Skateboard Bearings Explained
All skateboard wheels are mounted on your truck axle with bearings, so the right skateboard bearings are an integral part of any setup. Learning the inner workings of a bearing will help any rider better understanding how their board functions while under their feet.
All skateboard bearings are made of of the same basic parts: balls, retainers, shields, lubricant and the outer and inner rings.
There are anywhere from 5-7 balls inside a skate bearing. These balls are what allow the bearing case to rotate and in turn allow your wheels to spin! Standard skateboard bearings are 608 stainless steel with an 8mm inner diameter. This will fit any standard skate truck axle.
Ceramic balls claim to be higher performance than steel balls.
Bearing shields protect the interior of your bearings from dirt, water and all the other junk you’ll encounter while skating. This keeps your wheels spinning with no interruption. Shields are usually removable to allow for cleaning of and maintainance of the inner parts of the bearing like the balls and retainer. Keeping your bearings clean is crucial! Shields are usually made of steel or softer nylon rubber.
Ball retainers hold the balls of the bearing in place and ensure proper spacing is maintained. Keep your retainers clean, along with the other components in your bearings, and you’ll get more life out of them as well as better performance. Retainers are often also referred to as cages or crowns.
Oil, grease and “speed cream” are the most commonly used lubricants. Lubricant will keep your ball bearings rolling smoothly. Riding your bearings without any lubricant at all can cause them to function improperly and even seize up during use. Not fun!
Inner and Outer Rings
The inner and outer rings encase the bearings, retainer and lubricant we’ve already discussed. The inner ring is the portion of the bearing that will contact the axle of the skateboard truck.
Many choose to purchase their skateboard bearings based on the ABEC ratings of the bearings in question but in reality this number has little to do with how well your bearings will perform. Technically, ABEC ratings refer to established standards in size and tolerance as they relate to other components. Translation? The ABEC rating of your skateboard bearings will not affect the speed, durability, cleanliness or quality of your bearings.
Want to learn more? ABEC Ratings Explained
Breaking in Bearings
Many skaters refer to bearings as having a “break-in” period. As skate bearings are used, over time the balls will wear small channels within the interior of the races (rings). This changes the surface contact between the balls and the race which in turn leads to faster roll speed and more consistent performance. If you just bought new bearings, give them time! You can expect them to be in their prime a week or two of riding.
- Clean your bearings! Try something like a Bones Cleaning Kit to make this process simple and fast.
- ABEC ratings do not relate to how well your bearings will perform.