Wheel hardness is one of the most important attributes of a roller skate wheel.
The hardness (or softness) of a wheel determines what surfaces you should skate on with that wheel. It can make a massive difference to your skating style!
Wheel hardness is measured in something called the Durometer A Scale which is just a number scale - so very easy to understand. For example, a soft wheel (78A-89A) is best used for outdoor use or slippery indoor floors while a harder wheel (90A-103A) is best for indoor use on sticky floors. The lower the number, the softer the wheel. The higher the number, the harder the wheel. Simple right!
With a softer wheel, you get more grip and a much softer ride – perfect for small pebbles and the normal bumpiness of an outdoor surface. Softer wheels can also be used indoors too, especially if you are on a slippery surface and need more grip (for SWAT that’s our Taunton training venue!). If you are skating on tarmac, paving, concrete or some other slippery surface that is uncoated, then you are likely to want a softer wheel in the 78A-89A range.
If you are skating outdoors, go super soft with a wheel in the 78A category for a super smooth ride.
So, what brand is best?
What a vague question! If you are a ramp goer, or do a ton of outdoor skating, then you should be looking towards Chicks in Bowls wheels or any of the other usual suspects: Radar, Atom, Clouds, Moxi, Chaya and Sims Street Snakes. My personal faves are Pulse.
If, like me, you treat your outdoor skates poorly, or want a more cost effective wheel, then grabbing a cheap set from eBay or similar will see you right. Remember, the important bit is the softness (or hardness!) when it comes to outdoor skating.
Another thing to consider is your bearings
Buying a second set of bearings for your outdoor wheels is a must. Ramp skating gives you the option of using high end bearings, but general outdoor skating means your wheels and bearings inevitably pick up all kinds of crud, so you may want to grab some cheapo bearings for that.
Something to remember when buying bearings: a higher ABEC number doesn't mean faster - it's just the precision the bearings are machined to. A set of ABEC 3 or 5 is great for outside, again they don't have to be the all-singing derby ones, look for cheap skateboard or inline bearings (they are all the same!).