Wheels, Wheels, Wheels

December 16th, 2009 by Derek No comments »

Way back in 1970, a small plastics factory called Creative Urethane began experimenting with urethane roller skate wheels. In the meantime, avid surfer Frank Nasworthy moved to California and realized hoards of kids were riding skateboards and attempting to carve empty pools in the area.

Creative Urethane was owned by the father of one of Nasworthy’s friends. Frank saw the urethane wheels and soon realized that they may have tremendous value to skateboarders. Up until this point the only options for skateboarders were steel wheels and wheels made of a clay composite – a combination of plastics, clay, paper, and finely ground walnut shells. Skateboarders went through wheels weekly, and a slalom skateboarder could wear down a set of wheels in less than 8 hours. Frank tried a set of the urethane wheels and noticed an incredibly smooth, controllable ride. He soon started the company Cadillac Wheels (on account of the smooth ride). Skateboarders around the world went crazy over the new technology, the second wave of skateboarding began, and the days of clay skateboard wheels were put to rest. Steel wheels are now obsolete, used primarily for performing 360 spins.

Thanks to Frank Nasworthy and good ole’ capitalism, there are a wide variety of urethane wheels available in today’s marketplace. Wheels vary in color, shape, size, core construction, and durometers (hardness); all of which affect the performance of the wheel. The exception is color, though many riders jokingly assert that color is most important.

Often times riders have questions about which wheels are best for a specific purpose. Below is a list of features found on today’s skateboard wheels with a brief explanation of each ones function.

Size: Skateboard wheels typically range from 55 to 90 mm, with a few freak exceptions. Smaller wheels accelerate faster, but larger wheels tend to top out at higher speeds. Smaller wheels slide slightly easier while larger wheels provide a smoother ride

Durometer: Durometer is a measure of how hard a wheel’s urethane is and is usually measured on the ‘a’ scale. The ‘a’ scale ranges typically ranges from 0a to 100a, and most wheels are between 70a and 100a, with 100a being the hardest. Some wheels have their own rating system, like Earthwing’s slide A’s, which are rated on the ‘d’ scale. Soft wheels provide a smoother feeling ride with more grip and rebound. Harder wheels slide easier and tend to roll faster on smooth surfaces. Many slalom racers ride with harder wheels in the front because the front does not need as much grip.

Outer Lip: The outer edge of the wheel is often referred to as the lip. The lip of a wheel affects grip and determines how easily the wheel will begin sliding. Wheels with rounded lips will break traction easy and are good for sliding. Wheels that have 90 degree lips are harder to break traction and the wheel tends to ‘chatter’ a little bit when sliding. There are also some cone shaped wheels that have triangle shaped lips. These will be the grippiest and hardest to slide.

Core: The core is the center support of the wheel and is the piece that touches the bearings. If they have been used equally in both directions, they will wear the most over the core. There are many different shaped cores, each with a different purpose, but the most important factor is whether the core is center set or offset. Center set wheels typically slide easier while offset wheels provide more grip and rebound in corners. Offset wheels also protrude further from the hangar.

General Shape: Some wheels, usually offset, have a conical shape to them. These wheels typically have more grip and rebound through corners, but are a little slower for straight bombs. Some wheels also have rippled edge, which supposedly provides more rebound.

Contact Patch: The contact patch is the portion of the wheel that actually makes contact with the pavement. Other things equal, wheels with larger contact patches have more grip and wheels with smaller contact patches slide easier.


Downhill: Lime Bigzigs (75mm, 80a) are my favorite. Anything 75 to 80 mm, 78-83a will work well. The more turns, the more of a cone shaped wheel you want, in my opinion.

Tight Slalom: 66mm wheels between 78a and 86a. I use 66mm zigzags, orange(86a front)/lemon (83a rear). Lemon/lime is also a good combination for beginners.

Hybrid Slalom: 66mm to 70 mm depending on the steepness of the hill. I use the 66mm zigs above, 69mm 84a hotspots, or 70mm 86a/83a split zigs.

Giant Slalom: 70mm – 75mm, 78a to 86 a. I use 73 mm seismic speed vents 80a rear/84a front.

Sliding: You can use any skateboard wheel, but hard works best. Earthwing slide A’s are unmatched in my opinion.

All around: There are too many good all around wheels out there to recommend just one. I like something 66 to 75mm, 80 to 86a, center set, with a rounded lip, and fairly small contact patch.

Remember, the main thing is using the wheels!

Get out there and skate!

– Derek

Racing 101

November 28th, 2009 by PeterTheMeter No comments »

As we attempt to get the scene going here in Michigan more and more races are popping up. From my point of view, these races are more about getting people together than winning. That being said, I notice a lot of people are afraid to push it hard in the race. I feel this is for a few reasons, but mostly because people are afraid to take out other people. Below I will outline some etiquette and pointers.

1) Don’t be afraid to charge it hard! After all, we are racing. Don’t take a stupid line (aka if you’re on a dropped/drifty board don’t try to take the inside-inside line) and think of other people around you, but go for the gusto when you think you’ve got it. If you’re in back, your main job is to not injure the person in front of you, so be extra careful about rubbing wheels with the guy in front of you. This will hurt someone.

2) If you aren’t into pushing it, chill in the back. You’d be surprised how far you can come, especially if there’s a crash corner.

3) Don’t slide to a stop if there’s a lot of people around you or if there’s people behind you. This is recipe for disaster. Run it out, footbrake it out, or announce that you’re about to slide (throw your hands up in the air and wave them like you just do care.)

4) The guy putting on the race is extremely grateful if you bring exact change for the pot.

5) And last but not least, the ugly. There’s always people who are not content with the organizer’s rules. Unless a complete idiot is putting on the race, there’s a reason why he picked the rules he picked. If you don’t like the rules, don’t come to the race. It’s pretty simple. If you want different rules, take the time to make your own race, which includes getting your own sponsors and advertising the thing.

6) If it’s a slalom race, NEVER ask the timer, who has typically graciously donated his/her time to doing it, what your time was right after your race.

Racing is awesome, and winning is fun, but ultimately it comes down to having fun. There’s very few people who are out there only to win. I’d rather just get together with a group of guys and rip it. So come out and have fun.

Garage Bomb Circuit #1 THIS SATURDAY 11/21 in East Lansing

November 19th, 2009 by PeterTheMeter 1 comment »

This Saturday we’re taking over East Lansing’s 5 best garages for a night of racing and fun.  Bring a helmet, gloves, and $5 and meet us in front of The Aud at 8 PM.  Full info here.

Video: Balls to the fall

November 18th, 2009 by Alex No comments »

Slalom Skateboarding: An Introduction to Michigan’s Fastest Growing Discipline

November 17th, 2009 by PeterTheMeter No comments »

Go Green Longboarding skating a long hybrid course at our favorite Lansing slalom spot.

As you can see, slalom skateboarding has come a long way since the orange pylon tic-tac’ing days of the 70’s. Today’s slalom skateboards have some of the most high tech gear on the market, complete with carbon fiber foamcore decks and precision CNC’d trucks. I, as most with a limited income, ride and love a good old wood deck with cast trucks.

I would have never thought about trying slalom if it wasn’t for my friend getting me to try it. I always thought it looked sort of silly (I still think it does), and it seemed like one of those untouchable disciplines, like skating vert or the mega ramp. When I first tried slalom a buddy and I grabbed the smallest boards in our quiver (a 24” mini with Bennetts for me), went to a small slope with some Solo cups and setup what we thought was a reasonable course. I was hooked from the first night. It wasn’t for a little longer (read: a paycheck later) that I pulled the trigger on my first board.

I’m still rocking the first setup that I got over a year ago. The standard is typically a wood deck with a kicktail (the Sk8Kings Axe decks are killer and inexpensive), Tracker RTS/X 106mm, and split durometer Retro Zig Zags 70mm (80A rear for grip and 83A or 86A front for speed.) Then you can go ahead and get a Khiro Wedge Kit and some bushings to fine tune the degrees of your trucks. Side note: Bushings are the single greatest investment you can make in skateboarding. They average at $3 a pop and can completely change the ride. I suggest a Khiro Bushing Kit which comes with extra pivot cups and washers. This always sounds confusing at first but there are plenty of people to help you get setup, including myself.

Slalom is all about pumping around the cones more than just carving around them. To achieve maximum grip and power, slalom boards generally have a dewedged rear truck, which increased traction and lowers the pivot angle (makes it turn less.) Slalom boards always have a wedged front truck (the opposite of dewedging) which makes it turn more. With trucks set up this way it makes your board like a car, where most of the steering comes from the front. Most slalom boards have what is called “split duro” wheels, with softer in the back for grip and harder in the front for speed. A good place to start is 80A (lime) in the back with 83A (lemon) or 86a (orange) front depending on your weight and the quality of road you’re on. Go ahead and get some bearings and bearing spacers while you’re at it. Once you have all your stuff you will probably notice, like I did when I first setup my board, that your hardware is too short. Ace Hardware will typically have what you want (10/32, 10 is the bolt size 32 is the threads per inch truss head hardware.) The longest you’ll need is probably 3” and the smallest will probably be 1.5”. If you need help setting up I’m more than happy to help get you going or there’s all sorts of info here: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=set+up+slalom+skateboard .

So now that you have a board, it’s time to get onto technique. Before you even set up a course you just want to get use to turning hard on your board. Plant your rear foot over the rear truck and your front foot over the front truck. Most skaters will put a toe stop (a hard bushing or hardware) to prevent their foot from sliding forward. Put the toe stop on the top left bolt if you’re regular or top right if you’re goofy. Now it’s time to pump! to prevent their foot from sliding forward. Put the toe stop on the top left bolt if you’re regular or top right if you’re goofy. Now it’s time to pump! I can promise you that you will feel and look stupid at first. Once you have grasped that you will be an infinitely better skater. There are lots of tutorials on the internet, but the best advice I can give is to use your upper body to get more power. Throw your arms to the left and push with your back foot to the left then throw your arms to the right and turn to the right. Repeat until you’re picking up speed. It helps if you try to do this on a small incline so you can get some speed first. Once you get pumping down you can pump up hill without taking your foot off the board!

Now it’s time to set up a course. We’ve been slaloming for over a year and we still use party cups. If you stack them in twos or threes you have a heavy enough cone that won’t blow away when you go past it or when the wind blows. There are a few types of slalom, being tight, hybrid, giant, and super giant. Tight is the slowest with the closest cones, hybrid spreads it out and speeds it up a little more with some offsets, and giant is at least 25 mph with large offsets. We typically skate hybrid. Start off by putting your cones about 7 feet away with an occasional offset. Setting a course is an art that I haven’t really mastered, so trial and error is all part of the fun.

Although this seems like a lot of info it doesn’t take much to get started. You could even try tic-tac’ing around the cones on your street board if you want. Don’t let gear hold you back, but little changes can shave a lot of time off your riding and add stoke! If you’re looking to get rollin’ Modern can order Sk8Kings, Tracker, Retro Zig Zags or Seismic Speed Vents, and Khiro risers and bushings. If you’re interested yet terrified come on in to the Lansing shop and check out my board. I’d be glad to let you pump around on it. If you’re looking for people to meet up with check out Go Green Longboarding’s forum (http://www.gogreenlongboarding.com/forum/.) We’d love to spread the stoke.

Get some!