Which Bearings should I use in my Inline Skate Wheels?
Most Skate bearings whether it be for Inline skates, Skateboards, Roller Skates or Scooters will be the same demotions and will fit in most Inline skating wheels. These typically have an 8mm hole in the middle which is the usual dimension for the axles that will hold the wheels onto your frames. There are some exceptions like some kids skates and the K2 skates which use 6mm axles so below we will explain the difference for you. They key differences between bearings will mainly be the materials used. Some will be stringer than others and some will be faster than others. On this page we will explain the differences between each type of bearing and let you know which would be best for each discipline of inline skating.
What does the difference between ABEC 5 bearings ABEC 9 bearings?
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.
Shielded vs Sealed vs Open Bearings
Most bearings have covers on at least one side to protect the balls inside. If you can see the balls inside without removing any parts then those bearings will be open bearings. At Slicks we don’t usually stock any open bearings they will collect too much dirt and debris inside. Sealed bearings have a removable rubber or plastic shield to protect the balls inside. This makes it possible for you to clean the inside of the bearings to remove debris and to lubricate them when they need it. Shielded bearings can not be opened in anyway as the shields will be made of metal and will be firmly attached to the sides of the bearing.
Is it better to have sealed or shielded bearings?
If you are an aggressive or urban skater who needs a bearing to be super strong and durable then Shielded bearings are the one for you. The shields at both end make the bearing much stronger than one with a plastic or rubber seal.
If you are a speed skater who needs the bearings to be super fast with less resistance or if you are a slalom skater who needs them to be as light as possible then sealed bearings may be a better option for you.
Should I oil my skate bearings?
Bearings come with grease inside which allows the balls to move inside the bearing freely with little friction. This grease starts out thick when the bearings are brand new and then thins as you use them. This is why bearings don’t spin too fast when you first put them in brand new. Get yourself rolling down a big hill first and then spin them to see them roll more freely. If you’re bearings get wet and dirty, this can remove some of the grease from them. After cleaning your open or sealed bearings you can add some grease to help get them rolling fast again. Check out the Bones Speed Cream, which can be a great option here.
Only use a small amount as if you have too much grease, your bearings will collect more dirt and dust.
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. Ceramic balls are more round, weigh less, are stronger, and smoother than steel balls. This means less friction so they will not loose as much energy whilst rolling. The material also takes away most of the risk of your bearings seizing when they get exposed to water as ceramic does not rust.
Which bearings are best for Inline Skating?
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!
My Favourite Bearings
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. These bearings are only £35.99
I hope these words help you when choosing your next set of bearings. You can check out our range of bearings here.