What if I told you you could get two sets of good longboard wheels with bearings for under $5.00. Yeah, I know what you're thinking,
"His trucks are too loose."
"He's a few riser pads short of a complete deck."
"Got both feet on the nose, arched way back, but the board ain't going anywhere."
While all of these things may be true, that's not the case here. The wheels? How about Hyper Stradas and Kryptonics Roadrunners, available in various hardnesses in sizes ranging from 62 to 68 mm. And if you're lucky, maybe even Kryptonics 65 and 70 mms or Hyper Super Mundos (the same wheel as Gravity Super Gs).
These are all wheels commonly found on good-quality conventional non-inline four-wheel roller skates (quad skates). You see, since roller blades came along, very few people want quad skates anymore. You could have $500 quad skates, top-of-the-line, boots, trucks, bearings, and you'd be real lucky to get 50 bucks for them, provided you had the patience to wait for someone who still knew how good they were and didn't already have a pair. Most of the time, quad skates go for under five dollars at swap meets, garage sales, and thrift shops. And it doesn't matter if they are $30 K-Mart cheapies or $300 skates with top-quality components from boot to bearing.
So, what are you looking for? Well, all of the above-mentioned wheels are labeled, so they'll be easy to spot. Be aware that most of these wheels come in different hardnesses and sizes, and this may or may not be labeled. For instance, Hyper Stradas come in two sizes, 62 and 66 mm. I have two sets 66-mm Hyper Stradas. One set has the size and urethane composition silk-screened on each wheel; the other only the name and model. Naturally you are going to be looking for the larger sizes.
Powell also makes a variety of Bones for quad skates. They're probably going to be too hard and too small for longboards, but if you're looking to put together an inexpensive new school deck, you're golden.
Another advantage to quad skate wheels is that they work great for freestyle. They tend to be flat on the sides (no beveled edges), making them good for 80s-style rail tricks. One problem that some freestylers face is that they've set up their deck for a particular truck and wheel combination. That's fine for trucks. Take care of them, and they'll last for years, but wheels wear out. You don't want to be stuck trying to find a set of OJs that haven't been made in fifteen years. Switch to quad-skate wheels, and you might solve the problem, particularly if you go with Kryptonics Roadrunners or Hyper Stradas. One pair of skates and you've got two sets of wheels, which gives you the time to find more before the first two sets get thrashed.
Just keep your eyes open. Last weekend, I found a pair skates that had generic wheels that were about the same size and shape as Kryptonics 65 mms. Plus the trucks had urethane (as opposed to rubber bushings). They'll come in handy for parts for swap meet skateboard trucks; you almost always have to replace the bushings. You never know. You might stumble on a pair of quad skates with two set of mint condition Tracker Half Tracks holding the wheels on.
A good general rule is look at the boots and trucks. Nobody's going to put good wheels on skates with vinyl boots and plastic trucks. And don't let the bearings fool you. Rink skates are often set up with semi-precision bearings. You won't be able to use the bearings, but the wheels might be killer.
What's the worst that can happen? You can buy something where the wheels don't work out. Well, you can always put them back together and sell them for the same three bucks you paid for them. On the other hand you could find a good source of cheap wheels.
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Nose Wheelie, except where noted otherwise, was written and created by Chris Sturhann.
Copyright © 1998 Chris Sturhann