One of the most confusing things when you’re looking for skateboard wheels has to be the hardness, also called Durometer. There are so many options and without fully understanding the meaning of the Durometer Scale, you might pick wheels that aren’t suitable for your style.
The Shore Durometer scale measures skateboard wheel hardness ranging from 77A to 104A. The lower on the scale, the softer the wheel. Softer wheels are great for smooth rides but not for tricks. Hard wheels are used for technical tricks on the street and skate parks.
|Durometer Scale||Skateboard Wheel Purpose|
|77A to 80A||For smooth and comfortable cruising|
|81A to 83A||More focus on cruising, also work in dusty bowls|
|85A to 90A||Cruising and tricks|
|92A to 96A||Wheels for rough roads, tricks, and a smooth ride|
|97A to 99A||Wheels for tricks with grip and park/bowl skating|
|100A to 104A||Technical street and park skateboarding|
I’ll be covering the most common durometers used for skateboard wheels and their purpose. After that I’ll explain the pros and cons of hard vs soft skateboard wheels.
- Durometer for Skateboard Wheels Explained
- Durometer B-scale
- The Pros of Softer Skateboard Wheels
- The Cons of Softer Skateboard Wheels
- The Pros of Harder Skateboard Wheels
- The Cons of Harder Skateboard Wheels
Durometer for Skateboard Wheels Explained
Some brands only use the term Duro (Spitfire wheels) and Bones uses the B-scale, which is more accurate at the end of the scale. For example, 99A from one brand can feel different from 99A from another brand.
100A could very well be even harder and 104A makes little sense because the A-scale only goes from 1 to 100. This is one reason why Bones uses the B-scale on some wheels, which is more accurate on the higher end of the scale. They also use the A-scale like the Bones Pro STF at 103A. Bones why are you making it so hard for us?
If you come across 84B wheels, you can add 20, which would result in 104A wheels. These are the hardest skateboard wheels you can buy.
77A to 80A Skateboard Wheels
These are actually cruiser wheels and usually a lot bigger than regular skateboard wheels. They can handle pebbles and cracks without your wheels getting blocked and coming to a sudden stop.
At 77A you will have a very grippy wheel that offers a buttery smooth ride. These wheels are great for those who just want to learn how to ride a skateboard without doing any tricks. The cons are that they feel very bouncy when you ollie a curb, for example.
Basic tricks are still doable but risky. Beginners will have a hard time learning tricks on 77A wheels. Another con is that they tend to chuck and wear faster compared to harder wheels.
Those who are looking for a cruiser/trick setup should pick a wheel around 85A to 92A. Tricks will still feel bouncy, but at least you will have a smooth ride.
85A to 90A Skateboard Wheels
Typically used for gritty asphalt and rough roads. At 85A a wheel is still closer to a cruiser wheel but can handle rougher surfaces. They are less suitable for skate parks and perform slower on smooth concrete. They offer lots of grip but are hard to slide.
90A is great for those just starting out, 90A wheels that are hard enough for basic tricks on rough surfaces. They also offer a comfortable ride so you can focus on maintaining your balance, instead of being all over the place.
As soon as you learned how to ride with confidence and want to learn tricks, get harder wheels.
92A to 96A Skateboard Wheels
Wheels around this durometer perform great on gritty asphalt but are less suitable for cruising. Around 92A will offer a much smoother riding experience than 96A. Pick these type of wheels if your local skate park has lots of cracks and rough patches. Picking wheels with a Duro of 92A to 96A will make it easier to deal with worn concrete.
They are still grippy and will also work for bowl skateboarding. You’ll have to pump a bit harder because they offer more resistance. These wheels are difficult to slide, especially on the lower end of the scale.
97A Skateboard Wheels
A very typical wheel that works well in slippery bowls or on asphalt. They aren’t as fast as harder wheels, are still a bit difficult to slide (but not impossible), and offer a nice and firm grip.
I personally skate these in my local indoor bowl. It’s made of wood and often collects dust. Going from 100A to 97A made a huge difference. The extra grip prevents me from sliding when I don’t want to.
99A Skateboard Wheels
99A skateboard wheels aren’t all the same. Some brands are closer to 99A than others. Since we are almost at the end of the Durometer A-scale, the measurement becomes less accurate. Depending on the formula used, a 99A can very well be a 99A or a 100A wheel. The brand that offer the most accurate 99A wheels are Bones and Spitfire.
99A wheels are excellent for beginners and experienced skaters. They aren’t as fast as 104A wheels but still offer lots of speed. You have some extra grip while sliding doesn’t take too much effort. If you’re in doubt and want a wheel for tricks, 99A is a safe choice.
100A to 104A (84B) Skateboard Wheels
We’ve reached the end of the Durometer A-scale but will ignore science and just make up numbers for the sake of marketing.
100A are the hardest wheels on the Durometer A-scale and are great for technical tricks. They don’t bounce much, which makes landing tricks less difficult. These wheels are also quick, especially on concrete.
They offer less grip, which makes it easier to slide or correct your board when your landing is slightly off.
101A is more of the same but even faster and less grip. 103A and 104A are the hardest wheels you can buy.
We’ve talked about this briefly and there are only a few brands that use the B-scale. The most known brand is Bones. Bones also uses the Durometer B-scale for their SPF Pro wheels. I don’t know why this is because they also use the A-scale for other wheels.
The B-scale offers a more accurate measurement of harder skateboard wheels, so they are just extremely hard and fast. If you want to convert Durometer A wheels to B or the other way around, just add or subtract 20.
|Duromater A-scale||Durometer B-scale|
Pretty straight forward and easy to remember. Let’s look at the pros and cons of hard vs soft skateboard wheels and when to use what.
The Pros of Softer Skateboard Wheels
Soft wheels are great for a smooth and stable ride. They can deal with pebbles, twigs or any small object they encounter. Sometimes they even just launch small rocks when you hit them. Softer wheels are often used on cruisers and longboards and hardly on skateboards.
If you just want to ride even longer distances, you will need soft skateboard. Size also plays a part. The bigger the wheel, the more ground you can cover. Learn more about skateboard wheel size and why it matters.
The Cons of Softer Skateboard Wheels
Softer wheels aren’t great for tricks because they bounce back up. Let’s say you’re practicing a kickflip but your board lands a bit sketchy. It will bounce back up and there is a chance you won’t be able to catch the board with your feet. This usually results in a fall, landing primo, or rolling an ankle.
Softer wheels aren’t as durable as harder wheels. While it will take some time before you need to replace them, the main problem is chunking. If you’re planning on doing lots of slides, there is a good chance parts will break off.
The Pros of Harder Skateboard Wheels
Hard skateboard wheels are for those who want to learn technical tricks. They can take lots of abuse (depending on the brand) and make landing tricks a lot easier.
Harder quality wheels won’t flat spot easily compared to softer wheels. Lastly, hard skateboard wheels are fast and require less pushing in concrete skate parks.
The Cons of Harder Skateboard Wheels
Noise, hard wheels make a lot of noise and feel uncomfortable on grittier surfaces. While they are super fast in skate parks, they won’t get you anywhere on rougher surfaces. Sure you can ride most sidewalks or streets, but it requires more effort.
Harder wheels are not meant for long distance riding, hard wheels are for tricks. If you just want to ride, check my wheels for cruising.
I hope I could explain when to go for a specific type of hardness. Often it also comes down to personal preference. Some won’t notice a difference between 99A or 104A wheels at all.
There is a lot more about skateboard wheels than just the hardness. The size, width, and shape also play a role in performance, depending on the style of skating you prefer.
I’ll save that for another post. Don’t forget to check the best skateboard wheels I recommend.