When I was younger, I mistakenly believed that bearings with higher ABEC ratings were faster; some of the riders at our neighborhood park used to boast about their Skateboard Bearing ABEC-Rating as well as how much faster they could now ride. Since ABEC has nothing to do with the caliber of your bearings, I assume that was some type of placebo effect.
The ABEC rating of skateboard bearings—does it really matter? The response has two parts and cannot be answered with a simple yes or no.
David from Skateceramics.com and I had a stimulating discussion on ABEC rating (as well as ceramic skateboard bearings). He read my tirade about why I believe pricey ceramic bearings are useless, so I questioned him about his opinion of ABEC as a professional. Let’s take a closer look at what ABEC actually implies and when it matters and when it doesn’t.
Skateboard Bearing ABEC-Rating Matters?
In relation to skateboarding, the ABEC rating has little significance. Although a skateboard bearing should be able to withstand impacts from all angles, ABEC rating refers to ball accuracy and tolerance. Side loading, impact resistance, or the distance between the balls and the races are not taken into account.
With the exception of downhill longboarders of course, you can only push and pump as hard as you are physically capable of doing. Most bearings, as long as they are high-quality and won’t melt from friction, can travel faster than a person can skateboard.
High RPMs are not required for skateboard bearings to operate. According to Bones, the average skateboarder won’t exceed 2000 RPMs, hence a high precision bearing is not required. But that doesn’t imply you can ignore ABEC ratings entirely.
Brands like Bones can get away with promoting their bearings as “Skate Rated,” which is convenient, which is the opposite side of the argument that this idea of the ABEC grade is not taken seriously. As far as we can tell, Bones offers bearings that are less accurate but handle impacts better.
In essence, you need precise races and a bearing that fits inside and out with extreme precision. More feedback or “feel” is transmitted from the wheels to your feet as a result.
But you can’t stop there because different materials expand/contract differently when heated/cooled. As a result, you can’t make a highly precise bearing with a silicon nitride ball and a steel race. Because of this, not all bearing manufacturers employ the ABEC rating.
The Meaning of ABEC for Skateboard Bearings
Ratings based on ABEC only take manufacturing precision for a ball into account. Therefore, the ball’s ABEC rating is meaningless if the races are off. It is important to consider the bearings and races as a whole.
A rating system known as ABEC is used to assess the performance, accuracy, and size of bearings. The American Bearing Manufacturers Association (ABMA) oversees the ABEC grading system, which stands for Annular Bearing Engineering Committee.
Bearings are categorized by the ABEC rating system using odd numbers: 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. The tolerances are tighter the higher the number. The efficiency and speed a bearing can manage are so reflected, but since these are not particularly relevant, they shouldn’t be the deciding factors.
For instance, you can find these inexpensive ABEC-9 bearings on Amazon, but I wouldn’t use them to olly a flight of stairs. Not the rotating speed, exactly. Basic bearings, like Bones Reds, aren’t the toughest, but they’re a nice, simple ABEC-9 bearing that’s reasonably bomb-proof, becomes faster with use, and isn’t overly expensive.
The following ISO 492 ratings correspond to the ABEC scale:
What About ABEC 11?
Although you occasionally stumble across them, David from SkateCeramics claims that there isn’t an official ABEC-11 rating. A bearing is described as being ABEC-11 if its precision rating is higher than that of an ABEC-9 bearing. Its manufacturer determines the criteria, which must all be higher than ABEC-9.
It happens frequently in manufacturing. For instance, the maximum rating with criteria for IP protection ratings for water and dust ingress (the US uses NEMA) is IP68, but you can buy an IP69K rated product for a special purpose (such deepwater subsea use, for example).
Factors That Make a Quality Skateboard Bearing
The majority of brands employ lightweight bearings, which expand at a rate different from that of steel and slow down under particular temperature circumstances. Your bearings will function considerably better if you live in a colder climate since they keep cooler and expand less.
The issue is that there aren’t many well-known brands that sell goods of excellent quality. In addition, they just highlight the convoluted marketing jargon without mentioning the bearing’s quality. After some research, I’m starting to think that pricey bearings aren’t the greatest ones for skateboards.
One of the most crucial qualities of a bearing is the ability to pop off the shields. It enables you to properly clean and relubricate them. Taking the seals (shields) out will result in your bearings becoming self-clearing if you reside in an area that is extremely dusty. The bearings and cage will come into touch with each other and cause friction if they are covered in dust and crud.
The Bronson Raw, which I previously reviewed, are excellent for individuals who require self-clearing bearing and don’t even include shields.
If you enjoy skating large features on skateboards, you need something practical. Cheaper bearings—really cheap bearings—often just shatter upon impact. Sure, less expensive brands like Mini Logo can withstand some damage, but they will likely give in to the effects sooner rather than later.
Price VS Quality
Bearings don’t need to cost more than $40 USD. Riding cheaper bearings that last six months is preferable to purchasing expensive bearings that hardly ever function for a year.
Your bearing will suffer more if you reside in a dry, dusty location. Bearings will eventually gather dust and debris, which will cause the squeaky skateboard noises. We get a lot of rain here, and after two months, one of our local skaters managed to damage his Bones Reds. Bearings can either be cleaned and relubricated or you can just buy a new set.
Sort of correlates with impact, but let’s delve a little more into this. You don’t need expensive bearings if you like to drive around town. You should be fine if you just get a set of Zealous bearings. Despite the fact that they are not very pricey, ignore their ceramics.
Cheap bearings will function just fine for basic skateboarding on a little ramp or carving bowls. Standard Bronson G2s or Reds will do just well; there is no need for Bones Super Swiss or Super Reds.
Large-feature skaters on the streets should obtain something that can withstand hits better. Better options include Bones Super Swiss or Bronson G3s due of how well they handle impacts. Bearings with a reduced price tag can still be taken into consideration even then.
The key to a good skateboard bearing is a balance between affordability and quality, so ABEC is both important and irrelevant.
The performance or quality of bearings isn’t always indicated by the ABEC rating system. Cheap bearings that you frequently see on completes function worse than ones with lower ABEC grades. It is not a good idea to choose skateboard bearings only based on their ABEC rating.
Think about bearings that are impact-resistant and have a long lifespan. A good skateboard bearing should not only spin quickly but also be able to handle side loading and be made of high-quality materials.