Black Neoprene vs Blue Nitrile Tread


My team is planning to try out swerve for the off-season. We’ve been using blue nitrile tread on our wcd chassis for a while now. This season, we’ve started to see some of the swerve teams switch blue nitrile for MCM’s black neoprene treads.

We are curious about the pros & cons of both treads and we’ll be glad if you guys share your experience with either tread.



The blue nitrile tread that shipped with our swerve modules in late summer 2021 was great. It held up through build season, many hours of practice, and our first competition. Then we swapped in replacement treads we had bought later. These are not nearly as durable. Something definitely changed in the quality of the material between the first batch and the second batch. We started this weekend’s competition with fresh tread, and by the time we reached the finals, all four wheels were bald. It was a big mistake to not swap on all fresh treads between quals and elims, but it’s not a swift process, and we thought we could get by. Instead, by the finals we were missing our 5 ball autos because the wheel diameters had changed.

Our friends 5804, Torch, defended us in the finals. They are running the same swerve modules, but switched to the black tread before the competition. They said their treads were virtually undamaged. But, the neoprene treads do leave nasty black marks on the floor. They were concerned about this, but got clarification early on that marks on the carpet would not be considered “damage” to the field. You’d need to consider this before running on floors at demos, where they might not take kindly to you marking up the floor.


Maybe we can have a more general data set to analyse if the teams indicate which tread they are using with swerve.

Black Neoprene vs Blue Nitrile, Swerve Drive
  • Black Neoprene
  • Blue Nitrile

0 voters

Honestly, I think you are asking the right questions. Voting on design choices doesn’t tell you what’s right. It just tells you what’s popular. These aren’t necessarily the same thing.


I’d recommend that folks understand that all “blue nitrile” is not made equal.

(So it would probably be a mistake to assume that all “black neoprene” is made equal as well.)

The blue nitrile that shipped from the various FRC suppliers throughout 2021 was great, but my impression is that this material appears to have dried up throughout the supply chain.

The blue nitrile that is shipping from SDS nowadays is (I think) the same as what you can get from McMaster. This material delaminates-- but not at the interface between the rubber and the fiber backing like you’d expect!! For us, the delam occurs midway through the thickness of the rubber.

People are saying that ThriftyBot’s blue nitrile is significantly harder durometer and much more durable than the other options.

ThriftyBot is now stocking black neoprene in 1" and 1.5" strip widths. This is supposed to be the same as the material you can get from McMaster.


We had the same issue on our modules. The tread that initially came with them was great, we then ordered spares and they have been terrible. We have tried black and blue. The blue tread with the black backing we ordered through Andymark has been awesome. We change at the beginning of the competition and the tread has been phenomenal. We go through maybe a set per competition. The stuff we ordered through Swerve Drive Specialties with the brown backing has been really bad and doesn’t really even last through practice sessions. I highly recommend trying Andymark tread Blue Nitrile Roughtop Tread 1.5 in. Wide 10 ft. Long - AndyMark, Inc as all others have failed us.


5804 here. To add to Todd’s post. We used the black neoprene from McMaster to see if we could get something to hold up better than the blue. We had to change the blue tread about 3 times in a one day event. Through a weekend of 19 matches the neoprene is still good. We also noticed that the neoprene has greater traction with carpet. We were able to pop a wheelie we couldn’t do with the nitrile. We felt we were able to push other swerve bits around using nitrile but I don’t have any data on that, just my biased observations. As per Todd’s comments about marks. Yes it does leave marks. Take a look at fields in California. Ours left more marks then usual due to an issue with a firmware update in our cancoders. One of our modules didn’t get the absolute angle from can coder from time to time and was dragged leaving significantly more marks then it should have. I recommended to all our friends in Chesapeake that I talked to, to at least try the neoprene in the off-season to see if they like it.


Our team has used Blue Nitrile and Black Neoprene tread from SDS. Between the two we’ve had better durability from the neoprene, and no noticeable difference in traction. SDS themselves say they have had a similar experience with the tread. I don’t know where they get the tread they sell from, though.

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it is from mcmaster carr, here is the product link Thrifty bot sells it in rolls already cut to 1.5in wide

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2910 started using the 3-ply black Neoprene material from Mcmaster 5994K1 this year. Compared to the blue nitrilewe were using, we have found it to be much longer lasting. It wears evenly instead of breaking off in chunks. All SDS swerve modules are now shipping with the Mcmaster 3-ply black Neoprene material. Also, we now offer the induvial MK4 wheels and precut/drilled tread in black Neoprene. More will be in stock soon. A batch of the material is being received this week.


Thanks Patrick. Could you give some background about the blue nitrile material with the black fiber backing? Did it become unobtainable? It is still pictured on the product page BTW.


Will the same drill jig work for the blue vs black material

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We bought some of the black tread and tried the same drill pattern as the blue tread. It was close but did not fit. Has anyone found the drill whole pattern for the black tread.


I spent several hours working out a new drill pattern for the black nitrile, it wasn’t much fun. I’ll see about putting it to paper and posting it during our Saturday build day.


That would be great. Thanks a lot. How did you go about finding the right hole distance.

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Here is our drill fixture & pattern for black neoprene on the SDS 4” x 1” wheels. 4” x 1.5” uses this same spacing, just an extra 1/2” between the holes.


Thanks a lot for posting this. How did you figure these out?

Empirical testing. Made a couple tread by hand and reverse engineered them.

SDS wheels have the bolts at 120deg spacing, with 5/16” offsets for the 4 near the joint. So figure out how long the tread should be, divide that by 3 for the inner 4, then put the 4 near the joint inboard from the edge 5/16” to account for the offset.


Several days of drive practice on blue nitrile and our robot was floating off the ground. Weeks of driving like a maniac on black neoprene and so far I’ve done virtually zero damage to the treads.

The black marks are also probably more favorable compared to chips of blue tread covering the field.


Taste wise, blue nitrile tread has a significant advantage over the black neoprene tread.