Downhill skating beginners: Which are the best wheels for learning to slide
April 12, 2020
After foot breaking, sliding is one of the best ways to slow down on your longboard – it’s probably your best option if you’re skating above 30mph. It’s a skill that anyone who wants to skate fast or bomb hills should learn.
That said, learning to slide isn’t very easy especially if you have the wrong wheels. Bad wheels don’t break out easily and have a tendency to throw you off your board. It’s key you get the right ones.
Today’s article will be a guide on which wheels in the market are best for learning how to slide. I’ll also mention a few you should avoid. Finally, I’ve written a guide of sorts to help you understand why certain wheels are good for sliding.
What makes a wheel better than others for sliding?
Not all wheels are made the same. Some are built better than others and others are better for different uses. It might not be apparent at first glance especially if you’re not familiar with wheels and their different features.
These features can make a wheel better for one use, but completely terrible for another. So it’s key you understand them. Read more about this below.
This is the fifth in a series of articles and videos geared towards beginners. I’ll be discussing tips, gear, techniques, and other small things beginners need to know. Check out the others here:
- Skateboarding basics: How to balance on your skateboard and push
- How to tuck: Downhill skating basics
- How longboarders skate downhill roads safely
- How to setup your trucks correctly
- How to pick your first skateboard for downhill skating
Radiused lip (or radiused edge)
This is arguably the most important feature if you want a wheel to slide easily.
By a radiused edge, I mean a wheel that has a round lip. This round lip allows the wheel to go from gripping to slipping with ease. The lips don’t fight the sideways motion, and allow the sliding to happen easily.
For comparison sake, the wheel below has a square (or sharp) lip. This lip is shaped this way to increase the traction and grip of the wheel. Because of the square edge, the wheel lip sits at a 90* angle with the ground.
When the wheel wants to go sideways and slide, the square lip pushes and digs in against the ground to resist this motion. This makes the wheel gripper and harder to slide. It also allows you to take corners at high speeds with confidence.
Wheels with square edges are typically not good options for learning to slide. You should stay away from them when you start out.
Small contact patch
A contact patch is the area of the wheel that will be touching/in contact the ground.
- The larger this area, the more of a surface you will be sliding. This could mean a slide that slows you down more.
- The smaller the area, the less of a surface that will be sliding. This means a slide that doesn’t slow you down much at all.
For a practical demonstration of this effect, slide one finger sideways across a table or smooth surface. Now slide all four of your fingers, you should feel like there is more resistance to this motion now.
Wheels work in the same way. When they have a large contact patch, they resist sliding and sometimes don’t do it smoothly. When they have a small contact patch, they tend to slide smoothly and easily.
For example, take a look at the two wheels below. Can you guess which one is designed for sliding, and which for gripping corners?
The Venom Magnums on the right are designed for going fast and carrying a lot of speed through corners. Their wide contact patch allows them to provide a lot of grip and traction on road. They aren’t very easy to slide and slow down a rider very quickly. The wheels on the left are designed for doing slides easily and break out with ease – they don’t have a lot of slowing power.
Urethane is the material that a wheel is made from. It comes in a variety of formulas that make it good for different things.
Some wheels have urethane that likes to resist sliding. They like to really grab the road when their wheels go sideways. This provides a lot of braking forces, and the wheels slow you down a lot. The wheel can also feel a bit uncontrollable when you slide it.
Some wheels have urethane likes to glide on top of the pavement. This allows them to transition from gripping to slipping easily. It also allows the wheel to feel very controllable during the sliding motion.
You should aim to wheels that have urethane that glides/slides well. Usually, the wheel manufacturer will have a description of how the urethane will behave. It’s key you read this, or if not, ask an experienced rider who has skate the wheel how the wheel will behave.
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Does durometer matter?
Durometer is basically how hard the urethane of a given wheel is. It is typically measured on the shore scale. Most longboard wheels come with a durometer between 75a and 86a.
Does durometer actually matter? Yes and no. Yes because when a wheel is harder, it tends to slide easier and smoother. No, because some wheels can be extremely slidey despite being very soft. Or some wheels can be very low on the durometer scale, but will still be quite dense and slidey.
In short, the slidey nature of a wheel is primarily dependant on the urethane. However, the shore scale still helps, but only specifically in the case of the given wheel/urethane formula.
And hardness has diminishing returns above 80a for sliding and smoothness – so hardness doesn’t always = better.
Resistance to flat spotting
Flat spotting is when you slide a wheel at angle 90* and end up flattening one side of it. The wheel basically becomes an oval and doesn’t roll very well. In extreme cases, one side will become flat and the wheel won’t roll at all.
Wheels that are resistant to flat spotting are best for beginners. You probably will flat spot your first set of wheels, so it’s good to go for one that will resist that happening for as long as possible.
Wheels that are good at resisting flat-spotting tend to have denser urethane and sit further up on the durometer scale. However, it is best to ask other riders what they think of a wheels flat-spotting resistance.
Wheels that are too big aren’t very good for sliding. Their big size gives them a lot of inertia, grip and raises the center of gravity of the board. They are basically harder to chuck sideways and they kind of want to do their own thing.
If you’re experienced, sliding these wheels isn’t really an issue. But as a beginner, you don’t have the right technique yet.
I would recommend choosing wheels that are less than 70mm in size (in diameter). In fact, I believe the sweet spot would be wheels that are around 66mm in size. This size will give you the best balance of speed, weight, and leverage over the wheels.
What should I keep in mind when buying slide wheels?
Wheel surface finish
Wheels tend to come in two finishes/different textures on the contact patch. One is easier to slide than the other. The one that is easier to slide is the stoneground finish.
The one that is harder to slide, is when the wheel has a smooth finish or still has it’s “skin”. This skin is a material that holds the wheel together when it is in the mold. It is basically very grippy and does not produce a smooth slide. However, it does come off after a handful of slides, but it is not ideal for beginners.
In summary, if you’re a complete beginner to sliding, try to choose a wheel that has a stone-ground finish.
Some wheels tend to ride differently on hot and cold days. It’s important you pick one that will match the climate you’ll be riding in.
For example, Powell Peralta snakes are notorious for this. They slide differently depending on the temperature. In cold weather, they feel a bit gripper, but slide like butter when it is hot out.
Though all things said, this isn’t something you should worry about too much – but it may explain why a wheel isn’t behaving as advertised/as other riders say it should. So keep it in the back of your head when reading information about a wheel and actually skating it.
If your setup isn’t very good or isn’t optimized for riding, you may not be able to slide well.
Most setups will slide with the right technique, but as you’re a beginner, you most definitely don’t have the right technique – yet. Getting the right technique will take time, error and a lot of muscle memory.
However, you can build your setup in a certain way to help compensate for the lack of technique. In fact, most pro’s even run their setups this way to maximize performance and have an easy time sliding.
If you want to make your setup better to slide with, I recommend replacing the:
- Griptape – make sure to replace it with coarse griptape. Coarse griptape will grip and stick you better to the board. It will help you resist those sideways forces and you won’t slip off your deck when riding and sliding. Check out Mob Course Griptape here on Amazon.com.
- Bushings – bushings are the little squishy things in your truck. They act like suspension and determine how you lean and turn. Check out my longboard truck setup guide here to show you how to set up your bushing right.
- Getting bearing spacers and speed rings – these help your wheels slide smoothly. When you don’t have them on, your wheels will chatter and bounce during the slide (you could get thrown off or it could make your foot slip). They are quite cheap, so it is worth getting them. Check out the Fireball spacer and speed ring set here on Amazon.com.
What are some good longboard wheels for sliding?
For this section, I’ll be recommending wheels that I’ve found good to slide. I also got some feedback from other riders in the community too. Check out the FB group thread here if you want to see what everyone recommended and why.
Powell Peralta – Snakes
Snakes are generally the go-to recommendation when you ask for beginner slide wheels. They slide well, slide smooth and slide easy. Their kick out is almost non-existent … you just kinda carve hard and you’re sliding. Finally, they are also durable and resistant to flat spotting. They can last months of abuse and hard skating.
Powell snakes do come stone-ground, so they can be slid easily out of the box. You can choose between two sizes. The first is 66mm in size and the second 69mm (nice) in size. The 66mm will be more beginner-friendly for sliding, so it’s the one I recommend you choose. Check out the Powell Snakes here on Amazon.com.
Need any more convincing? They are what Josh Neuman rides to do those fast stand up slides. They are also arguably the best slide wheel of all time. Check out Josh ripping on them below.
Remember Collective – Lil Hoots
Remember collective is known for its slidey, durable urethane. Literally, any wheel from that brand can be used for fun sliding. The Lil Hoots are no different.
The Hoots have a buttery slide and they break traction with a minimal kick out. They are great for learning slides at slower speeds. In fact, if you could push fast enough, you can get them to slide on flat ground. Great if you don’t have many hills or perfect spots for learning to slide.
The Lil Hoots come with a narrow contact path, radiused lips, and slidey urethane with options from 74a to 80a. I recommend you pick the harder 80a for more resistance to flat-spotting, and an easier slide.
You can buy a set of Hoots from the Remember Collective website, Muirskate, or a longboard shop near you. They are super affordable, so should fit most budgets.
I’ve skated a set of the Remember Savannah Slammas. Those wheels slid very easily and had a buttery slide. I believe the Hoots and the Slammas have the same urethane so I can attest to its quality and slideyness hehe. Check me out riding the Slammas below.
Slide Perfect wheels – Supremini Classic
If you’re based in the UK or Europe, there is no better wheel to go with than a Slide Perfect one. They are known throughout Europe for making wheels that are durable and that slide great. They are worth checking out.
The Supremini classic fits the bill as a good slide wheel. It comes in the recommended 65mm diameter, has a narrow contact patch of 47mm, and has urethane that is long-lasting and slidey. Finally, it was designed to be ridden in the cold, cloudy climate of the UK, so it will be a good choice for sliding in cold temperatures.
The wheels are super affordable too. They only cost £28.95, which is a bargain for the quality you get and how long they will last you. You can buy a set of the Supremini classic here on the Slide perfect website. If you choose to get it, tell them who sent you hehe.
Freewheel co – Free Quincys
Quite similar to the other wheels on my list, these come in a 66mm diameter. They have a narrow contact patch of 29mm, which is one of the narrowest on my list. If you want to go sideways, these are a very good choice for that.
It’s poured in the Platinum Freewheel co urethane formula. This urethane has been designed to be durable, slow wearing and resistant to flat spotting. It was designed and tested in the PNW (pacific north-west), so it will handle cold weather and low temperatures well too!
Finally, with the stoneground contact patch, you will be able to slide these straight out the box.
At only $27, they are perhaps the cheapest wheel on my list. If you’re on a tight budget, they are absolutely worth getting. They have all the makings of a great sidewheel, and they don’t break the bank. Honestly, might just pick up a couple sets for myself.
You can pick up a set at MotionBoardshop.
Cloud Ride – Iceez
Cloud Ride is a brand known for urethane that doesn’t last too long. However, Iceez come in a different urethane formula that is resistant to wear and flat-spotting.
These wheels come in a really small 59mm. This is bad as they can get caught in cracks, stopped by pebbles and such, but good because it makes them lightweight and easy to push out and slide.
They have a wide contact patch at 40mm. This seems a bit wide, but it is to provide a balance between too much and too little slip as the urethane of these wheels is incredibly slidey.
They do come with a stoneground finish and radiused wheels. However, as they wear down their lips start to get sharper and more square. They lose some of those initially performance characteristics. They will still be very slidey, but will just skate slightly differently.
Finally, they are also super affordable and only cost about $32. So even if you mess up one set, it is easy enough to get another. However, their narrow size limits them to hills with smooth roads.
You can pick up a set of them at Motionboardshop.
Orangatang Wheels – Orangatang Skiffs
The Orangatang Skiffs are a skateboard-longboard hybrid wheel. However, they come in a much softer durometer than typical skate wheels, and this makes them ideal for sliding.
They are a bit small in size at 62mm. This means they won’t roll all too great over rougher roads – they won’t be able to handle cracks and pebbles as well as the bigger 66mm+ wheels. They also have a very narrow 25mm contact patch, the narrowest of all the slide wheels on my list.
The Skiffs are quite small. This is a bad thing if you’re looking for a wheel to cruise with, but it makes the Skiffs perfect for sliding and breaking traction. Thanks to their small size, you can manhandle them and even get them to lose traction at slower speeds.
Finally, they have a stoneground finish so they’ll be great to slide straight out of the box.
However, they cost as much as the Snakes above, but may not perform as well or last as long. However, they will do their job and slide very easily. For extra durability, go with either the 83a or 86a option. Check out the Orangatang Skiffs here on Amazon.com.
Other wheels that are good for sliding:
I can’t write a product overview for every wheel, so here are the others that will be good for sliding.
- Remember Hoots
- Cuei Sliders
- Cult Chronicles
- Cult Creators
- Sector 9 Skiddles
- Powell G-slides – great for slow speed slides
What are wheels not good for learning to slide?
To kind of drive the point home, I’m going to list some wheels that are not good for learning to slide. If you paid attention to the guide above, why they aren’t good for it will be quickly apparent.
These wheels come in a massive 70mm width, huge contact patch and a gigantic 78mm diameter. They also come with massive square lips that allow them to dig into the ground so they can prevent sliding. Finally, when new, they come with the shiny, plastic finish for maximum grip and traction.
Beginners should stay away from these wheels. Even experienced riders have trouble sliding them and many have been thrown off their boards. Their huge contact patch gives them a lot of braking power that can often feel too difficult to control.
Similar to the Magnums above, the Kegels come in a massive 80mm diameter. They do have a smaller 56mm contact patch but are still no joke. Their size gives them a lot of heft and inertia. Put simply, these wheels don’t like to slide, and beginners should avoid them. They also come with skin when they are new, so they grip a lot too.
An experienced rider can use them to take fast downhill lines like in the clip below.
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These wheels come in a big 75mm (or 80mm) size, with a 61mm contact patch. They come with the skin on and have thick, sharp, square lips. They’ve been designed for fast downhill runs, where you’re trying to take corners as fast as possible and maximize your speed through the turns.
They are not beginner-friendly for sliding. However, they aren’t a bad idea if you’re out doing grip runs and need a wheel that will help you keep momentum through a corner.
Blood Orange Morgans
The Blood orange Morgans come in a 65mm (or 70mm) height. They have a durometer between 80a and 84a, and come with a narrow 31mm contact patch. They have all the makings of a great beginner slide wheel yes? Not quite …
The Morgans make for bad beginner slide wheels because of how quickly they wear down. Their urethane isn’t that durable and they quickly lose shape from sliding. For a beginner, this could lead to you quickly flat-spotting the wheels within a couple of slides. They also feel more grippy in the slide than other beginner wheels.
In short, your wheel will quickly become unstable. You won’t get your money worth.
That said, they do leave really cool lines on the pavement. If you know what you’re doing, you can really make the most of them, shedding every bit of urethane until you get to the core. Check out Jordan Riachi shredding the Morgans in the video below. Who knows, you could be skating the same way in a few months,
Hawgs Tracers are similar to the Blood Orange Morgans above. They wear down quickly and leave dramatic lines of thick urethane on the ground when slid. They also come in a small shape, with radiused lips for easy sliding.
Yes, they are quite slidey and break out easily, but they wear down very quickly. Check out the clip below where Laine Jackart completely cores them in one run.
Some would say they are still good slide wheels, but I disagree. It doesn’t take much to make them flat spot and become unusable. They are not friendly for a beginner who will (definitely) be messing up a lot and sliding their wheels at 90*. The wheels will quickly become unusable and useless, money down the drain.
However, if you do know what you’re doing, they can be very fun to skate. Once you get competent with your slides, I highly recommend you pick up a set.
Anything wheel from a cheap knock-off complete
Most wheels you get from knock-off brands with no reputation will often be bad to learn to slide with. This includes wheels from brands like Atom, Quest, Volador, Playshion, Retrospec, White Wave, Magneto, Two Bare Feet, etc.
These wheels will be ok to cruise with – they will still roll and provide a smooth ride. However, they haven’t been built or designed for sliding – even though these brands may advertise them for such.
Most of those wheels will have sharp lips, a large contact patch, and worst of all terrible urethane. They will have a choppy slide that will feel uncontrollable. They are terrible wheels for learning to slide.
If you want to make it easy on yourself, go with a quality brand that has a reputable history. Any of the wheels I’ve suggested above will do.
What do you think? Which slide wheels is your choice?
If you’re still undecided, I recommend you pick the Powell Snakes. They may a bit expensive in comparison to the other choice, but you will for sure have an easy time learning to slide with them.
Also, sliding isn’t very easy, it will take a lot of trial and error but you will get it down if you don’t give up. Happy skating!
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Thanks to Patrons Jed, Mowgii, and SuperBadJuJu for the support so far.
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