Choosing the best skateboard bearings
The fastest speed recorded on a skateboard was 91.17 mph, which was achieved by Peter Connolly in Quebec, Canada, in September 2017. For skateboarders with similarly high-speed ambitions, they can enhance their skateboard’s performance by making one small change. Here, Chris Johnson, managing director of bearing expert SMB Bearings, explains how to choose the best skateboard bearings.
While most skateboard bearings have a universal size and share the same parts, including rolling balls and retainers, there are plenty of variables that skateboarders must carefully consider, which includes bearing material, ABEC rating and lubrication.
Chrome steel remains the most commonly used material for bearing rings because it is hard-wearing and cheap to replace. However, as the quality of chrome steel varies, so does the bearing’s overall speed ability. If opting for chrome steel, ensure the bearings are good quality as there are plenty of cheap, low performing options on the market.
Another common issue with chrome steel is that the material can rust if exposed to wet conditions. For skateboarders who train in high-moisture conditions, rust can be avoided by opting for stainless steel instead.
For added performance, many skateboarders are turning to 608zz ceramic bearings as an alternative to full steel bearings. Made with chrome steel rings and silicon nitride balls, hybrid ceramic bearings offer reduced running temperature and longer bearing life.
However, ceramic balls are not as flexible as steel balls which makes them more vulnerable to sudden impacts. Additionally, hybrid ceramic skateboard bearings cost more. If budgets are stretched, a good quality chrome or stainless steel bearing offers a cheaper option with minimal performance loss.
The ABEC rating
Like the material, it’s important to get the right American Bearing Manufacturers Association (ABEC) rating for your skate bearings. The ABEC rating tells you about the precision and durability of the bearing, as well as its accuracy and tolerance. The rating system uses odd numbers and ranges from one to nine. The higher the number, the tighter the tolerance and the greater the degree of precision in the bearing.
Higher ABEC ratings can mean fractionally faster bearings but only provided the Abec rating is genuine and the other wheel components are made to the same tolerances. Genuine Abec 9 bearings are very expensive. Higher-rated bearings are also more suited to applications where the bearing runs at higher revolutions per minute (RPM). While Connolly reached 90 mph, the average skateboard speed is only 9 mph according to RidingBoards.com.
You’ll find the skateboard bearings you need on the middle of the ABEC spectrum, with either an ABEC3 or ABEC5 rating. These can generate a decent amount of speed for your competitive needs and at a relatively low cost.
Once you’ve chosen the best skateboard bearing, it’s important to use an effective lubricant to prevent its inner surfaces from getting too hot.
The most effective substance for these bearings is low torque grease as it provides excellent lubrication with minimal drag. SMB Bearing’s skateboard bearings contain a high speed, low torque grease manufactured by Klueber. This lubrication contains hard-wearing lithium which is more than tough enough for skate conditions. Note, the amount of grease in skateboard bearing must also be carefully chosen to provide excellent lubrication, but minimal drag.
Skateboard bearings should use shields or seals, to protect the bearing and its lubrication from contamination. While contact seals provide better protection against debris and moisture, this comes at a cost; an increase in rotational torque due to friction between the seal lip and bearing inner ring. Non-contact seals are the better option for competitive skateboarders, as they do not increase starting or running torque.
If you have high-speed ambitions like world-record holder Connolly, you can improve speed and performance by choosing the right bearing and lubrication combination. For more information on skateboard bearings, and SMB Bearing’s wide range of steel, ceramic and hybrid bearings that can be used on skateboards, roller skates and longboards, contact email@example.com.