It is an everlasting problem of any rolleblader, mentioned thousands of times on every rollerblading msg board. What's more it is the question that cannot be answered. Any tests-articles, reviews etc. won't help in selecting the right wheel for you.
The idea of this article has been growing in my head for a few months. Today, while driving to my office I came up with the plan, and get myself together to write everything down. The aim of this article is not to point the particular wheel, yet to explain and maybe solve some problems while making a choice – also I would like to add that the text is based on my own experiences an opinions – not everybody has to agree with them.
Eulogy wheels from Zombie 2009 series
While picking up wheels all of us should know some basics – besides friends` approval or text found on the Internet. Each wheel has it's own producer, diameter (given in mm) and hardness (marked as 'A' rate). Let's focus first on diameter and hardness. Personally, since I use Anti Rocker setup, I pick the biggest wheels – biggest wheels=more speed and longer durability. 56-59 mm is the size I use most frequent . There are also several wheels of 54-55mm size but I recommend them to people who prefer Flat setup. Sometimes you can come across 60mm and even 72 mm wheels. 60 mm wheel is cool option but you need to check first if your skate and most likely frame will fit such big size. Theoretically all frames on the market will fit 59 mm for 100%, 60mm may be too big for some of them. For now 72 mm wheels can be only used with Rollerblade Switch frame.
The newest Denil Pro Models: Mark Wojda, Jon Jon Bolino and Montre - 2010
Hardness. In general a higher 'A' rate, should mean harder wheel. 89A will be harder than 88a. Harder they are, the more slippery they become, yet they will wear out much slower. I don't recommend hard wheels (90a-92a) for skateparks or mini ramps (or on perfect surfaces in general) – you won't get enough grip. However in my rollerblading career I has had a chance to roll a few wheels of the same company which suppose to have different hardness, but to be honest the difference isn't noticeable at all. Maybe it's the fault of not so good polish sidewalks or my style of skating – I don't know. Personally after selecting the diameter and model, I don't care about the hardness at all. All the more that there is not many people who use separate sets for parks and street.
2011 Undercover promodels series
Let's get to the point – picking up particular brand/model. While choosing the diameter and hardness isn't so much of a problem, picking up the right model can be pain in the ass. Nowadays there are several wheel manufacturers – still the factories which are used for production are limited. I'm sure most of us noticed that some wheels of different companies looks exactly the same – what's more right now companies like Street Artist openly states that they are using the same producer as the other company (Undercover).
At this moment it should be written that the company X and Y are the best - nevertheless it is just impossible. My experiences showed, that wheels which are the best according to me, can decore after two days of easy skating by someone else. Why you can ask? Simply I have no idea.. For example I'm reading on different Msg board that Valo wheels are great – really cheap and durable – I skated them once and it wouldn't recommend them to anybody, I couldn't get speed at all, they were mad slow..Other example – I saw a Pat Lennen 4x4 wheels being destroyed in one day (broken cores) and in the same time get to know two really good polish bladers, who adored them amazingly and bought a few sets of these wheels in advance so they will have supplies in case of emergency. I had first editions of BHC wheels and skated them to the core, without any problems – so what if in the same time I see a post where some guy broke the same in a half during first grind. Considered as the most durable – Eulogy wheels, recommended by many rollerbladers, still are hated by others since their high hardness rate makes skating in park like riding on ice. Currently I ride new Undercover models, which easily can get my recommendation but again I got e-mails that people still have problems with the cores.
BHC Eric Perkett promodel from Horror 2009
So what is my conclusion ? - unfortunately any sensible one! Everyone is skating differently, on different surfaces and is doing different tricks every day on various obstacles or jumps smaller/bigger gaps. After 5 years of skating the products from the same company, you can come across the new wheel that will chunk/decore in a first day without a reason. I'm not sure if it's caused by a single production failures or it's just like that. The fact that makes it even worst is that right now I`m with contact in many slalom-rollerbladers who have exactly the same problems with the slalom wheels.
Furthermore, I heard some stands that companies do not want to make a solid wheels anymore because they just don't need to – people who give such opinions remind 'indestructible' wheels from original M12 from 1998. However, let's not forget how skating looked like back then – everybody rode Flat setups and spent most of the time on rolling few meters to approach the rail, slide it down, walk up the stairs again and re-do the trick...Today's skating is more about skating Anti-rocker, doing long lines and hitting different obstacles all the time - the wheels are being exploited much more.
Brain Shima 2010 pro model from 4x4
Unfortunately I have to leave the question: 'What wheels should I choose?” without an answer again. As a tip I can only say that everybody have to find the company that is suitable for his own needs and stick to it – even if it means to go through all companies and test them through at first. When buying new wheel it is worth to check how the urethane and core looks like and what is it's hardness etc. Than before picking up next set, it's good to check what was wrong with the previous ones and try out different ones. If they were OK – stick to them and do not bother with trying out different ones – usually it is not worth doing it. If the urethane chunked check the wheel that is made in a completely different place. How to notice the difference? Usually it can be told even by holding two different wheels in one hand – some aspects can be seen straight away (like construction of the core).
I'm aware that that is not the cheapest or the fastest way of choosing the most adequate product, but what else we can do?
Here are two most common wheel problems and how to diagnose them:
1.When you put out wheels out of the frame , the bearings fall out:
- reason: broken or stretched core
- results: much slower skating (the bearing is rotating itself inside the wheel – heating it), 'noisy' wheels
2.The wheel is slowing down:
- reason 1: lack of spacer between the bearing
- results: bearings are squeezed inside the wheel and don't rotate as they should
- reason 2: urethane was separated from the core
- results: wheel is chafing with the frames
In both cases the wheel is useless...
Maybe this article won't help in unambiguous wheel selection but I hope that your next choice will be more reasonable. But if you still don't know what to pick up, chose the wheel of your favorite PRO and buy a set, supporting our small industry and the rolleblader who you respect the most!