When I was a new roller skater, I was overwhelmed by all the different hardware options out there. Why do skaters have different kinds of wheels? Why are there so many different kinds of toe stops? What are bearings, and why do they need to be cleaned? What the hell are slide blocks? As a newbie, this stuff can be really intimidating, especially when you see other skaters with all kinds of different bells and whistles on their skates. Now that I’ve learned a bit about skate gear, I want to share some of that knowledge with you and tell you about the products I’ve come to love.
One of the most common questions I hear from new skaters is “When do I need to get different wheels?” The answer really depends on where you skate and what kind of skating you do. Wheels come in varying levels of hardness — the lower the number, the softer the wheel. Softer wheels are better for skating outdoors on rougher surfaces like asphalt and concrete, while harder wheels are better for skating indoors or on the smooth concrete at skate parks. There are also hybrid wheels that some skaters use both outdoors and indoors. So, what wheels do I love?
Radar Energy: These soft wheels are great for rolling over errant pebbles and sticks outside.
Moxi Gummy: I actually prefer these over the Radar Energies for street skating on rougher asphalt. These wheels are GIANT, so they can roll over debris easily while keeping you steady.
Sonar Zen: If you’re looking for a more affordable outdoor option, the Sonar Zens are great! They’re not quite as soft as the Energies or the Gummies, but they still work very well for outdoor skating.
Luminous: People seem to love Luminous wheels. And while I do enjoy their smoothness (most come in 85A) and overall aesthetic, I have sort of a cautionary warning for anyone interested in light-up wheels. There’s a little magnet that sits in between your bearings, and that’s what makes the wheels light up. This is awesome because you never have to worry about replacing any batteries. However, because there’s an extra piece in light up wheels that normal wheels don’t have, they take up more room on your axle. It’s recommended to screw on your axle nuts backwards so that these wheels stay put.
Rollerbones Day of the Dead: These wheels have slightly rounded edges and tread. I have the 94As, and they’ve been great for cruising around the rink and for derby footwork. It looks like these are sold out in a lot of places, but I highly recommend them if they ever come back in stock!
Radar Halos: I recently borrowed a friend’s Halos to try them out for derby, and I really like them! They’re very light. I actually used the 93As for my first mini scrimmage recently!
I’ve also tried Luminous Wheels in 97A at the rink, and although they’re fun because they light up, I don’t love them for anything besides cruising. I got some Moxi Trick wheels as a gift and have also tried those at the rink, but I didn’t really like them either — they’re very slim and they’re treaded, which meant that any little piece of gunk or dirt I picked up at the rink caused major impact to my skating.
As a baby park skater, the only wheels I’ve used so far at the skate park are Moxi Fundaes, which are a hybrid wheel with 92A hardness. They are smooooooooth like butter, and I really love them. I highly recommend them for the skate park or just for smooth outdoor surfaces. One caveat is that as you gain more experience at the skatepark, these wheels won’t give you the speed that’s required for a lot of advanced tricks. But if you’re like me and still getting used to staying steady and dropping in, the Fundaes are perfect.
PS: I referenced slide blocks at the beginning of this post, but I've only ever used one kind (CIB). You do not need slide blocks as a skate park beginner, though!
Depending on the kind of skates you have, your toe stops will either be bolt-on or adjustable. I don’t have recommendations for bolt-on stops (sorry!), but I do have a few go-to adjustable stops.
Chaya Cherry Bombs: These have been my favorite toe stops for outdoor skating, and they were the first pair that I wore down (outside of the stock toe stops that came on my Moxi skates.)
Gumball: I’ve only used the natural version of the Gumball stops, but now they come in a variety of cool colors and hardnesses! These are extremely durable and have lasted me quite a long time. There’s also a giant version of the Gumballs called the Superball, and I use this one for derby.
Grindstone Heartstoppers: These toe stops are adorable, and I have a pair on my non-derby indoor setup. However, I would not use these for derby! The shape and slickness of the Heartstoppers makes stopping quickly with them kind of awkward.
You may notice that toe stops typically have long or short stem versions. The version you get comes down to personal preference and the kind of skating you do. I prefer short stem toe stops at the skatepark, because long stems could potentially trip you up. I like long stems for derby because I rely on my toe stops a lot for footwork and pushing, and I also prefer long stems for outdoor skating. I don’t do very much jam skating, but potentially both long and short stem toe stops can get in the way of a lot of dance moves. Never fear though! There are plenty of varieties of jam plugs you can use if you’re looking to get into jam skating.
Tools & Stuff
Rollerbones Bearings: If you have wheels, you need bearings to put in them (two per wheel). Rollerbones bearings are very inexpensive and are primarily what I use.
Bones Bearing Cleaning Unit: If you skate outdoors a lot, your bearings will eventually need to be cleaned. I use the Bones cleaning unit and 100% acetone to wash my bearings, then I lay them on a paper towel to dry.
Bones Speed Cream: If you ever clean your bearings, you’ll also want to lubricate them before putting them back in your wheels. I use Bones Speed Cream for that. It only takes a drop, so the little bottle will last you for a while!
Y3 and Y4 tools: I have both of these tools, and they’re so convenient! If your skates have toe stop locknuts, the Y3 is great and allows you to adjust the locknuts on your toe stops as well as the axle nuts to remove/replace your wheels and your truck kingpins. The Y4 is great for toe stops that require an allen wrench, plus it also allows you to adjust axle nuts, kingpins, and micro-adjustable kingpins.
Moxi Skate Tool: This inexpensive little buddy goes on your keychain so you always have a way to tighten/loosen your axle nuts. You never know when axle nuts can come loose, especially when you’re rolling on rough, bumpy outdoor surfaces, so this is a convenient and small option to help keep you safe.
Powerdyne Bearing Press: You do NOT need a bearing press to remove and replace your bearings, but this thing is a huge convenience for me. I find the whole bearing cleaning process to be a big chore, but this bearing press saves me a lot of time. If you change your bearings a good bit, I definitely recommend it. If not, I’d stick to a simple bearing hand tool instead.
There you have it! These are just some of my recommendations — I could write a whole other post about safety gear and actual skate boots (and I probably will in the future.) I’m an open book, so if you have specific questions about the items I discuss in this post, please feel free to reach out for more thoughts! The world of hardware and accessories really can be overwhelming, so I would love to help you focus less on those questions so you have more time to enjoy your rolling experience.