The Roller Skate Wheels Episode – 002

The Roller Skate Wheels Show

In episode #2 of the Roller Skate Dad podcast, I talk all about roller skate wheels. More importantly, I talk about one of the most popular articles on the website: The Top 10 Tips for Buying the Perfect Roller Skate Wheels.

In this episode, I go over the 10 tips from the website, as well as give you a couple of bonus tips not in the article at the end.

Show Notes

Episode 2 Transcript

Jeff Stone: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Roller Skate Dad podcast. This is episode number two, numero dos. Let’s get started.

Announcer: Welcome to the Roller Skate Dad podcast, the show that covers everything and anything in the wonderful world of roller skating. Now here’s your host, the Roller Skate Dad himself, Jeff Stone.

Jeff Stone: All right. Welcome to today’s show. This is episode number two. Today we’re going to be talking all about roller skate wheels. This is one of the most popular posts on the Roller Skate Dad website called the Top 10 Tips For Buying the Perfect Roller Skate Wheels. All right, let’s do this.

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Jeff Stone: Tip number one is all about wheel hardness and the surface that you skate on. When we’re looking at roller skate wheels, the most important thing that we need to think about when we’re looking at them is the wheel hardness. This is often measured in something called durometer. You’ll see it on most wheels measured with a number and then a letter A. You’ll see things like 78A or 85A or 100A or, in the case of some wheels, like the ones I have, 103A.

Jeff Stone: What that is is that is the durometer of the wheel. What the durometer is is it’s actually a measure of the wheel’s hardness. The lower the number, the softer the wheel. The higher the number, the harder the wheel. A 78A wheel is going to be quite soft in comparison to a 98A wheel.

Jeff Stone: A durometer is basically a device and it’s used to measure the hardness of materials like polymer and rubber. It’s a device that’s usually made out of metal and it has a gauge that’s on the top that reads out the number. Then it has a long cylinder that’s underneath it, and underneath that cylinder, there’s this small little pin. The pin is on the end of the durometer, and how much of an indentation it makes on the surface determines the actual number that’s reported. More indentation is going to equal a softer surface, whereas less indentation is going to equal a harder surface.

Jeff Stone: Most roller skate wheels are tested using the A durometer scale. There’s actually 12 different scales that different types of material can be actually tested with. But the A durometer scale is the one that is used most often. As I said before, the scale goes from zero, which is soft, all the way to 100, which is very hard.

Jeff Stone: As we’ve talked about before, most roller skate wheels, they tend to come in a range between around 78A and 100A. You’ll see some that are actually marked higher than 100. You’ll see 101, 102, and 103. We’ll get into that here in just a minute.

Jeff Stone: Generally speaking, a harder wheel, which would be something like a 90A or above, is going to have less grip. It’s going to also have a little bit more slip, meaning when you actually go to push with that wheel on your foot, you’re not going to get as much grip on the surface that you’re actually skating on as you would with a softer wheel.

Jeff Stone: But on the upside, it’s going to be faster. The harder wheel is actually going to go faster. It’s going to give you a longer roll. They just roll better because they’re actually harder.

Jeff Stone: The surface that you’re skating on is just as important as the hardness. Those two things really go hand-in-hand. You need to look at the surface that you’re skating on and match that up to the correct hardness of a wheel so that you can determine what the best wheel is to use on that surface.

Jeff Stone: Much like when we talk about wheel hardness, surfaces also have some kind of defining characteristics. The two types of surfaces that you’ll typically hear skaters talk about are slick surfaces versus a tight or a grippy surface. If the surface is slick, then a hard wheel on a slick surface is going to make you slide everywhere you go, and that may be okay. That may be what you want depending on the kind of skating you’re doing.

Jeff Stone: Like I said earlier, I used to be an artistic skater, a freestyle skater, so you want a slick wheel. Preferably, you’d like a slick surface, too, or I wouldn’t say completely slick, but a little bit slick so that you can actually spin easily. Whenever I used to compete, they would put down the plastic on the wood floor and it would actually always make spinning so much harder because we didn’t usually practice on a tight floor. We practiced on a very soft floor. You had to really push and dig into your spins in order to be able to execute them correctly.

Jeff Stone: Earlier I said that a harder wheel actually will make you go faster. That’s not necessarily always true. One thing that you have to think about is your balance and how much balance are you actually getting when you’re trying to go fast. If you don’t have very good balance or your wheel is too slick for the surface that you’re skating on, then you can actually wind up going slower because you’re just trying to keep your balance this entire time that you’re trying to skate. This is why it’s really important to match up the hardness of your wheel with the surface that you’re skating on because a loss of balance can actually mean less speed if that were, in this case, the type of skating that you were trying to do.

Jeff Stone: On the flip side, a softer wheel is going to equal a more grippy wheel. It’s going to stick more to the floor. Because of that, it’s going to give you more control. That more control can sometimes mean that you can actually go faster than you could if you were wearing a harder wheel and you were slipping. A harder wheel is going to equal less grip, generally speaking, a softer wheel is going to offer more grip. Therefore, a softer wheel is going to offer you a little bit more control, whereas a harder wheel is going to offer you less control.

Jeff Stone: This is one of the reasons why for new skaters, the tip is to actually wear softer wheels. It gives you more control. Yes, you’re going to go slower, but you won’t feel so slip and slick on the surface that you’re skating on. That extra control gives you extra confidence because you feel like you’re going to stand up. You’re not going to fall down. Your feet aren’t going to slip out from underneath you.

Jeff Stone: As you become a much more experienced skater, usually more experienced skaters want the harder wheels because they have the balance, they have the control. If you’re a speed skater, it gives you more speed. If you’re an artistic skater, it gives you more turn and more spin.

Jeff Stone: If you’re skating on a tight surface, this would be a hardwood floor with, let’s say, plastic on top of it. That tighter surface is going to allow a hard wheel to go faster. Because the surface is tight, you should actually have more control.

Jeff Stone: However, let’s do a flip side on that and say that you’re skating with a hard wheel on a wood surface, but there’s no plastic on the floor. That floor is going to be super slippery, your wheel is super slippery. If you’re trying to speed skate and you’re trying to go around corners and turns at top speed, good luck. You’re probably going down at some point unless you have extremely good balance. If the surface, however, is tight, then that harder wheel, even though it’s slick, the floor is not.

Jeff Stone: When you really look at hardness and you look at surfaces, it’s a bit of a marriage. You’re putting those two things together. It’s the wheel hardness plus the surface together that often determine the best kind of wheel that you should use for that type of skating that you’re doing. If you’re on a tight surface and you have a soft wheel, the soft wheel is going to offer you a much smoother ride. It’s going to go slower and you probably won’t need that extra grippiness, honestly, of that wheel on a tight surface. But if, again, you’re a beginner skater, that may be okay. It’s going to give you more of a smooth ride.

Jeff Stone: That’s part of the reason why most people wear softer wheels when they’re outdoors and they’re skating because a lot of outdoor tracks and roads are rough. There’s pebbles and there’s debris. Having a softer wheel gives you that smoother ride and it makes it more comfortable. If you wear a really hard wheel on a rough surface, you’re going to feel it through your feet and your legs as they’re going to jerk more and they’re going to be shaky. Your skate is going to shake as you’re skating, so often a softer wheel is used outdoors.

Jeff Stone: Now that’s not always true. Some people, like myself included, if I’m on a really nice outdoor track and there’s not a lot of debris and it’s pretty smooth, I will wear a harder wheel outside because, again, I’m going to get more roll out of it, I’m going to go faster. It just feels better to me. But if you’re on a surface outdoors and it’s really choppy and it’s really bumpy, a softer wheel will make that ride a whole lot more smoother and more enjoyable for you.

Jeff Stone: Let’s talk about a slick surface. If you’re on a slick surface and you have a hard wheel, that hard wheel is going to make you go faster, but you’re going to have less control around the corners. When you push, your foot is likely to slip. This is very true if you’re doing speed skating. You go to push with a very hard wheel on a very slick surface, and you’re not going to get very much push against the ground. Therefore, you’re not going to go as fast. While the wheel may be faster because it’s harder and it may roll better, your acceleration is not going to be as good because you can’t actually push.

Jeff Stone: A slicker surface with a softer wheel is going to allow you to have more control, but, again, it’s going to make you go a little bit slower. Your pushes, though, are going to have a lot more power because that wheel is grippier and, regardless of whether the surface is slick or not, your push is going to have more force. That means you pushing down into your skate against the floor is going to actually give you more power than if you’re wearing a harder wheel, where your foot is slipping out from underneath you.

Jeff Stone: I think this is commonsense, but, hopefully, my illustrations of this are helping you understand how to marry up your surface with the hardness of your wheel. Those two things really go hand-in-hand. When you’re trying to pick out a wheel and you’re trying to figure out what the right wheel is to put on your skates, you really need to think about the types of surfaces that you’re skating on and the type of skating that you’re doing.

Jeff Stone: Some examples of some slick surfaces would be things like wood floors with no plastic, like I mentioned before. This could be things like community centers and gymnasiums and roller skating rinks, which is where I do most of my skating. It could be outdoor; smooth, brushed concrete, some of my favorite surface to skate on because it’s super hard, but really nice concrete that’s awesome to skate on. But also it’s going to be super slick because it is so hard and it’s smooth, it’s not rough like asphalt. Then some sports courts, so like tennis courts and outdoor basketball courts that, again, are smooth, not gravel or asphalt, but typically a really nice, smooth concrete. Those are all examples of slick surfaces.

Jeff Stone: Some examples of some tight surfaces would be things like a wood floor inside a skating rink that has plastic on it. For those of you who are not advanced skaters, this is what gives the wood floor this nice shine. If you walk into your skating rink and it looks like the wood floor is dull, then there’s no plastic on that floor. But if it has a reflection off of it almost, a shine, that’s the plastic that they’ve put down on the floor. That type of plastic is going to cause it to be a very tight surface.

Jeff Stone: Rubberized gym floors. These are things that are not made out of concrete, but are actually rubber. Those are also going to be fairly tight. You can get away with a harder wheel on a tight surface like that and you’ll still have control.

Jeff Stone: Earlier on I said that a durometer reading can only go from zero to 100. But then I also told you that the wheels that I skate on, the RollerBones Elite, they’re marketed as being 103A. How’s that possible? Well, the short answer is it’s not possible. Is this a marketing gimmick, or what’s going on here?

Jeff Stone: You’re going to see when you start looking at wheels, if you are thinking about buying some, you’re going to start seeing that there are some wheels out there that are marketed as 101A, 102A, 103A. There’s not a lot in this area, but there are some. The simple truth is there is no 101 or 102 or 103 rating on the A scale. It doesn’t exist. If you have a durometer and you push it down onto the wheel, it can only go from zero to 100. It can’t go to a 101 or a 102. There is no rating on the scale that goes up that high.

Jeff Stone: In this case, what is the manufacturer then really saying? Like RollerBones, Bones, in this case, what are they trying to say? Basically, what they’re trying to say is that their wheel is so hard that it can’t be measured accurately on the A scale. They’re basically saying that their wheel is actually harder than the A scale can measure.

Jeff Stone: As I was saying earlier, there are 12 different scales that you can use to measure all kinds of different materials. The A scale is typically what’s used to measure rubber, and so that’s what used in urethane. That’s what’s used to measure most roller skate wheels. But it’s really only accurate to about 95. In the research that I’ve done, they say that once you get to about a 95A, most of the devices aren’t going to be quite as accurate. Therefore, you should really move to the B scale.

Jeff Stone: There’s been a lot of debate that’s been out there for the last several years about whether roller skate wheels should even be measured on the A scale anymore or if the B or D scale should be used. The B scale is actually a much wider scale. It actually would allow for all wheels, all roller skate wheels, to be basically tested.

Jeff Stone: But then that basically also means the entire industry would have to switch to the B scale; otherwise, it would be quite confusing to probably you and I when we went to look at a wheel and we saw one wheel that was a 95A and we saw another wheel that was an 80B. We would be like, “Is the 80B harder than the 95A?” You’d have to have all this conversion tables and everything else. Instead, what manufacturers like Bones have done, is they basically have just gone above the scale. They’re basically trying to say that our wheels, in this case this 103A, is super, super hard.

Jeff Stone: To really get an accurate durometer reading for those kind of wheels, you really have to have a B scale. I have an A and a B durometer on order at Amazon, and they’re going to be coming to me here in the next week. In a future episode, I’ll be giving you a whole lot more updates on durometers and how they work and whether the ratings that we’re actually getting from some of these roller skate wheels, whether they’re actually accurate or not. I figure there’s no better way to try that out than to test it myself. I’ll be bringing that to you in a future episode.

Jeff Stone: All right. That was tip number one. I know that was rather lengthy, but the wheel hardness and the surface that you’re skating on is actually the most important thing when it comes to picking out the right skate wheels. That’s why we talked about that one in quite a bit of detail. Let’s move on to tip number two.

Jeff Stone: Tip number two is all about your wheel’s diameter or better known as the height of your wheel. The height of a wheel is really important because it affects a lot of different things about your skates. It’s going to affect your acceleration, it’s going to affect your speed, your stability, and also the weight of the skate because the taller a wheel is, the more it’s going to weigh. Let’s break each one of these down piece by piece.

Jeff Stone: Let’s look at acceleration first. A smaller diameter wheel or a shorter wheel is actually going to give you faster acceleration, whereas a larger diameter wheel, one that’s taller, is going to give you slower initial acceleration. However, if we look at roll time or top speed, the inverse is actually true. A larger diameter wheel is going to give you longer roll time, which is, in essence, going to give you a longer top speed, whereas a smaller diameter wheel is going to give you shorter roll time and going to give you a slower overall speed.

Jeff Stone: These are two things that you really want to take into consideration when you’re thinking about the height of your wheel. This is one reason why inline speed skaters are so much faster than quad skaters, if you look at it on a general basis. A quad wheel is typically anywhere between 45 millimeters tall and 70 millimeters tall, whereas if you look at an inline wheel, most inline wheels will fall somewhere in the range between 70 millimeters, those are really, really small for an inline wheel, all the way up to 130 millimeters, which is a really tall wheel.

Jeff Stone: That taller wheel, while it’s going to take a little bit longer, not that much longer but a little bit longer, to accelerate, it’s going to keep its top speed for a longer period of time because it is so tall. This is just one of the few reasons why quad skates are slower than an inline skate.

Jeff Stone: If you look at acceleration and speed, if you were to break it down, a smaller diameter wheel is basically going to mean a faster acceleration, but it’s also going to be more effort to keep it rolling and to keep your top speed, whereas a larger diameter wheel is going to have slower acceleration, but it’s going to have less effort to keep your top speed going.

Jeff Stone: Next, let’s talk about stability. A smaller wheel is going to give you more stability than a larger wheel is. It makes sense if you think about it. Less distance between you and the ground is going to equal more stability. This is typically why I tell beginner skaters to go with a smaller diameter wheel when they’re first learning how to skate because it actually gives them more stability.

Jeff Stone: If you put a brand new beginner skater on a 130-millimeter height inline skate wheels, they’re going to have a really tough time standing up as opposed to if they’re on 70-millimeter wheel. It’s just a whole lot easier to control and it’s a whole lot easier to stand up if you’re on an inline skate. If you’re on a quad skate, the same is true. A smaller diameter wheel, like a 45-millimeter, is going to give you a lot more stability than a 70-millimeter wheel is. All right, let’s move on to tip number three.

Jeff Stone: Tip number three is all about your wheel’s weight. How your wheel’s weight is a large percentage of your overall skate’s weight. Every quad skate has four wheels on it, and so, therefore, your wheel’s weight has a lot of effect on the overall weight of your skate. By some measurements, your wheel’s weight can actually be half of your overall skate’s weight. It’s a pretty big consideration to think about whenever you’re trying to pick out a wheel.

Jeff Stone: Typically, heavy wheels are going to give you more traction, but they’re also going to tire your legs out faster because they’re heavier. Therefore, they tire you out more easily. Lighter wheels, on the inverse, are going to move easier. They’re going to make it faster for you to be able to do quick movements because they’re lighter. But they also provide less stability for beginners than a heavier wheel does.

Jeff Stone: A beginner skater is going to want a heavier wheel because it, again, helps with stability and it makes you feel more grounded. Whereas a moderate to an advanced skater is typically looking for a lighter wheel. Heavy wheels make you feel tired. If you’re a moderate to a more advanced skater, you’re doing more skating. Having a lighter skate is really important to you, and you want to stay light on your feet. That’s typically why a more moderate to advanced skater is going to be looking for a lighter wheel.

Jeff Stone: When we’re looking for a wheel and we’re looking at the weight of the wheel, what are some of the things that actually impact the weight of a wheel? Well, obviously, the size of the wheel. As we said in tip number two, what your diameter is on your wheel actually has a pretty big impact on the overall wheel and its weight. The diameter of the wheel really affects the weight. Another thing that actually could impact the weight quite a bit is also the type of hub that you have inside your wheel, which we’re going to talk about in a future tip here in a second. All right, moving right along. Let’s talk about tip number four.

Jeff Stone: Tip number four is all about the contact patch and the lips and edges of a roller skate wheel and how these are important when you’re selecting a wheel. As we discussed, diameter is the total height of the wheel, but the contact patch deals with the width of the wheel that actually touches the ground. It’s not the overall width of the roller skate wheel, but just the part that actually has contact with the surface that you’re skating on. It’s basically the width of the wheel, the total width of the wheel minus any wheel bevels or lips or edges on the wheel.

Jeff Stone: Typically, a wider contact patch is going to equal more weight of the wheel, but also more stability and more grip because there is more of the surface of the wheel actually touching the surface that you’re skating on. The inverse is also true. A smaller contact patch is going to equal less weight, but it’s also going to mean less stability and less grip.

Jeff Stone: If you’re a beginner skater, you’re typically going to want a larger contact patch. It’s also known as a profile. This is because it’s going to give you more stability and more grip. Whereas for moderate or advanced skaters, it honestly really depends a lot on what kind of skating you’re doing that determines how wide you want that contact patch to actually be. We’ll talk more about the different kinds of skating and how that affects wheel choice here in just a few minutes.

Jeff Stone: I mentioned bevels, lips, edges. Let’s talk about that in a little bit more detail. A lip, also known as an edge, some people may see it as a beveling or a tapering of the wheel, this is basically a detail of the contact patch. It’s the very edge of the wheel. This is basically all about how they’re cut affects the total amount of contact patch.

Jeff Stone: If you have a square lip, meaning that there’s no bevel at all, then you’re going to have more contact patch that actually means that more of the wheel’s surface is going to touch the ground. Whereas if that edge of the wheel is actually more rounded, then you’re going to have less contact patch. Like we said earlier, that means a square-lipped wheel is going to have more grip, less give to it. Whereas a rounded lip is going to have less grip, but more give.

Jeff Stone: Just in my research and my experience of looking at wheels, most wheels have a rounded lip, so there is some beveling. You don’t see very many wheels that are square-lipped. Some of the old wood wheels are like that, where they actually are just square. There’s no beveling whatsoever. However, even with the round-lipped versions, there is more beveling on some wheels than others. It’s just another characteristic of a wheel to look at whenever you’re deciding which one is right for you.

Jeff Stone: Back in tip number three, we were talking about the wheel weight. I was saying that one of the things that can actually affect the weight of the wheel is the hub and the core material. This is the center part of your wheel, the part that actually attaches to the axle. Tip number five is all about how the wheel’s hub and the material that that core is made out of affect the overall weight that a wheel rolls.

Jeff Stone: First of all, let’s make sure that everybody understands what the hub of the wheel is that I’m talking about. This is the inner portion of the wheel where the bearings go. This is where the actual bearings slide in. It’s just to the outside of that hole. Basically, that’s the core material.

Jeff Stone: Let’s talk about the three different types of cores. Typically, what you will see, there’s three different types. You’ll see a nylon core, you’ll see an aluminum core or a metal that looks like aluminum, it’s silver in color, and then hollow. Let’s talk about nylon cores.

Jeff Stone: Nylon cores are light, they’re less rigid, and they typically are more affordable. They tend to be slower as they don’t transfer power to the wheel as well as an aluminum core does, but they also tend to be softer because the core does not help to keep the wheel as round.

Jeff Stone: The aluminum core type is the strongest and the most rigid of the hub materials. It’s the heaviest, it’s more expensive, obviously, because it’s made out of metal. It’s a stiffer core, which allows for the wheel to roll longer because it keeps the wheel perfectly round. That extra aluminum that’s in the center basically makes sure that that wheel stays more round than it would with a nylon or a hollow core. But it’s also heavier. That’s something to take into consideration. It will actually make your skate heavier than a nylon or a hollow core will.

Jeff Stone: The last core type is actually a hollow core type. This is in between nylon and aluminum. It’s actually lighter than aluminum because it’s hollow. It’s a good in-between wheel between the two types. The most typical core that I see whenever I’m researching wheels out on the internet or talking to friends at the roller skating rink in places that I skate are typically the nylon core.

Jeff Stone: All right, so moving right along. Let’s move on to tip number six. This tip is actually more of a debunk tip. It’s basically the anti-tip or it’s the tip that basically says, “This doesn’t really matter all that much.”

Jeff Stone: I’ll hear skaters talk a lot about the tread on their new wheels, as if it mattered. They’ll be like, “Oh, my wheels are all new and they still have the tread on it. It really makes a big difference.” It really doesn’t matter all that much.

Jeff Stone: Tread does not really help with grippiness, except when you first get on the surface that you’re skating on. Most wheels, as I said before, are made out of urethane. Urethane is actually a type of material that actually heats up as you use the wheels. Therefore, as your wheels heat up, they’re going to actually grip more to the surface that you’re skating on. Tread does help. I mean it’s not pointless, but really it only helps you when you’ve just hit the surface that you’re skating on, before your wheels have heated up.

Jeff Stone: Tip number six is really basically saying that you don’t really need to pay that much attention to the tread that is on the roller skate wheel that you’re buying. It’s not really going to make that big of a difference in the type of skating that you’re doing.

Jeff Stone: Tip number seven is all about a skater’s weight and how that affects your overall acceleration and your speed or roll time. Your body weight has a big effect on how your wheels are going to react and perform. Someone like me at 200 pounds is going to get a lot more grip from a wheel than a lighter skater, say, at a 100 pounds will. A heavier skater puts more weight onto the wheel. That sinks it more into the surface that they’re actually skating on. Whereas a lighter skater puts less weight onto the wheel, and the inverse is true; they get less grip from that wheel.

Jeff Stone: Moving right along. Let’s talk about tip number eight, cost, the cost of your wheels. Yeah, they matter. I mean it’s always a factor. Wheels typically cost somewhere between $30 and $150 on average. This is for a set of eight wheels. $30 would be on the really cheap end and $150 will be on the rather expensive end.

Jeff Stone: The old adage applies here, too. You do get what you pay for. Typically, the wheels that are on the $30 end, they’re pretty cheap. If you’re just teaching a brand new skater, let’s say especially a child, how to skate, that’s okay. Using a $30 set of wheels to get started, there’s nothing wrong with that. As you advance and you get more advanced and you start skating more and more, if you become more competitive in whatever sport it is, whichever type of roller skating you’re doing, you’re going to want a better wheel. You should expect to spend more money as you skate more on wheels because they are such an important part of the roller skate.

Jeff Stone: I’d say, on average, a good set of wheels is going to run you somewhere around $80 to $100. This is US dollars that I’m talking about for those of you listening to me internationally. That’s just average on what I typically pay for the wheels that I use today.

Jeff Stone: Tip number nine is really all about color and style and how that does matter. I know some of you out there are scoffing, going, “Oh, God, the color, the style. That doesn’t really matter. That doesn’t affect the performance,” and you’re correct. It does not affect the performance. But it does affect something that I honestly think is more important, and that’s how we feel when we’re roller skating.

Jeff Stone: For most of us who maybe we are competitive and we do competitive sports in roller skating, most of us also just skate for fun, at least I hope you do. If you do, how we feel when we’re skating, that matters. It’s important. I would actually argue that it’s more important sometimes than the performances, especially when we’re just out having fun.

Jeff Stone: How our wheels look and the type of attention, or non-attention maybe if you’re more introverted and don’t want the attention, makes a big difference. Are they your favorite color? Do they light up? Or are they all just for performance and you just don’t really care what they look like?

Jeff Stone: I’d like to hear from you. What’s important to you with color and style? Do those matter to you or not? Head on over to rollerskatedad.com/2 and drop me your answer on the show notes over there. I’d love to hear and get a comment from you about what color and what style is most important to you.

Jeff Stone: We’re on to the last tip, at least from the article, tip number 10, I’ve got a couple more tips for you after this one, but the last tip is really all about how the proper wheel choice is really dependent on the type of skating that you do. Next to the wheel hardness and the surface that you’re skating on, I would actually say this is probably one of the most important tips of the entire article.

Jeff Stone: Some may actually say this is really the most important tip of all, as a speed skater and an artistic skater want to do very different kinds of things with their wheels. As a past artistic skater, I want a wheel that has a hard durometer. I want a really hard wheel and I want it to have a small diameter. It also should have a small contact patch.

Jeff Stone: Why is that important to me as an artistic skater? Well, because of the type of skating that I’m doing. I want to do spins and I want to do turns and I want to do jumps as well. But I need that wheel to be more slippery. I want that wheel to actually have some give when I push against it. Now let’s contrast that with something that I’ve done a little bit of in my adult life, which is speed skating.

Jeff Stone: A speed skater wants something different than what an artistic skater wants. I mean, obviously, the first thing they want is they want speed. They’re constantly trying to push themselves to their top speed. Balance and stability are important, but so is speed, roll time, and also acceleration, how quickly can they get to their top speed.

Jeff Stone: For a speed skater, if they have too hard of a wheel and they’re on a slippery surface, then they’re going to be slipping coming in and out of corners. If they have too soft of a wheel or if they’re on a very sticky surface with too soft of a wheel, they’re going to feel slow and bogged down.

Jeff Stone: If you’re a quad skater, a quad speed skater, you also want to have a decent contact patch to push from so that as you’re on the straightaways and you’re pushing with your left and your right foot to try to actually accelerate to your top speed, you’re actually getting some acceleration from pushing that foot into the surface. If that wheel is too hard or if that surface is too slippery, then when you go to push that foot down into the surface, your foot is actually just going to slip out from under you as you push and you don’t actually reach the top speed that you’re trying to get to.

Jeff Stone: The other type of skating that I’ve done quite a bit of is outdoor skating. If you’re like me and you like to go skating outdoors, then you most likely are going to want to have a softer wheel in your skate bag. Now this isn’t always true. Again, it depends on the surface and how much debris you have in your way, how hard the surface is, whether it’s choppy, a choppy surface or not, are you skating on asphalt or rough concrete? If so, a softer wheel is going to equal a smoother ride on those types of surfaces.

Jeff Stone: Just as a quick aside here over the holiday break, I just skated in an outdoor course here in Austin, Texas called the Veloway. It’s pretty awesome because they only let skaters and bicyclists on the trail. No pets, no walkers. It’s made out of concrete. It’s a nice, smooth ride. I was actually able to wear my hardest wheels out onto that surface.

Jeff Stone: But the entire time that I was skating, I got a pretty good foot massage and a good leg massage because my skate was rattling more on that surface because I had a harder wheel on. If I had actually switched wheels and put, let’s say, my Pulse outdoor wheels, which are a 78A durometer, I would have had a much smoother ride. But I would have also gone slower because it’s a softer wheel.

Jeff Stone: I wanted to try out my hard indoor wheels outdoors on that surface just to see what it was like. I was able to actually skate the entire track at least once. I think if I had gone for a second or a third lap, it’s about 3-1/2 miles, I think I would have probably swapped out into my outdoor wheels.

Jeff Stone: What about roller derby and jam skating? I didn’t mention those at all. Well, the reason I didn’t mention them is because I’m not a roller derby player. I’ve never played roller derby before. I’m also not a jam skater, so I’ve never jam skated besides a few moves that a couple of people have taught me. I can’t really speak to what those two sports are really after as far as wheel choice. However, I do have some interviews upcoming with roller derby players and with jam skaters here in the near future. I will be sure to ask them questions about this exact topic during those interviews.

Jeff Stone: Are you a roller derby player or a jam skater? If so, I’d love to hear what you think are important characteristics of wheels and what are important to you. Head on over to the show notes at rollerskatedad.com/2 and drop me a note.

Jeff Stone: As I said at the beginning of the podcast, I was going to be going over the article from the website that I published a couple of years ago. But I also promised that I’d have more tips for you than just what was in the article. Let’s talk about the next extra tip that I have for you.

Jeff Stone: Wheels are really all about what you prefer. I mean that’s really what it comes down to. Serious experienced skaters, they have more than one type of wheel. They don’t just buy one wheel and that’s all they have in their bag. They have multiple sets of wheels for the different types of surfaces that they’re skating on and for the different types of skating that they’re doing. If you’re an experienced skater out there listening to me, I’d give it a 100% chance that you have more than one type of wheel in your bag. Okay, let’s say a 99.99% chance that you have more than one set of wheels.

Jeff Stone: Many of us have multiple sets of wheels because we skate a lot, and we want to try something new. It really helps to have a different set of wheels for the different types of surfaces that you skate on, just like it helps a lot to have different type of wheels for the different types of skating that you’re doing.

Jeff Stone: When I want to do more turns and spins and jumps and my old artistic type skating, I use a really small wheel, and that’s super hard. However, when I want to go out and practice speed skating, I switch. I put on a much wider wheel that has a nice, solid contact patch and drop down the hardness. I want that wheel to be a little bit more grippy so I drop down from my really hard wheel to something that’s in the mid 90s so that I can actually get more grip as I’m going around the corners.

Jeff Stone: I actually have three sets of wheels in my bag. I mean I have actually more wheels than this, but these are the three that I typically carry with me wherever I go. I have my RollerBones Elite, which are the ones that read 103A. They’re the artistic wheels. They’re the ones that I use when I just do my regular rink skating, because typically when I’m just rink skating, I’m out having fun and I want to do turns and jumps and spins. Those are the wheels that I typically use.

Jeff Stone: My speed skating wheels that I use, they’re the Hyper Cannibals. These are 95A durometer wheels. Again, I’m usually doing speed skating indoors on a wood rink surface. Sometimes that surface is slick, sometimes that surface is more sticky when they put down the plastic coating.

Jeff Stone: Then the third wheel that I use is the Atom Pulse. I use this one when I’m outdoors. This is a super soft wheel. It’s a 78A durometer. But it’s great for outdoor surfaces and rough surfaces so that the surface doesn’t jar you when you’re skating.

Jeff Stone: My RollerBones are for my fun time rink skating. I can spin, I can turn, I can jump. They’re my favorite wheel because they have a lot of give and they don’t have that much grip. Because that’s the kind of skating that I want to do, they’re perfect. They just have a lot of give, and that’s what I want.

Jeff Stone: But when I’m speed skating, I don’t want that give, at least usually. I want a taller, wider wheel with good contact patch. This allows me to get a good full push when I push down into the wood floor, a taller, wider diameter. It’s not quite so hard as my RollerBones Elite because I want some stick. I don’t want to be slipping everywhere. I need grip when I’m speed skating.

Jeff Stone: As a quick aside, I have speed skated before in my RollerBones Elite. These are the really hard wheels and really small wheels. I get a very weak push in these wheels. Typically, I have to run to accelerate, meaning pick up my feet and run, because pushing into the surface just doesn’t work because my foot slips out from under me because the wheels are so slick.

Jeff Stone: However, they really, really roll because they’re super hard. Because they’re hard, they are super loud in the rink. When we’re out on the wood floor, there’s no music playing and we’re just warming up, I’ve had quite a few instructors and other experienced speed skaters turn to me and go, “Man, your wheels are super loud. Can you go change them?” I just smile and keep skating. But it is funny, funny little aside there.

Jeff Stone: The tip here is actually really simple. Have multiple sets of wheels for the type of skating that you’re doing. If you’re a beginner, just have one set of wheels, you’re good. Probably any set of wheels will do for you. What you really need to do is just get out there and skate.

Jeff Stone: If you’re more experienced, moderate, advanced skater, you’re a competitor, you should have a couple of sets of wheels in your bag because you never know what kind of surface you might be skating on for whatever sport it is that you’re trying to do. Having choices is usually the best option for you.

Jeff Stone: I hear some of you out there saying this, I can hear you already, “It sounds great, Jeff, but I’m not a millionaire. I can’t afford to buy lots and lots of wheels.” That’s a good point. What can you do? I leave you with this last tip. This is extra tip, tip number 12. How do you find what will work for you on a budget without having to buy tons and tons of wheels to try out?

Jeff Stone: Talk to people. That’s the best way. The best way to find out what’s going to work for you is to talk to other people who are roller skating with you on the surfaces and doing the sport that you’re doing. That’s the best way to learn what’s going to work for you.

Jeff Stone: The easiest way to do this on a budget is ask if you can trade for a day. You give your wheels to them and let them try them out for that session, and they give you theirs. You try theirs out. That’s a great way for you to be able to roll around and see if you like them before you go out and buy another set of wheels, because, honestly, you can watch all the skate videos, you can read all the articles that you want, you can listen to podcasts; there is no podcast, article, or website that can beat you actually trying out the wheels for yourself. There’s just nothing better than trying out wheels to see what you like and what you don’t like about them before you buy.

Jeff Stone: Find ways to get your hands on wheels that you can try and see what you like. Ask your friends, ask skate coaches, ask other experienced skaters at your rink what they like and why. It’s actually a great way to meet people. You can skate up to somebody that you don’t even know, but maybe that you admire and say, “Hey, what kind of wheels are you using? Do you like them? What do you like about them?” Ask questions.

Jeff Stone: Typically, that will help you build a friendship with those people. By having a friendship, then you can actually, down the road, be like, “Hey, can we trade out wheels? Can we swap wheels just for the day so I can try yours out, or even just for an hour so I can try yours out?” That’s a great way for you to be able to determine what you like.

Jeff Stone: That’s my ask of you. Get out there, go skate, and when you’re skating at your local rink or your local skate park, talk to your friends, talk to other skaters, see what kind of wheels they’re using. Then trade. Try out their wheels and let them try out yours. Pay attention to the tips that I just gave you, like wheel hardness and the diameter of the wheel and the height of the wheel and how much contact patch that wheel has compared to the wheels that you’re using. Try to determine if it’s a better wheel for the type of skating that you’re doing. If so, now you know what you need to maybe go out and buy or ask for for your next birthday or Christmas present.

Jeff Stone: Oh, man, that was a lot of tips. I’m actually kind of tired. That took quite a bit of time to get through all those. I want to thank you guys so much for being here. If you want to know more about the wheels that I use and that I recommend, you can check out my resources page over at rollerskatedad.com/resources. I list out all the products that I recommend there and that I personally use and that are in my skate bag.

Jeff Stone: Also, be sure to check out the show notes for this episode. I’m going to post a bunch of links there to my article as well as some other great info. It’s also a great place to leave me a comment or ask me a question. You can get the show notes for this show over at rollerskatedad.com/2. Be sure to leave me a comment there and tell me what you thought about the podcast, love to hear from you, or if you have any questions.

Jeff Stone: Also, be sure to subscribe to the podcast. This is a brand new podcast, and I would love to have you subscribe. You can subscribe pretty easily wherever you’re listening, whether it’d be in Apple Podcast or Google or Stitcher or Spotify, all of those platforms, or any of the others that are out there have a very easy way to subscribe. All you have to do is click the ‘Subscribe’ button. I would love to have you follow the podcast so that you can know every time a new episode is coming out. Subscribe today.

Jeff Stone: Once you subscribe, please leave me a rating and a review. Let me know what you think of the show. I’m here for you, so I really want to know what you think of the show, what do you think I can do to improve it? Are there any interesting topics that you would like me to cover? I’ll take any feedback from you guys. Just let me know what you think.

Jeff Stone: Finally, go over to rollerskatedad.com and sign up for the Roller Skate Dad Club. You’re going to want to be a member of the Roller Skate Dad Club. Sign up is easy, it’s free. All you need is a valid email address and you’re in. The Roller Skate Dad Club is a great way to keep in touch with me, learn more about what is going on with the show and the podcast. If you haven’t already signed up, head on over to rollerskatedad.com and join the skating club now. All right, guys. That’s going to do it. Until the next time. Get on out there and skate.

Announcer: Thank you for listening to the Roller Skate Dad podcast at www.rollerskatedad.com. If you liked what you heard today, please be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google, or wherever you’re listening.

Wrapping Up

Thanks again for rollin’ by. If you have a question about the podcast or just want to leave me a note, please comment below. In the show, I asked a couple of questions including:

  • Are color and style of a roller skate wheel important to you? What color or style of wheel do you prefer?
  • Are you a roller derby player or jam skater? If so, what do you think are important characteristics of a wheel for those sports? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

I hope you will join me every week for a new episode of The Roller Skate Dad podcast.

Please subscribe to the podcast on whichever podcasting platform you listen on. And, don’t forget to join the Roller Skate Dad Club. You can do that easily with just your first name and email address from any page on this website.

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