Wheel Bite: A Skater’s Nemesis

If you skate on wheels, whether those wheels are on a skateboard or roller skates, you have the potential to experience wheel bite.

Wheel bite is a fairly common occurrence in skateboarding or roller skating for skaters who like to ride on loose trucks (or let their trucks get loose through poor maintenance).

If you’ve ever been riding along and come to a sudden, jarring (possibly painful) stop on your skateboard or roller skates, you’ve experienced wheel bite.

Here are some reasons wheel bite might have happened and how to keep it from happening again.

What is Wheel Bite on a Skateboard or Roller Skates?

Wheel bite on skateboards and roller skates happen for the same reason – the stationary part of the set-up touches one or more wheels, causing the wheel(s) to stop turning.

On a skateboard, this means the deck touches the wheel.

On roller skates, this means the boot touches the wheel.

On both skateboards and roller skates, wheel bite occurs for one simple reason – there isn’t enough space for the wheels to roll on the undercarriage during turns – but there can be multiple causes for this space crunch.

Wheel Bite Cause #1 – Loose Trucks

Trucks are the fixtures on both skateboards and roller skates that attach the top of the set-up (the deck or boot) to the wheels.

The more loosely trucks are attached to a skateboard or skate, the more the trucks can move under the deck or boot and the more responsive the steering is.

A lot of skaters like this responsive steering.

However, loose trucks provide responsive steering by giving the deck of a skateboard or the boot of a roller skate more room to dip and move.

If a skateboard deck or roller skate boot dips too deeply, BAM it hits the wheel and you get the quick, unfortunate stop of a wheel bite.

Wheel Bite Cause #2 – Old Bushings/Cushions

Bushings are plastic pieces in skateboard trucks that pad the metal parts of the trucks and provide shock absorption.

In rollerskating, these pieces are referred to as cushions, but are the same thing.

Since bushings or cushions pad the working components of a skateboard or roller skate and absorb so much impact, they are one of the first things on your skateboard or roller skates to wear down.

When bushings wear down, they don’t press as hard against the other components of your trucks and your trucks naturally get looser.

Depending on your weight and riding style, bushings can also simply be too soft.

Too-soft bushings make it harder to get your trucks fully tight, making wheel bite more likely.

Wheel Bite Cause #3 – Too-Large Wheels

If your trucks can’t get any tighter and you’re still experiencing wheel bite, your wheels are too big for the undercarriage.

In a standard skateboard or roller skate set-up, there is only so much clearance under the deck or boot for the wheels to roll.

When the clearance beneath the deck or boot is insufficient, you’ll get wheel bite.

Bigger wheels take up more space, reducing the clearance and increasing the risk of wheel bite.

How to Prevent Wheel Bite

So, we know about the causes of wheel bite. The question is “How do we stop wheel bite?”

The good news is the solutions to wheel bite are as simple as the issue that causes it in the first place – too much movement in not enough space.

To avoid it, you either need to prevent your trucks from moving as much or create more clearance.

Here’s how to change things up on your skateboard or roller skate’s undercarriage to make wheel bite less likely.

Wheel Bite Solution #1 – Tighten the trucks.

Applies to: Skateboards and Roller Skates

When to use it: When things are just TOO LOOSE and you can stand to tighten up the steering.

Tightening trucks is the easiest way to reduce movement in your skateboard or skates.

Stop your deck or boot from dipping too much and you’ll end wheel bite.

For more on tightening (or loosening) trucks, see How to Loosen and Tighten Skateboard Trucks.

Wheel Bite Solution #2 – Replace the bushings/cushions.

Applies to: Skateboards and Roller Skates

When to use it: When you’ve tightened the trucks as much as you can and the steering still feels too loose.

As previously stated, bushings break down and loosen things up in a skateboard or roller skate over time.

If you’ve tightened to the max (remember, you must have a little give to your trucks or your board/skates won’t turn at all), your bushings are likely the problem.

Replace them with a new set.

If the bushings are brand new, replace them with harder bushings, which don’t have as much give and keep things tighter all around.

Wheel Bite Solution #3 – Change the wheels.

Applies to: Skateboards and Roller Skates

When to use it: When your trucks are tight, your steering is tight, and you’re still experiencing wheel bite. Or, when you want to be able to keep trucks a little looser without adding height to your ride.

Sometimes a skateboard or roller skate’s undercarriage just doesn’t mesh with your riding style and the size of the wheels.

When you want to keep a little “give” to your trucks for quicker, easier turns, you may have to go down a wheel size or two to add more clearance between your deck/boot and the wheels.

If you don’t mind keeping things tight, but are still experiencing wheel bite, smaller wheels are also a viable solution.

Wheel Bite Solution #4 – Install risers.

Applies to: Skateboards and Roller Skates

When to use it: When you want to keep things loose and need the extra clearance.

Loose trucks/steering have their purpose. But keeping trucks loose is the number one way to bring about wheel bite.

To prevent it, you need to give your skateboard’s or skate’s wheels a little more room to turn.

Risers were created for this very purpose.

Risers install between a skateboard deck and the baseplates of the trucks or between a roller skate’s plate and trucks. (Some roller skate plates even come with interchangeable riser sizes.)

Installing risers allows you to keep trucks looser or ride on bigger wheels with less likelihood of wheel bite.

Wheel Bite Maintenance

Once you’ve eliminated wheel bite from your skating, you should take care to avoid it in the future.

 To prevent wheel bite from recurring:

  • Regularly tighten your trucks.
  • Check your bushings/cushions if you notice a change in steering.
  • Consider clearance when changing or upgrading wheels.
  • Keep risers in your set-up if you like to skate loose.

By paying attention to how your board or skate steers each time you ride, you can catch problems that might lead to wheel bite before they arise.

With just a little regular maintenance, and a slightly altered set-up, you should be able to keep the dreaded foe of wheel bite away.

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