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Choosing skateboard bearings is a matter of preference. Some people feel they prefer a slower rolling bearing, some faster. Some people care more about smoothness over speed. To understand how to choose a skateboard bearing, let us first look at what skateboard bearings are and how they are rated.
Skateboard bearings are highly engineered circular components that allow the skateboard to move at high speeds while supporting heavy loads. The bearing is made up of an inner ring and an outer ring. In between these rings are small metal balls called ball bearings. These ball bearings are what allows the skateboard wheel to turn at the speeds it does; the ball bearings reduce friction. While different skateboard wheels may be different sizes, all bearings are the same size. The inner ring is 8mm, the outer ring is 22mm, and the ball bearings are 7mm. The difference comes in the tolerances used to manufacture the ball bearings. The manufacturing process is not perfect, and ball bearings are made to be within a certain tolerance, not an exact size. The higher the tolerance, the more smoothly the bearings will spin, reducing friction and increasing speed for the skateboarder. The tolerances used in ball bearing manufacturing have been standardized and the system used is called the Abec system.
The Abec system measures the tolerance of a ball bearing. Essentially, it determines how precise a bearing must be. The Abec system uses a rating of 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9+.
Abec 1: Ball bearings machined with the lowest level of precision. Because they are the least accurate, having the highest tolerances, they are the least expensive.
Abec 3: More tolerance than Abec 3 but still considered somewhat cheap and of lower quality. more expensive than Abec 3 quality, but still not considered expensive.
Abec 5: Much more acceptable tolerance levels. By far the most popular level of ball bearing found on skateboards. The tolerance is high enough to deliver a quality product but still is not prohibitively expensive.
Abec 7: More costly than Abec 5 level bearings because tolerances are even lower. These bearings provide a smoother ride but are more expensive.
Abec 9: The most expensive and with the highest precision. Tolerances are lowest at 9+.
Choosing the right bearing is a matter of preference. Some skateboarders do not feel it necessary to achieve the speeds that Abec 9+ ball bearings can deliver and for that reason they choose not to pay more. Most skateboarders are happy with Abec 5.
The Abec system does not test for other factors that are important to bearing quality; how much weight can the material withstand? Is the bearing made of ceramic or steel (ceramic does not expand with heat, they are very smooth and thus more expensive)? How well built are the bearings?
Categories: Skateboard Bearings