Roller Derby is a physically demanding, increasingly competitive, contact sport. To optimize play, maximize protection, and overall excel at the sport, you need to pay close attention to your choice of every piece of equipment. Unlike other sports, roller derby is also about style and character, which extends to equipment and protective gear.
After selecting your helmet, and knee pads, which are all about protection, picking the right roller derby wheels takes you to another aspect of the game – movement and speed. The right choice is crucial, and there are some significant factors you need to consider. These include:
- What type of skating do you do?
- Where do you skate – indoors or outdoors?
- What is your body size?
- Are you a beginner or a pro?
In this article, we discuss all the main aspects of choosing the best wheels for Roller Derby.
Understand that this article is maybe not exhaustive. The points discussed here are more in the way of guidelines and things to remember when deciding your choice. especially if they are your first set for professional play. Over time and with experience – of the game and trying out different sets of wheels, you will arrive at a preferred choice. For now, let’s look at what goes into making an educated choice.
- 7 Best Roller Derby Wheels Reviews
- How To Choose Wheels for Roller Derby
7 Best Roller Derby Wheels Reviews
1. BONT Evolve Roller Derby Skate Wheels
These wheels use ultra high-grade urethane. They have a rigid structure, which gives a good grip and rebound. The hardened core makes it long-lasting and allows for good roll/speed.
The Bont Evolve is 59mm and 38m wide. The Evolve Speed version’s compression is good mainly because, in roller derby, you need quick acceleration and more agility, which a narrower and shorter wheel offers.
The wheel employed CAD for its design of the rigid structure needed for high-speed cornering. These wheels are excellent for roller derby and smooth surfaces such as wood and polished concrete. The wheels come in 4 colors and fall in the mid-range cost-wise.
2. ATOM Savant
The Atom Savant wheels come with an over-sized core of 45mm, that reduces weight and increases the overall speed. It is a blend of Atom’s Juke and Boom. They are among the most popular ones in derby. The core design change has each wheel weighing just 68grams (super light), with a 5mm center. Add to this the 7mm molded lip, and you can fly down the track with these wheels. Its 93A is especially great for blockers. Originally it was available only as 59mmx38mm. Now also available in 62x40mm.
3. Radar Halo
The Radar Halo is ideal for the newer, more professional version of roller derby. It is a brand new, expensive, and stunning outcome of 2 years of research and design. Besides, as with some other Radar products, it features the distinctive and innovative, signature H-shaped hub, a combination of two worlds. It has a large core, with oversized inner and outer rings, with a decreased urethane on the wheel edges. There is more urethane at the core that allows for better grip, more control on different types of surfaces, and better response, all of which help you ace your stops.
In terms of weight, the Radar Halo is unbelievably light. Radar Halo wheels come in sets and are available in a range of hardness. For some, the wheel’s hardness (in reality) exceeds the durometer mentioned, so it is a good idea to go for a little lower hardness than you would do.
You can get wheel sets to match your weight, style, and the surface you are skating on. The Radar Halo with the black urethane and the colorful hub is also aesthetically very pleasing on the eye.
4. Reckless Morph
This product is a revolutionary set of wheels created to meet the demanding standards of roller derby. The Reckless Morph can take the stress, force, speed, and punishment that is part of the game today. The Reckless Morph offers a dual-stacked urethane that gives maximum speed, reliable stability, and precise grip.
The Morph is an innovative design and efficiency with a high-speed performance compound in the inner ring. It has a softer compound at the edge of the wheel, which allows for better control, better traction, controlled slides in plow stops, and reduced slippages. The Morph is today proven the most innovative technical wheels in the game. Their dimensions are 59mm x 38mm and come in a range of hardness combinations.
5. Sonar Ninja
The best feature of the Sonar Ninja Agile is that it has a single-piece anodized aluminum hub that offers good stiffness and response. Of even greater significance is the ‘bearing friendly’ fit of the core. It is a high-performance set of wheels sold at an affordable price. It comes in a pack of four.
The Sonar Ninja is available in 38mmx59mm width. The urethane used breaks in fast, and it has a super feel. Sonar Ninja lives up to their name. They are fast, and light and the slimmer profile allow quick maneuvers, hard edges, and an aggressive ride while being perfect for precision stops in roller derby.
To get a complete setup, you will have to order two sets. They offer good stability and are available in 3 durometers. The wheels come with easy to understand directions.
6. Sure-Grip Twister
Sure-Grip Roller Skates are a lesser-known brand, but they are ideal for beginners. They have a high level of comfort and are easy to use. They have wide wheels; two wheels are in the front and two in the back, which helps in mastering balance. The skates have ABEC-5 bearings, also used in some of the highest quality skateboards in the world. Smaller size skates have a hardened rubber stopper, which is screwed into the front of both skates to facilitate stopping. Larger sizes have an aluminum stopper.
Comfort is a factor in these nylon skates, and they come with laces that lace up to the upper ankle, which prevents slippage. The Sure-Grip Twister wheels feature 95A hardness and come in 14 sizes. Women should buy one size smaller than their natural shoe size. Made with high-quality materials that ensure a long life, these wheels are a good investment.
7. Roller Bones Day of the Dead
The Roller Bones Day of the Dead has aesthetic appeal! They are a popular choice because the quad skate wheels are one of the best available for speed and roller derby. These wheels are great on a variety of surfaces. The lip on the wheel aids compression and provides just enough traction. They are available in 5 sizes ranging from 80A to 96A. Besides, they are made from a soft urethane and have a hardened core. The stiff hub with a 38mm width and so they provide the skater with both grip and speed/roll. The wheels come in packs of 4, and so are great for customizations. The Roller Bones are real quality at a very reasonable price.
How To Choose Wheels for Roller Derby
Let’s start with some well-known and well-accepted facts. Different aspects of your wheels determine speed, agility, and stability, and taken together or on their own, they are all important considerations when choosing your set of wheels.
Obviously, smaller wheels are light, slower, but more stable. Taller wheels are heavy and fast but far less stable. In roller derby, smaller ones are the preferred choice.
Research and polls show that 59-62mm is the most common range of sizes for derby. 62mm is the favored diameter for roller derby and indoor skating. If you are a beginner, start with wheels of 59mm in diameter. They are lighter but more stable and still fast.
The tallest ones are available in the 65-70mm range and are just not considered stable enough for derby. They are almost always used only for outdoor skating.
Also referred to as the profile, the wheel’s width will determine how much surface area comes in direct contact with the floor. The width also determines the grip and speed of the wheel. Narrow wheels are more agile and lighter but are less stable. Smaller skates, preferred for being light and having more agility, should be paired with slimmer wheels (38mm).
If you are a beginner, then you should consider starting with 44mm width. Yes, they may seem a little clumsy, but they offer better grip and stability because of the large surface area they cover. Wider wheels also have a lip, which allows for a stronger push (out of corners) and more control.
38mm is the preferred choice for roller derby, as it offers the best blend of stability and agility. 35-31mm width is not advisable for beginners because they only allow for maximum agility, but there is no stability.
3. Hardness (Durometer)
Now, the durometer is a very pivotal element in roller derby wheels. The hardness of the wheels impacts many aspects of speed and agility. When customizing your skates (at a later stage), hardness is the primary aspect you seek to leverage for maximum advantage.
The hardness of the wheel determines the grip and control of the skater. The “A” scale gives the rating of the durometer of the wheel. Harder wheels are rated higher on the scale because the higher the number/rating, the more the wheels’ speed. The lower the durometer, that means the softness of the wheels, the better the grip.
Where you play (the type of surface) will influence the durometer you choose. Slippery surfaces need 78-88A wheels, while sticky floors require a 98A, which is not as grippy. In addition, beginners need softer wheels with more grip for additional stability.
The body size of the player also affects the durometer rating. A simple rule of thumb is that heavyset players need harder wheels. The ground surface is another determining factor of hardness. When the ground is slippery and smooth, you require wheels that give more traction. Softer wheels allow for more compression and more traction.
4. Body Weight
Bodyweight is another factor in your choice. That said, there is no ideal weight for any particular type of wheel. One simple rule is, the larger the player, the higher the durometer. Bodyweight influences how much compression the player exerts on the wheel and how the wheels will grip the track.
Lighter (bodyweight) skaters can choose softer wheels because they are easier to compress.
- Skaters who fall in the average category tend to use 90A-93A.
- Heavier skaters tend to prefer 93A-95A.
- Smaller skaters should consider wheels with an 88A-90A.
One more thing to consider here is wheel flex. Heavier skaters tend to encounter this more, and without the right choice of skate, it can make the whole process rather energy draining. Skaters with higher body weight should opt for solid aluminum cores (explained below) or any larger wheels with high quality super rigid cores.
5. Hub Style
The hub is the inner core of the wheel. There are three main styles of hubs/cores viz. Hollow, Nylon, and Aluminum.
Nylon hubs are more common. These hubs are lighter, more flexible, and more affordable. Wheels with a nylon hub are softer, which means increased surface contact and a slower ride. On the downside, nylon hubs are slower and do not transfer as much power to the wheels.
These cores are the most rigid and the strongest and last the longest. They are also the most expensive, but because the hub is stiff, it keeps the wheels perfectly round and lasts the longest, making them a good investment. The stiffened core decreases traction and allows you to push harder, which means it increases overall speed.
These hubs are a type of hybrid. Typically is a nylon hub with an alloy insert. This combination’s benefit is that the core has a long life, but it is much lighter than an aluminum one. Wheels with stiffened cores/hubs have better acceleration and a longer life span.
Most wheels are of polyurethane. Some cheaper skates have hard plastic wheels, and some are even made of rubber to help improve grip. Urethane, also called POLY BD, provides excellent grip and rebound and impressive speed while staying stiff. The high viscosity of the material means it pours very slowly. As it cures, there are tiny air bubbles caught inside the wheels. When the urethane finally dries up, these air bubbles show up as small holes. Despite the appearance, these holes indicate a high quality of the material.
Urethane wheels made their appearance in roller derby 1980s. It is considered one of the most important breakthroughs in skating. These skating wheels have a better grip, allow for more speed, and improve overall performance.
7. Wheel Configurations (Pusher and Speed Wheels)
Wheel configurations gain in importance as you move from beginner to professional. Over time, you will recognize your strengths and areas that need specific help to get balanced out. Skating wheels are of two types, Pusher Wheels and Speed Wheels. Pusher wheels will be softer than speed wheels . Adjusting their positions will aid in speed, balance, push, acceleration, etc. You can refer to some wheel setups as below:
When choosing to alternate or substitute wheels, the main focus is on the hardness of the wheels. The type of surface on which the skater skates determines the wheel’s hardness/durometer. Body size/weight is another influencing factor. Depending on the player’s specific need, the player will replace the front or the back wheels or may even choose to replace wheels diagonally opposite each other.
As mentioned above, where you skate is directly connected to the choice of wheels. If you play on a hard slippery surface, you need softer wheels to maintain traction. Conversely, if you skate on soft, stickier surfaces, you need harder wheels.
The problem with softer wheels is that the increased compression often means decreased speed. Today some companies like Radar, Atom, and others have improved wheel technology to the point where they are producing wheels that have both a good grip and a faster roll.
A few things to consider before you leave here. Most skaters want a low-weight skate, and the best way to do this is to get light wheels.
In terms of cost, they range from $30-$150, and given how important a role wheels play, it is worth investing in quality ones.
For most players, the color is not a significant factor as it does not affect the wheel’s quality. But if you are particular, wheels are available in many colors these days, and sometimes finding the wheels you want, in the color you like, adds to the whole skating experience.
These are all aspects that you should keep in mind to find the best roller derby wheels for your wish if our list above does not satisfy you.