Although they may seem commonplace to modern roller skaters, the development of the roller skate wheel was not a simple process.
In fact, it took centuries of experimentation and refinement to create the modern wheel that is now found on virtually every pair of roller skates.
In this article, We will provide a brief history of the roller skate wheel, from its earliest incarnations to the present day.
The First Roller Skates Wheels
Have you ever seen vintage roller skates with wooden wheels? They happened to be the best indoor skate wheels for multiple decades of our past.
The first known wheels for roller skates were made of wood, primarily boxwood. Later maple and oak were used.
After that, other materials they used for wheels were ivory, copper, or iron-stainless steel.
First Roller Skate Was Born
In 1863 James Plimpton designed the first roller skate using two sets of parallel wheels. One set in the front of the skate and the other in the back of the skate.
The wheels were attached to the boot using trucks. This would be known as the first quad skate.
This style of skate allowed you to navigate turns. Quad skates then became the popular style of skating. Wooden wheels remained popular until about 1910.
Size and shape of the roller skate wheels Evolved over time
In the early days of roller skating, the skate wheels were made of wood. They were large and round, with a diameter of about 4 inches. The skate wheel was designed to roll smoothly over the surface of the rink, providing a comfortable and smooth ride for the skater.
In the 1960s, plastic skate wheels began to be manufactured. They were smaller in size, with a diameter of about 3 inches. The smaller size allowed for more agility and speed on the rink.
In the 1980s, urethane skate wheels were developed. They are even smaller in size than plastic skate wheels, with a diameter of only 2 inches. Urethane skate wheels provide a very smooth and fast ride and are the most popular type of wheel currently used in roller skating.
Today Roller Skate Wheels
Today’s wheels are made from various synthetic formulations depending on the amount of hardness desired.
In the 1960s polyurethane became the wheel of choice and still is. Softer wheels are slower but grip the floor better and harder wheels are faster but are slippery.
Pictured Below is a newer Sure-Grip-designed wood wheel.