Now that spring has sprung, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the roads, sidewalks and parking lots are covered with the sand, gravel and grime left over from winter. But rather than have to wait for street cleaning crews to come out, we want to skate, but it is so rough riding out there. This article will help you decide what wheels are best for rough terrain?
When it comes to wheels, there are so many options to choose from. But which wheels are going to be the best if you skate on rough, gravelly, cracked, brick, or cobblestone surfaces? You need wheels with a hardness between 78a and 88a depending on how rough the surface is. Go for 92a If you still want to do tricks. Look for a diameter between 52mm and 56mm.
Cruisers and longboards have flexible decks, and wide and soft, large diameter wheels that dampen vibration when rolling over harsh terrain. But lets look into some options for people who want to use their standard “Trick” skateboard to cruise down to the store and not have their legs vibrating off, or feel like they have bees buzzing around in their shoes.
What kind of wheels work on rough surfaces?
Basically you are going to want a wheel that is a bit softer, somewhere in the 78a-88a durometer range, and a bit bigger, between 54mm and 60mm in diameter.
A wheel with these characteristics will be better on rough surfaces than the wheel you ride on a ramp or in a skatepark. Your standard park/transition wheel will have a durometer rating between 98a-101a, and are usually between 50mm and 56mm.
The larger diameter of rough terrain wheels allow them to roll over small pebbles, and cracks much easier than a smaller wheel. The softer that a wheel is, allows it to grip better, and reduces the vibration through the board to your feet.
Softer wheels roll slower than hard wheels, but larger diameter wheels, while they take longer to accelerate than small wheels, roll at faster top speeds for longer. So that kind of balances out, and a large soft wheel can roll at speeds similar to your park wheels.
However, with a larger wheel comes a much higher potential for wheel bite, so you may want to get higher trucks, or riser pads. Softer wheels will also wear out faster, and will lose diameter faster than a hard wheel.
They are also more prone to flat spotting if you do power-slides, and reverts. Larger wheels are also heavier, and softer wheels feel more bouncy when you land on them. Softer wheels will also stick more when sliding ledges or rails. This can require some adjustment and getting used to when you are doing technical tricks and street skating.
Lets look into a few of the brands and options available out there to provide the comfort you need to skate on rough roads:
Bones ATF (All-Terrain Formula)
Bones ATF are rated 80a and available in 2 flavours:
ATF Roughriders- available in 56mm – 59mm diameters. They are a bit wider at 40mm-44mm depending on the diameter. They are also available in very bold colours, and have more of a “boxy” cruiser shape.
ATF Mini DV’s- Available in 52mm – 60mm. The Mini DV’s have widths of 32mm-37mm depending on the diameter.
Both wheels will offer a smooth and comfortable ride. The Roughriders will be a bit more stable, as they are wider, so there would be less side to side sliding if you roll through a gravelly patch. The Mini DV’s will also offer a smooth ride, but look more like a normal skateboard wheel, as opposed to a cruiser wheel. Also the Mini DV’s will be lighter given the narrower profile.
Bones has been in the wheel game for a long time, and always made a good quality, long lasting product, so you won’t go wrong with either of these selections.
Chargers have a hardness of 80a and are made of high density urethane. They are available in 2 sizes: 54mm or 56mm, and 2 shapes: Classic, and Conical. The wheel width is about 34mm or 36mm depending on the diameter you choose.
The shape and size options available with the Spitfire Chargers should feel a bit more like your street/park wheels, so there shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment. And if you don’t use low trucks, you may not need to add riser pads to avoid wheel bite.
The HD formula is supposed to provide less flex than the urethane used in other soft wheels, so this could also help the wheels to feel more like the hard wheels you are used too. They should feel less bouncy than other soft wheels, and are supposed to slide fairly well too.
There are quite a few options in the Ricta Clouds series. They are available in 52mm, 54mm, 56mm, 58mm, 60mm and 73mm diameters. You also have three choices in hardness: 78a, 86a, and 92a. They have the classic skateboard wheel shape, and are around the 34mm width range, depending on the diameter.
The 78a Clouds are built to handle the roughest, crustiest terrain you can find. They are very durable for a soft wheel, and they are also a top choice for filmers, because they are very quiet when rolling over sidewalk cracks and pavement.
The 86a Clouds are designed as more of a hybrid street wheel. They feel and respond more like a harder street wheel than the 78a, but are soft enough to roll easily over broken asphalt and dirty spots like drainage ditches and back alleys.
The 92a Clouds offer a smoother and quieter ride than your 99a street wheel, but will perform more similar to a 99a than its softer counterparts. The 92a would be an excellent wheel for someone wanting to get rough and dirty on street missions though you might experience the wheels to be a bit bouncy and more grippy.
OJ Wheels – Super Juice and Key Frames
OJ Wheels has 2 all terrain wheels:
Super Juice– which is available in 55mm and 60mm, with a hardness of 78a. The Super Juice was originally only available in 60mm, but they recently introduced the 55mm, so you might not need to add risers to your setup. This wheel is designed as a cruiser wheel, and has the “boxy” wide cruiser wheel look, with a width of about 43mm.
Key Frames- This was designed as OJ’s filmer wheel and they have made some models with filmer’s names on them. It also works well as an all terrain technical street wheel. It is available in 52mm – 58mm diameters, with a hardness of 87a. It has a classic skateboard wheel shape, and will perform more like a harder skate wheel than its Super Juice sibling.
Shark Wheels look crazy, and like they won’t roll. From the side they look square, and from the front they look wavy and misshapen. But Shark has literally reinvented the wheel with their all terrain skateboard, longboard, and roller skate wheels. Because of the shape and design of these wheels, they are able to be ridden on dirt paths, and gravel. Rocks do not stop this wheel from rolling!
Shark’s skateboard wheels are available in 54mm and 60mm diameters, with a hardness of 78a. They are said to provide a very smooth ride, despite their appearance, and resist flatspots very well. They provide excellent stability and control against sliding when rolling through loose materials, such as sand or gravel. They are also supposed to proved excellent speed and acceleration, as the design is a sine wave pattern of multiple interlocking contact patches, as opposed to one traditional contact patch.
So, What Wheel Do I Pick?
A wheel that is between 54mm and 60mm with a durometer hardness between 78a and 92a will provide you with a nice smooth ride down the rough, cracked up side walks in your town, and still allow you to get technical at the extra crusty back alley spot you have been eyeing up.
We have provided some of the top options for skateboarding wheels designed for rough terrain, but it all comes down to personal preference. If you want a more cruiser styled wheel, or a classic shaped wheel, or even something insane looking like the Shark Wheel, there are many options available from many different manufacturers. You should easily be able to find one that will suit your needs, your skating style, and feels like you are rolling on a cloud.