Choosing the right durometer
The durometer of a wheel is the measurement of its hardness, or resistance to penetration. Durometer ratings fall within several categories, with skate wheels listed in the “A” field along with other soft plastics. Therefore, the durometer measurement you’ll find on your wheels will read “90A” or “75A”, with higher ratings equating to harder wheels. Here are some suggestions for wheel hardness based on your type of riding.
If you ride vert: You’ll find that most vert surfaces are designed for harder wheels – they are smooth to combat the lack of vibration dampening and somewhat grippy to make the slick wheels easier to control. Go with a set of wheels at the higher end of the durometer scale: think 97A or above.
If you ride street: Skaters who enjoy the technical side of the sport need a wheel that will add pop and road feel to their set-up. Hard wheels – 97A and higher – are best for all of you park riders.
If you are an all-around rider: If you rarely go anywhere without your skate, you may fall into this category. All-around skaters like to cruise around town, but can also drop in on a pool any day of the week. You’ll need to compromise a little, so go for a medium-hard wheel, somewhere between 90A and 97A.
If you cruise/longboard: Pavement tends to be bumpy and cracked, so a set of wheels that will ease the rattle of the road will make your board feel and perform much better. Soft wheels are designed for just this purpose; with durometer ratings of 75A through 85A (78A is pretty standard), cruising wheels help dampen the vibrations to let you glide with style.
Bottom line, there is a significant range of durometers, so be careful to choose a wheel with a hardness that compliments the type of riding you prefer. Harder wheels, typically defined as those with a durometer of 90A or above, are designed for technical skating. Powerslides, ollies and other tricks are easier with hard wheels, so street and vert skaters tend to prefer these. Unfortunately, hard wheels don’t dampen the vibrations caused by rough roads, so if you enjoy cruising more than tricks you may want to opt for a softer durometer. Softer wheels are slower and wear out faster, but they make riding on bumpy surfaces more comfortable and fun.