of money on wheels that I've tried and then haven't liked. Then what? Well, often they're expensive so you end up just keeping them, and they sit unused, gathering dust, or become a paperweight.
Once, I bought some very hard wheels, designed for indoor use, and ignoring this, used them outside. Within 5 minutes, I had dragged a flat spot, caused by a T-stop on concrete. A flat spot is exactly as described, every time the wheel turns, you forever feel the flat spot. You can have the wheel re-turned, providing the flat part isn't too deep, but you need all the wheels to be re-turned, or you'll end up with one that's smaller than the rest. When I looked into this, it was more expensive than the wheels...
Moving swiftly on, here's what I would consider fundamental wheel knowledge. It has taken me over 10 years, lots of time and money to gain this, so I hope it's helpful to someone. No-one learns entirely by themselves, and my journey has been influenced the roller derby league I first joined, who used Italian Roll Line wheels, (narrow, hard wheels), the many skaters that I have had the privilege of meeting and learning from on skate travels, and the online skate forums that I was reading 8-10 years ago that are a wealth of information. Until recently, there was much less information to sift through on the internet!
There are no magic wheels.
We are always searching for a wheel that makes skating easier, makes you skate faster, makes rough ground feel smoother. The truth is, wheels can't do this. It's you, the skater powering the wheels, that with experience will push harder, gain a better understanding of how different terrain feels under your wheels and be able to stop more confidently. There are different grades of urethane used to make the wheels, so high rebound urethane used for outdoor wheels does sort of 'repel' small twigs, stones and things like that. Try to use an indoor wheel outside on rough concrete or tarmac that is wasn't designed for can give a rough appearance to the wheel, as it doesn't have this rebound technology. This is why outdoor wheels can be more expensive than indoor ones. Not all grades of urethane are the same. If you drop the wheels on the floor, a high rebound wheel will bounce!
A pair of roller skates requires 8 wheels.
Check if the wheels are packs of 4 or 8. We label this as clearly as possible on our online shop - using ribbons across the front picture of each item, and put it in the product listing. Please be sure to check!
Your wheels need to be all the same size. They can be different colour, and even the hardness can be different, but in order to roll together, they have to be the same size.
What is wheel hardness?
Wheels are measured using a rating called 'durometer'. You'll see this with the letter 'a' following a number. It's generally regarded that 78a are wheels that are at the softest end of the scale, although the scale does go below this. The hardest wheels on this scale are 103a and in my experience you use momentum and bodyweight to get the best out of your wheels, rather than the regular push and glide. This is why harder wheels are suggested for more experienced skaters.
I can get a lot more technical about durometer, but in this blog post, there really is no need! As you're starting out, you just need to know that the durometer is a unit of measurement.
I think it's hard to tell the difference between wheels that are close on the durometer scale.
For example, Luna skates come with wheels that are 80A. They are rounded at the edge and 62mm. I've advised plenty of people with Luna skates who want 'soft' wheels that they already have soft wheels. The shape of the Luna wheels is the same as the Moxi outdoor wheels (the dreamiest outdoor wheels in my opinion) but just a smidge smaller and harder. They're still a soft wheel.
Same goes for the Beach Bunny roller skate (and it's extended family the Ivy Jungle and Panther). It comes complete, with small (58mm) 78A wheels fitted. In my opinion, there is no need to purchase another 78A wheel. No-one expects a £200 roller skate to require immediate upgrading, right? Radar Energy 57mm 78A wheels are one of our best sellers, but if you've got Beach Bunny skates, you've basically already got these wheels, so save your money!
Generally, wheels that are less than 85A would be considered 'soft', 86A - 91A are medium, 92A - 96A are hard and 97A+ are very hard. The harder the wheel, the less grip you have. Hard and very hard wheels are not recommended if you are just learning to roller skate.
I would also suggested it's a good idea to stepping-stone your way up if you've only ever skated in a soft wheel. Super hard wheels feel very different, and it will take some time to learn how to skate these most effectively.
Hubbed or Hubless wheels?
There are few wheels that are hubless, as a nylon or aluminium (or compound) hub is usually required to hold the urethane stable, and allow the bearing to be inserted. The centre of the wheel is a standard size - you decide to fit either a 7mm or 8mm bearing according to your axle size. (If you need 7mm bearings, you'll know! Default is 8mm).
Aluminium hubbed wheels are stronger and hold the wheels' shape better. These wheels are recommended for longevity or for very heavy skaters. Nylon-hub wheels may not last as long, but are usually a bit cheaper and lighter than aluminium hubbed wheels.
Small wheels (smaller than 58mm) are often better for precision movements, such as rhythm roller dance, or skate park tricks. The wheel also rolls more slowly than a larger diameter wheel.
Large diameter wheels (65mm +) are great for speed, although you may need to work harder to achieve their top speed. Once you are at the maximum velocity though, it should take less effort to maintain this than with a smaller wheel. Larger diameter wheels are also great over uneven ground, bouncing over cracks where smaller wheels will get stuck.
Wide wheels are great for stability. Sports like roller derby that require blockers to be as solid as possible (try not to move when you're pushed on wheels!) often use wider wheels to support their stability.
Narrow wheels are good for agility and being manoeuvrable.
At the risk of overwhelming you with too much information, I will keep this section brief. Choose between a curved edge or a flat edge. A curved edge wheel allows the user to lean into their wheel edges and flow more easily - think like a snowboarder flowing down a mountainside, or a skater carving around a bowl. A flat edge allows maximum contact surface of the wheel with the floor. (None of the width is curved) so provides the most grip. This shape of wheel is most commonly seen in artistic /rink styles of roller skating. As it has the most contact area, you could say there is the most grip, although this does depend on the durometer.
Hi Mel, I've read all the blog posts, but I still don't know what wheels to buy?
Anyone coming into the shop or dropping me a message about 'what wheels shall I buy' I always recommend that they just stick with the stock wheels on their roller skate until they get used to the skate. This could take a month or three. It will feel weird and wrong, and you probably won't believe me and you'll buy the wheels anyway, but roller skating is much harder than you first realise (at the very start).
A message that I hold on to from my roller derby days, was our coach banning the team from buying different wheels, and instead insisting that we improve our technique in order to control the wheels we had. Skating indoors, we started on 92a wheels, and my goodness they seemed so slippery! The learning curve was steep, but we trusted our coach and it took around 3 months to skate (without a tense body for the first half hour), then after 6 months they started to feel more comfortable. After a 18 months of skating, our footwork was better than other skaters who used different equipment to support their skating. I totally realise how braggy this sounds, but when attending training camps, the trainers were often surprised by how short a time we had been skating. It did mean that we lost a lot of games during that learning time, as our skills were just not there, and it surely was disheartening at times, BUT the big picture was don't give up. Don't cave in to thinking that buying different equipment will improve your roller skating magically.
Enough of my storytelling though, let's look at the differences between some wheels eh?
Small - Radar Energy 57mm, Rookie Outdoor
Medium - Radar Energy 62mm, Sims Street Snakes 62mm
Large - Radar Energy 65mm, Atom Pulse, Chaya Neons, Road Hog 65mm, Moxi outdoor wheels
You need to check that the wheel will fit on your skates! If you're spending less than £100 on your roller skates, assume that not all wheels will fit. The largest wheel recommended for Rookie Artistic roller skates is a 62mm wheel.
Bearing wise - I only ever suggest you use cheapo bearings with wheels you will usually use outside. BUT there is something to be said for using a better quality one with a removable shield that will allow you to clean them. Depending how often and where you skate outside may mean you are cleaning your bearings pretty regularly.
Mel's pick: Currently loving the Chaya Neons wheels, as I feel confident to cruise around the city at night, knowing I can be seen. I stick to familiar routes, so know what the terrain is like, but still can't see tiny obstacles to avoid, as you would during the day. I have enough experience though to feel pretty chilled about a cruise on these wheels! Also, light up wheels are not just for kids.
The Atom Pulse wheels are basically the same but don't light up. I'd recommend the Moxi outdoor wheels as you do really float along in these, but they're just so hard to find at the moment!
Medium hardness wheels:
Sonar Zen, Luminous light up wheels, Moxi fundae, Rollerbones Pet Day of the Dead, Grindstone Smokeshow, Chaya Sugar Rush
Mel's pick: The Moxi Fundae are a delightful wheel. Love them as an all rounder for learning to skate transition and dance. They feel like really hard wheel that has been dipped in rubber. Probably not how they're made at all, but they allow a bit of grip (and therefore thinking time) at the skate park, and you can really push on them when dancing.
96A Medallion dance wheels
97A Sure Grip Velvet, Moxi Trick Wheel (though feels harder)
98A Rollerbones Indoor wheel, Bont Flow
Now we are considering harder wheels, I would suggest you consider a half decent bearing. The ABEC rating of bearings is a bit of a red herring, as the quality of components is equally important, and sometimes more important than the number. Higher quality bearings will increase the quality of your experience. Nice bearings can be an unexpected cost of £40-£75, so you may want to get your wheels first and upgrade your bearings later - you will actually notice the difference if you do it this way!
Mel's pick: For roller dance / indoor skating if you are ready for a bit more speed, less friction and you're ready for a new challenge, the Medallion dance wheels (if you can get them) or the Rollerbones indoor wheels are both great choices.
Super hard wheels
CIB x Reckless wheels (up to 103A)
101A Rollerbones Elite wheel, Chaya Firebolt, Estrojen Bowlbombers
102A Von Merlin Wheels
The Moxi trick wheel should really be in this category as it feels super hard, due to the tiny contact surface.
Eeeeesh! Hard choice! I've not skated on super hard wheels for such a long time, I really need to re-visit a bunch of them before making a recommendation. Having said that I was trying out the Von Merlin Dots, which are a little on the slidey side, but small enough that I felt connected with the ground. As the UK's indoor venues continue to re-open, I look forward to trying out more of the harder wheels.
Vanathane, Fo-mac and wooden wheels feel different again. I'd been skating for about 8 years when I decided I had enough experience to skate on a Fo-Mac wheel. I tried them, skittered about very, very noisily for about 30 minutes and then swapped them. By that time I had learned that whenever I try out new kit, it's going to take me a very long time to get used to it. I don't like to 'push through' and force my body to learn quickly, I would sooner take smaller steps over a longer period. The end goal is the same anyway, and I'm less likely to hurt myself along the way.
If you're interested in trying the Fo-Mac wheels, they're in the wheel library, just book your spot on a Thursday night!
We all skate differently. There are hundreds of roller skate wheel choices and Roller Girl Gang does not stock them all!
Thanks for reading.
Unfortunately we also do not know when stock is due to arrive - it just turns up! Where we do have an idea, the FAQ section will be updated.