First of all, you need to decide exactly what it is you want your wheels to do. There are several disciplines in longboarding and there are no wheels that are good at more than one. The disciplines that are the most sought after are downhill, free ride, cruising, long distance pushing and sliding. Now technically, sliding would be a part of free riding, but as I came to learn at many slide jams, sometimes you need wheels that can simply slide like butter, without the extra grip for tight corners or gnarly tricks summitboard.co.
Downhill: This is perhaps the most dangerous discipline that long boarding has to offer. That is because we are dealing with high speeds, precision, high speeds an high speeds. That’s correct, when you clock ninety miles per hour while bombing a hill, as we call the actual descent, it gets pretty dangerous. And also lots of fun. Besides wheels, at that speed you need precision trucks, a board you can really depend on and good bushings. You need the kind of precision to turn a corner by a hair. The wheels for that are usually what we call fat-lipped wheels. Large, basically, with a flat construction, as opposed to the rounded base the sliding wheels feature. Do not go for the higher durometer, stick to the lowest one that can carry you. The density of the wheels is measured by the durometer. For heavier riders there’s generally a 90a, 93a o even 96a, for skinnier guys and girls there’s 80a, 83a, 86a and so on. There are some brands that go lower than 80a. Choose one that fits your weight, and if you’re not sure about it, you can even go one step lower. A higher duro means a higher density wheel, and that in turn means less traction in corners if your weight is not up to it.
For free ride you can pretty much use any wheel that will support you. That’s one discipline you are not dead set for a certain wheel. If you plan on doing a lot of sliding go for rounded wheels that are also grippy enough so you will actually turn tight corners instead of sliding out of them. Check the Orangatang Fat Free construction, it’s one o the best out there. Also, you do not need large wheels, as they will take a lot of effort to slow and maneuver. 70mm height is the biggest you should go.
Cruising is effort. A lot, sometimes, as you need to actually push your way to your destination. You may encounter a small hill that you can go down on, but you can encounter one that you need to go up as well. Check the big and tall wheels, extra grippy. A big wheel is harder to push for a certain speed, but it also keeps its speed better once it reaches it due to all that urethane it’s constructed of. The small wheels you need to push continuously and it is vey tiring in the long run.
Long distance pushing is a lot like cruising, only you get to help yourself by pumping the board rather than pushing it. You get a lot of help from dedicated trucks there, so you’ll need wheels that are big and a bit rounded, so the left and right movement of pushing will actually give them momentum, not slow them down.