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Wheels Part 2: Diameter & Width

So you’ve picked your durometer..now let’s talk diameter! Once you’ve decided on which hardness you prefer, you may have an option to choose the diameter and width of your wheels. Most wheel manufacturers today will offer a number of size options for the same wheel model, which is pretty rad and lets you really optimize your own performance.

First up, diameter. Geometry refresher for those of us who haven’t taken a math class in a while: the diameter is the distance measured (in millimeters) from one side of the wheel to the other, also known as the “height” of the wheel. You will generally have two options for derby wheel diameter: 59mm (short) or 62mm (tall or standard, depending on who you ask).

roller skate wheel size information diameter

In the above photo, you can see the slight difference between the "short" wheel on the left and the "tall" on the right. So...what’s the difference? A 62mm wheel will give you more contact with the floor (some call this a “longer roll”) which equates to more sustained speed, but it will be harder to accelerate to top speed from a dead stop on a larger wheel. A larger wheel is also taller in height, which can bring your center of gravity up and may make it more difficult to juke and perform quick lateral moves. A 59mm wheel has a “shorter roll”, which requires more energy to maintain top speeds as the wheel rotates at a higher speed than a larger one, but the shorter height makes it easier to accelerate quickly and make quick movements. If you’re someone who likes to hop around on your skates and juke a lot, a shorter wheel is for you. 59mm wheels have exploded in popularity in the last few years, and seem to be preferred among most derby folk for their added agility.

Next up: width, or the measurement across the skating surface of the wheel. Again, here you will most likely have two options: 44mm (“wide” or “standard”) or 38mm (“skinny”). A 44mm wheel will provide a more stable skating surface, as you will have a wider base to balance on. 38mm wheels are very popular for derby as they give your skates a slimmer profile, which helps to eliminate wheel clippage in the pack, though they give you a smaller area to balance on. There are even skinnier wheel options available like the 35mm Heartless wheels.

roller skate wheel size width information

Once again, personal preference is key when it comes to wheel size! One thing I do want to mention: I’ve met a lot of newer skaters who feel that, because they are new to the game, that they HAVE to be skating on tall, wide wheels (64X44) just for the added stability of extra surface area. I cannot stress enough that ANYONE can skate on whatever size wheels they choose, regardless of experience. If you’re a newer skater but feel that you can benefit from a slimmer width, then go for it! If you’re on a tall wheel and want to improve your footwork, try a shorter one! There really are no rules when it comes to derby gear (unlike the game itself, har har), so feel free to experiment with your wheels until you find what works for you.