Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Makes a Really Good Bearing

Hello My Friends,

Like most skaters many of you may be wondering what really makes a bearing worth it. How do I know if my bearings are going to be fast, durable, and glide effortlessly? Will my bearings withstand the stress of skating every single day? Is the ABEC rating of my bearing important? How does this rating affect my ride?

First let’s talk about the ABEC rating of a bearing because I feel that this is where the most people get tripped up. If you have ever done research on bearings you might know that ABEC is an acronym that stands for Annular Bearing Engineering Committee, which is the group of really smart guys who placed our current standards on bearings for industrial purposes. The ABEC scale starts at 1 and counts by odd numbers up to 9. These numbers indicate what the bearings can tolerate and how precisely they are made but NOT necessarily how fast they are. Which is unfortunately something that many companies try to imply when they sell bearings. These companies make it appear as though a more expensive ABEC 7 bearing will have you rolling faster than an ABEC 3 bearing, which isn’t the case.

To put it into a more usable set of terms… Let’s say you have a 75mm skateboard wheel with a set of ABEC 1 bearings in it, which is the lowest ABEC rating. Well the maximum number of RPMs, or rotations per minute, that this bearing can safely hit is 32,000 RPM. With a few quick calculations you can find that the max speed of this bearing is about 88miles per hour. Which is faster than the current work record on a skateboard. Which means in theory an ABEC 1 bearing is more than adequate for any skater, and if that’s the case, why don’t we all rock super cheap $2 ABEC 1 bearings?

This comes down to a difference in what a bearing is used for and what it was intended for. Some bearings, like most ABEC rated bearings are not intended to be skated on. They are meant run in high quality machinery that spins at an insanely fast speed. People who use them in skateboards put their bearings through a whole mess of stresses which ABEC rated bearings weren’t designed to handle.

Bearings meant to be skated on are built to withstand not just rotational stress but also lateral stress (stress coming from the sides) which is crucial when it comes to powerslides. In addition, they are also more likely to be built to withstand the constant stress of flip-tricks and aggressive force changes. Which means that any bearing built to be ridden by serious skaters will last you longer than a bearing that simply has a high ABEC rating.

But what makes a bearing faster than others? Having a maximum high rotational speed is not the factor that is going to make your bearings feel fast, it is having very little resistance in your bearings. This allows the bearing to spin more freely and give you more glide per push and help you pick up speed faster. The best way to lower the resistance in a bearing is to make sure it is properly lubricated. When lubricating a skateboard bearing be sure to use lubricants that meant for skateboard bearings because they last the longest and tend to be more resistant to the weather.

Therefore, I recommend that when you’re looking for a new set of bearings you choose a set not based on their ABEC rating system, which has very little relevance for a skateboarder since we don’t normally exceed 88 miles per hour, but a set that has a good reputation with other skateboarders. I like to call these bearings “rider rated,” as opposed to ABEC rated, and these bearing are generally designed with a skater in mind. They are more durable, have a great glide with each push, and very little resistance when lubricated properly. I hope you use this information wisely.

Stay Awesome,
Wayne Capps