The Best Skateboard and Roller-Skating Bearing Guide
To keep your skateboard or roller-skates working smoothly, you’ll need the right bearings. Bearings are what enable the wheels to turn and knowing how to purchase the right kind and how to care for them properly can make or break your skating experience. Here’s what you should look for in skateboard and roller-skate bearings!
What are bearings?
For skateboards and roller skates, bearings are the small circular devices that allow your wheels to roll. They determine how fast and smooth your wheels rotate. For a skateboard, each wheel will require two bearings, so you’ll need 8 in total. For roller skates, each wheel will also require two bearings, so you’ll need 16 in total for a pair of quad skates.
What are ABEC ratings?
Bearings are measured by an ABEC, Annual Bearing Engineers’ Committee, rating. The higher the ABEC rating is, the more accurate and precise the bearing will be. Here’s a cheat sheet for ABEC ratings.
- ABEC 1: Bearings classified as ABEC 1 tend to be the least expensive and the least accurate as the quality of steel is on the lower end.
- ABEC 3: Bearings classified as ABEC 3 are generally inexpensive and do not roll smoothly or quickly.
- ABEC 5: Bearings classified as ABEC 5 are the standard for skateboarding/roller skating as it provides speed at an affordable cost.
- ABEC 7: Bearings classified as ABEC 7 cost slightly more than ABEC 5 but are fast and smooth.
- ABEC 9: Bearings classified as ABEC 9 are ideal for downhill skating and any skater that wants to move extremely quickly.
Note that this rating system does not specify critical factors like load handling capabilities, ball precision, materials, material Rockwell hardness, degree of ball and raceway polishing, noise, vibration, and lubricant. As a result, an ABEC 3 classified bearing could perform better than an ABEC 7 bearing.
What are the 5 components of a bearing?
Here are the five parts of a bearing:
- Shield: The shield is the part of the bearing that protects the contents from debris. They’re typically made of metal or nylon. The type of material that a shield is made of will dictate how it can be cleaned and lubricated. Additionally, some bearings have a shield on both sides while others have a shield on only one side. If yours is the latter, face the shield outward, so the open side of the bearing is toward the wheel hub. This will help you keep them as clean as possible.
- Inner race: This is the small metal ring that fits within the outer ring. When you slide your bearing/wheel setup onto the axles, the inner ring is what the axles fit through. For skateboards, the inner race is universal sizing. For roller skates, the bearing comes in more than one size, either 7mm or 8mm. You’ll select the size by determining what size axle you’ll be putting the bearing/wheel on. Most axles made recently will be 8mm. Slightly older versions are primarily 7mm.
- Balls: The balls give the bearing movement.
- Retainer: The retainer prevents the balls from coming out of the bearing if the shield is removed.
- Outer race: The outer race is the outside of the bearing. It’s the part of the bearing that contacts the wheel once the bearing is installed.
What do you select a bearing size?
For skateboards, nearly every bearing is the same size and will fit on any skateboard wheel and truck.
For roller skates, you’ll need to select the bearing’s size based on what size axle your skate has, either 7mm or 8mm. If you’re not sure, take a number 2 pencil and put it inside the inner race. If the pencil fits inside of it, then you have an 8mm axle. If the pencil does not fit, then you have a 7mm axle. Most skates today use an 8mm axle.
What material are bearings made of?
Skateboard and roller-skate bearings can be made of different materials. The materials ultimately refer to what the balls inside the bearing are made of. The two most common are steel and ceramic. Here are the key differences and benefits of each.
Most skateboard and roller skate bearings are made of steel. You can find both high-end and entry-level steel bearings, ranging from $8.00 to $70.00 in price. So, while steel is a quality option, you’re not always guaranteed quality with steel bearings. You’re still susceptible to rust and dirt when you select steel bearings.
Ceramic bearings are a newer market alternative to steel bearings. While more expensive, they are extremely smooth because they have less heat friction and a higher spin rate. If you’re an advanced skater that requires durability and quality in skate bearing, then investing in ceramic bearings is likely worth your while. You’ll get longer-term use out of these bearings.
Additionally, the main benefits of ceramic or Swiss bearings are that they do not rust. As a result, they can last significantly longer than steel bearings that will rust and that need to be replaced when they do. Ceramic bearings are also self-cleaning, durable, and lighter than metal bearings.
How do you care for your bearings?
Caring for your bearings includes cleaning and lubricating them regularly. Ideally, you should clean your bearings every time you use your skates or skateboard. However, this isn’t always realistic as it would require taking the bearings apart, which becomes time-consuming.
Thus, the best way to tell if your bearings require cleaning is to flip your skates and spin the wheels. If your bearings spin freely and without noise, then you’re okay to skip cleaning. But if there’s any crunching or grinding, then there’s likely dirt or debris in the bearings and they need to be clean. If there’s chirping or squeaking noises, then you should lubricate the bearings.
Cleaning and lubricating are not the same things. Understanding the difference will help you properly care for your equipment. If you lube the bearings before you clean them, then you will trap dirt and particles, which will make it difficult to clean and will ultimately destroy the bearings.
Clean your bearings with Orange 409 cleaner. Spray the bearings and use newspaper (not a rag as this will leave behind lint. Clean your bearings until no more dirt is expelled. Do not rinse them with water, and do not use WD-40 or anything similar. Allow the bearings to air dry and move on to lubrication.
Proceed to lubrication once your bearings have been cleaned correctly. The heavier the lubrication, the longer this process will last and the longer you can go between cleanings. A lubricant such as Bones Speed Cream will allow you to go longer between cleaning as it will keep your bearings lubricated and protected.
Additionally, outside of cleaning and lubrication, there are two ways that you can help keep your bearings performing like new and lasting longer.
First, stay away from water. Water dilutes lubrication and causes the bearings to rust. Rusted bearings aren’t fast or smooth. If you want to puddle jump with your skateboard or roller skates, do it from your car.
Second, stay off the grass. While skating in the grass is a common learning technique, it’s not recommended for bearing longevity. Grass is filled with dirt and other debris which can easily clog them.
When do you replace your bearings?
There are a few indicators that will tip you off when your bearings are ready to be replaced.
- If they’re rusted
- If they’re noisy when they spin
- If they’re caked with grime after cleaning
Remember, bearings should always be free of grime or rust spin freely and quietly.
If you’re picking out your first set of bearings, don’t stress! A less expensive steel option is often the way to go! This will give you the performance value that you need and won’t hurt your wallet as you’re learning the sport.
To start shopping for quality stainless steel bearings, check out Beagle Bearings. These are quality options that’ll have you skating in style. Visit here to learn more. Bonus: $5 of 8 bearings is donated to local animal shelters! Shop for what you need and do some good at the same time. They are also pressed, polished, & coated with great quality control and have 7mm & 8mm bearings available! Do you know of any other bearing company that donates to animal shelters? Yeah neither do we!