Selecting longboard wheels is important in determining one’s longboarding experience.
Depending on one’s riding style and the surface they are riding on, some wheels are more suitable than others. A rider may not be able to do much about the riding surface but they have more choice when it comes to longboard wheels.
The choice of longboard wheels provides the best chance for a longboard rider to improve their riding experience. They are several factors to be taken into consideration when selecting longboard wheels for sliding.
- Wheel size/ height
- Wheel durometer
- Placement of the core
- Size of the core
- Wheel width/ contact patch
- Wheel shape and lip profile
- Wheel contact patch texture and finish
Other factors that determine the suitability of longboard wheels for sliding are the urethane formula, wheel rebound, core material, the riding surface and a rider’s weight and height.
Each of these factors affect the grip and slide of the wheel. It also determines the durability of the wheels. The smoothness of the ride relies to a great extent on the wheels’ selection. Knowing how these factors determine how a wheel slides helps a rider select the best longboard wheels for sliding.
Wheel size/ height
Wheel size, height or diameter usually falls in the range of 60mm to about 110mm. The size of the wheel determines acceleration and top speed attainable.
Smaller wheels accelerate faster but have a lower top speed while larger wheels accelerate slower but reach higher top speeds.
Bigger wheels provide for a smoother ride compared to smaller wheels. The bigger the wheel, the more the momentum it gains though at a much slower speed. This makes large wheels ideal for downhill racing and commuting.
Smaller wheels gain and lose momentum more easily and accelerate faster. This makes smaller wheels more appropriate for technical tricks, carving and sliding. Most longboard wheels that are perfect for sliding are usually small to medium-sized wheels. The ideal diameter is usually within 68mm-76mm for longboard sliding wheels.
Wheel durometer refers to the hardness of the wheel. They are usually rated on a Durometer A scale that ranges from 1 to 100 with a higher number denoting a harder wheel.
Wheels with a lower number make for a smoother ride. They also provide more grip but are slower. Harder wheels slide more consistently and faster and usually glide over the riding surface. Most longboard wheels that are perfect for sliding have a durometer rating of 80a+.
Placement of the core
Hub/core placement is important in determining the durability and traction of longboard wheels. How the wheel is placed determines how fast and to what extent the wheel cones and cores.
The three most common core positions are centerset, sideset and offset.
- Centerset wheels have the hub placed right in the middle of the wheel. They wear out evenly as one’s weight and turning force is distributed evenly across the wheel’s surface. They have more grip than wheels set in any other configuration and are the most stable. This makes centerset wheels more appropriate for racing and bombing hills.
- Sideset wheels have their cores placed on the side of the wheel closest to the deck. This makes the wheels have the least traction as the hub placement provides little or no inner lip. Therefore, sideset wheels are great for sliding. However, they provide the rider with less control and cone faster than other wheels.
- Offset wheels have their core placed slightly to the inside of the wheel on the side of the deck. They fall in between centerset and offset wheels, with a smaller inner lip compared to centerset but a larger one compared to offset wheels. This provides a balance between traction and sliding resulting in excellent grip and slight slide.
The most common hub placement configurations for longboard sliding wheels are sideset and offset wheels.
Size of the core
The size of a wheel’s core is important in determining acceleration, traction and momentum. Wheels with small cores accelerate slower, have more momentum and traction and result in a smoother ride. Wheels with a large core accelerate faster, have less traction and momentum and make for smoother slides.
All things equal, large-cored wheels are better suited for sliding than wheels with smaller cores.
Wheel width/contact patch
The contact patch of a wheel refers to its surface area that actually comes into contact with the riding surface. Ranging around 29mm to 69mm, a wheel’s contact patch determines the grip of the wheel.
The larger the contact patch, the more the grip of the wheel on the riding surface. A larger contact patch increases control but slows down faster. Combined with more grip, larger wheels makes it harder to initiate slides and result in a less progressive transition from slip to grip. Wheels with narrow to medium contact patches are usually the best for sliding.
Wheel shape and lip profile
The shape of the wheel and its lip profile is important in determining the traction of the wheel. Wheel shape and lip profile also affect how the wheels react and wear. There are four types of wheel shapes/ lip profiles. They are acute angled, square, beveled and rounded wheels.
Acute-angled lipped wheels have the most grip of all the wheels. Their thin edge conforms best to the riding surface for maximum traction. Due to their shape and design, they are not meant for sliding.
If forced to slide, they are liable to chunk off in places. They stick turns harder than most wheels and are perfect for making turns at very high speeds. Their design and traction makes them ideal for slalom racing and downhill racing. This makes them ideal for pro and pro-amateur slalom racing whether it is super giant slalom or tight slalom.
Square-edged wheels provide a lot of grip and have slight slip. The edges bend over rocks, pebbles and other obstructions. Due to having more traction and providing a smoother ride, they are well-suited to slalom racing and downhill riding.
Beveled-edged wheels are slightly more rounded at the edge compared with square-edged wheels. This provides the grip needed to go fast while allowing for more slide. This makes them suited for downhill riding and some freeriding.
Rounded wheels have their edges more rounded compared to beveled-edged wheels. They have less grip compared to the other wheels but this gives them more slide. They tend to get unstable at higher speeds making them unsuitable for downhill riding and riding at high speeds.
They wear down best when sliding and wearing them down does not affect riding experience until the wheels have cored.
Rounded wheels are usually the most common longboard sliding wheels.
Wheel contact patch texture and finish
The texture and finish of a wheel determines how much grip and slip the wheel has. Smooth finish wheels provide more grip while rough-textured wheels have more slide. The smooth, shiny finish on new wheels provide a lot of grip. Breaking in wheels refers to the process of wearing down the wheels so that they have less grip and more slip.
Stone ground finishes are incorporated in some wheels to increase slip and reduce traction. While typically more expensive, wheels with stone ground finishes increases the slip of the wheel right off the box.
One can decide to go for rough-textured wheels that enable a rider to get more slip from wheels without breaking them in. This does away with the need to break in the wheels where they slide less safely and unpredictably. This enables a rider to enjoy a fun longboarding experience from the word go.
Rough-textured wheels and wheels with stone ground finishes are better as longboard sliding wheels. One can also choose to select the wheels that catches their fancy and break them in for sliding.
No single factor makes longboard wheels more suited for sliding.
To select the best wheels for sliding, one requires an understanding of how the various factors affect a wheel’s grip and slide. A rider needs to experiment to determine which wheels work best for them when it comes to sliding.
For example, a smaller wheel can accelerate much more slowly than a larger wheel if it has a wider contact patch while sideset wheels with a lower durometer may have more slide compared to centerset wheels with higher durometer.
Understanding how these factors come together in determining a wheel’s slide provides a rider with a much better sense of what is most likely to work for them. This relies on research and experience on the side of the rider.
Reviews from other riders and experts in the longboarding industry also play an important part in helping a rider determine which longboard wheels are best suited for their style of riding especially for beginners.
This places a rider in a better position to make a better informed decision in selecting longboard wheels for sliding without being overwhelmed by the jargon, options and variety in the market and industry.