Because I Can Skate, Therefore, I Must Skate!

I'm gonna talk about wheels!

Radar Demon light blue wheels

I bought my skates over three years ago used. The wheels they came with were light blue Radar Demons. While I owned them, I could never get all the dirt out of them. I mean, the surface stuff dissolved easy enough with hot water and a towel but they had a slightly brown hue to the actual rolling surface which I could never completely wash out. And I tried multiple methods, detergents and tools to try to get it done to no avail. This was all part of how I was trying to care for my fifty dollar purchase of the used skates as best as possible.

I'd previously bought Shannon a set of wheels that she really liked when we were paging through Low Price Skates website one day. The biggest reason for getting Shannon wheels was actually that her old wheels on her skates had never been rotated and displayed severe coning! I watched a review on YouTube about Backspin Scribble wheels and decided, not knowing nearly as much as I should have, that I would buy them. As it turned out, (and often does with skating equipment purchases on the Web) these wheels were out of stock at every website I tried to purchase them from. What I found instead was a set of Atom Lowboy wheels at a really good price. When I received these wheels and installed them on my skates I was so utterly surprised by how well they handled versus the Radar Demons my skates originally came with. I must've got too happy with my purchase because later, I found the Backspin Scribble wheels for sale I'd previously researched. So, I bought them too.

Atom Lowboy wheels

Atom Lowboy wheels

Now I had two sets of nearly new skate wheels. What to do other than compare them? This is when I began to learn about durometer. That's the hardness of the wheel measured with a tool and the tool is called a durometer. Simplified for the purposes of skating, a softer durometer yields a ride with more grip for the surface it's being rolled on and a harder durometer gives more roll. From my experience on skateboards, I learned that all those pebbles which have stopped me dead in my tracks and thrown me off the skateboard forward, have been due to using a very hard durometer of wheel. A softer wheel would've allowed me to roll over those small pebbles without the accompanying pavement screech. The tradeoff, however, would've been needing to use more effort to get rolling and keep rolling at a desired speed. Therefore, I've placed outdoor as a label to left side of my little durometer diagram here as well as softer and grip. At an indoor skate rink, one doesn't (or shouldn't) have to worry about running over debris such as little rocks and pebbles. The desire is to get one's skates to roll with minimal effort. So on the right side of the scale, I've labeled harder, roll and indoor. However, due to the size of an indoor skate place, one does need to turn left quite a bit as the floor is limited in area. When turning left, the skate wheel will exhibit a tendency to slide if it has too much roll for one's speed or weight. A somewhat softer, grippier wheel will bite into the floor a bit and allow for better turning. For each skater and each skating surface, the optimum balance between grip and roll will vary.

duro scale diagram

Backspin Scribbler wheel

Backspin Scribbler wheels

I initially unnecessarily complicated my wheel comparison study by skating sessions at two different skate places. One place has a wood floor, the other has an epoxy coated concrete floor. Through many sessions at each place, I was able to ascertain that my Atom Lowboy wheels with a harder published durometer* functioned better when rolling at the place with the wood floor. Whereas my Backspin Scribble wheels were better for the place with the epoxied concrete surface. As a side note, I will strongly concur with the opinion given in the above mentioned wheel review video. The opinions and description given were dead spot on!

The Lowboy wheels were just awesome for going fast on the wood floor skating rink, which also happens to have a larger floor area than the place with the epoxied concrete. The Scribbles were working great for the concrete place with one small exception; whenever I was working on stuff with only my front wheels on the floor, I felt the wheels flex too much. This didn't happen with the Lowboys. About this time in my lack of understanding of skating, skates, skate wheels, etc., I rediscovered eBay. Uh-oh! What I found was a used set of Backspin Deluxe Lites. Their published duro* was just a point harder than the Scribbles. But, by this time, I'd used my Scribbles enough that they definitely weren't anywhere near new anymore. I'd been good about rotating them every so often but the used Deluxe Lites I purchased on the eBay actually were in better shape. Using these new, older wheels did solve my flex/pitching problem I was having while up on two wheels per skate.

The unintended consequence of solving the flex/pitch problem created another problem. This problem is completely mental. This mental condition was first identified nearly ten years ago. I believe I now have SEDS. I have since purchased a cheap Chinese-made durometer to test wheels with as I don't believe a thing that skate wheel manufacturers say to me. (Notice how in the previous sentence, I've internalized the wheel manufacturers specification sheets and taken them as a personal conversation I'd be having with them; this is a sure sign of someone with the mental condition known as SEDS!!) I could try to count how many sets of wheels I've gone through now with my experimenting, but I fear it would extend my desire to replace them with even more expensive wheels that I just cannot afford! If you see me on the roadside, sitting there with a cardboard sign that reads;
"Will Work for Skate Wheels", just shoot me. I've read there is no known cure for SEDS, only maintenance like that of a heroin addict.

From the last two years of acquiring wheels, selling wheels, selling skates with wheels, measuring wheel durometer and wheels, wheels, wheels, blah-blah wheels, etc., I believe my durometer measuring device is off by two. Serves me right for buying a Chinese made one! I should've bought American! But, I'm going to resist...
Also, to know for sure, I could purchase a calibration block for testing the tool itself with a known hardness substance. However, the calibration block costs about five times as much as I spent on the Chinese-made durometer measuring tool to begin with. It has only one function unless it's a piece heavy enough to also function as a paperweight. But I already have a paperweight; the Chinese-made durometer! So I don't need another.

What I will do is share with anyone reading this, my chart of duro measurments of various wheels encountered in the wild as well as those in my captivity. Hopefully, this will expose to you what a bunch of lying bastards the wheel manufacturers are! I mean, give you an idea of what discrepencies may exist between a certain manufacturer's published duro* and what a real pseudo-measurement of a wheel's hardness may show. In no way is my chart meant to be derogatory towards any one product or manufacturer. These are just the pseudo-facts! I let them speak for themselves completely filtered by my lack of understanding of chemistry, physics and the American Society for Testing Materials.

Backspin Deluxe Lite wheel

Backspin Deluxe Lite wheels

Additionally, I've read a bunch about how wheels are poured. Different wheels may be made of different substances! There's urethane and there's also plastics. Wheels might have different varying ratios of these substances mixed within them. As far as I've read, this affects other physical properties of any given wheel such as rebound. Some wheels are solid urethane all the way through to the bearing recesses. Some are poured around an aluminum core (hub). Some are poured around a polycarbonate plastic core (hub). Some wheels are dual-pour with a core poured of one durometer-rated urethane and the rest poured of different durometer-rated urethane. The Juice Martini series of wheels is one such wheel. For a pretty thorough review of these, I recommend reading Little Blue Derby Monster's review of Juice wheels. I concur with her assessments but my personal experience has been with the green Appletini wheels.

What about wheel width and diameter? Great questions! Larger diameter is harder to get started rolling but easier to stay rolling once they're going. Smaller diameter would therefore be easier to start rolling but take more effort to keep the speed you're rolling. Wheel width expands what's called contact patch. That's how much of the wheel is actually in contact with the ground/floor/surface at any given point in time. If you have a larger contact patch, you have a more stable stance but maneuvering takes more effort. Smaller contact patch yields more maneuverability at the cost of less stability. A wider wheel has a larger contact patch than a narrow wheel. Typical wheel widths are 44mm, 42mm, 38mm, 35mm and 31mm. Available diameters range from 70mm down to about 50mm with the most standard two size diameters available being 62mm and 59mm.

How are those multi-color swirl wheels? I didn't have much of an opinion on them until really recently. I went to the final skating session at Orbit Skate Center in Palatine, Illinois. I decided to roll Shannon's wheels because one, they were a harder duro which I felt would do better on such a huge floor. Two, it was a fitting sendoff for a skate place closing. Shannon's wheels were Sonar Swirlz which were the light blue to purple to pink I've used all over this website for a color theme. They worked good enough for me during this session as it was so crowded most of the time there that I never got to moving at a good clip. When I did pick up some speed, I noticed the wheels had a bit of a grindy rough ride to them. After I got home and was cleaning these wheels I noticed that the wheels are actually wearing unevenly. The pink portions are wearing faster than the purple and blue portions of the wheel, hence a rough ride. So I can't recommend anyone buy wheels like Sonar Swirlz, Radar Evo or Sure-grip Twisters. Myself, I'd probably stay away from those half and half wheels too; the kind where one color was poured on a diagonal angle and a second color with obvious contrast was poured after.

Wheel durometers tested results

Wheel Manufacturer Spec Measured (adjusted for tool)
Teal Hyper Rollo 78 83
Purple Juice Jolt 80 86
Purple Mota Toxic 93 87
Blue Route 65 83 87
Blue VNLA Backspin Lite (newer pour) 93 87
Purple Mota Toxic 93 87
Pink Sure-Grip Sweet N Low 85 89
Pink VNLA Backspin Rockstar 94 89
Purple VNLA Backspin BeastMode 93 90
Green VNLA Backspin Scribble 91 90
Red VNLA Backspin Deluxe Lite (newer pour) 93 90
Black w/teal hub VNLA Backspin Tiffany 93 90
Purple Crazy Kaboose 92 91
Purple VNLA Backspin Deluxe 93 91
Purple VNLA Backspin BeastMode 93 91
Black VNLA Backspin Revenge 2.0 85 91
Red-hubbed Sure Grip Zombie 95 92
Red VNLA Backspin Revenge 2.0 95 92
Black red-hub Juice Java 92 92
Black VNLA Backspin Remix Lite 92 92
Purple VNLA Backspin GrapeAde 93 92
Blue Atom Snap 91 92
Pink/Black Sure-Grip Twister 96 92
White w/orange hub (XFIRM) Atom Boom Wheels 93 92
Green Sure-Grip Shaman 93 92
Green VNLA Backspin Scribble (newer pour) 91 92
Blue VNLA Backspin Deluxe Lite 93 93
Pink VNLA Backspin Uprock 95 93
Orange Hyper Witch Doctor 97 93
Pink Atom Snap 91 93
Red Sure-Grip Shaman 95 93
Natural urethane Crazy Play 93 93
Purple Clawz 95 93
Green Cosmic 95 93
Black VNLA Backspin Remix Lite 92 94
White/Blue Juice Sapphire (1st gen) 91 94
Pink Juice Alpha Hurricane 93 94
Hot Pink Juice Cosmo (2nd gen) 94 94
Orange Sure-Grip Zoom 95 94
Blue w/green metallic Atom Lowboy 2.0 95 94
Green Sure-Grip Fugitive 96 94
Red/Black twisted Hyperlicious 96 94
Black Carrera 95 94
Light Blue VNLA Backspin Blueprint 93 95
Red Heartless Breaker 94 95
Red Radar Demon 95 95
Light Blue/Purple/Pink Sonar Swirlz 95 95
Black Sure-Grip Zoom 96 95
Green Hyper T Rex 96 95
Green Juice Appletini (2nd gen) 96 95
Purple B'serk Lunatic 98 95
Red VNLA Backspin Heat 95 96
Purple/White Sure-Grip Twister 96 96
Gray VNLA Backspin Heat 97 97
Light Blue Radar Demon 95 98

The above table may or may not be of use to you. It may or may not reflect accurate measurements because that all depends on me knowing what I'm doing. I probably do not. But it's a useful table to me to a certain extent. I've grown to prefer some urethanes over others. Among those I have a more favorable opinion of are the Backspin Scribble, Backspin Remix white/natural (not charted above), Backspin Deluxe Lite (older pour), Sure-grip Shaman and Fugitives and finally, just about everything carrying the name Juice. I don't have a high opinion of Atom Snap, Sure-grip Zoom and anything named Radar. I've no experience with Radar Cayman wheels but thought I'd share this review from Queen of the Rink. Looks like a better take can be found for the Radar Bullet wheel.

So what's your favorite wheel? That's a moving target! Right now, I prefer the Green Sure-grip Fugitive wheel. For my purposes, I can go damn fast for a good skate jam song but still have enough grip for tight-turn technical tricks and stuff. The caveat, of course, is that I've pretty much been skating exclusively on wood floors of late. I'm sure to prefer something else on the ol' epoxied-concrete floors, something a hair softer. I prefer wide wheels, usually 62mm in diameter and either 42mm or 44mm in width. For me, the wider width is important to get going fast as I'll take off in a heartbeat for a good song and generally accelerate using a scissors move.

Juice Alpha Hurricane wheels

Juice Alpha Hurricane wheels