How Does Core Size Affect Wheel Performance?
Picking wheels for your preferred discipline of skateboarding can be difficult sometimes, as there are many factors that go into a wheel that may benefit your riding style better.
One of the main factors that goes into picking a set of wheels is the core of the wheel, which is where the bearings go and what supports the surrounding urethane. Different core sizes, shapes and materials can effect the way a wheel performs and this page will give you a basic run down on what cores are best for what.
Having a large core in a wheel will benefit a few different styles of riding a bit differently. When you have a wheel with a larger core your weight is displaced more evenly throughout the wheel because the core covers much more of the overall width of the wheel. You will notice that a having a larger core will promote a faster roll speed because there is less core deformation meaning less bearing deformation therefore there is less friction slowing down the wheel.
Freeriding with large cores
Pros: When it comes to freeriding there are some benefits to having a large core as well as there are some downsides. Having more displaced weight like explained above is a major benefit because it allows your wheels to wear more evenly and prevents coning. Wheels will also slide much more smoothly because in most larger core wheels like the Blood Orange Morgans, Divine Berserkers or Rad Glides the cores are very precise and the bearings fit very snug allowing for a lack of bearing slop inside the core.
Cons: When your wheels start to get closer to the core you will begin to notice some rather uncomfortable things. Wearing down a wheel with a large core is similar to riding very hard (99a – 101a) skateboard wheels when there is less urethane between the pavement and the core to provide a smooth ride. This makes for a louder, bumpier ride because there is no soft, gushy urethane to support your weight over the pavement. This is more of an issue in freeride wheels because you’re spending a majority of the time sliding them and wearing them down towards the core.
Downhilling with Large Cores
Pros: When looking for a perfect downhill wheel, you’re looking for something that is soft enough to maintain traction yet rigid enough to maintain a high roll speed. Wheels like the RAD Advantages, Free Loaders or Orangatang Kegels are wheels that have a soft urethane but are supported by a large inner core that prevents the lips of the wheels from deforming when going around a corner or even bombing down a straight. When the wheel deforms and flexes less, it allows the wheel to roll much faster while maintaining grip. Having more displaced weight throughout the wheel will also allow for a much smoother drift even when the wheels are fresh with the skin intact.
Cons: Similarly to freeride wheels with large cores, the overall urethane depth is going to be minimalized. That being said, when it comes to square lipped wheels you don’t spend as much time sliding them compared to freeride wheels so the overall life of the wheel isn’t compromised as much. Also, since the urethane depth is less, the ride of the wheel will be a bit harder because of all the support from the core. If you’re riding around your town and all the pavement around you is rough and cracked then you may experience a slightly bumpier ride, however if you have smooth pavement then you will get virtually the same ride out of most wheels regardless of the core size.
Before larger cores were implemented in the market, primarily all wheels were produced with a smaller, less supportive core and are still used today for a number of different reasons. Although it may seem that you benefit more from having a wheel with a larger core, there are some scenarios where smaller core wheels may work better for you.
Freeriding with small cores
Pros: Many of the newer freeride wheels being produced today come with a smaller core. For example, the Hawgs Tracers, Free Willies and Cadillac Swingers are all wheels that offer a smaller core size. The main benefit you will get from having a small core freeride wheel is the fact that it has a much deeper urethane depth compared to most larger core freeride wheels. Having more urethane depth means you get more bang for your buck since you have more overall urethane to use before you hit the core. When it comes to sliding, they will slide about the same as a wheel with a larger core however your weight is not as evenly displaced which means that the wheel will wear a bit differently and will change more as wheel is worn down.
Cons: As explained above, having a smaller and narrower core means that your weight won’t be as evenly displaced throughout the entirety of the wheel. What this means is that the lips of the wheel tend to deform in a different fashion which can cause the overall slide of the wheel to vary as it’s worn down. You will also notice that after excessive sliding your wheels will start to cone which is when one side of the wheel has a larger diameter than the other. Though this isn’t necesarilly a bad thing, it just means that the wheels aren’t wearing as evenly. Another flaw that has been noticed in smaller core wheels is that the cores are not as snug on the bearings and in some wheels there is some slop, this is a major downside because when sliding the wheel will wiggle around the bearing and provide a very loud and choppy slide.
Downhill/Cruising with smaller core wheels
Pros: Downhill wheels with a smaller core are gradually being replaced by larger cores in popularity and in production. Five years ago, smaller core wheels, such as Reflex Zigzags, Pink Seven O's and Orangatang 4prez were some of the only downhill wheels around. Wheels with a smaller core are much more prone to urethane deformation, meaning the wheel will compress and flex more depending on the rider and riding settings. For downhilling, this can give you a grippier feeling for technical maneuvering. Wheels will be more apt to bend with the road when they don't have a large plastic core keeping the rigidity. Also because of the deformation, there is more of a dampening effect. For cruisers, this means a wheel with a smaller core will take the shock of rough pavement much better.
Cons: With less supportive, smaller cores, you often find a slower roll speed and less even wear. Without the bigger, wider, heavier plastic holding the wheel together, the wheel will compress more in lieu of staying firm and producing more revolutions. Along similar lines, the wheel isn't going to wear evenly because the core isn't covering much of the wheel, leaving more possibility for coning and uneven wear.
In conclusion, all wheels will differ between riders depending on weight and preferences but this should give you a general explanation of what to expect before you purchase your next set of wheels!