by Mel @troubleon8wheels
"What's your favourite wheel?"
Once you've been roller skating for a few years, you find your skate niche and you'll tailor your set-up to support that.
Photo: John Steel Photography
A quick round-up of the different skate styles as I recognise them:
*Roller derby skaters tend to favour low cut skates for maximum ankle flexibility; large, hard wheels that grip the floor, so they can accelerate and brake rapidly and have a high top speed.
*Ramp skaters have lots of choices with their set-ups, with many having the Vans-style skates and a skateboard-type wheel; small, with rounded edges and hard, and definitely a grindblock of some kind to assist with dropping in, stalling and sliding.
*Artistic roller skaters favour high-cut, very stiff boots to provide maximum ankle support, and small, hard wheels designed for very precise indoor skating. Artistic roller skating requires specialist training and years of practise.
*Roller dancers are split into a couple of distinct styles - there are the jam skaters who appear to be breakdancers on skates - combining two specialist disciplines into one mind-blowing performance. Rhythm skaters may appear to be simply shuffling or gliding, and great skaters make this look easy. You'll only realise how tricky it is if you try to copy them. Rhythm skaters often prefer high boots, and small, cylindrical wheels with a defined edge, again designed for precise movements indoors.
*Recreational skaters are in it for the fun. These people want to spend their time on wheels with their friends, laughing and learning together. Don't get me wrong - being on roller skates is fun all the time - but some skate disciplines will require a lot more dedication and practise in a time-limited way.
I regard myself as a recreational skater, as I like to dabble in different skate disciplines, but I am not the master of any of them, and I am always open to learning more. I love to hill bomb, rhythm skate, street skate, adventure trail skate and occasionally roll around the skate park. However, I also accept that my learning may be slower than other people as I have many commitments in my life - I run a business, teach, have a child and partner to care for and spend time with, as well as see friends and family.
As a self-proclaimed recreational skater, I want to be able to maximise my time on skates without endless wheel swapping. The first trip to Skate Love Barcelona in 2015, I took THREE sets of wheels and didn't change them over at any point. Who carries spare wheels when they're street skating? I certainly didn't want to, and having the Moxi outdoor wheels on for the entire time certainly didn't spoil my fun. As much as I love the Moxi outdoor wheels, because they really do float over cracks, twigs and little stones, they are really really big and very heavy.
In my opinion, wheels make the biggest noticeable difference to your skate experience. It's really useful to borrow wheels to try, before you buy them if possible (ask a pal really nicely!), and I'm working on bringing back Roller Girl Gang's wheel library so that you can do that.
Photo: Katie McMillan // Alt Wedding Co
The discovery of Luminous wheels was revolutionary. Imagine a GIF with eyes popping out, yes that was me. They were so incredibly bright and dazzling! (And that was the old design that had the LED lights embedded in the centre of the wheel!) The updated design has the LEDs embedded in the outer facing edge and they positively sparkle. These wheels are medium hardness - they are 85A on the durometer scale - and are 62mm wide. The larger diameter means you'll accelerate quickly and have a higher top speed as there is a bit more wheel to travel around than a 58mm one. Having said that, there is now a 58mm wheel available, though I've not yet tried it to compare.
What do they look like?
Luminous wheels have a bright white LED embedded in the coloured urethane, making the wheel glow a bright version of that colour. The glitter wheels have smaller red, blue and white LEDs set into the wheel that appear to give a starburst pattern if you roll slowly. At high speed this just fades into gorgeous sparkly brightness. Just remember if you are a newer skater that as with any new equipment, your attention will be drawn to your feet - but the worst thing you can do is look at your feet. My tip would be to skate in front of a mirror or take some video to appreciate the awesome brightness.
How do they work?
There is a dynamo in the middle of the wheel, sandwiched between the bearings that makes them light up. The wheels don't ever need a battery as they only light up when you move! Sometimes you need to overtighten the axle nut and then loosen it a bit to get the dynamo to function properly. Also be aware that the hub of these wheels is extra thick, so if the axle of your skate is short you may need to invert the axle nut. Make sure they are locked on tight as 7 wheel skating is hard!
Why I love them
I love them at roller discos, as although they are relatively 'grippy' for indoor skating (usually wheels rated at 92A and above are recommended for indoor skating), I can be sure that I won't slip on any floor, so I don't need to worry the surface.
I love them when street skating, as I actually like to cruise around by myself with my favourite tunes in my ear, and although it is important you are still very aware of your surroundings, having light up wheels will attract attention, so people know you are coming! Harder wheels also make more noise than soft ones. If you have the recommended 78A outdoor wheels, you'll be stealth gliding along most surfaces. As luminous wheels are a bit harder, they will make a bit more noise, alerting pedestrians to your presence. People's reactions are also pretty funny and friendly, particularly in the evening when light up wheels are at their best.
The mid-hardness also means if I want to have a little roll in the skate park, it's okay. I'm not a serious park skater and wouldn't recommend them for serious park skaters as they are too wide and too grippy. You definitely don't want to have a wheel hang up in the skate park - it can lead to serious injury. However for pumping practise and getting started in the skate park, you can start in your regular equipment. If you can pump with soft wheels on, once you switch to a skate park specific wheel, you'll be flying as your technique will be awesome! In the skatepark, soft wheels slow you down.
Hill bombing down my favourite hill is also a joy. It's rare the conditions are perfect for the ideal hill-bomb; you know, favourite spot is traffic-free, mostly pedestrian-free, not too many stones or other trip hazards and so on. When they are isn't it so much sweeter?
Trail or adventure skating is fun with these wheels, although a few years ago I definitely preferred Moxi outdoor wheels. I know my confidence and experience has developed and I can cope on most surfaces - now it's just pot holes, gravel or cobblestones that I try to avoid.
The main difficulty with these wheels is deciding which colour to choose!
I loved finding out about other Gangster's favourite wheels during the Instgram story Gangster takeovers and wasn't too surprised to see some of them love the Luminous wheels too. If you missed the takeovers, they're all available as highlights on the main @roller_girl_gang Instagram feed page.
Everything contained in this review is my own opinion, not endorsed, sponsored or gifted by Luminous wheels or anyone else.
Thanks for reading.