Electric skateboard wheels – Everything you need to know (Almost)
One of the most important components of an electric skateboard is the wheel. To someone unfamiliar it might not make sense, all a wheel does is roll. How can it be that important?
Different sizes, different treads and different types of wheel material are appropriate for different things. In today’s article, I will answer these questions. After reading this you will be well informed and know if a wheel is right for your needs.
Hub motor wheels
Firstly I’d like to talk about the integrated wheels and motor. You see these on a lot of cheaper electric skateboards (“esk8’s). They are a wheel with the motor built inside of them. They are lightweight, super energy efficient, work quietly and easy to manufacture, you’ll mainly see them on longboards designed for the street.
However, because they are integrated, they use thin plastic or urethane as the tread. This will not provide as much shock absorption and as much of a smooth ride as proper wheels would. They do not allow you to change your wheels freely. You’re stuck with the ones that come with the motors.
Regular longboard wheels
The types of wheels you’ll see on boards designed for the street are tall 70mm to 100mm wheels. The most common wheel size is 80mm and you’ll see the 70mm ones on smaller esk8’s. You’ll see them being used on boards that have belt motors too.
When wheels are this tall they will provide a super smooth ride and perform well on rougher roads. They will blast through pebbles, rocks, gravel, and roll over cracks like nothing.
Most of these wheels are made from polyurethane. This is a dense rubberish/plastic like material. This makes them super low maintenance and you only have to take care of the bearings.
It rolls better than rubber wheels but won’t grip the road as well. They also don’t roll the best off-road. That being said, they are the best for day to day riding across the city, and they make the most sense for use on a small portable vehicle (aka your esk8).
All terrain wheels
These are the wheels you’ll see on a board like the All-terrain Evolve Bamboo GTX and other all-terrain electric skateboards.
These wheels are 9 inches or taller. They use large plastic or metallic cores and pneumatic rubber tires. They are mostly used with belt motors, it will be rare to see a hub motor on all-terrain wheels.
Their large height and use of rubber tires make them great for off-road situations. The tall height makes it easy for them to roll on gravel, dirt tracks and even on the grass, and the rubber deforms around/on the road for grip in those situations. There are even different treads available to aid with the type of riding you want to do. Even on paved roads, they will provide a superior smooth ride to their urethane counterparts.
The use of pneumatic tires will mean you have to maintain them and make sure they are puncture free and always filled with air. The rubber wheels don’t roll as well as the urethane ones and don’t have as good vibration absorption capabilities. They will also be heavier due to their large size and reduce the portability and lightness of your esk8.
All in all, they are the best for offroad riding but maybe not for day to day riding across the city. If you don’t mind their mass and height, they will work great for you.
Do bearings matter?
Bearings affect the performance of your wheels and how fast they roll.You can tell a bearing is kinda bad by how long it freerolls is and how loud it is. This is a sign that there is not enough lube, so you need to add more or clean it first. A lot of people believe a bearing that spins long is a good one, this is NOT true as it is not experiencing any true loads. Under actual loads it will perform differently.
Generally, the quality of bearings doesn’t really matter. That being said, bearings with ceramic balls and those with both the truck washers and bearing spacers built in are worth the money (if not you can’t go wrong with Oust bearings). Check out my guide to learn more on longboard bearings.
The important thing is maintenance. You will ride through water, dirt, and dust. All this can enter the bearing seat and affect its performance. The water will cause the bearings to rust and the dirt will clog them up. Included in my bearing guide is also a guide on how to clean them.
The most important thing is to pick the appropriate wheel for your needs. For example, if I commute daily and want a smooth ride, either the urethane or rubber wheels would do, but if I want a compact electric longboard, the urethane wheels will be best for me. If I want to be able to pick the wheels I want to use, a belt motor with normal longboard wheels will suit my needs.