Here are some well trusted bearings that follow everything in the article. No gimmicks, under $20, good lubricant and some of them are built-ins.
It’s a common thought among the skate scene, be it street skating or downhill, that bearings are what make a setup faster. While this is almost a complete myth, it’s good to know what things to look for in the bearings you buy.
Some street skaters like to take out their bearing shields and have them collect dirt and dust until they hiss when they roll. It’s not very good for bearings but they’ll still function, for a little while at least. At the end of the day bearings are just bearings, and so long as there’s some lubricant left and not enough dirt and dust to seize them up they will still work.
Obviously some properly lubed and well taken care of ceramics will roll faster than the bearing you use in rainy days. That being said, Zak Maytum rides Mercury bearings in questionable state, so does it really matter? Probably not. There’s argument for and against the direct correlation between bearing quality and speed – it’s up to you to decide what side you’re on.
Bearings are made out of 5 main parts: the outer race, the retainer, the balls, the inner race and the shield, which may or may not be on both sides of the bearing.
As you can probably guess, the less resistance you have on the balls, theoretically the faster you’ll be able to roll. A well maintained bearing will roll smoother than one riddled with dirt and dust; no one denies that. The question is, how much does paying the extra buck for ceramics and other expensive features really affect the ride?
The answer is almost none; if you’re not doing any serious racing the difference is going to be minimal. It’s a good rule of thumb to stick to bearings under $20 unless you’re sponsored or you actually like them enough to drop the extra bucks.
What’s an ABEC rating?
The ABEC scale is an industry accepted standard for the tolerances in ball bearings – the higher the number, the tighter the tolerances. The scale goes from 1 to 9 skipping even numbers. ABEC 5 allows for 0.0035mm of allowable error while ABEC 7 allows for 0.0025mm, if you can actually tell the difference by just riding them you’re probably a wizard. ABEC scale does not measure how fast the bearing can roll. Higher ABEC ratings are meant to be used at very high RPM, where smooth operation at speed is required. When I say high RPM I mean they are used in aircraft, there’s no reason to drop extra money to get ABEC 9 bearings on a skateboard.
Some brands like Reds and Zealous don’t believe in ABEC ratings for skateboards and you won’t see them on their packaging. They’re both highly trusted brands in the skate scene. Their products, though not ABEC rated, are nothing short of quality. There’s also a trend among import brands with bearings, if you’ve seen ABEC 11 (not the brand) bearings, you’re being sold a gimmick; there is no such thing as ABEC 11.
What’s the Best Lube?
Bearings need lubricant to work. A good lube for your bearings will keep them rolling fast down the hills. A common mistake is using the incorrect lubricant on your bearings; if your bearings are not lubed enough for your liking make sure you’re using the right ones. Stay away from wd-40, any kind of three-in-one lube, motor grease or any thick lubricant. Bearings take thin lube, preferably not water based so that it doesn’t attract dirt. If you can’t find a good skate brand bearing lubricant, you can use electronic lube or sewer machine lube.
A top pick among longboarders for the best lube is Speed Cream by Bones
What are Built-in Bearings?
Built-in bearing are a relatively new product in the scene, and are found in some of the best longboard bearings around. Unlike regular bearing which require spacers and speed rings to work properly, built-in bearings have them, well, built in. Taking wheels in and out is a much easier task; rotating wheels takes less than half the time. I’ve had a four man operation on a board with built-ins, like an F1 pit stop, it takes just a few seconds to get it all done.
Keeping skate gear in good condition is key to being safe, especially when skating on open roads. Remember to clean your bearings periodically, seized up bearings at speed is not a fun experience.