Does Skateboard Wheel Size Matter? The Perfect Diameter


In order the get the most out of your skateboard wheels it’s important to pick the right size. This may seem difficult as a beginner but it really isn’t that hard. Does skateboard wheel size matter?

Skateboard wheel size matters a lot. If the wheels are too big you’ll have a hard time landing tricks and the wheels might come into contact with your board. On average you should pick wheels between 52 and 54 millimeters depending on what and where you skate.

It’s not only the diameter that matters, the hardness and quality of the polyurethane have a big impact on performance. You can’t buy cheap wheels with a large diameter and expect a smooth cruising experience. So let’s get into what type of skateboard wheels you need that fits your style.

recommended skateboard wheel size and speed

Picking the Right Wheel Diameter

The larger the wheel diameter the slower you accelerate but larger wheels are better to keep momentum. It takes a bit more effort to get up to speed on larger wheels but once you’re at a reasonable velocity it’s easier to maintain your speed.

Smaller wheels are more responsive and better for technical street skateboarding. They are more forgiving and won’t get stuck when grinding a ledge or rail as much as larger wheels. Smaller wheels make your board flip a bit faster and are more responsive.

Doing a kickflip on small wheels makes it less likely to land primo when you’re not expecting it (landing with both feet on the side of your deck and wheels).

It’s not just the diameter, the hardness also plays a big part in how wheels act and perform.

The Right Hardness or Durometer

I already wrote a huge article about skateboard wheels which you should read if you want to know exactly what you need. This article is more about the different sizes and when to pick smaller or bigger wheels.

Hardness is even more important than diameter and getting the right combination takes some research. Harder wheels perform better on smooth surfaces such as skate parks and concrete bowls. Even so, many professional skateboarders skate the hardest wheels they can get from their sponsors just because they prefer it.

It makes the ride a bit more uncomfortable, so the average skateboarder shouldn’t try to follow their example.

Skateboard Wheel Size for Cruising

If you like to just cruise around comfortably you need wheels of at least 56mm and up to 60mm. If you go beyond 56mm you’ll need a set of riser pads to prevent the wheels from coming into contact with your deck when you make turns (wheel bite).

Cruising requires softer wheels with a hardness between 78a and 87a. The softer  78 wheels will give a comfortable and smooth ride but also have more friction. They feel bouncy and doing tricks on them is a bit more difficult. 87a still are great for smooth cruising but you’ll be able to ride faster.

Softer wheels are more forgiving on rough surfaces, they won’t get stuck when you roll over small rocks and cracks. If you’re used to harder wheels you’ll be surprised how much these wheels can handle without losing control of your board.

Cruising is a ton of fun and way less risky than hardcore tricks. Carving and downhill still can get your adrenaline pumping!

I’m talking specifically about regular skateboards here, longboarding is completely different and this post is not meant for that. Longboards need wheels sizes starting at 60mm and above.

Skateboard Wheel Size for Street

Street skateboard wheels need to be small and hard. Small wheels make it easier to land tricks, even when they feel a bit sketchy. Bigger wheels will cause you to fall when you land a trick a bit sketchy but smaller wheels still allow you to land a trick without running the risk of hurting yourself.

Smaller wheels accelerate faster compared to larger wheels which is great when you only have a short  distance between you and an object you want to ollie stairs for example. You need to be able to get as much speed as possible in the least amount of time.

Go with a wheel size between 50mm and 53mm max for street skateboarding. They won’t last you as long as larger wheels but technical tricks require smaller wheels. Get wheels with a hardness of 97a or 99a. 97a are a bit more comfortable on asphalt but 99a is one of the more popular durometers among street skateboarders.

Wheel Size for Bowls, Mini Ramps and Vert

Most skateboarders do just fine on 53 to 55 mm wheels in mini ramps, and even in medium bowls. Verts require 56 wheels and a firm grip.

If you’re a dedicated mini ramp skater go with larger wheels, I recently went from 54mm to 56mm and it is a huge difference. Larger wheels require less pushing and the speed is really something I needed to get used to. It was scary the first few days but you’ll slowly get used to it.

The larger wheels are way more forgiving and lock in better when you grind the coping compared smaller wheels. Also,  if you land a hangup a bit sketchy you’ll still be able to get back without smashing into the ramp.

Hardness is really important here, but you’ll also need some grip. Go with at least 100A or above, you need them for speed but not all hard wheels provide good grip. If I have to recommend a wheel brand I would definitely go for Bones, not Spirfires. Bones offer more grip because of their urethane formula, at least that’s my personal experience.

While Spitfires are great wheels (one of the best actually) I still like my Bones SP5’s more. Spitefires caused me to slip more and felt less stable compared to Bones. They still are ridiculously fast so if you don’t mind having less grip, Spitfires are fine (bit more expensive).

Wheel Size for Cruising and Tricks

Many skateboarders like to just cruise around and ollie curbs. I got a setup dedicated for that specific style and I love it. I ride an 8.0″ deck with 56mm Ricta Clouds which have a durometer of 92a. They are great on rough surfaces and fell smooth and grippy.

These wheels aren’t that expensive and I would really recommend them if you want to do a few simple tricks while you cruise around. It’s not anything like a mini cruiser (dedicated cruising) but you’ll have no issues with pebbles, twigs and cracks.

Some argue Ricta’s are for filming because they are silent and offer a smooth ride, sure that’s a fair point but you can use them for tricks and cruising as well.

Summary

Picking the right skateboard wheel size that fit your personal style and preference makes a huge difference. Larger wheels require you to push a bit harder to get up to speed and smaller wheels accelerate faster.

Larger and softer wheels are more suitable for cruising, larger and harder wheels are perfect for vert, bowl and mini ramps.

Smaller and harder wheels are required when you want to hit the streets and do technical stuff. The are more forgiving with sketchy landings and make it easier to flip your board compared to larger wheels.

If you go for larger sized wheels make sure they fit your trucks. You need enough clearance between your board and the wheels to prevent wheel bite. Get high profile trucks or riser pads to prevent wheel bite. Riser pads are really cheap so if you already have trucks get two pads.

Ruben Vee

I 'm an aged skateboarder, but I still shred responsibly. I started skateboarding 25 years ago and I'm out there whenever I can.

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