Every skate wheel has a cutout groove that houses and shields two sets of ball bearings. The bearings eliminate friction between the wheel’s metallic material and the axle on which the wheel spins.So, finding the best skateboard bearings is an important issue.
Modern skateboards use precision bearings. They were first used in skating in the 1970s but have since grown to become the industry standard. That means every single one of the 11 million skateboarders who enjoy skateboarding on a frequent basis needs precision bearings.
Dirty or worn out bearings require cleaning or replacement because they can stop spinning while you are skateboarding and that will expose you to the risk of injury. That is why skateboarding stores have been making huge sales (for example, Zumiez generated net sales of $724.34 million in 2013 ) from components like bearings regardless of the fact that the number of skateboarders has been declining by an average of 2% per year.
How to choose the best skateboard bearings
There are so many brands of skateboard bearings. However, the biggest difference between one brand and another is just the packaging. Generally, most skateboarders prefer Swiss bearings but they don’t mind buying local and China-made bearings.
For the sake of diversity, sellers like Zumiez stock a variety of brands in their outlets. Of course trusted brands attract more customers and that is why Zumiez boasts of 551 stores worldwide. Having said that, I should emphasize that the manufacturer’s brand is not as important as the quality of the bearings. That is why I have prepared a list of considerations that you should make if you want to buy the best bearings for skateboards.
1. ABEC Ratings
ABEC stands for Annular Bearing Engineers Committee. It is responsible for creating a grading system upon which the tolerance of bearings can be measured. The system consists of ratings that range from 1 to 9 (but odd numbers only). The higher the rating of a bearing the more tolerant it is.
Therefore, the best skateboard bearings have a rating that is close to 9. Such bearings allow for very little friction even at very high speeds. Below is a general guideline for each rating:
# ABEC 1: typically low-quality steel bearings that are very cheap, crude and least accurate.
# ABEC 3: relatively cheaper than industry standard bearings and are not good for fast skateboarding.
# ABEC 5: this is the industry standard and features bearings that are affordable and reliable for speeds of up to 20 miles per hour (MPH).
# ABEC 7: expensive bearings that are great for high speed cruising. They are smooth regardless of terrain.
# ABEC 9: these bearings are the best in the industry. They are not common among skateboarders because their standards are meant for other wheels (like vehicle wheels).
As mentioned already, the higher the rating the better the bearing. However, a good skateboarding bearing doe not need to be ABEC 9. ABEC 5 or ABEC 7 will give you a great experience.
Skateboard bearings are usually made using either steel or ceramic.
# Steel bearings
As the name suggests, they are made of steel. They are circular in shape but have flat sides. Each bearing holds seven or eight balls that are lubricated. The bearings not only eliminate friction but also disperse the weight that you exert on the board.
Steel bearings are very durable and economical compared to ceramic ones. They work very fine for most skateboarders. However, their downside is that the steel metal can heat up and expand thus causing the bearings to be ineffective. Furthermore, they need more attention when it comes to maintenance because they need to be clean, dry, and lubricated always.
# Ceramic bearings
They are made from a compound known as silicon nitride and contain 9 balls. They have a harder exterior than their steel counterparts and their interior is filled with ceramic powder. They are very light in weight and guarantee less friction and thus better performance.
Contrary to steel bearings, ceramic bearings do not expand with increase in temperature, do not need frequent lubrication, do not rust and are therefore great for precision performance. However, they are usually very expensive compared to steel ones.
Between steel and ceramic bearings, ceramic ones are definitely superior in terms of quality and performance. That is not to say steel bearings are bad. They work fine but always require frequent maintenance and lubrication.
Small as they look, skateboard bearings are made up of seven components:
# Bearing shield: this is a ring that can be seen on the side of the bearing. It prevents dirt particles from entering into the ball bearings.
# Rubber seal: a soft rubbery ring that is also found on the outside of the bearing. It also shields dirt particles from entering the bearing’s interior.
# C-ring: this is a ring that is usually fitted into the bearing’s groove on the outside. It locks the shields in place.
# Outer ring: this is the round exterior. It is the body that holds all other parts.
# Inner ring: a small metal ring that fits inside the outer ring. It is where the axle fits through.
# Ball retainer: holds ball bearings in place.
# Ball bearings: these are ceramic or steel balls that rest inside the ball retainer. Ceramic bearings have 9 balls while steel bearings have 7 or 8. Their role is to allow bearing casings to spin around them.
A skateboard bearing cannot work properly without all these parts. Therefore, before you fit one on your skateboard make sure it has each part in place (and working perfectly).
Bearings come in different sizes. However, skateboard bearings come in two main sizes.
# 608 Standard: this is the standard size for best skateboard bearings. It has an 8mm core, 7mm width, 22mm outer diameter and matches virtually ever skateboard wheel out there.
# Mini: mini-bearings can be used alongside a standard 608 bearing hub. However, they require a sleeve for compatibility.
It is highly advisable that you go with the 608 standard because it is the industry standard. However, if you are conversant with mini bearings then you can also try them.
5. Other considerations
Other factors that you can consider when selecting a skateboard bearing include:
Bearing spacers: some bearings come with spacers that reduce the weight that each bearing has t handle. They make turns smoother and more stable. They are totally optional.
Speed washers: they act as buffers between the bearing and nut and thus they reduce friction when you turn. They are great additions but are also optional.
My List of Recommended Best Skate Bearings
Some of the best skateboard bearings reviews do not give a list of recommended products. That might leave you even more confused because you might not know which manufacturers are the best. That is why I have prepared my brief review of the top 5 best bearings for skateboards.
There is no doubt that Bones Bearings manufacture some of the best skateboard bearings. The Super Swiss 6 is rightfully rated with 4.6 stars. Why am I saying so? Well, very few other bearings can match this one in terms of quality and performance.
It features a unique design with six large balls that ensure strength, increased speed and fast acceleration. The nylon ball retainer is designed for high speed cruising. Basically, this bearing is exactly what you need if your skateboarding involves very high speed cruising.
It comes with a single removable rubber shield that is easy to clean. For better performance, I highly recommend you use Speed Cream lubricant.
This is a 5-star rated ceramic bearing that is Swiss made. At only 3.5 ounces, it is very light to allow you to perform tricks and stunts without spending a lot of energy. As far as performance goes, the bearing is very quiet even at very high speed.
In terms of quality, the bearing features solid and pure silicon nitride ceramic balls that are removable. They make the bearing to have very little friction and that means you will use very little energy to skateboard when you install them.
Bones Swiss Ceramic bearings are superb for high speed and acceleration and are also very easy to take apart, clean (and lubricate) and reassemble. Get these if you are a speed junkie.
These ceramic bearings are also manufactured by Bones Bearings. They have won the hearts of many skateboarders and it is no wonder they are rated at 4.5 stars. The fact that they are made of ceramic makes them high quality bearings. They are light and cannot add any substantial weight to your board.
The bearings are 8mm (industry standard size) and can be used in virtually any skateboard. Their biggest advantage is their ability to glide in any weather. They are waterproof and do not expand in hot weather.
These bearings should be your top priority if you are looking for durable and friction-free ones. They are great for learners because they are super-smooth and make it easy to control your skateboard.
4. Pacific Flyers Premium Ceramic Si3N4 Skateboard Bearings
These bearings come pre-lubed with high quality synthetic lubricant that gives them a very smooth and enjoyable ride. The manufacturer also offers a lifetime warranty against any manufacturing defects and therefore you should be guaranteed that if they have any faults you can return them before installation.
So what makes these bearings great? Well, for one they feature high quality silicon balls that are used in construction. That means outstanding durability and performance. Second, they weigh a mere 0.31 pounds and therefore you should not worry about any weigh that they might add on your board.
Finally, they are great for cruising; whether you are using a long board or cruiser. Therefore, you can trust your board to outperform others anywhere, any time.
At 4.8 stars, Yellow Jacket Premium are among the highest rated bearings in the market. You might be shocked to learn that they are also some of the most affordable. They feature the highest precision in the market today and that should be a much needed boost if you enjoy performing stunts.
The bearings feature a yellow seal protection that shields the inside from dirt and debris that might compromise their durability and performance. The ultra-fast lube that is used as a lubricant makes them very good for high speed skating.
As an added advantage, you will enjoy 100% money back guarantee when you purchase these bearings. That is good news for any skateboarder because we all don’t want to invest in equipment that don’t come with some level f guarantee.
As I summarize, it is probably important to mention that your bearings will perform only as well as you maintain them. Caring for bearings is not hard. You only need to ensure that they are clean and lubricated properly.
That being said, I must insist that if you want to enjoy your skateboarding sessions then look no further than the five bearings that I have outlined above. I selected the best performers in the industry. Furthermore, I have listed bearings that vary in price so that you get a good quality product for whatever budget you are working with.
So, get the best Skateboard Bearings that you can afford and skate on!