One day I turned up to a roller skate session with my Bont skates that had the new Kryptonics 72mm inline wheels on them and I was keeping up with the best roller skaters in the world.
I grew up skating on inline speed skates as a way of training for short track ice speed skating on days that we didn’t have any ice time. When I was around 10 or 12 years old, Kryptonics which was a famous roller skate wheel maker came out with a new 72mm inline skate wheel that changed the inline speed skating landscape. This wheel was the first that allowed inline skates to become faster than quad roller skates. At around the age of 14, I was training with quad roller skaters on my inline skates. The skaters I was training with were world champions and I was lucky enough to be able to train with them on a weekly basis. On roller speed skates, I couldn’t keep up with these guys, they were way too strong and fast. One day I turned up to a roller skate session with my Bont skates that had the new Kryptonics 72mm inline wheels on them and I was keeping up with the best roller skaters in the world. I remember skating in the pack at high speed and one of them would look back at me and say ‘you shouldn’t be here’. Referring to the fact that I was keeping up with them at the age of 14. It didn’t take my friends very long to work out how much faster inline skates were than traditional roller skates. They all jumped on inline skates and at the first official roller skating world championships where inline skates were allowed, they won a number of world titles.
Bont Kinetic 110mm inline skate wheel
Inline wheels grew in size to 76mm. Then 80mm became a standard for quite some time. 84mm, 88mm, 90mm and then 100mm wheels came out from brands like Hyper Wheels, Kryptonics and Labeda. When we first tried 100mm wheels, people said they were too big. They said it felt like we were skating on stilts. But, they were faster. With each increase in wheel diameter, the world records would continue to fall. Finally, 110mm wheels were released and the international speed skating federation FIRS capped the wheel diameter to a maximum of 110mm. This rule was later changed to allow 125mm wheels for the marathon only. As it stands today, 110mm wheels are the most popular inline speed skating wheel size.
What does durometer mean?
When you look up the meaning for the word durometer on Wikipedia it has a picture of a Bont Highroller wheel. The shore durometer is a device that is used to measure the hardness of a wheel. There are different scales of measurement but the one we use for inline wheels is called the ‘A’ rating. For many years, most inline skate wheels were 78A because harder wheels felt slippery. As wheel chemistry evolved, skaters started using 82A then 85A and now 87A is one of the most commonly used inline wheel hardness’. Harder wheels generally roll better but have less grip. Many urethane materials have an optimal hardness and when chemists push a urethane past its limits it loses a lot of its good characteristics. For example, if a urethane has an optimal hardness of 83A to 87A and you push it to 90A it may lose much of its rebound. In this circumstance, it is better to formulate a different urethane compound for harder applications.
What are dual durometer wheels?
Between each wheel size increase, wheel manufacturers were battling it out to see who could make the best wheel. There were a number of ideas that wheel makers tried in the 1990’s and 2000’s. The obvious one was using new urethane formulas that would grip better or roller better but there were also other ideas such as using rubber bands inside the wheel and using ball bearings with springs inside the spokes. One idea that really worked was to produce a wheel where you pour one layer of super-high rebounding urethane and then pour your regular urethane over the top. The idea being that the super high rebounding urethane would wear out very quickly and not roll very well if you were to make the whole wheel from it. By encasing this super ball type material in normal urethane, the wheel produced a lot more rebound which is great for making a wheel roll faster and this softer material also provided more of a footprint on the road offering more grip to skaters. This type of wheel is called a dual durometer wheel because the inner layer and the outer layer are two different durometers. Most wheel manufacturers offer a dual durometer wheel but a wheel manufacturer named MPC (Producer of Bont wheels) has a patent on producing wheels where the inner urethane hardness is softer than the outside layer. This limits other wheel manufacturers to produce 110mm wheels where their inner band is either harder or the same durometer as the outer layer of urethane.
Bont dual durometer inline skate wheel
What is a Mechanical Lock?
The urethane tire on a 110mm wheel needs to stick to the hub or core of the wheel. This can be done in a number of different ways. If the hub is made of urethane it may bond quite easily. If the hub is made of plastic it may bond well or it may need the application of a type of glue to bond the urethane and the hub together. One other way to get the urethane to stick to the wheel is by use of a mechanical lock. This is where the hub has holes in it so the urethane can flow through it. This makes it extremely difficult for the urethane to ever come apart from the hub.
Inside a Bont wheel showing the mechanical lock and flex band
Roll vs Grip vs Wear vs Rebound
These are the four attributes of an inline skate wheel. ‘Wear’ means how fast the wheel wears out. The ‘rebound’ is the bounce of the wheel. ‘Roll’ is how fast or slow the wheel rolls’. ‘Grip’ is how grippy or slippery the wheel is. Urethane chemists work hard to create a wheel that has the optimum balance of these four critical characteristics. It is easy for a chemist to make a wheel roll faster but to do so they will need to sacrifice the grip and wear of the wheel. If the chemist increases the grip, the wheel will have less roll. Often a brand will ask for key characteristics of a wheel to be increased while sacrificing others. For example, a sprint wheel may have more grip while sacrificing roll. One thing is certain, only high-end urethanes can provide the best mix of each attribute.
Which 110mm wheel is the best?
Every world title won at the inline world championships in the last 20 years were Made in the USA. So that is a very good starting point to determine which 110mm wheel is the best. That rules out a LOT of wheels. I can’t remember how many skaters, sales reps and companies have told me over the years that X company in Taiwan, Korea, China or France have made a new inline wheel that is going to be a game-changer and would I like to test it? Sure, I will test it and keep an open mind but to date, none of them has come close to US wheels.
Here are the best 110mm wheels on the market and why:
The Bont Avenger is a mix of Bont’s ingenuity with MPC’s urethane. The unique aluminum hub adds rebound that the chemist usually needs to squeeze out of the urethane itself. This wheel was released in 2020 and it is the new benchmark for 110mm inline racing wheels.
Bont Red Magic
Before the 110mm Bont Avenger wheel, there was the 110mm Bont Red Magic. This wheel along with its sibling the Black Magic has won more world championship gold medals than any other wheel over the past decade. The super grippy urethane coupled with unbelievable roll makes this the wheel of choice at the inline world championship pre-2020.
Back before dual durometer wheels, the Bont 110mm Highroller was ripping up the world championships and world cup events. The Highroller is the longest-lasting 110mm wheel on the market. This awesome wheel can now be bought for less than half the price of the newest wheels making it the bang-for-your-buck wheel of choice. On a road course, the right skater could still win events on this wheel it is that good.
MPC Storm Surge
The MPC storm Surge is the best wet-weather wheel on the market. It turns wet roads that would normally feel like an ice skating rink into a road that you can sprint on without losing traction.
Is it possible to get lucky buying a no-name wheel from Amazon?
Most skateboard wheels and inline skate wheels are made in China and their urethane from my experience is poor to average at best. If you buy wheels from a brand that you have never heard of they are not going to be very good. Chinese wheels usually come in two variants. Very hard wheels that lack grip or very soft wheels that have grip but lack roll. You will find many fancy hub designs for skateboard and inline wheels on Amazon but a good looking wheel certainly does not mean that it will be a high performing wheel.
Does the hub or core design matter?
Yes, it certainly does. If you take a look on amazon at all of the hub designs, you will find disc wheels, hubs with holes cut in random patterns, hubs with super thick spokes, hubs with even numbers of spokes. The hub provides rebound which is one of the reasons that the Avenger wheel is so good. Disc wheels are just for show and it will absorb the rebound slowing your wheel. Hubs with an even number of spokes (unless the spokes are curved like the Bont Avenger) will provide a rough ride and sap rebound. Hubs with thick spokes also provide a rough ride and sap rebound. 90% of wheels on Amazon have these common hub errors. But, they do look pretty.
Bont 110mm inline speed skating wheel hub
Does the Urethane color affect performance?
Yes, it certainly does. The worst color possible is black because it heats up the fastest. Urethane wears out faster and slows down the hotter it gets so if you see any inline wheels with black urethane you know that they are not a serious wheel.
About the author:
Alexander Bont has been skating since the age of two years old. He was part of the Australian national short track team for 7 years. He has also competed on quad roller skates, long track ice skates and inline speed skates. Alexander has won a number of Australian national titles including national records in short track and state titles in inline speed skating. He is the owner and CEO of Bont Skates and has a passion for skate design.