Choosing the right skateboard wheels is not instantly an easy decision to make, especially if you're a beginner skateboarder. Do you want big wheels or small wheels? What's the difference between a hard wheel and a soft wheel? And what the hell is a durometer reading?
Of course you could opt to buy a complete setup rather than individual components for your first skateboard. But if you don't there are a few basic rules that you can follow which should allow you to make an informed choice about skateboard wheels without needing a PhD in advanced material science. The main factors you should be looking at are:
Choosing Skateboard Wheels: Big wheels or small wheels?
Skateboard wheels usually range between 48mm and 60mm in diameter, but the most common sizes are 52mm and 58mm. Wheels with a smaller diameter are slower at top speeds, but tend to accelerate faster and are often preferred by street skaters. Larger wheels offer a higher top speed and can be easier to balance on, but you sacrifice acceleration. Vert skaters usually prefer slightly larger wheels.
"What’s the difference between a hard wheel and a soft wheel? And what the hell is a durometer reading?"
Choosing Skateboard Wheels: Hard wheels or soft wheels?
In general harder wheels are better for trick-based skating as they slide easier, making things like power slides simpler. Softer wheels offer more grip and tend to handle better at high speeds. The 'hardness' of skateboard wheels is measured by a durometer rating, which for most wheels ranges between 80a and 100a. The higher the rating, the harder the wheel.
Adding Wheels to Your Skateboard: Choosing the Right Trucks
Wheels are attached to your trucks - or axles - with bearings. It's worth buying decent bearings as they are what will dictate how smoothly your board runs.
Adding bearings to wheels is easy, simply press them in with a skateboard tool. The choice of trucks is equally important. Choose trucks that are too narrow for your deck and it'll through you off balance. Too wide and you won't be able to do tricks properly. For more advice on choosing the right skateboard deck for your style of riding, have a look here.
Adding Wheels to Your Skateboard: How to Insert Bearings and Fix Your Wheels On
You need two bearings for every skateboard wheel. Simply push them into the wheel from either side using a skate tool, and make sure they're flush with the edge of the wheel.
To attach the wheels to the trucks, take the axle nut off the truck, remove one of the washers and slide the wheel onto the axle. Then simply put the outside washer and the nut back on, and tighten the nut, as shown in the video above. You want the wheel to spin freely, but you don't want it to rattle on the axle.