What are the best and fastest bearings? The question skaters have been arguing about for years. There are just so many factors to consider…. Swiss, ceramic, ABEC ratings, spacers… it’s overwhelming! I’ve skated on and off for the past ten years and I’m writing this buyer’s guide to finally set the record straight based on both personal experience and facts.
Let’s get started now!
Best Bearing Brands
When looking for your next set of bearings you’ve probably found yourself seeing one particular brand over and over…Bones Bearings. Bones Bearings has been around for decades and they focus solely on bearings. They have bearings for every price point and skill level. While Bones is definitely the biggest and most known bearing company, they are not necessarily the best. In the past few years, many brands such as VXB, Dark Wolf, Yellow Jacket, Zealous, and NEAL have emerged as serious contenders.
The truth is, most bearings are very similar. Sure some more expensive Swiss pairs might be slightly better, but it’s a pretty slight difference when compared to the huge difference in price. Keep that simple fact in mind who reading through the “Top 10” list below and deciding on a set to purchase.
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Ceramic bearings are typically the highest-end option. There are typically 9 balls encased in a ceramic bearing instead of 7 or 8 in most steel bearings. The ceramic balls in the bearings are lighter, stronger, more durable, and much more dirt resistant than the other options available. Ceramic bearings are less likely to expand due to friction, so they tend to be much faster and smoother than steel bearings and rarely (if ever) require lube or maintenance. The downside to all these great features is that ceramic skateboard bearings are typically much more expensive (triple or quadruple the cost!) when compared to other bearing materials.
Steel bearings are the industry standard for skateboards and are also commonly used in many other industries (especially aerospace). There are typically 7-8 balls per bearing and they have really decreased in price in recent years due to increased technology and manufacturing capabilities. Unlike ceramic, steel bearings will swell when heated and caused excess friction. It’s very important to take proper care of steel bearings to ensure a long lifespan and a high level of performance. See “Bearing Maintenance”…
Where Were They Made?
These days it seems like almost everything is made in China, and bearings are no exception. Chinese bearings have the reputation of being a low cost, low-quality option. I personally feel this has improved greatly and in now not really a big issue. Bones Reds, one of the most popular low-cost bearings on the market today, are made in China and it’s hard to find anything but positive reviews of them.
First popularized by George Powell, founder of Bones Bearings and Powell Skateboards, when he began working closely with Swiss suppliers create the first bearings designed specifically for skateboarding. Before this point may bearings being used were actually industrial grade bearings made for manufacturing. Due to marketing and the never-before-seen performance of these bearings, “Swiss”-grade bearings became known for incredible quality (and a high price). Today, Swiss bearings are still known as the best, however, you should be careful as some companies have begun calling their bearings “Swiss” despite being made in China.
Unfortunately, due to the high cost of labor not many bearings are produced in the United States anymore. The general trend has been that premium bearings are being made in Switzerland, whereas all budget bearings are being cheaply mass-produced in China.
Bearing Break-in Period
Bearings are the only skateboard part that people may prefer an already used pair instead of buying new. This is because, like wine, bearings get better with age. As bearings get “broken in” friction will lessen between the balls as the sides of the casing slightly wear down and allow the bearings to spin faster. Some people notice more of a difference between properly “broken in” bearings and bearings fresh out of the box. I personally don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but I used to have a friend that whenever he got new bearings he would ride his skateboard on a treadmill on high speed. It all comes down to preference, but don’t get discouraged if your brand new bearings aren’t as fast and smooth as you hoped. Give them some time to break in.
ABEC (Annual Bearing Engineering Committee) Ratings
ABEC rating is a touchy subject when it comes to skateboard bearings. ABEC rating is the industrial industry standard for ball bearing precision. The higher the bearing is rated the more precise and efficient the balls inside are and the lower the tolerance for error is. Typically, high ABEC graded equipment is used in important, high-value products like spaceships and medical devices.
Lower rated ABEC bearings are usually for less precise products like fishing reels and skateboards. Many skateboarders feel as though they can notice a difference in higher-rated bearings in terms of speed in performance and companies definitely try to market based on this thinking. However such precision and speeds that are measured by the ABEC to rate the bearing are much, much, faster and precession than skateboard bearings need to be.
Skateboarding is one of the lowest performance thresholds for bearings compared to other uses so at a scientific level ABEC bearing ratings don’t really apply to skateboards. However, due to the emphasis that companies place on this rating and antidotal experiences from skateboarders I know, I decided to break down each rating and break down what it means for skateboard bearings (in theory).
The lowest level of precision, and usually the cheapest on the market. Many companies stay away from selling ABEC 1’s just due to connotation with poor quality. However, as I discussed previously, ABEC 1’s may actually be perfect for skateboarding and be only slightly slower than higher-rated bearings at a much lower price.
Typically the lowest-rated bearing you find being sold for skateboards, usually marketed as the budget bearing or low-cost option.
The standard ABEC ratings found on the market today, typically moderately smooth and has decent performance.
ABEC 7’s are definitely premium bearings that are known for their speed, smoothness, and long life spans.
ABEC 9’s used to be quite rare, but are becoming increasingly popular in recent years in the race to the highest ABEC ratings.
Although a few companies may advertise it, there technically is no ABEC rating above 9. I would be wary of companies advertising such a high rating as it highlights their willingness to lie and deceive the consumer.
The standardized size for bearings across virtually all industries is size 608. Standard 608 dimensions are 8mm x 22mm x 7mm and these are the bearings that are measured based on precision metrics in the ABEC rating scale discussed previously. Every bearing listed in this article is this size and its by far the best and most common in skateboards today. Bearings will fit all skateboard wheels, regardless of diameter.
Other bearing types and sizes including y-bearings, mini bearings, and roller bearings do exist however they are not used in skateboards and aren’t relevant to the context of this article.
Prices vary wildly between brands, ABEC ratings, materials, and more. A typical range for a set of beginner bearings is $5-$15 with more advanced sets reaching prices over $100. The benefit to the higher end bearings is that they tend to outlast the cheaper pairs by many multiples. So in effect, an $80 pair of swiss ceramic bearings is a much better deal overall if they outlast 4 sets of cheaper $20 Chinese steel bearings.
Bearing Shields & Spacers & Speed Washers
Bearing shields are typically plastic covers that encase the steel/ceramic balls within the inner and outer ring of the bearing. The main function of bearing shields is to stop dirt, water, and grime from interfering with the movement of the balls and increase the lifespan of the bearings. Many skaters chose to remove these shields with a knife to expose the balls. While this may look cool and make the bearings sound better, it decreases the durability and is not recommended if you are looking for peak performance and durability.
Spacers are metal cylinders that are placed inside the wheel, between two bearings to spread the weight distribution across the entire. Spacers are generally optional and are only mainly used by advanced skater’s who frequently have hard landings that could break bearings if all the force is focused on them. Most people shouldn’t worry much about spacers, but if they come with your bearing set, you might as well use them.
Speed washers are thin metal rings that are installed between the nut on the axle of skateboard trucks and a wheel. The function of speed washers is that reduce the amount of friction between the bearing and the axle nut. This allows the wheel to spin faster and more freely, however, speed washers are optional.
There are a variety of tools and products available to increase the efficiency and longevity of skateboard bearings. None of the products are essential, however, they can have a significant positive impact on bearings performance.
Bearing lube helps reduce friction between balls inside the bearing and can sometimes even remove dirt. Lube can also help fix squeaking or loud bearings.
Bearing Cleaner Kit
Bearing cleaning kits typically include an alcohol solution, a metal, rod, and a lubricant solution. The cleaning process involves placing all bearings on the rod, then soaking the rod and bearings for a period of time in an alcoholic solution to clean and remove dirt. Finally, bearings are removed from the cleaning solution, air-dried and then dipped into the lubricant solution to complete the process. Bearing kits are pretty cheap, and cleaning your bearings just once or twice a year can have a dramatic effect on prolonging the life span of your bearings.
Bearing Removal Tools
Bearing removal tools allow you to easily pop bearing out of wheels without damaging the truck axle, wheel, or bearings. Many multifunctional skate tools have a bearing removal component built into them, although you can purchase a stand-alone bearing remover if you prefer.
Best Skateboard Bearings Reviews
Hands down the best skateboard bearings on the market. They are used by the majority of professionals, and laster for years before losing speed. They are not cheap but are well worth it for those who want the best that money can buy. There’s not much more to say, as the quality and history of these bearings speak for itself. They also come with a comprehensive lifetime warranty against defects so you can purchase with confidence.
Before the Reds line of bearings, Bones Super Swiss were the original premium quality skateboard bearings. Not much has changed, these Swiss-made precision bearings are still a cornerstone of the industry and are the favorites of many professionals. If you’re looking for a classic, simple, and fast bearing set, you can’t go wrong with Bones Super Swiss.
Yellow Jacket is definitely an up incoming bearing brand that is targeting Bones Reds. While these are slightly faster, they don’t have the same history of quality and lifetime warranty as Bones. Featuring ceramic bearings with Titanium coatings, these pre-lubricated bearings offer you speed comparable to any bearings on the market, and long-term durability that is often something grasped at but never attained. While the name is not as “household” as Bones, these bearings offer a great option and brand alternative for beginner and intermediate skaters.
In my opinion, these are and have been the best beginner bearings on the market for the past 10 years. They are high quality and durable, as all Bones products are known to be, and are available at a super low price. Then as you get better and want faster and better bearings you can “climb the ladder” to the higher end Bones products. You really can’t go wrong with Reds, and it’s always the starting point that I recommend.
If you looking for something slightly faster and more durable than the standard Bones Reds, this is the set for you. Bones Super Reds are significantly faster than the standard Reds and for that reason are loved by longboarders. They are a great combination of price, speed, and quality and are recommended for intermediate skater’s or beginners who want their skateboard to last for the long term.
The ceramic version is the most recent addition and to the iconic Bones Reds family. The Ceramic Reds are much faster, smoother, and more durable than any other Bones Reds product. These are truly pro-level bearings made to withstand any amount of abuse that comes with learning new tricks. If I was going to put together a skateboard today, this is the set I would buy. The only higher quality bearing available on the market today are the Bones Swiss Ceramics, and even that is just a marginal difference due to production location. The downside is the higher price, but for something that will last many years, it might be worth the extra pain!
Want to try ceramic bearings but don’t have the money for Bones? You may want to check these out. Some people, even prefer these to Bones. Anyway, these are the quality you’d expect from a ceramic bearing, but with a much lower price tag and commitment.
Simple, no-frills quality bearings for a rock bottom price. A great alternative to Bones Reds if you want to save a few dollars. Although I’ll warn you to be careful which sellers you buy from, as there have been reports of people receiving only one bearing, rather than a set of 8. These are ABEC-1 and are made of steel. They won’t last forever, but at $10, can you really go wrong?
Not surprisingly, these bearings are good for a multitude of devices like skateboards, longboards, inline skates, rollerblades and more! The low price may betray the quality, but unless you’re ultra hardcore, I’d recommend these for the excellent price and reasonable rating. We have not personally tried these bearings but did as much research as we could online. Radeckal claims to have done head-to-head tests of these bearings against leading competitors only to find these are much faster and longer-lasting than other brands. Considering the not-so-hefty price tag of $12, we find that hard to believe, but for $12, we also think they are a good deal for what they offer. And, if I’m wrong about the faster/longer issue, so much the better!!
Here’s a very good set of Abec-9 rated bearings. These Heady Shake premium 608RS Titanium bearings are exceptionally smooth and they’re packed in a specialized lubricant to maximize their performance. These premium bearings are good for inline skates, roller skates, longboards, kick scooter and of course skateboards! The money-back warranty is a great addition to Heady Shake’s already premium offering.
They feature a double strengthened nylon retainer and if you know how to compare this statistic, its useful Temperature Range is -320°F To +750°F.
Very impressive set with quality that rivals Bones Super Swiss at half the cost. Definitely, something to look into if you want a very fast and durable set at a reasonable price. One interesting thing about this specific set compared to the rest of the industry is that instead of having bearing shields these bearings leave the balls exposed which they claim eliminates friction.
Spitfire is one of the leaders in the skateboard wheel industry, and recently they have begun expanding into producing different parts. They did not skimp on quality with these bearings, and they are very comparable to some of the lower end Bones options. A great overall set of bearings if you are a fan of Spitfire or if you want to try something besides Bones for a change.
P. S. DIDN’T FIND A SET YOU LIKE? CHECK OUT MORE SKATEBOARD BEARINGS HERE!