How wheel size influences Electric Skateboard performance

Electric skateboard performance is determined by a number of factors. One of the easiest ways to increase the performance of your electric skateboard is by changing the size of the wheels on your board or changing the pulley size on belt-drive boards.

The process may look a little different and produce different results, depending on the type of motors your board has; belt-drive performance is affected by pulley size, whereas hub and direct-drive boards are only affected by the wheel’s diameter.

Installing different size wheels on your board will increase the speed OR torque of your board, but not both at once. Increasing the torque will result in a decreased top speed. When you increase the top speed, it will result in a decrease of torque / acceleration.

Electric Skateboards gain torque / acceleration with smaller wheels. On the other hand, bigger wheels will produce a higher top speed on your board. Belt-drive boards are unique because you can directly influence the board’s performance by changing the pulley size.

How will the size of the pulley affect my Belt-drive board?

The size of the pulley will directly affect the performance of your belt-drive electric skateboard. 

Let’s break it down:

On a belt-drive electric skateboards you can increase the torque / acceleration with larger wheel pulleys, this usually results in a decrease in top speed. Larger all-terrain wheels use larger pulleys and that’s what’s providing the increase in torque. The opposite is true when using smaller pulleys – top end performance increases and the board will produce a higher top speed.

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On the left is a 60T all-terrain pulley vs. a 36T ABEC pulley used for street wheels on the left

More about Pulleys

Belt-drive boards are versatile! When installing new wheels on the board, you usually have a few different options for pulley sizes that will fit on that specific wheel. 

Pulleys are measured by the number of teeth they have. For example a 66T pulley is larger than a 60T pulley, because it has more teeth. The ‘T’ at the end of the number represents the number of teeth the pulley has.

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On the left we see a 60T pulley used on our 6″ airless AT wheels – this is the only pulley option for these wheels. On the right is a 66T pulley – it is larger than the 60T pulley because it has more teeth, as the name suggest. This pulley is used in our Hota and Sunmate wheel kits. You can also use a 60T pulley in this wheel kit, which makes it more versatile than the airless AT wheels.

The pulley example we just provided is a large pulley used on all-terrain wheels and provides an increase in torque, which you’ll want for off-road riding, because torque will matter more than speed. There’s bound to be terrain you’ll want to power over and you’ll want torque to do so. Bigger pulleys are also better for riding uphill, as you’ll have more torque to power you up steep inclines.

Pulleys for all-terrain wheels are different from pulleys for street wheels. All-terrain wheel pulleys tend to have pulleys made specifically for those wheels. Brands usually make more than one size pulley for a specific wheel. You’ll be able to select from a couple of different size wheel pulleys depending on what you need your board to do – do you need it to ride faster or have more power?

All street wheels tend to take one of two styles of pulleys – either ABEC or Kegel. If you buy a street wheel kit for your board, there are likely a number of different size pulleys you can choose from for that specific wheel.

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On the left is a KEGEL pulley & on the right is an ABEC pulley.

If you want to increase torque or if you want to increase speed, then you’ll be able to do so by switching the pulleys and belts on your board. Just be sure of the right style pulley your wheel requires – Do you have wheels that use ABEC pulleys or kegel pulleys? You need to know this before purchasing new pulleys.

With smaller pulleys on your belt-drive board comes an increase in top speed, but a decrease in torque and acceleration off the line. You’ll find the board accelerating slower, but you’ll notice increased performance once you get above a certain threshold in speed. 

Consider the size of your wheel before installing the pulleys. For example: don’t install too small of a pulley on a large wheel, because it will take a long time for the board to get moving and most likely won’t be an enjoyable ride.

There’s another pulley on your belt-drive board

Belt-drive electric skateboards also have a small pulley that is attached to the motor’s shaft – you’ll find it under the belt covers on your board. The belt fits around these two pulleys, the motor spins the small pulley, which then drives the belt and turns the bigger pulley and the wheel, which propels your board forward.

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How wheel size influences Electric Skateboard performance 7

These smaller pulleys also come in a number of sizes, just like the wheel pulleys. They act in the same way – a smaller pulley increases the speed, while a bigger pulley increases the torque. The size of this pulley is also measured in the same way by the number of teeth (T) the pulley has.

Dividing the number of teeth the wheel pulley has by the number of teeth the motor pulley has will give you the board’s gear ratio. Let’s use our Summit XT v2 model as an example: We use a 15T motor pulley & a 55T wheel pulley.

55 ÷ 15 = 3.7 gear ratio

When you change the wheels, pulleys and belts on your board, you’ll have to change the gear ratio on the remote, so your remote displays the proper speed and distance your board is riding. You can do this by re-pairing your remote to the board, once you do this, you’ll be prompted to enter the gear ratio for your board.

Wheel diameter also affects the battery range on your electric skateboard. Bigger wheels decrease the board’s range, while you’ll notice an increase in range with smaller wheels on the board.

Let’s break it down in simple terms

Smaller pulley = Increased top end perfomance & higher top speed                         

Decreased in torque / acceleration from a stopped position

Larger pulley = Increased torque / acceleration from a stopped position

                           Decrease top end performance

How does wheel size affect direct-drive and hub-drive boards?

The size of the wheel directly affects the performance of boards with direct and hub-drive motors. 

On direct-drive electric skateboards the motor is directly attached to the wheel & on hub-drive boards the motor is the drive wheel. You cannot counteract the wheel’s size with a pulley, because there is no pulley on these set ups.

Larger wheels will result in increased top end performance & a loss of acceleration / torque when starting from a stopped position. Wheels with a larger diameter will also result in a loss in battery range. Riding faster consumes more power than riding slower, therefore your range will decrease.

Smaller wheels are going to give your board more torque / acceleration, but a lower top speed. Your board will pump out more range with smaller wheels installed.

Let’s break it down in simple terms:

Smaller wheels = Increased torque from a stopped position

Increased battery range

Larger wheel = Increased top end performance / higher top speed 

                          Decreased torque from a stopped position

                          Decreased battery range 

What’s your riding style?

How do you like to ride? 

Do you prefer riding with torque and accelerating quickly or do you want to test the limits of yourself and your board and ride the fastest speed possible?

Or maybe you’re not sure if you prefer torque or speed because you’re new to riding and you don’t know which one fits your lifestyle or riding area. This is a valid question and a topic that we can dive into a little deeper before you make your decision on the diameter of the wheels or size of the pulleys you want to purchase.

When will I require more torque vs. more speed?

Maybe your neighborhood has a lot of hills and this is where you’ll be riding most of the time. In this case, you’re going to want your board to have more torque so you can have enough power to ride up steep inclines. Torque is going to be more important than top speed in this scenario.

In this case, you need smaller wheels on a direct-drive board or larger pulleys on a belt-drive board.

In 2022 we used a 66T pulley on our Summit XT model. Check out the torque this larger pulley provides when climbing uphill, in this video:

Maybe the area you’re riding during your commute is mostly flat, but has rough streets and sidewalks. In this case you’ll want to focus on the comfort of your ride and equip your board with larger wheels that can tackle the terrain and lessen the vibration you feel during your ride. 

When you encounter some smooth patches along the ride, you can test the top speed of your board with the bigger wheels.

In this case, we recommend pneumatic wheels. These are the wheels that provide the smoothest ride possible. Check out our all-terrain direct-drive wheel kit for electric skateboards

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We also have a number of pneumatic wheel kit available for belt-drive electric skateboards with different size wheels and pulleys.

The biggest pneumatic wheel kit we have available is the 175mm Sunmate wheel kit which features 66t pulleys. Bigger wheels are capable of taking on rougher terrain and pneumatic wheels provide superior performance in terms of traction on pavement and comfortability off-road.

We also have Sunmate wheels in 150mm with 60t pulleys. Both wheel kits feature the same tread pattern on the tires.

The best All-terrain Electric Longboard

In our opinion, the king of all-terrain electric skateboards is the 2 in 1 belt-drive board. 

So far, we’ve established that your board is going to experience a decrease in torque when larger wheels are installed. You can counteract this loss in torque on belt-drive boards by installing a larger pulley on the wheel. Torque matters more than speed when you’re riding off-road because you have obstructions and obstacles to ride over.

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Our budget 2 in 1 Summit model compared size by side with 90mm street wheels and 6″ airless AT wheel. 90mm wheels using a 36T pulley, while the AT wheels are using a 60T pulley.

Installing bigger wheels on a direct-drive board will result in a more comfortable ride, but you’re sacrificing the torque and this is important when riding off-road and up hills. Belt-drive boards provide more versatility because you have the option to use multiple pulley sizes on one wheel, so you don’t have to sacrifice performance. The versatility of belt-drive electric longboards is second to none. 

Changing your wheel diameter isn’t the only way to change the performance on your electric skateboard.

We’ve gone over a lot of different ways to increase the performance of your board by changing to wheels that are larger or smaller in diameter. This is the most inexpensive way to modify your board to get the results you want. Changes in wheel diameter will provide change, but not dramatically.

Buying an electric skateboard with a high output battery and ESC is where you’ll see a dramatic impact to your board’s performance. In 2023, Shaboardz will be upgrading our Summit Series boards with higher output batteries and ESC’s. Both boards will see increases in torque / acceleration and top speed. 

Wheel diameter and pulley size won’t have a dramatic impact on the performance of these updated models, because you’ll always be able to accelerate quickly and ride fast – no matter what size wheels or pulleys you’re using. You can learn more about that in this article here:

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