Skateboards are seemingly very simple, but they really aren’t. There are a a few parts on them that you’ve probably never heard of that are of great importance, but nobody pays attention to, until they wear off or break down. Take the bearings for instance, these small parts are located in between each wheel and they reduce the friction the wheel has with the axle it spins around. A bolt is put through the centre of every bearing, through the wheel and another bearing after that. Basically, these small parts connect three pieces of rotating mechanisms together.
Buying bearings is a pretty straightforward process. All you need to become familiar with is the ABEC scale, which is the industry accepted standard for tolerance of bearings. It was developed by the ABMA (American Bearing Manufacturers Association) and is used worldwide to determine the tolerance levels of bearings for every industry, including skateboards.
The most common ABEC ratings for skateboards are ABEC 7 skate bearings and ABEC 5 skate bearings. It is quite simple to explain why these are the most popular skate ratings. ABEC 5 is standard for most types of skateboarding, it’s the middle ground and you’ll get a decent performance for an affordable cost. The ABEC 7 skate bearings on the other hand, are slightly more advanced – they’re smooth, fast and therefore more costly, but if you’re a serious skateboarder, I wouldn’t recommend going below this rating.
Some companies, like Bones Bearings for example, use their own system known as Skate Rated. This can cause a bit of confusion, but generally, the Skate Rated bearings have a stricter rating scale and they take into account a lot of quality factors. This means that you’ll likely get a superior performance out of a 5 skate rated bearing compared to a 5 ABEC rated bearing.
Besides the rating, another thing you should pay attention to is the material they’re made from. The most common materials used are steel and ceramic. Steel is the more affordable option and it is extremely durable. So for most skateboarders, steel is the way to go.
However, for the advanced skateboarders, ceramic bearings are the far superior option. The main reason being that they’re less affected by the heat generated when the wheels spin. Ceramic bearings are usually made from silicon nitride, which is smoother and harder than steel. This results in less friction and ceramic doesn’t expand like steel does, meaning, there’s no negative effect on the skateboard’s performance.