Most skaters usually prefer assembling their own skateboards. It allows them to build a highly customized skateboard that suits their needs well.
It also helps them have greater control over how their skateboard works, as well as take care of the necessary repairs themselves, and while doing so, save quite a bit of time and money.
However, assembling a skateboard isn’t as easy as it may sound, and it involves choosing various parts, including wheels, trucks, and the most important one, bearings. When it comes to the precision and smoothness of the skateboard, bearings can be everything. Performing those typical stunning tricks skaters are so well known for may depend quite a bit on the quality of skateboard bearings.
Skateboard Bearings – An Overview
Skateboard bearings are the small metal rings in the wheel that help it spin freely. They also reduce the damage on the axle and the wheels. Technically speaking, there’s metal on inside of the wheels, which results in friction with the axle. However, as the axle is fixed, bearings play a very crucial role of helping the wheel spin.
If the bearings aren’t working properly, the friction may increase terribly, and the wheels may not able to spin freely, resulting in damage to both the wheels and the axle.
As far as the size is concerned, most bearings come in the industry standard size, and will fit all skateboard wheels out there. This universal size is 22mm for the diameter, with the core and width being 8mm and 7mm, respectively.
What is ABEC Rating and Why It is Important?
Simply put, ABEC rating is a measurement of the quality and precision of a particular skateboard bearing. A higher ABEC rating means that a high-quality metal was used in the bearings, and also that it comes with a higher level of precision and accuracy.
There are 5 different grades out there to measure the quality and precision of skateboard bearings – 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, with 9 referring to the highest level of precision and the best quality of metal used. It also means that there will be very less friction and hence the wheels are going to spin very freely and smoothly.
That being said, let’s take a closer look at what each grade exactly means.
These bearings are the cheapest, but made using a very low quality metal. Similarly, they also lead to a very high level of friction, and tend to take a toll on the overall accuracy.
These bearings are quite cheap as well, and do not offer much in terms of smoothness and quickness, because the wheels just cannot roll without an undesirably high level of friction.
This is a very balanced option. It gets you standard quality bearings that are reasonably smooth and fast, but are usually still priced very affordably.
These bearings tend to come with a very high level of speed and smoothness, but cost slightly more than ABEC 5 bearings.
These are the best skateboard bearings you can get for the money. They are quite expensive, but they are also the fastest and the smoothest out there, thanks to there being extremely less friction. The metal used, too, is of the highest quality.
That being said, these bearings are considered the best bet for downhill skating and for skaters who want to perform tricks that require some insane speed.
However, there are a few companies that do not follow ABEC ratings. They instead have their own rating system for various reasons, with some arguing that ABEC ratings do not take some important factors into consideration.
A Look at the Parts of Skateboard Bearings
While skateboard bearings look small and tiny, they are actually very complex and made up of seven different parts. We will be taking a look at all these parts and their functions as this information will come in handy while taking care of your bearings’ maintenance needs.
A small thin ring that keeps the shield in place.
As the name suggests, this part acts as the shield of the bearings. It protects them from dirt and other similar agents. Bearing shield is a ring, too, but larger than the c-ring.
This round metal ring is the largest part and basically the casing in which all the other parts fit in.
It’s a smaller metal ring and one of the parts that’s placed within the outer ring. It plays a very important role in the functioning of the bearings by fitting through both the wheels and the axles from side to side.
Considered to be the most important part of the bearing, they refer to 6 to 7 ceramic or steel balls that allow the casing to roll freely.
It is another important part that helps the casing roll freely, while still keeping the individual ball bearings in place.
It refers to the rubber exterior of the bearing that protects it from dirt, dust and other agents that may end up damaging it.
Understanding about how all these parts function goes a long way in helping a skateboarder know more about their skateboard as well as deal with the repairs and problems better.
Another important thing you would want to keep in mind here is that cleaning these individual parts is considered extremely important, too. It helps ensure that they keep functioning properly, preventing any problems that may lead to more friction and causing the wheels to stop spinning.
Similarly, if you’re into street skating, you’re required to clean these parts twice as often, as street skating usually leads to an increased risk of your skateboard’s bearing getting damaged due to agents such as dirt and debris.
Determining the Quality of Skateboard Bearings
Skateboard bearings mainly come in two different materials. It’s important to understand what these materials are all about, so that you can choose the one that fits the bill the best for you.
Steel bearings are very common, and more popular than ceramic bearings, the only other type of bearings out there. However, when it comes to the overall quality, including inner balls, sealing as well as the quality of steel itself, things tend to vary quite a bit from one brand to another.
The general belief is that the best quality skateboard bearings tend to cost the most, while the cheaper ones may not be made of very high quality materials. And it seems to be as true as it can get, as bearings that are priced higher tend to come with a better sealing, have more inner balls, and the quality of material used is very high as well.
While there might not seem to be a major difference between cheaper and expensive bearings to beginner skaters, most of them out there would definitely feel it when coming to a sudden stop while performing a trick. Using cheaper bearings would may also lead to stiffness over time, as they tend to be very less resilient to dust and other damage-causing agents.
That being said, if you’re a serious skateboarder, your best bet may simply be to spend a little more and get higher-quality bearings, as they may stand the test of time and offer the level of precision and accuracy you may be looking for.
Ceramic bearings are a relatively new concept, but are arguably better than standard or regular skateboard bearings. They are believed to offer a much better level of smoothness and precision, thanks to there being very little friction. Similarly, they also don’t tend to expand in the heat, which means that they are also very less likely to encounter any type of damages.
On the downside, however, you would usually have to shell out considerably more for ceramic bearings than for regular bearings. However, it also means a much better quality and lower maintenance requirements.
But there still seems to be quite a bit of confusion over whether ceramic bearings are actually better than standard bearings and worth the higher cost. Now, while there don’t seem to be a definite answer to it, ceramic bearings do seem to be having quite an upper hand.
Firstly, while only the balls are made of ceramic in these bearings, with the other parts being made of steel, the quality of steel used tends to be pretty high quality, usually considerably better than what’s used in most regular bearings. Also, as a matter of fact, the decreased friction ceramic bearings offer is considered to be partly due to the ceramic balls, with the better quality of steel playing an important role, too.
Secondly, the balls in ceramic bearings, too, boast a very strong exterior, and contain ceramic powder on the inside. It’s perhaps this unique combination of parts that help ceramic bearings be extremely lightweight, yet surprisingly strong and durable.
However, there’s probably just a minor downside associated with the (stronger) balls ceramic bearings come with, which is that once they are damaged, the bearing would stop working completely and you may not be able to repair it. But, apparently, that’s something very rare and hence not something you should be taking into consideration.
Apart from that, another important feature of ceramic bearings is that they come with more balls than steel bearings, which obviously translates to better overall performance.
There seem to be a surprisingly large number of skaters out there who would swear by the level of precision ceramic bearings offer, as well as the amazingly low maintenance requirements, which can obviously be a relief.
Finally, ceramic bearings aren’t prone to rusting, which means that they won’t need to be replaced as often as steel bearings.
Two Important Bearing Options
Bearing spacers and bearing washers are two important optional additions that you may want to learn about, in order to figure out whether they would be a good investment for you. So without further ado, let’s get into what they bring to the table as well.
Bearing spacers are an equipment designed to improve the overall performance of your skateboard as well as increase the durability of your bearings. They are small metal cylinders that are put between the bearings, ensuring reduced pressure on each of the bearing, and improved smoothness and stability while taking turns.
While they are not necessary in any way, especially if you’re a casual skater or longboarder, they can definitely turn out to be very helpful at times, especially if you’re looking to perform advanced tricks or doing a lot of skating.
As far as the pricing is concerned, bearing spacers are typically very inexpensive, regardless of whether they are made of steel, aluminum or other metals.
When it comes to the sizing, spacers tend to be quite different than bearings, as the size completely depends on your skateboard. However, the most common size seems to be 8mm x 10mm, with 8mm being the axle diameter and 10mm being the width of the bearing.
When it comes to the overall spacer width, however, you simply need to keep in mind that for longboards that are larger than the standard size, the width might have to be 10mm, while most other skateboard wheels would simply need 8mm.
As the name suggests, speed washers are simply used to increase the speed of the wheels. Furthermore, they also help reduce the friction, translating to more protection for the bearings from damage caused due to high friction.
They are also known as speed rings and bearing washers, but they all refer to the same piece of equipment. They are placed between the nut and the bearing, where they actually work as a buffer.
While they are just an optional addition, they can definitely turn out to be a very useful investment if you’re looking to skate at very high speeds. They may also need to be replaced from time to time, though, depending on how often you skate and the type of tricks you perform.
Replacing them is fairly simple, however. If you see any signs of damage, such as rusting or corrosion, you can simply remove the nut and put the speed washer in. And while some may need to figure out the ideal size they will need, most skaters would need the standard size, which is 8mm axle diameter.