Hi, my name is PT and I’m addicted to wheels.
Over the last 11 years I’ve had waaay too many sets of wheels for roller derby to talk about.
I’ve tried it all – wide wheels, narrow wheels, tall wheels, short wheels, soft wheels, hard wheels, nylon hubs and alloy hubs.
Here’s a few things I've learned about choosing the perfect quad wheels for your roller derby style and level.
Highs and Lows
The most common wheel height for roller derby wheels are 62mm (tall) and 59mm (short).
I know you’re thinking that 3mm doesn’t make a difference, but it does.
The minute you get on a different height wheel you can feel it.
Here’s the pros and cons.
- + Better for speed and long distance as the bigger the wheel the less effort you need to put into keeping a fast roll
- + If you are playing derby and need to pass your '27 laps in 5 minutes' test then this height wheel might even give you an extra half lap
- - Higher off the ground so you have a bit less stability
- - Less beneficial for stop-start action during a game of roller derby
- + Better for stop-start action as a smaller wheel allows you to accelerate quicker to get to high speed
- + Some skate companies only make 59mm wheels now as they believe it is more beneficial
- + More stability being closer to the ground
- - But you do have to work a bit harder on your 27 in 5
Just like different heights, derby wheels come in different widths.
The most common are 44mm (wide) and 38mm (narrow).
Entry level roller derby skates generally come with wheels that are tall and wide to give you more stability and roll but as you progress you generally will want to change them out for something more narrow.
Here’s the pros and cons.
- + Having a wider base gives you more stability
- + Great when you are learning
- - Less agility and can feel clunky
- - When you progress to pack work you may start clipping wheels with other skaters in the pack
- + They are generally lighter as there is less wheel
- + You can feel more agile
- + Less likely to encounter wheel clip
- - Makes learning to skate a bit harder as you have less stability on a narrow wheel
The hub of the wheel is the inner circle of material that the wheel is poured onto.
It’s the part of the wheel that you insert your bearings into and is essentially like the “spine” of your wheel.
The hub can help to determine your roll depending on the shape, style and strength.
There are generally 2 styles of hubs – alloy and nylon.
I’ve used both.
Here’s the pros and cons.
- + Stronger and don’t flex as much and as a result you don’t lose speed - making you roll faster
- + Cosmetically they look like you have mags on your wheels - sweet ride!
- - Most alloy hubs are heavier than nylon so this can add extra weight to your ride (Except for the Bont Royal Assasin wheels as they make up for it by using a mini bearing)
- + If you are over 100kg in weight or skate aggressively (heavy jumping etc) the alloy hubs are stronger
- - Can cost more
- - You may need to use a bearing press to get bearings in or out of the alloy hubs
- + Generally lighter
- + Generally cheaper in price
- + Can take bearings in and out more easily
- - When you land a jump there is often flex in the hub which can put pressure on the urethane
- - If you are over 100kg in weight or skate aggressively (heavy jumping etc) the nylon hubs will flex
Hard or Soft
So, what do the numbers on roller skate wheels mean?
Just like tacos, wheels can be hard or soft.
The hardness of the wheel is indicated by the number on the wheel followed by an A.
88A, 90A, 92A, 95A etc.
The scale starts at around a 78A and goes to around a 101A.
The lower the number the softer and grippier the wheel, the higher the number the harder and more slide the wheel will have.
One of the most common questions in the shop for roller derby skaters and for skaters overall is, "What hardness of wheel should I use?"
The answer is difficult because it will change depending on the skater.
Everyone has their favourite compound and no two skaters are alike which is why it’s sometimes hard to agree on which wheel suits which surface.
When it comes to choosing the durometer you need to consider the following questions:
- What floors are you skating on (floor boards, concrete, sports court)?
- Are the surfaces grippy or slidey?
- What body weight are you? Generally, the lighter you are the grippier wheel you need, the heavier you are the harder the wheel you need
- Your personal skating preference - do you like to grip or slide?
- Your roller derby position. For example, in some cases blockers like to have a bit of slide with a harder wheel so they can plow easily and have control over their edges. Jammers might enjoy having a bit more stick with a grippy wheel
Psst. Some wheel manufacturers are making dual durometer wheels just to make it extra tricky!
The Wheel Thing
Still searching for the perfect wheel?
At the end of the day the best wheel for you is probably not the same as your friend so we always suggest that you borrow some wheels and try them out before you buy new ones.
Ask your roller derby league if you can try their wheels out and see what they're like, try doing all your stops, transitions and a few laps in there too to see if they are more suitable to your style.
It may take some experimenting to find the perfect setup for you.
If you can't do that then head into our store with your current skates (or email us) and we can chat about the options and find you the best ones for your needs.
Blah, blah, blah.
Read all this but just want to know what we're rolling on?
PT is currently rolling on:
Minnie is currently rolling on:
So, what are you rolling on? Let us know if you have a fave wheel set-up below!
Got inline skates or don't skate roller derby? Stay tuned for more wheel blogs for inline skaters, skate park and recreational!