While it can be easy to convince yourself from the outside looking in that a skateboard is a simple piece of kit. In fact, it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Sure, there are a wide variety of pre-built boards called completes that allow you to simply pick up your board and ride. However, this means that you inevitably sacrifice build quality.
So if you want a board that is as sturdy, durable, and fit for purpose as possible, you need to pick components that are right for you. Many will know that this means that you’ll need to grab a board, trucks, wheels, and hardware. However, it is common for beginner skaters to underestimate the value of quality bearings.
Bearings are small disc-shaped ball bearings that are placed on either side of your wheel, allowing the wheels to spin faster and for longer. Meaning that you don’t have to push constantly to keep moving, your lines look more smooth, that you can travel across rough terrain for longer and that you can move faster if you want to.
Bearings are an understated part of a skateboard but a component that, if left out, can make your board feel like a twenty-dollar Wal-Mart board, no matter how pricy the other components were.
So with that in mind, we have taken the time to put together an all-encompassing guide. Giving you all there is to know about bearings, what makes them better than others and what the best bearings on the market are in 2021. So sit back and relax while we explain how these tiny little discs are a skateboard essential.
What Are Skateboard Bearings?
As we mentioned, skateboard bearings are small, metal discs that act as a casing for tiny ball bearings. These are placed into a hole on each side of the wheel, reducing the fraction with the trucks and allowing the wheels to spin faster and for longer. These bearings all come in one standard size, which is 7mm in width, 22mm in outer diameter, and an 8mm inner diameter.
So no matter what brand you choose, all bearings will fit the wheels you purchase. This means all you have to worry about is style and quality.
Bearings also come with spacers and washers. The spacers are small pieces of metal placed on the inside of the wheel which keep the bearings parallel with each other and protect against damage when tightening the axle nut and when replacing bearings.
Then you have the washer which protects against the elements and also keeps out any debris that can get into your bearing and slow them down much faster.
Why are Good Skateboard Bearings Important?
While having any bearing will ensure that you can roll around with a decent level of comfort when on a skateboard. Having quality bearings that offer the best performance is much more desirable for several reasons. One of these is that with fast bearings, you too can keep your speed.
This means that you’ll be able to perform for smooth and flowing runs when skating vert and transition. Plus, if you are a skater that loves nothing more than bombing down a hill at pace, great bearings allow you to achieve tremendous speeds and maintain them for longer, regardless of the terrain. However, you will want to double these up with rock-hard wheels for the best results.
The second reason is that, with great bearings that encourage movement, you’ll find that all those tricks that you used to land and end up standing there static will roll away much smoother. No longer will you plant a flip trick to the ground and stand motionless. Instead, you’ll cruise away looking slick and feeling accomplished.
Then the third reason you’ll want a good skateboard bearing set is that, if you buy quality, they last longer. You’ll find that with run-of-the-mill bearings, they tend to let in debris much quicker, they often have flimsy ball cages and ultimately, you’ll find that before you know it, one or multiple wheels are seizing up when you are trying to roll around.
So, with a trusted brand that is skate tested, you ensure that you get months of skating out of your bearings before you have to invest in a new set. You want to aim to get 2/3 months out of each set of bearings.
How To Insert Skate Bearings
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what skate bearings are worth spending your hard-earned money on. We should probably discuss how to put your bearings into your wheels.
If you have never done this before it can seem a little bit alien but we assure you, it’s a simple process. However, we will provide a step-by-step guide so you know exactly what to do when kitting out your new deck. Here is the guide below:
Make sure you have everything you need to get the bearings into your wheel. This will mean that you need the bearings, the wheels and the trucks.
The first thing you will want to do is take off the nut off the trucks on each side. Then you will want to take the bearings and push one bearing into each side of the wheels you want to use. You won’t get them in securely but make sure that they are in far enough that they won’t slip out easily.
Then you’ll want to take the wheels and place them on the side of the trucks, sliding the wheel with bearings on either side onto the truck. Then push the wheel hard applying pressure to the loose bearing using the truck. This will push the bearing into position. Then simply flip the wheel around and do the same again.
Do this with all four wheels, slip them onto the trucks and tighten the bolts tight enough that the wheels won’t come off but equally, not so tight that the wheels don’t have freedom to spin.
After this, you will have a set of wheels with bearings that are equipped and ready for shredding. However, you may be wondering, what do you do when you have used and abused bearings in wheels that still have some life in them.
Well, you’ll need to remove the bearings. This may seem impossible as they are wedged right into their little holes. However, there is a simple solution and all you need is a set of trucks.
Take the wheel that you want to remove the bearing from and place it on the trucks. Don’t slide it on all the way, you’ll want to slide it on so that the truck is just peering out the other side of the wheel. Then you’ll want to apply pressure by wedging the trucks into the space between the wheel and bearing, then pulling back.
This will loosen the bearing and push it out of position, allowing you to remove it with ease. This works almost every time but if your bearing is damaged and the outer ring can sometimes get trapped in the space. If this happens, head to your local skate shop as they usually have specialist machines that can force this out.
What is an ABEC Rating?
If you speak to someone that takes choosing their skate bearings very seriously, you may hear this abbreviation. This is a term that means Annular Bearing Engineers Committee rating and this indicates the level of scrutiny and allowances for defects that will be tolerated during the manufacturing process.
So, if someone mentions that they have a high grade of ABEC bearings, this means that these bearings are of the highest quality in terms of construction. However, the fact that this indicates that these bearings are the best of the best is largely overstated.
You see, you can have a lower grade of ABEC bearing which spins much faster than their higher-grade counterparts. Plus, you might find that some bearings will last longer than their ‘higher-quality competitors.
What we are saying here is that this is a good thing to look for in a bearing but it’s far from the dealbreaker it is made out to be. Take Bones Reds for example. These are the industry standard when it comes to skateboard bearings, yet these are only ABEC7 bearings. You can quite commonly see AC11 bearings in your local skate shop.
You may hear a lot of discussion regarding ABEC ratings defining a bearing. Well, we just want to further clarify that this is for the most part, nonsense.
You see, these ratings are applied to all ball bearings, including those used in heavy machinery for example. So while they go through the same testing process, to fully stress test a skateboard bearing, you would need to travel at speeds exceeding 150MPH which simply isn’t possible. So while it is a nice luxury to have a high ABEC rating bearing, don’t base your entire decision on this.
How Do You Care For Skateboard Bearings?
As you would imagine, if you are replacing bearings, it can get pretty expensive if they get worn down fast. So there are several things that you can do to keep your bearings in working order for longer. Check them out below:
Stay Out of the Rain
Bearings are made from metal. Water can easily get into the nooks and crannies if you skate in wet conditions. Metal rusts when it gets wet. Need we say more? We will concede that, depending on where you live, sometimes you won’t be able to resist skating in the rain.
However, if you want to keep your bearings in top working order, we would suggest that you dry your board off after wet sessions and when possible, shelter your board from the conditions.
Clean Your Bearings
Some would argue that this activity isn’t worth the effort, especially when bearings don’t cost an arm and a leg. However, if you know what you are doing, this ten-minute process can save you money in the long term and keep your bearings spinning for longer.
To do this, you will need to invest in a cleaning container and a cleaning bolt. If you have these, you will need to take off the bearing shield, then you will need to place your bearings in a cleaning solution and then give it a good shake.
After that, leave the bearings to dry, add some lubricant to the bearings and then place the shields back on. It’s a process that can be quite awkward at first but with some practice, this is a great way to maintain your bearing’s performance.
How Do You Know When to Change Your Bearings?
If you are a complete beginner and haven’t really got a point of reference on when bearings have spun their last rotation, we are here to help. There are several telltale signs which indicate if bearings need to be changed. However, these signs aren’t always blatantly obvious. So here is a quick guide on when you need to change your bearings:
When Your Wheels Don’t Spin
This is the most obvious of all the signs. If you try to spin your wheels and there is some sort of obstruction, or your bearings are so worn that they won’t even do a full rotation, then you need to change them. Bearings usually get slower gradually but on some occasions, they can do this. If they do, invest in new bearings.
When Your Bearings Are Damaged
Several things can make your bearings unusable. The outer ring could cave in, the bearings could escape from their cage, the shield could pop off. The list is endless and will depend on the level of manufacturing and the defect in question.
However, if anything like this happens, the safest thing to do is switch them out. You might get a few more sessions out of them if you are lucky, but this is an accident waiting to happen.
When You Are Pushing too Often
Then lastly, when you feel like you are excessively pushing your board rather than simply rolling along, this is usually an indicator that your bearings are on their last legs. You will be able to use them for a little while longer, so there isn’t an immediate rush to change them out. However, you should try to get a new set in there if you want to perform to the best of your ability.
What Are the Best Bearings on the Market?
Now that you understand what makes a great bearing, how to add them to your setup, and why they are so important, we can now go through all of the best bearings on the market.
Obviously, this will depend on what type of bearing you want. So for that reason, we will be offering a selection of bearings that focus on either style, durability or speed. Here are our picks of the bunch for skateboarding bearings in 2021:
If there is a brand of bearings that you can trust, it’s Bones. Bones have become the default choice of many skaters not only because they look great but also because they are durable, trustworthy, and fast.
These bearings are a standard 7mm diameter, they fit perfectly and rarely shift when inside the wheel, they are relatively quiet from the first use, they don’t take a lot of time to break in, and most importantly, they spin at a rapid pace.
The only downside is that these bearings do need more maintenance than some alternatives. They will need semi-regular lubrication if you want to make them last for as long as possible.
Then it is also worth noting that these bearings have been around forever. So as a result, there are a lot of copycat bearings out there which aren’t anywhere near the same quality. So unless you pick these up from your local skate shop or in their official packaging, we would steer clear.
- Durable and fast
- Classic look
- Trusted brand
- ABEC7 quality
- Quiet spin and tight fit
- Copycat brands are easy to fall for
- Require lubrication
Bones Swiss Ceramics
For the beginner skater, if you are going to go with Bones products, Reds are hard to beat. However, if you are a veteran skater that wants something that will last you for a long time, Bones Swiss Ceramics is a great option.
These bearings are made of sturdier stuff when compared to just about anything on the market. They are pre-lubricated, of ABEC7 quality, they are much easier to break in than other ceramics out there, they make barely any noise and they come in the standard 7mm diameter for a perfect fit.
These bearings will last you for years depending on how much you skate, making these bearings an incredible investment. However, as an investment, it won’t come cheap. These bearings as an eight set will set you back a whopping £140.00.
We wouldn’t advise buying these unless you are a dedicated skater. However, if you skate more than you don’t, these are perfect if you have the capital to make them yours.
- Unrivaled quality and durability
- Perfect fit
- Completely silent
- Staggeringly expensive
Andale Green Sauce Pro Bearings
If you are looking for something that oozes style, there are few better options than Andale’s green sauce bearings.
These neon green bearings come in a stylish hot sauce bottle casing which is marketed as 420 friendly if you catch our drift. In the neck of the bottle, you will find 8 classy looking ABEC7 bearings, then on the lower half, you’ll have a bottle of wax, making this a multi-faceted purchase. Then once you use up all of your goodies, you can keep the bottle as a stylish decoration.
These bearings are endorsed by P-Rod and Guy Mariano to name a few. With this bottle in particular being Torey Pudwill’s own pro set. We will admit, the bearings themselves aren’t up to the standard of the bigger trusted brands but you can’t say that these bearings lack style.
- Stylish bottle and bearings
- Reasonably priced
- Can wiggle when fitted
- Not the quietest
Zealous Skateboard Bearings
If you want a bearing that perhaps doesn’t have the biggest name behind them but lets their quality speak for them, Zealous is the one for you. These shielded steel bearings are pre-lubricated, come in a vibrant lime green colour, come with spacers and built-in speed rings and are also reasonably priced.
The one issue with these bearings is that they aren’t the fastest on the market. However, thanks to the lack of maintenance needed and the durability on offer, we doubt you will mind. If you aren’t going to buy Bones Reds, we would say that these are the closest alternative.
- Cool lime green design
- 8mm Diameter for tight fit
- Reasonably priced
- Not the fastest bearings
- Can be quite noisy
Bronson Raw Shieldless Bearings
If you are looking for a shield free design, we would say that the Bronson Raw bearings are the way to go. These bearings come in a stylish black and orange design, they have no shield which allows them to spin at incredible speeds. They are also pre-lubricated so you don’t have to treat them in any way before use and they hardly make any noise as you ride.
Naturally, these shieldless bearings are not as durable as most of their shielded counterparts. However, within their class, they hold up pretty well, with usually a few months of skating before you’ll have to swap them out.
These bearings are a great option if you don’t mind trading durability for pure speed. However, they won’t come cheap. These bearings aren’t anywhere near as expensive as Bones Swiss Ceramics but considering they aren’t as durable, that’s to be expected.
You’ll have to pay about £40 to make these yours, but when you are sailing down hills at unbelievable speeds, you’ll see that it was absolutely worth it.
- Unparalleled speed
- Classy design
- Not as durable as shielded bearings
If you have reached the end of this article and you still don’t have the answers that you seek, don’t panic. Here is our helpful FAQ section which should sort out all those lingering queries. Check it out below:
Answer: While we don’t have the figures to back it up, we can tell you with some confidence that Bones Reds are the best-selling bearings. They are the most commonly available bearings in skate shops, have been around forever, have the classic red design that skaters know and love. Plus, they are fast, durable, and reliable.
These bearings are also reasonably priced, making them a great choice for pros and beginners alike. Some will argue that these bearings pale in comparison to some other brands like Bronson or Zealous for example but we believe that Bones Reds are the clear market leader.
Answer: This is a question that varies from skater to skater. You see, much like trucks, boards, shoes, and clothes, skaters will be sponsored by a bearing company. Which means they will only ride those bearings regardless of their preference.
However, there is also the argument that, if a pro thought that a set of bearings was affecting their performance, they wouldn’t keep skating them. Putting this to one side, you may simply be wondering who uses what. So we have done some digging and below is a list of pro skaters and the bearings they use:
Andy Anderson – Bones Bearings
• P-Rod – Andale Bearings
• Tony Hawk – Birdhouse Bearings
• Jamie Foy – Bronson Bearings
• Tony Trujillo – Spitfire Cheapshots
• Nyjah Huston – Bones Bearings
• Sean Malto – Bones Bearings
• Chris Cole – Bones Bearings
•Chris Joslin – Bones Bearings
Answer: Yes, they do, as the name would suggest, complete skateboards come with all the components you need to pick it up and skate. However, the thing you will find with complete boards is that the components used won’t be of the highest quality. They will usually be the bearings that aren’t selling too well or bearings that come from a less reputable brand.
Which means that they won’t last that long. So if you do opt to purchase a complete, certainly skate the bearings until they are shredded to bits, but make sure you have a quality set on standby.
So that is our article on the best skateboarding bearings on the market in 2021. What do you make of the bearings we listed? Have you tried these products in the past? What are your thoughts on shieldless and ceramic variants?
Get Your Bearings!
As you can see from the information above, there are a lot of bearings out there, each offering a different set of attributes. However, with this guide, you should be able to find the best set of skateboarding bearings for you.
Plus, you’ll be able to add them to your setup and clean them too with the help of this guide. Bearings are as important as any of the other skateboard components out there. So find the set that is right for you and roll off into the sunset fast and smooth.
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