There are benefits and drawbacks to both fast and slow roller ski wheels. But it mostly comes down to how and where you will use your roller skis.
Larger, wider wheels are more stable, and a good choice for young and novice roller skiers. Elite skiers often pick narrower wheels with a slightly smaller diameter. However, keep in mind that narrower wheels typically have less road grip. That’s particularly noticeable when the roads are wet.
Three main categories
Generally speaking, roller ski wheels come in three categories:
Type 1 wheels – fast wheels with low rolling resistance. Racing wheels/PU wheels also fall into this category. They are very fast but also very slippery, as they are rock hard.
Type 2 wheels – medium fast, and often the universal/default wheels for most skiers. Type 2 wheels have somewhat better road grip than fast wheels when the roads are wet.
Type 3 wheels – the slowest, and provide the most rolling resistance. These are often used when you want the biggest training effect in terms of having to work hard to generate speed, or in steep downhill terrain where the slow wheels are safer than faster wheels. They also tend to be safer on wet roads, as the speed is kept in check.
“Most skiers use type 2 or type 3 wheels. They are fine in most kinds of terrain, and if you are using steep terrain, the only sane thing is to choose wheels that wont break the speed limit,” says Ragnar Bragvin Andresen, the 2011 FIS Roller Ski World Champion.
“Training-wise, most skiers get the best training effect from using type 2 or type 3 wheels. And as long as you are not planning to roller ski race in Sweden or continental Europe, there are also few reasons to invest in classic race roller skis,” Bragvin Andresen says.
Benefits of fast wheels
At the same time, fast wheels can help improve technique at high speed, and contributes to develop speed and finesse.
“In my opinion, going with slower wheels than Swenor type 2 or Marwe type 6 is counterproductive. Its fine to do an interval workout every once in a while on easy terrain with slow wheels, but consistently using slow wheels for the volume of your roller ski workouts will just develop a slow and heavy pushoff and makes it harder to work on good technique,” Bragvin Andresen explains.
“However, by varying the rolling resistance, either with fast and medium wheels or by changing up the terrain, you can more easily avoid the heavy legs syndrome. You feel fresher, and you are able to do more roller ski workouts/hours per month,” he says.
“If you want to have only one pair of skate roller skis, go with type 2 medium wheels. Those are perfect for skiers with generally decent technique and endurance. Type 1 wheels are good for those who are just learning or lack the endurance base, as they are easier to get up to speed where you can work on technique,” Bragvin Andresen says.