Hard vs Soft Skateboard Wheels

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Skateboard wheels aren’t just about the cosmetic value of your board. There are many technical aspects that go into choosing the right set of wheels for your specific skateboard setup.

The choice between hard or soft skateboard wheels can affect the speed, smoothness, and turning ability of a rider. There are so many brands and models of wheels on the market that it can be hard to decide where to start.

Skateboard wheel hardness isn’t the only specification of these components, making it even more confusing, especially for rookie skateboarders. There’s also the wheel size, and that’s before getting into the question of the ball bearings, as well.

After determining the durometer rating and skateboard wheels size, a rider must choose between a plethora of brands. There are hundreds of wheel and bearing brands that can make this another huge chore.

Who would have imagined that such a laid-back sport could cause so much stress? If you’re deciding on soft or hard skateboard wheels, we’ve got you covered. Having choices isn’t a terrible thing; it just means there’s more competition for quality.

Our guide will help point you in the right direction for all the important wheel specifications and brands. Keep reading to find out whether you should choose hard or softer skateboard wheels.

The Difference Between Hard Skateboard Wheels and Soft Skateboard Wheels

To keep it simple, most skateboarders generally agree that hard wheels are for grinding and more technical disciplines of skating, while soft wheels are better for cruising and longboarding. What if you do a little bit of both? Or, what if you haven’t decided which discipline you gravitate to yet?

Soft skateboard wheels are better for cruising and maybe some light jumping on and off of curbs. Commuters usually go with soft wheels.

Hard wheels vibrate more and are designed better for skaters who are learning how to ollie. If you plan on taking your trick game further, you should probably go with a harder wheel for your board. Are you still undecided?

Don’t worry; there are enough choices on the durometer scale that everyone can find something that’s right for them. Before you move forward with your decision, it would help to know some more of the main differences between these two types of wheels. Let’s break them down more specifically.

Soft Wheels

If you’re using a durometer, soft wheels are usually anything that falls between a 77A and an 87A. There’s a good reason why longboarders and skaters who cruise seem to prefer soft wheels.

Soft wheels require less energy when you push them, and they are much more efficient at maintaining their speed than a harder version. These wheels can also be safer to ride because they handle well with debris and small obstacles like rocks and twigs.

Because there’s less traction with a soft wheel, they usually do a much better job at rolling over obstacles like this. On the other hand, harder wheels have a tendency to block these items, which can lead to you tumbling head over foot.

If you’re more into the type of skating one would do at a skate park, you might want to stay away from soft wheels. Pushing and kicking on a ramp or in a bowl is much tougher because you can’t gain the traction you need to navigate the steep incline.

This can actually lead to lower levels of balance because you’ll have to kick harder and more often. Repetitive, hard kicking can throw you off your center of gravity, which can also lead to taking a tumble from your board.

Pros of Having Soft Wheels:

·         Better for cruising and longboarding when you install soft wheels

·         You can maintain speeds easier on soft skateboard wheels.

·         Soft skateboard wheels require less kicking or pushing.

·         Easier to carve with soft skateboard wheels

Cons of Having Soft Wheels:

·         Harder to land tricks with soft wheels

·         Soft wheels are not made for grinding, vert-ramps, and other technical skating.

Hard Wheels

Hard wheels normally fall somewhere between a 96A and a 104A on the durometer. Anything up to 100A is usually ideal for street and technical skaters. However, some pro skaters will go as high as 104A to ensure their boards have more stick and less bounce when they perform tricks.

For vert-ramp and other disciplines where the surface is wood or another smooth material, hard wheels would be the ideal decision. Hard wheels don’t provide much comfort when you’re on a rough surface, and they tend to slide when you’re turning or attempting to carve.

Extremely hard wheels aren’t the best idea for a beginning skater, mostly because it’s harder to keep your balance. If you’re a rookie skater and plan on learning more of a technical discipline, you should stay closer to a wheel rated at 96 or 97A. After you gain more experience and your balance gets better, you can move closer to a 100A rated wheel.

Pros of Having Hard Wheels:

·         Perfect for technical skating

·         Less bounce, more stick than soft wheels

·         Movements are more predictable

·         More acceleration than soft wheels

·         More control over the board

Cons of Having Hard Wheels:

·         Long rides can get very uncomfortable, unlike soft wheels.

·         More vibration on rougher surfaces like asphalt

Medium-Hard Wheels

Remember when we said that there is a skateboard wheel type for every type of skater? These wheels would probably fall in that category. The manufacturer Bones offers a type of skateboard wheel that’s suitable for nearly any type of riding.

These wheels don’t stand out in any particular category. However, if you’re a new rider who can’t decide which form of skating they like to do or a veteran who enjoys it all, these wheels are for you.

ATF (All-Terrain-Formula) wheels are made for nearly every landscape and surface. The great thing about these wheels is that you can switch the size instead of the softness when you decide to move more towards a particular discipline.

If you feel like you want to do more cruising, you can just move up to a larger size. Alternatively, if you want to get more technical and work on your grinding and ollying, you can go down a few sizes. On days when you want to stay in the middle, a 54mm size is nearly the perfect balance for these wheels.

The Difference Between the A and B Durometer Scale

It’s pretty clear how the A rating on the durometer scale works. However, some riders get confused about the B scale. It’s not nearly as complicated as how some people make it out to be.

To put it in the most simple terms, the B scale is used to describe wheels that go beyond a rating of 100A. These wheels provide even more grip than a 100A wheel, but the numeric value is different.

If you see a wheel that is rated 84B, it would actually equate to 104A when you use the A scale. This is because the B system deducts 20 points in comparison to the A scale. It’s that simple. Just remember to add 20 more to any B rating you see.

Other Factors: Wheel Size, Rebound (or Bounce)

In correlation with the durometer scale, the wheel size does contribute somewhat. Normally, you would use a larger wheel if you choose a soft wheel. Alternatively, the harder the wheel usually means, the smaller the wheel.

However, you can mess around with the configurations using a trial and error way of deciding which rating and size work for you.

A wheel’s rebound, also known as bounce, describes how fast the wheel takes its original shape back after it bounces off the ground. If you’re a trick skater, the ideal wheel is one that rebounds back into its original shape very quickly.

If you’re into cruising or longboarding, the rebound won’t be as much of a factor because you won’t be leaving the ground very much.

Should I Choose Softer Wheels or Harder Wheels?

The decision basically comes down to what type of rider you are. If you plan on longboarding or just doing some general commuting, softer wheels are a better choice for you. 

These wheels do much better on rough surfaces and longer distances. You could even get away with street skating if you chose a lower rated wheel but went lower with your skateboard wheel size. Otherwise, you can just get away with normal cruiser wheels. 

If rough surfaces aren’t your thing and you plan on using smooth surfaces for technical skating, you should use some of the hardest wheels you can find. Most skateboard wheels come with an average wheel diameter. Alternatively, you could even choose more narrow skateboard wheels if you plan on doing more grinding.

Conclusion

Choosing the correct wheel setup is just like finding the right configuration for any other area of your board. You might not get it right the first time, but eventually, you’ll find the setup that works for you.

It can take a little trial and error, but it’s important to experiment with various setups. Alternate between different durometer ratings and sizes and keep your options more than just one-dimensional. The more open you are to trying new setups, the higher your chances are of finding the perfect configuration.