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. 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 58mm and 70mm.
Cruisers and longboards have flexible decks, and wide and soft, large-diameter wheels that dampen vibration when rolling over harsh terrain. But let’s 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.
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1. Ricta Clouds
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.
Check for prices at Amazon.
- Diameter: 52 to 60mm
- Contact Patch: 19.4mm to 32mm
- Durometer: 78A to 92A
2. 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.
I think these wheels are great for wider boards, I ride them under my Arbor Oso and I think they are a perfect match. Perhaps it’s because of the smaller contact patch, no need for a wide contact patch if you already have a wide and stable board.
- Diameter: 55 to 6omm
- Contact Patch: 35.75 to 37mm
- Durometer: 77A to 86A.
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. I did not test these wheels just yet. Check prices on Amazon or buy them from evo.com (recommended).
3. Orangatang Fat Free
I recently bought these wheels and man, these wheels are soft. I wouldn’t recommend them for street skating because of their bouncy nature but these are great cruiser wheels. I got the 65mm and added a couple of risers on my regular deck, but they also go well on my Dhingy.
I love the colors and they still look good even after skating them for a while. I got the 65mm/77A version and love the smooth-riding experience. From a budget perspective, these are about the best cruiser wheels you can get, but there are more options. Available on Amazon
- Diameter: 65mm
- Contact Patch: 37mm
- Durometer: 77A to 86A
4. Powell Peralta Snakes
Taking about wheels that look good! I already picked my favorite budget cruisers but these are top of the line. Sure they look good, but how do they perform? I can tell you that these are the perfect cruiser wheels and they perform great on rough roads.
Cracks are no issue and you hardly notice a pebble when you hit one. Glass might stick because of the soft material, but not much you can do about that. This is a general problem with soft wheels and it sucks when it happens.
They are grippy, have a large contact patch for extra stability, and are able to deal with power slides. It will wear them down faster but it’s fun. They plow through gravel easily and you hardly have to adjust your stance when you role up an angled curb.
They are rather big wheels and you really need to add riser pads to your board if you’re planning on using them on a regular deck. Check for prices on Amazon.
- Diameter: 69mm (other sizes available)
- Contact Patch: 56mm
- Durometer: 77A
5. Easyrider Bogart Wheels
I really love cruiser boards and lately I’ve been testing a few to see if they live up to their reputation. One that stands out is the Arbor Pilsner and it comes with great wheels that deal really well with rough roads. I was actually a bit surprised about their performance because they are on par with my Fat Free wheels.
There’s not that expensive actually so this would be a great choice for someone on a limited budget. I don’t now how durable they are but so far I can’t complain. Because of their smaller size (61mm), you can easily fit them on a regular skateboard making these wheels a great candidate if you want to swap wheels around.
I also love the amber color which has this neat effect when sunlight hits the wheels (at some point you can see this effect in the video) and the sound they make when you plow through gravel. I think this is a solid choice and perhaps the best when money is tight.
- Diameter: 61mm
- Contact Patch: 37mm
- Durometer: 78A
6. Cloud Ride
These are rather bulky wheels and you really need some riser pads to prevent wheel bite. With 70mm they are the biggest on this list but they really ride like clouds. I was lucky enough to get these at half the price because they show some discoloration, which of course doesn’t impact their performance at all.
These wheels are super soft and sticky but perhaps a bit too bulky for my taste, it really depends on what type of board you ride. They feel great though and no issues riding up angeled curbs, small ledges, or anything that gets in the way (within reason). Check for prices on Amazon.
- Diameter: 70mm
- Contact Patch: 56mm
- Durometer: 77A
7. Bones ATF (All-Terrain Formula)
From here I will list a bunch of wheels that I didn’t test myself.
Bones ATF are rated 80a and available in 2 flavors:
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 colors 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 good quality, long-lasting products, so you won’t go wrong with either of these selections.
8. Spitfire Chargers
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.
9. Shark Wheels
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.
Shark wheels 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.
What kind of wheels works 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 allows them to roll over small pebbles and cracks much easier than a smaller wheel. The softer the more grip you have, and it 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 takes some time to get used to when you are doing technical tricks and street skating.
Let’s look into a few of the brands and options available out there to provide the comfort you need to skate on rough roads.
So, What Wheel Should You Pick?
A wheel that is between 54mm and 70mm with a durometer scale(hardness) between 77a and 92a will provide you with a nice smooth ride down the rough, cracked up sidewalks in your town, and still allow you to get technical at the extra crusty back alley spot you have been eyeing up. For cruising go from 60mm and up, 78A is probably a good choice for a really smooth ride.
If you want a more cruiser styled wheel, or a classically shaped wheel, or even something insane looking like the Shark Wheel, there are many options available from many different manufacturers, check out my wheel buyers guide to learn more. 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.