Clothing trends are being pulled out of the wardrobe, and finding their way back on the streets, What was popular more than a few decades ago is coming back into style. The same can be said for recreation. Skates, skateboards, scooters and all sorts of bikes are flooding the streets like never before. But now with a twist. Tech is what we’ve embraced in almost all aspects of our lives and these modes of transport and fun have tech-driven novelties aimed at getting more people out and about.
Take electric skateboards. Not much different to their grandparents from the seventies. You still have a deck, the trucks and the wheels, but what has changed is the addition of motors to speed things up. These can be integrated into the wheels themselves, as is often the case driven by a belt and battery setup. Wheels have also changed and are more in line with decks becoming bigger, and riders wanting the ability to skate on different sorts of terrain. Riding styles, just like kickboards, also play a part.
Though there’s some overlay, some companies specialise in kickboards, and others like cloudwheel have gone down the electric path. The latter are finding new ways to increase rider comfort, allow for more speed and maneuverability, reduce weight and cut down on wear.
What to Look for When Choosing Electric Skateboard Wheels
Depending on how the wheels are powered, there are two main choices – hub type wheels, and belt-driven wheels. Hub driven wheels have the motors integrated into the wheels themselves and these are usually the rear pair. Belt-driven wheels rely on a system of belts and pulleys powered by an external motor and battery. Hub drive wheels have a better pick of speed, come in lighter due to fewer parts and aren’t as loud. Though they need less maintenance, hub-driven wheels are limited by their size and power ratings, and changing out damaged wheels isn’t as easy as standard belt drives.
The latter are more available, and for a few reasons. First, there’s the price, as they’re a lot cheaper. Next is upgradability. Belt-driven wheels just have more flexibility and you can find exactly what you need in a wheel without having to shop around. And when you do find what suits your riding style for where you usually skate, changing out wheels is much simpler.
Skateboard wheels have two basic parts – the wheel core and the tyre. The core is the central part consisting of a hard plastic outer and internal bearings. Wheels with large cores usually offer less deformation and better grip in the tyres. What is important is how the core lies relative to the rest of the wheel. Centreset wheels increase grip (and have even tyre wear), whereas offset and sideset wheels will be better in abrupt turns and slides. Here other factors also play their part.
Tyres come in two basic materials – urethane, like those in standard kickboards, but typically sized bigger like most cloudwheel e-board wheels, or pneumatic tyres with a rubber outer and an inner tube. Urethane wheels are for harder, paved surfaces, whereas rubber tyres are what you’ll want when riding on grass or dirt. A newer version, exceeding the absorption and comfort in rubber wheels are honeycomb e-wheels that skip on the inner tubes, don’t suffer from punctures and can even have better grip.
Sizes and Widths
Belt driven wheels have more variation in terms of sizes. Smaller wheels will be better suited to smaller and shorter boards with less ground clearance, and have better control in technical or park riding. Bigger wheels are suited to longboards, have higher top speeds, and are meant for commuting and cruising.
How wide the wheels are (from edge to edge) affects grip levels, acceleration and speed. Narrower wheels pick up speed better, but lack top speeds and grip while doing so. Wider wheels are for outright speed. Also important is the contact area of the wheel with the surface in relation to the overall width. This means there are differently shaped wheels – from round wheels for more maneuverability to square wheels with more traction and grip.
Overall sizes range from smallish 70mm to larger 120mm cloudwheel variants. Widths start at 65mm and go up to 100mm. There are dozens of sizing and width combos to suit your riding style and the terrain you ride on.
Durometers or the hardness of wheels means how comfy you get while skating. Generally, softer wheels come in at 75-85a (‘a’ being the hardness scale). These are good for riding for longer periods, when you’re cruising or commuting. Harder wheels. 90a and up will be better in the skatepark for doing tricks.
Most aftermarket wheels should fit a range of truck and deck designs and styles. Ensure that the wheels you’re set on getting are compatible with the brand of the board you have, how you ride, and where. Shop for wheels online, or visit your nearest skating store to see what’s on offer.