This week's column:
Best Wheels for a2A?
Aug. 31, 2011
Hey, Bill: I'm planning to skate the 38-mile distance in the Athens-to-Atlanta Road Skate this year and would like to know what wheel you would recommend. I will take a set of Storm Surges in case of rain, but otherwise I need the fastest and most appropriate wheel for the course. I'll be skating on the 4x90mm Bont Alpha skate. Thanks! - Millie in Wake Forest, NC
Hi, Millie: First off, let’s make one thing clear. If it rains, there is only one sure bet: the MPC Storm Surges, no ‘ifs,” “buts” or “maybes” about it. So you will be covered if it rains. But one thing you might want to consider is moving up to a big wheel skate. On 90mm wheels, you are not going to be as fast as you could be, no matter how much you spend.
For several years now, the fast skaters have been on 100 and 110mm wheels, either on 4 x 110mm setups or 3 x 110mm + 1 x 100mm setups. Simply put, if you are not on big wheels, you are not in the race.
Another potential problem with 90mm wheels is getting one that is poorly designed. Manufacturers don’t make a lot of 90mm wheels anymore, so they sometimes cut corners by using hubs designed for smaller wheels. If they happen to use a 84mm hub, they have to add an extra six millimeters of urethane to get the right size. This extra urethane may smooth out road noise, but it will also slow you down.
My family is an agent for MPC and Hyper in New Zealand. So I can’t give you an unbiased opinion about what brand of wheels to buy.
But I can tell you that there is not a huge difference between the wheels of the major manufacturers. Each company has its own designs and formulas. But most of them — Bont, Atom and Hyper — have made their wheels at the same factory.
For skating in a straight line, I doubt you would notice much difference in performance from one brand to another. However, my opinion is MPC wheels are better on corners.
For a2a, I would say you couldn't go wrong with MPC Road Warriors. Not only are they fine road wheels, but in the event of rain you can easily swap in one or more Storm Surges. Road Warriors and Storm Surges, both made by MPC, have the same profile, so they work well together. On the other hand, mixing wheels from different companies can be a problem.
Having never attended a2a, I don’t know much about the road conditions, so I can't be more specific in my recommendation nor suggest an appropriate wheel hardness.
For that, you would do best to ask an independent skate retailer or one of the experienced a2a campaigners, like Eddy Matzger or Peter Doucet.