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Skate Bearings 101: No Sweat Tips for First-Timers

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Skate Bearings 101: No Sweat Tips for First-Timers

Are you bewildered, confused, and frustrated about skate bearings? Are you struggling with choosing skate bearings for the first time? If so, all that ends right here. Picking bearings is a whole lot easier than you might imagine.

In this short post, you’ll learn all the key points so you can pick the best bearings for a smooth skateboarding experience.

First Things First…

What Is A Skateboard Bearing?

Hey, it’s O.K., there are no ‘stupid’ questions here. 

No one knows about skate bearings until they start boarding. These are small circular gizmos that enable your wheels to roll. These devices are responsible for how fast and how smoothly your wheels rotate.

What Are The Parts To A Bearing?

A bearing is made up of five main parts. They all consist of a shield, an inner race, the balls, the retainer, and the outer race.

Balls: a set of 6 or 7 balls roll freely along a track made up of races, and held in place by the retainer. The key idea to keep in mind is: more balls mean more friction and less speed.

Races: The races create a boundary for the balls, forming inner and outer walls of the bearing.

Retainer: This piece keeps the balls in place and at equal distance from each other. The retainer helps to reduce friction and increase the strength of the bearing.

Shields: Shields help protect the balls from dust, debris, and moisture. Some bearings have fewer shields to reduce friction.

Spacers: These are optional for most types of skating, but keep your bearings properly aligned. A spacer makes it possible to fully tighten the axle nut without affecting the wheel spin. This is especially useful if you want to reduce vibration for power sliding on soft wheels.

I know, it seems like a lot of terms. But, when you get familiar with the terms and see the components laid out on a counter, you’ll get the hang of it.

Check out a diagram because seeing a picture is a whole lot easier than studying a bunch of words.

What Are Bearings Made Of?

There are two main categories of skateboard bearings: are steel and ceramic. These materials refer to the ball section of the bearing. It’s pretty simple. If the balls are made of steel, they are called, “steel bearings.” If they are made of ceramic, they are called ceramic bearings. 

What Are The Pros and Cons of Steel?

Pros: Steel bearings are most commonly used for ball bearings. The steel quality determines speed and durability. Higher quality tends to cost more. Solid steel bearings range from low end at $8.00 to high end at $70.00.

Cons: Steel tends to get rusty and dirty when exposed to moisture. If you’re riding in the rain, go through a puddle, or encounter a sprinkler—your bearings can suffer.

To manage this, avoid skating in the rain or going through puddles. However, if they do get wet, use some extra lube to keep rolling. When you get home, dry out the bearings with a heater and give that moisture a jolt with quick drying.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Ceramic?

Pros: Ceramic bearings are lighter and stronger than steel. Due to the ceramic, they deform less under pressure than steel. They also are known to create less friction, helping them roll faster. Besides, they can knock off dirt during the rolling, which acts as a mechanism of self-cleaning.

Additionally, ceramic bearings don’t rust when exposed to rain, water, or moisture. This makes them ideal for rain boards and cruisers. Ceramic is great for low-impact skating and commuting.

Ceramic bearings tend to be top of the line and quality comes at a cost. The price range starts at 50.00 and goes to $140.00.

Cons: Well, the cost may be a ‘con’ especially when you’re just starting.

While ceramic bearings don’t rust, the steel races in these units can still be affected by water. 

Further, ceramic can be susceptible to breaking under pressure. If you’re skating big gaps or stairs, this can be a problem. 

What Are The Brands to Look For?

It’s always helpful to know the most popular brands. Some of the big names in solid steel bearings are Bones Super Reds, Bronson G3 Bearings, and Andale Abec 5. 

In ceramic bearings, Bones Swiss Ceramics are the popular choice around the world.

When you’re starting, it helps to select what you need to get going. As you gain experience, you’ll naturally get curious about higher quality bearings.

What’s The Best Bet For A Total Beginner? Ready to get your first set of bearings? 

If so, go with the least expensive steel bearings, usually under $20.00. You’ll get great performance value. You won’t be sweating about spending extra cash. Most importantly, you’ll have what you need to get out and start enjoying using your board.

Remember this: you can’t make a mistake. Pick the lowest cost and get going. The most important thing is to start enjoying your skateboard. 

Lillian Mclean has been an avid skateboarder for the past 13 years and now wants to share her knowledge with others. You can find her at Shralpin Skateboarding, Instagram, and Twitter.

Skate Bearings Expert Lillian Mclean
Lillian Mclean
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