No Cheat Sheet :o(
If you skate for any period of time with derby, you find that you are overwhelmed with the choices in wheels. What’s best for my floor, expertise level, weight, height, style of skating… and so on. I’m here to tell you up front, there is not a clean cut easy answer to that. I’ve driven myself mad scouring skatelog, interrogating derby peers, and reading manufacturer’s descriptions online. I just don’t get why someone can’t just come out with an unofficial cheat sheet. Please?!
What I know: wheels made for derby come in different grades of hardness (durometer), slim or regular, aluminum or plastic hubs, and of course, many color options. When deciding what wheels worked best for me, I considered how stable I was on my skates first (width). Then I thought about my speed, or lack there of (hardness). Then I thought about my budget.
My first wheels were cheapish, sticky (soft – 88a), and wide. Mostly because
I was not steady, fast, nor did I want to spend much considering it was all new to me and not sure if I was going to stick with it. I went with Radar Flat-Outs. Now that I’ve been around a while, I see that it’s a pretty popular starter wheel. Wheels are sold in packs of 8, without the bearings. My second set of wheels were purchased when I discovered why I was sliding off the track on the turns. The grip (ridges) on my Flat outs were gone. It was probably 6ish months after purchase. I clean my wheels pretty regularly with alcohol and a wipey. I also rotate them every couple of months (like you would on your car). When the ridges are gone, they’re gone. No bueno.
So, I started researching, asking around, consulting the almighty interweb. I was super confused, and ended up just picking something that ‘seemed’ like it was a good fit for me. I my second pair of wheels were Atom G-Rods. I picked these because they were a harder wheel (slicker – 92A I think). They were also from the manufacturer Atom. I’d heard they had a bit higher quality polyurethane (plastic) and also had great customer service. I don’t know either of these things for sure, or first hand, just part of my research results. (how much can we trust online info anyway!?) I don’t, however, have anything to say on the contrary. They’ve held up fabulously. I felt super fast, in control and ready to conquer the derby world. Haha… ok, maybe we should not go that far. I do know that I was more confident with them once I got used to the speed difference. I must state, I skated on painted (dusty) cement most of the time. These may be a bit too sticky for nice wood. These also held up far longer than the flat outs. They lasted me about a year of skating approximately 9-12 hours a week.
When it was time to buy new ones (just a month ago) I wanted to try something new. I wanted to keep it under $100. I wanted fast, with some (minimal) grip. I wanted a slimmer width. I went to the local skate shop and looked at a few. I really wanted to go with some fancy aluminum hub black ones (cant remember what they’re called) but I had a budget (gotta stay under the hubby radar). So, I went with Poisons. I regret it. I hate them. I
noticed most of my league (probably half) skates on the Poisons or Wicked. I thought that it was a safe bet. I was wrong. I feel like I’m skating through mud. Ick. I also (don’t do this, ever, ever, ever!!) bought them a week before a bout. I spent most of warm up time before practice every time dragging my skates trying to wear them down, get them dirty, burn them… I think it’s a great wheel, for anyone but me. Not sure what the durometer rating is on it, I thought it was 92A, but alas, it cannot be true.
I know this is a little ADD, but a good thing about clear/white wheels is that you can die them. I saw a neat how-to vid on YouTube of someone dying their wheels with rit dye in their kitchen sink. I’ve yet to try it, though; I’d go with deep purple or something like that. I bet if many chicks did that, it’d dye your track. SO, hush. Keep your dying to yourself so you can keep it legal. J
Back to wheel choice. I am probably going to get new wheels (again) next month. I’m going to go with harder (higher durometer rating). I’d like to try the aluminum hubs; however, I may stay away a little longer, just because it’s a little more difficult to change out/ clean bearings on those. (With time, speed, and general derby awesomeness, aka falling, the bearings heat up and expand. This causes them to fill the space in the hub and get stuck or sometimes even mildly fused to the aluminum hub.) I’ve wrestled with the decision a bit. Thought maybe if I got cheap bearings, it wouldn’t matter. But then I think, no having nice wheels and get cheap bearings stuck in there would suck. Then I think of getting top of the line bearings and top of the line wheels would be a good thing to be ‘stuck’ with. But what if I wanted to change/clean my bearings?Arg.Ok, just too much thinking. I just want to skate.
In summation, I don’t really have anything valuable to share. Just my experience, for whatever it’s worth. I’d have to say there is no (current) good way to know just what wheels are going to work for you now. Testing wheels from friends is a decent way to try to bridge the gap, but you have to keep in mind their bearings, and age of the wheels (have they been broken in). WHY ISNT THERE A CHEET SHEAT?!?!