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Which skateboard bearings should you buy? (Hint: ABEC isn’t everything)

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You’ve shopping for a new complete skateboard, either for yourself or as a gift.  You’ve chosen a deck, a pair of trucks, and a set of wheels. The last major decision you need to make about your skateboard setup is the bearings. The decision doesn’t need to be complicated, however.  Let us walk you through the different factors for choosing the right skateboard bearings.

Size
Fortunately, all skateboard bearings are the same width and diameter, so size isn’t something you’ll have to worry about.  Just for reference, skate bearings are a “608” bearing.  608 refers to the dimensions, so any bearing you see that has the 608 designation should fit in your skateboard.  Inline skates, roller skates, scooters, and power tools also commonly use a 608 bearing.

Shielded vs Sealed vs Open
Most skateboard bearings have covers on at least one side.  If the covers are metal and firmly attached to the bearing, they are “shielded”.  If they are rubber or plastic and easy to remove and put back, they are considered “sealed”.  If the balls within the bearing are exposed, they are “open.”  Any of the above will work fine in your skateboard, but shielded and sealed bearings will help prevent dirt, water and other debris from getting in.  Since Sealed bearings allow for easy access, they offer the added benefit of being convenient to lubricate or clean.

ABEC Rating
When browsing for bearings, you are bound to see different brands advertise an ABEC rating. These ratings include 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9. One common myth in skateboarding is that a higher ABEC rating means a faster ride. This isn’t necessarily true, however.

ABEC, which stands for “Annular Bearing Engineering Council,” is a scale for measuring the precision of a bearing, not the actual speed at which it spins.  An ABEC rating only refers to the dimensional tolerances of the bearing, or in other words, how closely the moving parts are together.  The higher the ABEC rating, the lower the tolerance and more precise a ball bearing will be.

The drawback of ABEC rating is that it does not take into consideration many other factors, including load handling, materials used, lubricant, polishing, vibration, and ball circularity.  So an ABEC 3 bearing could theoretically perform better than an ABEC 5 bearing.

Higher horsepower doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a faster or better car.  More megapixels doesn’t necessarily make for a better digital camera.  When buying skateboard bearings, think of the ABEC rating as just one factor.

Brands
There are lots of skate bearing brands out there and it can be confusing as to which offers the best product. Many skateboarders will swear by Bones bearings and with good cause.  Bones has been around for decades and has produced reliable skate bearings and other skate equipment. You’ll very commonly see their Bones Reds (lower end) and Bones Swiss Precision (higher end) in skate stores.

Some other best-sellers include Spitfire (who also make wheels), Independent (who also make trucks), FKD, Shake Junt, Bronson and Rush.  All of the above are fine choices for bearings. Most skate shops and online retailers like CCS and Zumiez carry these brands.

Where you need to be cautious is on larger online marketplaces like Amazon. There are many more makers and sellers of bearings on these platforms, some of which are less diligent about producing a quality product. When browsing through the reviews of skate bearings you see on Amazon, make sure you read the feedback from actual skateboarders. Many shoppers will be buying bearings for roller blades, roller skates, scooters, fidget spinners, and industrial applications. Be diligent when it’s a brand you haven’t heard of or when there are no reviews from skateboarders.

Pricing
Whether browsing online or shopping at your local skate shop, you should be able to find an 8-pack of quality skateboard bearings for under $20. In fact, the most common price range for bearings is likely around $10-$20.  A $30 set of bearings will not necessarily make you go faster than one for $10.

What are “Swiss” bearings?
Swiss Bearings refer to bearings that were made with Swiss screw machines. However, there is no organization that regulates this, so many manufacturers will replicate the Switzerland-native machinery elsewhere. In other words, they’re using “Swiss style” machines.

Bones was the first company to market a “Swiss Precision” bearing and skaters agree that the quality lives up to the name.  But many other brands have starting labeling their bearings as “Swiss” and it’s unclear whether the same quality and precision is actually there. Since there’s nothing stopping a bearing maker from using “Swiss,” it’s good to keep in mind that such bearings might not perform better than those that don’t carry the label. Many industry professionals see it merely as a marketing tactic.

What are Ceramic bearings?
You may see a few manufacturers offer a Ceramic bearing at a much higher cost than regular steel bearings. These bearings are made from Silicon Nitride, a compound that is actually lighter and harder than steel. These bearings are indeed faster and stronger. They are expected to last longer than metal bearings.

Unlike the term “Swiss,” most bearings advertised as Ceramic should perform better than steel bearings. Ceramic bearings aren’t particularly necessary for most skateboarders, but if you’ve got the money and want the boost, give them a shot.

Lubricants and Cleaning
Your skateboard bearings from time to time may need cleaning or lubrication. The most important thing to remember here is that WD-40 is not a lubricant. You can use WD-40 for cleaning purposes where you’ll need to remove the shield. If you try to use it a lubricant, it may actually slow your bearings down. You should also be careful when using other industrial chemicals as lubricants. They may end up drying out your bearings and having an adverse effect on performance.

Several bearing manufacturers offer lubricant, specifically meant to be easily applicable for skate bearings. You can find these at your local skate store or at many online skate stores. Bones Speed Cream comes highly recommended by skateboarders and is likely the most commonly carried by skate stores.

Removing and Inserting Skate Bearings
Fortunately, all you need to put in and remove skate bearings is your skateboard truck (you will need a hex nut wrench to remove the nut). Here is a great demonstration:

Final Thoughts:  When it comes to skateboard bearings, you don’t need to worry about dimensions or visuals. Just make sure you’re buying from a reputable brand, which you’ll most likely find at a skate shop. Don’t pay extra just because it advertises “ABEC 9” or “Swiss.” With the right care, your bearings can be the longest lasting part of your skateboard.

Note: Everskate was not paid or incentivized to promote, endorse, or mention any brand. This article is unbiased and was written by skateboarders with decades of experience.

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