A while ago I bought a bunch of skateboard bearings from reputable brands to see if there’s any difference. It also included two sets of Bones ceramics bearings and one set of Bronson Speed Co. ceramics.
I tried them myself and handed them out to a few local skaters that ride in all conditions. These guys were stoked! Oh wow, ceramic bearings!
The hype surrounding these bearings is real, but in reality ceramic skateboard bearings aren’t worth it. They may arguably perform a bit longer compared to regular steel bearings but they still rust, aren’t faster, or give any advantages while skateboarding.
Even though I suspected ceramic bearings to be worthless, it was still a disapointment. Since I gave away the answer already, let’s look at a couple of frequently asked questions and some cheaper alternatives.
- 1 What Are Ceramic Skateboard Bearings?
- 2 Pros and Cons of Ceramic Bearings
- 3 Are Ceramic Skateboard Bearings Faster?
- 4 Are Ceramic Bearings Waterproof?
- 5 How Long Do Ceramic Skateboard Bearings Last?
- 6 Do Ceramic Skate Bearings Need Lubrication?
- 7 Are Ceramic Bearings Worth it for a Longboard?
- 8 When Should You Buy Ceramic Bearings?
- 9 Bearings to Avoid
- 10 Recommended Bearings
- 11 Conclusion
What Are Ceramic Skateboard Bearings?
I always assumed ceramic skateboard bearings were 100% ceramic, turns out it’s only the balls. Bearings can be called ceramic even if only one of the balls is made of ceramic material. It’s actually a good thing, ceramic may be lighter and harder than steel but they are still fragile.
Full ceramic bearings do exist but they aren’t suitable for skateboarding. They can’t handle impacts very well and will fracture, never go full ceramic.
Ceramic skate bearings are steel bearings with a number of ceramic balls that have less friction. The ceramic balls are made from silicon nitride which is 60% lighter than steel and also harder.
Here’s also where the first problem surfaces. If the ceramic balls are harder than the steel races, they will eat into the steel components over time.
Pros and Cons of Ceramic Bearings
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of ceramic skateboard bearings. Fortunately, the cons greatly outnumber the pros, meaning you can keep your money in your wallet and spend it on something more useful.
Pros of Ceramic skateboard bearings:
- They seem perform a bit longer compared to standard bearings (only slightly).
- They require less maintenance.
- They seem to perform better when it’s freezing compared to steel bearings*.
- You can brag about your expensive bearings to your peers.
* I received an email from Denis who had a very interesting take on ceramics:
I find that ceramics roll much better when frozen compared to steel bearings but once everything rolls and the bearings start to heat up, the difference disappears. But then again, I only skated that one time at -15C to see how ceramics roll when freezing.Denis
That’s it, these are the only benefits of ceramic bearings now let’s look at the cons:
Cons Of Ceramic Bearings:
- They are too expensive.
- They aren’t any faster under normal circumstances.
- Decent regular skateboard bearings cost 80% less.
- They rust just like any other bearing.
- They still require lube and maintenance.
- They aren’t any stronger.
Are Ceramic Skateboard Bearings Faster?
Despite having lower friction because of the ceramic balls, ceramic skateboard bearings aren’t faster than other quality bearings. Bearings are always fast when they are brand new. In the end there is no difference in speed between decent skateboard bearings and ceramic bearings.
According to Vandemlongboardshop reducing friction could make bearings faster, I’m not sure where they base this on as I couldn’t find any references. Here’s what they say:
- 60% of the friction is caused by the shield.
- 30% is caused by lubricant.
- 3% of the friction comes from the balls.
- The rest of the friction comes from the cage itself.
So the steel balls only cause 3% of the total friction. We know that ceramic is a smoother material than steel, but the reduction in friction is negligible. From our experience, ceramic bearings are not faster, it’s all in your head.
In order to make your skateboard bearings faster you can remove the shields and see if it gains you some speed. I haven’t tested this myself but it could explain why Bones and Bronson sell shieldless bearings. Still it’s more likely to be a placebo.
Are Ceramic Bearings Waterproof?
Ceramic bearings are not waterproof. The ceramic balls won’t rust but the rest of the bearing still consists of steel. Steel will rust if you ride in the rain or when the streets are still wet.
It’s always a good idea to dry your bearings when they get wet, or just buy a new set every 3-6 months if cleaning is too much of a hassle. I do appreciate a fresh set of bearings twice a year.
How Long Do Ceramic Skateboard Bearings Last?
Ceramic skateboard bearings can last over 5 years when properly maintained according to comments on Reddit. If they get wet and dirty they won’t last longer than 1 year, just like regular bearings. Compared to a set of Bronson G2’s, ceramic bearings perform slightly better over time and require less cleaning.
This is purely anecdotal though and honestly it will take a long time before I can give a final answer. We’ve been just riding them for a relatively short time (8 months). I’ll update this blog once I know more.
The only thing I can tell you is that one of my local skaters has been riding them for a while and they now start to rust and squeak. I specifically asked him to ride in the worst conditions possible, so let’s see what happens.
Do Ceramic Skate Bearings Need Lubrication?
Ceramic skateboard bearings need lubrication, only full ceramic bearings can run completely dry. There is still friction between the ceramic balls and the steel components which requires silicon lube. Ceramic bearings aren’t ‘self lubricatiing’, the ceramic balls can still chew through the steel races due to friction.
You’ll notice when unpacking Bones Ceramics and even more so Bronson Speed Ceramics, that they’re super greasy. Neither companies produce full ceramic bearings.
If you live near the coast, the salty air does erode them much faster than usual. Skating on wet, dusty or muddy streets also will make them wear much faster.
One thing I noticed is that it’s really hard to get the bearings’ balls back in. I actually gave up for now and will try again after I finish this post. It was a pretty frustrating experience to be honest.
Are Ceramic Bearings Worth it for a Longboard?
I asked around and even experienced longboarders say ceramic bearings aren’t worth it. They don’t last any longer, won’t give you more speed or any other benefit. It’s just a huge waste of money.
When Should You Buy Ceramic Bearings?
Basically never, you shouldn’t buy them unless you have the money and like to try them out of curiosity. They are both expensive and worthless, I would call them vanity bearings.
I bought them because I like to test stuff so that you don’t have to waste your money. I guess people who claim they are faster experience some kind of placebo effect. If you really believe your bearings are faster, you may feel like you ride harder.
Bearings to Avoid
Avoid cheap bearings under 10 bucks. Go for reputable brands like Bones and Bronson Speed Co. Also keep away from longboard bearings, they are not made for street or transition skateboarding.
They keep going once you get momentum but acceleration isn’t that great. QuickQuiver wrote an excellent article about this which I highly recommend.
Lastly, if you buy bearings on Amazon make sure to buy from the Brand itself, not some third party seller. There are Chinese fake bearings for sale which is infuriating. Same goes for wheels and decks by the way, always buy from the brand!
So it’s pretty obvious that ceramics aren’t worth it but what kind of bearings should you get? Despite the the ‘buy Bones Reds’ dogma, we actually recommend Bronson Bearings.
We’ve tested them for a while and they seem to last a bit longer than Bones Reds. Bronson G2’s are a great alternative, or G3’s if you want to slightly better bearings. SkateboardersHQ isn’t affiliated with any brand, this is just my honest opinion. Bones Reds are still my top pick though, just slightly less favorable.
You simply can’t go wrong. Bones Reds are the standard and most skaters ride standard Reds. Why? Because they are cheap, reliable, won’t break easily when you ollie 7-stairs, and can last for a season without having to clean them.
There is no telling in how long they last because that really depends on the weather conditions and where you live. Over here they can last for 2-3 months when riding in Autumn/Winter in the wet, but last for a year if you take care of them properly.
Bronson Speed Co. G2
I was always a Bones Reds fan but recently switched to Bronson. Bronson G2’s seem to outlast Bones Reds from what we learned but take this with a grain of salt because we didn’t conduct peer reviewed scientific research. Overall I consider Bronson g2 the best skateboard bearings you can buy.
It just seems like when Bronson bearings rust, you can yank the rust off while riding and they still perform (especially Bronson Raw bearings). I didn’t have this experience with Bones Reds, once they rust they are gone. Cleaning might help for a short while, but once you clean them you know it’s time to save up for some new bearings.
Over here you pay 120 Euros for 8 Bones ceramics, and you don’t even get spacers and washers included. If you really have to, consider Bronson Ceramics which are just as good and way cheaper. They come with spacers, washers. and a cleaning unit (no lube included).
Stick with standard bearings, or slightly more expensive bearings that last a little longer. Forget about ceramics, don’t fall for the hype.
Ceramics are nice to have but overkill, spend the money on some decent trucks or wheels instead. Treat yo’ self.
I’m an aged skateboarder and I still shred responsibly. I started skateboarding 25 years ago but also love surfing, snowboarding, or anything that involves a board.