Skateboarding’s both a sport and an art. And like with any sport, the build of your equipment has a big impact on your performance.
Have you ever wondered what determines the speed and smoothness of a skater’s ride?
I certainly have, which is why I’ve taken a deep dive into learning all about what makes skateboards move the way they do.
What are Skateboard Bearings?
Skateboard bearings are the small, circular apparatuses located on either side of each wheel. They are the elements of a skateboard that allow the wheels to turn and determine how smoothly and fast they move. Skateboard bearings are universal in size and are interchangeable and upgradeable between boards.
How Exactly do Bearings Work
To understand how bearings make your skateboard move smoothly, deconstructing their design is a good idea. Each of the five parts that make up a bearing plays a vital role in keeping your wheels moving smoothly and freely.
First off, a bearing has an outer race and an inner race that fit into one another. In the space between these two rings are small ceramic or steel balls, usually seven of them, that travel in a circular motion.
To prevent the balls from hitting one another, they are separated by a retainer, which keeps them equidistant.
These four components are held in place by the bearing’s shield, which also keeps out dirt and debris. This is the outer part of the bearing that is always visible on a skateboard.
Bearings turn your skateboard wheels using simple but clever mechanics. Have you ever seen those cartoons of a boat being pulled forward across a layer of wooden poles?
Think of it like that.
As the balls inside a bearing start to roll, the outer race begins to rotate, with the inner race remaining stationary.
This creates a smooth and effortless motion that plays off against itself, moving your skateboard wheels forward.
What is the ABEC Rating System
In recent years, ABEC ratings have become a bit of a contentious issue in the skateboarding community.
The ABEC rating was initially developed to determine the speed and quality of ball bearings used in industrial machinery. The rating is measured in a range from 1 to 9, with 9 being the fastest and smoothest.
This concept has led some to believe that the higher the ABEC rating of your bearings, the faster your skateboard will be.
That being said, many skateboarding experts are not on board (excuse the pun) with this theory. Their conclusion is that force is exerted on bearings far differently by a human on a skateboard than by machine parts.
Therefore, a bearing’s ABEC rating should not impact the speed at which the wheels move.
The skateboarding world does agree, however, that the quality and material of your bearing’s impacts their speed rather than their ABEC rating.
What Makes a Skateboard Bearing Smooth and Fast
The secret to a smooth ride is in the seven small balls nestled inside the bearing. These are responsible for much of the motion quality of your wheels.
Broadly speaking, there are two categories of skateboard bearings, namely, steel and ceramic. Steel bearings are good quality and durable and usually standard issue when purchasing a deck.
Depending on how much exertion and pressure you place on your board, you may need to replace or clean them from time to time.
As you move, dirt and debris can collect inside your bearings, impacting the speed and smoothness of your ride.
While good-quality steel bearings are a fine choice, your first prize is ceramic bearings. They’re the best you can get for a smooth, fast ride.
Unlike steel, ceramic matter cannot be scratched and deflects dirt. It also cannot rust.
The combination of these factors results in a long-lasting bearing that doesn’t require as much maintenance as your steel or stainless-steel options.
While ceramic bearings do come in at a much higher price point, they’re worth it in the long run.
Fortunately, if you’re looking to upgrade over time, 95% of skateboard bearings are standard and can be interchanged between boards.
Frequently Asked Questions about What Skateboard Bearings are
How important is it to clean bearings?
To get the best possible performance from your skateboard, it’s crucial that you keep your bearings clean and oiled. After all, they are machine parts, so they require proper maintenanceto keep them functioning at their best.
How much do skateboard bearings cost?
This depends on the type of bearings you are purchasing. You can buy a set of eight steel bearings for as little as $15, while ceramic bearings can cost anything between $70 and $100.
What are bearing spacers?
Spacers are small, circular, usually steel parts that sit inside the wheel, on the axel, between the bearings. They assist with aligning the inner races of your bearings, which in turn reduces the possibility of friction or damage to your wheels.
It’s strange to think that such a small part of a skateboard can have such a big impact, but the right bearings are everything.
Perhaps not as vital for those just using their boards for cruising from point A to point B, but the moment you up your game, your bearings become something to consider seriously.
Of course, bearing maintenance is just as crucial to a good ride.