Even newly enthusiastic longboarders have heard of how important bearings are for speed, precision and flexibility of maneuvers.
Those who have done a bit of research about the parts that go into a longboard, probably even have an idea of how bearings look and maybe even some clue as to what differs really good bearings from really poor ones.
However, picking the best longboard bearings usually presents quite a challenge.
In order to do that, every lover of this extreme sport should first have an idea of what bearings are, generally speaking.
A bearing is a machine that aids certain types of motion, depending on its purpose, most commonly it can facilitate a motion, minimize friction or determine a motion’s direction.
However, the most important function of a bearing is to reduce friction.
The word “bearing” is derived from the verb “to bear”, as it allows one part to support another. There are different types of bearings such as plain bearings, rolling bearings, jewel bearings, fluid bearings, magnetic bearings and flexure ones.
As one might presuppose, bearings used for skateboarding and longboarding are from the rolling type, more specifically ball bearings.
They are called that because they are shaped in the form of a ring, with balls inside. Most commonly, ball bearings are constructed out of 5 parts – shield, inner race, balls (usually 7), retainer and outer race.
When it comes to longboarding, two bearings go in each wheel (they are usually sold in sets of eight) and without their presence this extreme sport would be impossible.
That is due to the fact that bearings are what makes wheels turn and, obviously enough, nothing can happen without that.
Despite the fact that finding the best longboard bearings for every rider’s personal style might present to be a challenge, the good news is that all bearings are standard in size, which means that they fit all skateboard and longboard wheels.
However, there are a number of factors that result in a good bearing and should be considered.
One of them is the material that bearings are made of, which is usually steel that can vary in quality. Recently some companies have been making ceramic bearings, which are slightly on the costly side, but make up for that in quality, as they are much more durable, need lower maintenance, produce very little friction, speed up faster, last longer and do not expand as a result of heat.
Bearings might look somewhat similar from the outside, especially to riders who are just now dipping their toe in the vast longboarding pool.
Nonetheless, their actual characteristics can greatly differ, depending on the quality of the material they are made out of, the sealing and the inner balls.
As the main purpose of bearings is to minimize friction and thus increase speed and smoothness, the general rule is that the better quality the bearings, the more enjoyable the longboarding experience.
Therefore it is crucial to remember that the space between the inner and outer race must be shaped in a manner which provides the least amount of friction.
This is of great importance for every motion executed with a longboard. Those motions fall under three general categories – moving up and down, left to right, making twists and turns.
All this is well and good in theory, but most people have a hard time ones they get to actually picking the top bearings for themselves.
As there is an enormous amount of options for bearings, which can often turn the purchase into a nightmarish debacle, it is a good thing that there are some guidelines to help longboarders in their choice.
The most popular aid for this trouble is looking into the ABEC ratings. Since many types of bearings are being produced, the industry has decided that a uniform scale is needed to help the customers in their endeavor.
Consequently the ABEC scale was accepted by the Annular Bearing Engineering Committee. This scale is simply a measure of the tolerance quality in a bearing, which is the space allowed between the balls and the outer and inner races.
Generally speaking, a tighter tolerance, or a more narrow space between the balls and the races, will result in less friction and thus higher speeds. The ABEC rating has five classes: 1,3,5,7 and 9, with 1 indicating the lowest precision, efficiency and speed capabilities.
Even though this scale is a parameter that could really help when trying to choose the bearings, it is important to remember that there are other significant aspects of bearings. Nevertheless, choosing bearings that have a higher rating improves chances for quality and fast speed, as they indicate a higher RPM (revolutions per minute).
The NordiK Supersonic ABEC 7
Bearings are a popular choice, as they have built in spacers, which allow the wheels to always be in alignment and spin as fast and long as possible by cutting down the vibration and friction. What is more, the rattling that most bearings do is eliminated.
The Penny Skateboard ABEC 7 Bearings
Which are perfect for smooth riding on various terrains.
The ABEC scale is certainly a helpful tool, however, sometimes the best longboard bearings do not feature an ABEC rating. Some companies have chosen to use their own ratings, as the ABEC overlooks some very important aspects of longboard bearings.
In order for the bearings to perform perfectly, some considerations are crucial – the material they are made out of, shape of the race, lubrication and friction with different surfaces.
Unfortunately, since the ABEC does not take into account these parameters, sometimes bearings with a rating of 3 might function better than ones with a rating of 5 or even 7.
Consequently, some companies famous for their high quality products, Like Bones Bearings, relay on their own classifications.
Bones Bearings is, by far, one of the very best manufacturers whose products are being widely used by both amateur and professional longboarders. A great choice is the Bones Reds Ceramics Skateboard Bearings.
The Reds series by Bones
The Reds series by Bones are probably some of the most popular bearings ever produced and these specific ones are not only ceramic, but are also pre-lubricated with a racing lubricant and feature high speed nylon ball retainer for greater strength and speed.
Another distinguished option are the Bones Swiss Ceramics Skateboard Bearings, which, according to the company itself, are the best the is out there. They are lighter, accelerate much faster than regular bearings, resist dirt and moisture better and thus last longer.
The Bones Original Swiss Skateboard Bearings
Last but not least, the Bones Original Swiss Skateboard Bearings are an amazing option. These bearings are truly legendary in the world of longboarding due to their classical appeal an undeniably high quality preferred by many professionals.
There are practically endless options for bearings out there and while all of that abundance can be good, it can also make choosing the best bearings a very difficult task.
What is essential to remember, is that this is one of the most important parts of a longboard, so it should never be overlooked. Also, even though it might seem as though more expensive bearings are not worth it, they are actually more practical, even financially, as they last much longer and will enhance the riding experience tremendously.
The bearings covered in this article are guaranteed to make for a special longboarding experience no matter what the riding style.
What are your favorite longboard bearings? Comment below!