The first skateboards were simply planks of wood with steel rollerskate trucks nailed to the bottom; thousands of roller skates were dismantled to provide skateboard wheels for this spontaneous nationwide phenomenon in the late 50s and early 60s. Wheel lock up, loud squeaky noise, no traction, and short life were the drawbacks.
Next came clay wheels with Chicago trucks (the first double action adjustable trucks) which were cheap and an improvement but the wheels were too hard and did not grip the road well, and, the ride was bone-rattling.
In 1972, the first urethane wheels were introduced by surfer John Nasworthy (though Hobie Alter’s earlier idea of using them in 1965 was turned down by his partner company execs because of the high price). Originally designed for indoor roller skates, they were rejected as too soft, but the wheels were fast, silent, shatterproof, and incredibly smooth. Nasworthy jumped on the opportunity and formed the Cadillac Wheel Company (named for the smooth ride).
Despite the higher cost, the urethane wheels had the advantages of good abrasion resistance and longer life, excellent traction, and speed. However, a big problem with Cadillac Wheels was the unsealed loose ball bearings which often fell out! NHS’s Road Rider wheels fixed the problem with the introduction of sealed precision-bearing wheels.
These two developments—urethane wheels and sealed precision bearings—were instrumental in reviving skateboarding as a national craze with a huge explosion of popularity.