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What Are Skateboard Bearings – Detailed Guide

Even though skateboard bearings aren’t the most important part of a skateboard, they do make a difference. Your wheels require spinning and for that you need some decent bearings.

There are differences between bearings, but the good news is that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg. As long as you know what you what to look for, you should be fine setting up your first setup.

Skateboards bearings are universal and a skateboard setup consists of 8 bearings, 2 on each truck axle. They fit both longboard and skateboard wheels, but there is a difference which I’ll explain later. Most bearings are made of steel, some of the ‘premium’ skateboard bearings contain ceramic ball bearings.

Let’s dive into how bearing work and which are great for different styles. We tested many bearings over the years and came to a couple of surprising conclusions.

Skateboard Bearings Guide

A collection of different types of skateboardd bearings

Skateboard bearings range from $8 to $200. The former is too cheap and will break in a few days and the latter is overkill. You should never spend over 30 bucks on a set of bearings!

Skateboard bearings allow your wheels to spin. You need 2 bearings for each wheel and preferably a spacer in between. Skateboard bearings are universal, if they are the industrial standard of ‘608’ they will fit. Skateboard bearings have the following specifications:

  • 8mm bore
  • 22mm outer diameter
  • Special grease to reduce friction
  • 6 to 8 ball bearings evenly spread
  • 7mm wide
  • Usually made of steel
  • Some bearings have embedded spacers

Anatomy of a Skateboard Bearing

Bones Ceramic bearing parts

Skateboard bearings are made up the following parts:

  • Retainer
  • Inner and outer race
  • Bearing balls
  • Bearing shields
  • Optionally embedded spacers

Even though bearings are made of the same parts, the quality varies. Some bearings are made of cheap steal and will break by just looking at them. A set of $8 bearings will not cut it. Let me explain the different parts and why they matter.

Bearing Balls

The bearing balls are held by a plastic retainer than holds 6 to 7 tiny balls. They are evenly spread and roll along the inner and out race. This makes the inner part of the bearing rotate.

The outer and inner race holds the balls with a track or groove, keeping them in place and allowing the bearing to spin along a path. If you look at the above image, you can see the small bearing balls and the retainer.

Inner & Outer Races

The inner and outer races are the rings that hold all the different parts togheter and provide a track for the bearing balls.

Retainer

The retainer is made of nylon and holds the tiny balls in place. The retainer holds the bearing balls at equal distances and helps to reduce friction. The quality varies between brands and while the retainer also improves the overall strength of a bearing, some retainers are stronger than others.

Bearing Shield

The shields cover the inside of skateboard bearings and help to keep dust and sand out of the inner part of the bearing. Nowadays, most decent bearings have shields than can be easily removed in case you want to clean and re-lube them.

Cheaper bearings that come with completes usually don’t have a removable shields. Also, some high performance bearings have closed bearing. This is to reduce friction at high velocity, like extreme downhill longboarding.

Bearing Spacers

Some longboard and cruiser bearings come with built-in spacers. Most skateboard bearings lack spacers which you need to buy separately.

Spacers are plastic are metal cylinders that need to be placed on the truck axle between your bearings. Even spacers have quality differences, but a regular skateboard doesn’t require expensive spacers. The cheapest will do fine.

Their primary function is to keep the bearings in place and protect your bearings from being crushed when you turn the axle nut too tight. Spacers also reduce vibration and arguably make slides easier to control.

Bronson bearings often come with metal spacers, but Bones usually comes without spacers unless you get a more expensive package.

Speed Washers

Speed Washers are not part of a bearing, but come with skateboard trucks. These are tiny rings that are placed on the outside of the bearing on you truck axle. Speed washers help reduce friction, without the axle nut will chew thought the metal.

They also allow your bearings to roll smoother and have the ability to disappear mysteriously when you swap your wheels.

The Skateboard Bearing ABEC Rating Myth

When I was a kid, I used to only look for the highest ABEC-rating, not knowing that it doesn’t mean anything when it comes to skateboarding. Bones doesn’t even mention ABEC but their own Skate Rated terminology.

ABEC is an acronym for Annular Bearing Engineering Committee of the AFBMA (Anti-Friction Bearing Manufacturers Association Inc. A rating meant for industrial bearings, not skateboard bearings.

Most industrial bearings have a radial load that turns in one direction. These bearings require a higher precision because of the extreme spinning speeds. No skateboarders will come even close to industrial speeds. The average skater reaches about 2000 RPM and in extreme cases 4700 RPM tops.

ABEC-7, for example, can spin around 20.000 RPM to 30.000 RPM. According to Bones, a skateboard with 54mm wheels will reach 127 MPH at 20.000RPM.

It’s not only the RPM, skateboard bearings require different standard than industrial bearings that only turn one direction. Skateboard deal with impacts from all angles, lateral stress and different environments, unlike industrial bearings.

Even the fastest downhill skateboarder (Pete Connolly) ‘only’ achieved a speed of 91.17 MPH or 146.73km/h, something ABEC-1 can handle with ease. So forget about ABEC-ratings, it’s has nothing to do with skateboarding. The quality of the metal matters the most.

Skateboard Bearing Materials

There’s actually only one material you should look for, forget about titanium or ceramic bearings. Steal is what you need, and preferably quality steel. Let’s look at the materials and what it means.

There are still common misconceptions and disadvantages you might want to know before you spend way too much on bearings. Also, keep in mind that bearings aren’t expensive to make, they are great for earning a quick buck because of the huge margins.

Steel Bearings

Even though steel bearings heat up more quickly, which in theory should reduce friction, you probably won’t even notice.

The biggest con with steel bearings is rust, but all bearings have steel parts, so is it even a con? Just avoid salty, dusty, or wet conditions and your bearings should last for a while. Cleaning them will help for a while, but as aforementioned, it only helps for a little while.

Bronson G2, Bones Reds, Bones Swiss, etc are all made of steel. Steal bearings are the most affordable and most common skateboard bearings. Honestly, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 bucks on a set of bearings. Anything over that is overkill.

We skated the most expensive steel bearings, and they lasted just as long as affordable bearings. Sure if you ollie 7-stairs you might want to get higher grade steel bearings. The average skater only needs either Bronson G2 bearings, or Bones Reds.

Cercamics

Ceramic bearings are the most overrated bearings you can buy.

Ceramic skateboard bearings aren’t faster than quality metal bearings, perhaps a 0.5 mph difference, which doesn’t mean much. The type of skateboard wheel you ride has a bigger impact on speed than bearings.

Ceramic bearings keep their speed for a longer time, compared to cheaper bearings. We also found out that they do work longer after riding them in wet conditions, but they still squeak and rust in the end.

Ceramic bearings aren’t worth the price but more of a marketing thing. The extra speed in all in your head, if you believe it you probably think they are faster. Even when we tested them on several cruisers, we really didn’t notice much of a difference.

Ceramic bearings are weaker than metal bearings and not for hardcore skaters. They will break faster when ollieing huge stairs for example. They just can’t handle hard impacts very well.

Titanium Bearings

I have to be honest here, I never skated titanium bearings before, but I will because it got me curious.

Titanium is a light-weight and durable material, but stronger than steel. Titanium bearings are supposed to last longer, but when looking around I found titanium bearings ranging from $15 to 65$. Hmmm.

From what I can see is that they consist of a titanium alloy coating that offers rust free surfaces and some high finish grade titanium balls. I’m going to order a bunch and see if they are the solution to skateboarding in the rain.

  • Titanium alloy coating harder than steel
  • Rust free surfaces for longer lasting performance
  • High micro finish grade 10 titanium balls

Skateboard Bearings Maintenance

Despite popular belief, maintaining skateboard bearings is often useless. Sure you get the dirt and dust out and they roll smoother for a while, but in the end most of the bearings quickly start performing less when cleaned.

It really depends on the bearing, but often after cleaning your bearings the grease will come off. You can compensate by using silicon lube, but this only works for a while. Dirt will quickly come back and before you know it you can clean your bearings again.

I usually just get new bearings because they are relatively cheap and I don’t want to deal with the hassle. If you want to clean them, here’s how you do it:

  1. Remove the shield(s) but keep the balls and containers inside.
  2. Get some nail polish remover or alcohol and submerge your bearings, leave them for 30 minutes.
  3. If you have a container, shake them around to remove the excess dirt.
  4. Clean them using a tissue and try to remove more of the dust and dirt.
  5. Make sure they are dry before you apply silicon lube. just a few drops will do.

Skateboard Bearings Are Not Waterproof

Skateboard bearings can’t deal with water, it doesn’t matter if they are titanium or steel. If your bearings get wet, remove them as quickly as you can. Getting the water out is esential to prevent rust and those annoying squeaky noises. If you don’t, their days are numbered. Just dry them with tissues or an old cloth.

Ceramic bearings are partially waterproof, ceramic doesn’t rust but the metal cage will rust.

Skateboard Bearings and Speed

There is hardly any speed difference, most skateboard bearings won’t make you go faster. What matters the most is the size and hardness of your wheels combined with the surface you ride.

Super hard 54mm wheels with standard bearings will offer extreme speed on slick concrete but will be slow on gritty asphalt.

Difference Between Longboard and Skateboard Bearings

I tried Zeaulous bearings a while ago, which are meant for cruising and longboarding. I think this is one of the first times I noticed bearings performing better over time.

Turns out, the grease is different from regular skateboard bearings. At first these bearings will feel a bit sluggish, but after a few days I felt a difference. I had to push less and rolled for a longer period of time. Pretty cool!

Here’s the difference. Longboard bearings speed up slower but roll longer. This is great for long distances but sucks for skateboarding.

Skateboard bearings need to accelerate fast. Often there is limited space or time to perform a trick and you want your feet in the right stance before you arrive. Even skateboard bearings fit a longboard or cruiser, it’s not ideal.

I’ll keep this short because I already did a huge article on bearings after testing them for almost a year. Check out our top skateboard bearings article if you want all the nitty and gritty.

Let’s quickly go through the ones I recommend for skateboarding and cruising.

Bronson G2

Bronson G2 bearings

Pretty on par with Bones Reds but they lasted longer and never arrived already broken in a package. Bronson will last for a long time depending on how often and hard you skate. They seem to deal better with dirt and dust compared to Reds. They are affordable and you even get spacers.

Bones Standard Reds

Bones reds bearings

Comparable to Bronson G2 but less durable. Bones Standard Reds are still the most popular skateboard bearing on the planet. They are cheap, and by the time you need to clean them, you might as well just buy a new set. Bones Speedcream and a cleaning set cost about the same as a new set of standard Reds.

Zealous Bearings

Zealous bearings

For you cruisers out there, go with Zealous. They might require some time to break in, but they just keep going when you do. Zealous beatings come with built-in spacers and some kind of magic grease.

Zealous bearings are also pretty affordable and on of the most popular bearings for longboarders and cruisers. Skateboarders should stay away though!

Final Words

There are many misconceptions about skateboard bearings. Some of these myths just won’t go away. Perhaps it is how manufacturers market them. ABEC is usually mentioned when buying a complete skateboard or cruiser, causing confusion.

Ceramics seem to appeal to many skaters because of their price. If something is really expensive, it must make you a faster and better skater. It just isn’t the case, unfortunately, though I love my ceramics because of the placebo effect. I already bought them anyway, why not skate them?

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