Bearings. Those round metal things that go inside your wheel and make it spin. Simple right? So why do we have so many options to choose from?
Bearings can have different ratings, for example you may find a bearing rated as ABEC 1, ABEC 7, Twincam, SG9, etc. What do all these letters and numbers mean, and what is best for each discipline of skating? Let’s dive straight into it and find out which bearing is best for you.
Bearings are used in all walks of life and there are many different types. The specific type of bearing skaters use are 608 ball bearings. 608 determines the size of the hole in the bearing, which is 8mm to suit the 8mm axel on 90% of skates on the market today.
Now we have established what type of bearing we need for skating we next need to have a look at the ratings and the companies producing them.
The ABEC rating is the scale used to determine the speed of the bearing when tested at high speeds. For example, ABEC 1 is the slowest and ABEC 9 is considered the fastest. Now that doesn’t mean that an ABEC 9 bearing will be better than an ABEC 7 bearing as the ABEC rating does not reflect how strong or the quality of materials used in the bearing construction. Also, the higher the rating, the higher the cost.
For example you could buy a cheap set of ABEC 7s made by a "no name" brand and a more expensive set of ABEC 5's from a "big brand". It's highly likely the ABEC 5's will be smoother, faster and last longer than the cheaper ABEC 7s. It's generally a case of you get what you pay for, so if you see a set of sixteen ABEC 9s for £15, chances are they won't be great!
Some bearing brands use their own rating system; Rollerblade, uses a SG1 to SG9 rating system, TwinCam uses its own "ILQ" (InLine Qualified) rating system and Bones has its own "Skate Rated" system.
Renowned Bones Bearings conducted research on which bearing types would be best for skating and discovered what they were looking for in Switzerland, the Swiss rated bearings, and are considered one of the highest quality bearings on the market.
“These bearings had several very unique pieces of technology that allowed them to function at a level never seen before. He called these bearings “Bones Swiss” and the name stuck.” — Carly Quick, Devaskation
Swiss bearings are a much better designed bearing than most other bearings and a great choice for professionals and skaters who skate at a high level.
Finally we have Ceramic bearings. Ceramic allows the components to move much smoother allowing for a faster and smoother ride. The material also takes away most of the risk of your bearings seizing when they get exposed to water. Again, ceramics are considered the miracle of quality bearings.
So which bearing?
So now that we have all those numbers and letters out the way, how do we tell exactly which bearing to choose for our own type of skating. As someone who skates every single day, doing high impact aggressive skating, as well as commuting to work and using my skates to provide lessons, I need a reliable bearing. I need something strong so it doesn’t explode under my feet when I land from a high jump.
In the shop I usually recommend beginner and recreational skaters to go for something cheaper as they wouldn’t need something as strong as an aggressive skater. If you are not landing from height and skating every single day at a high level then a simple budget bearing will probably do you fine but it is recommended to go for an established company so you know you can skate safely. Let’s not put fidget spinner bearings in our skates…
Speed skaters are looking for the fastest and smoothest ride possible and usually look for ceramic or Swiss bearings with as little friction as possible.
Considering bearings have a huge effect on the speed and feeling of your ride, going for something decent will really benefit your everyday skating. To summarise we would suggest that when buying a set of sixteen bearings spend at least £20, although stretching to the £30 to £40 price range will give you a noticeable jump up in quality. If you want to get some bearings which should greatly improve most stock setups then the £50 to £70 price point will get you an excellent set of bearings which would be good enough to keep experienced skaters happy!
Top of the range high end bearings start from around £100 for a set of 16 and go right up to £300. If you are serious about speed and are willing to look after your bearings then it could be worth considering a top of the range set but only if they fall within your budget!
As a freeskate/aggressive skater who skates at skate parks and through the traffic on the streets, I usually look for the strongest bearings possible. There have been times where I have had a stock ABEC bearing from some skates and they have exploded under my feet after landing from heights of 5 feet or more.
My favourite bearings so far have been the FR Twincam MW9 Titalium Freeride Bearings. Simply because of how long they lasted and how much I put them through. These bearings have seen around ten months of skating in the wet, sand, dirt, landing from many heights and travelling many miles. They are still rolling strong today and have plenty of life left.
I hope these words help when choosing your next set of bearings. You can check out our range of bearings here.