best longboard bearings

Best Longboard Bearings 2017

Longboard Bearings sit inside the core of each wheel, sometimes with spacers and speed washers flanking them. The purpose of the bearing is to sit inside the wheel, connecting the wheel to the axis, and in so doing allowing the full 360-degree turn of the wheel on the axis to move the longboard forward (or back).

Bearings are made up of several parts fitted together internally which work in concert with each other to perform the function of allowing the balls inside the bearing to contribute to the wheel spinning action. This is part of what allows the wheel to turn while connected through the axis to the longboard to propel the rider safely down the road.

Assembled longboards come with their own set of bearings (two per wheel). Depending on the longboard brand, model, and pricing, the bearings may be made by a premium manufacturer, or they could have no brand at all. Branded bearings tend to perform better due to quality materials, less friction during use, and slick lubricants applied.

Bearings must be maintained through regular maintenance to ensure best operational performance. Dirty bearings or a lack of lubrication (or both) will cause the wheel to turn less efficiently regardless of the pushing-off leg strength of the rider because the added friction prevents the wheel turning as fast as it should.

What you need to know

The Good

Bearings are an essential part that fits inside the wheels and helps them rotate faster.

Quality bearings from brand name manufacturers using premium materials improve performance rather than only looking flashy.

Proper, regular maintenance of bearings extends their useful life and reduces their cost of ownership.

Non-branded bearings can easily be replaced with higher quality ones after buying a cheaper longboard.

Distinctive outer colors are used with many bearings that makes the wheels look more attractive.

The Bad

Despite having protective layers to avoid a buildup of dirt, bearings still manage to get dirty and require regular cleaning. The process of dismantling, cleaning, drying out, lubricating, reassembling, and re-fitting each bearing is time-consuming and messy.

There are not many good brands of bearings to choose from.

Bearings represent an additional cost for longboarders to bear if they decide to replace a set of them or replace sub-standard ones from a basic board for something better.

Longboard Bearings Features & Benefits

Bearings fit neatly inside each wheel, allowing the axle to slide through the inner ring and rotate. This component is a key one that helps the wheels on the longboard to turn and without it, the rider couldn’t move forward or back on their board.

A quality set of bearings will last quite a while, and regular maintenance of a set of bearings adds months or years to their useful life before they need to be replaced. Replacing a set of bearings is simply a matter of popping out the old bearings from the wheel and slipping in a new set.

Our 4 Best Longboard Bearings Recommendations in 2017

SCSK8 ABEC 9 Longboard Bearings ReviewSCSK8 ABEC 9 Longboard Bearings Review

The SCSK8 ABEC 9 Bearings Skateboard Deck Longboard Red Silver 1 set of 8 is an inexpensive, highly-rated bearing replacement.

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The chrome steel nylon cage encasing the steel balls is lighter than some other elements. Lubrication is also supplied and double-sealed 608 RS rubber seals help to keep the lube in and the dirt out.

The ABEC 9 rating is high for fast speeds and very low friction levels. There is sometimes too much oil lubrication included out of the box, but this can be reduced by opening up the bearing where needed.

Being a standardized size, these bearings fit both longboards and skateboards. The product does not include spacers which would have to be purchased separately if they’re needed (usually only required by downhill racers or people who ride fast most of the time).

Avid longboarders run the SCSK8 company. They design their products that they’d like to use themselves.

Durability9.5
Weight9.5
Appearance9
Speed10
Price10

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SupaFly Alpha LongBoard Bearings ReviewSupaFly Alpha LongBoard Bearings Review

The SupaFly Alpha Aggressive Skateboard LongBoard Roller Skate Bearings are a high-quality steel bearing product.

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The bearings are available in Alpha Gold, Alpha Black, and Phoenix colors providing riders with a choice not usually afforded them in the board bearings market. The product has a strong nylon cage to keep the GCR15 steel ball bearings positioned correctly during use. There is low friction and limited noise during use when well lubricated. The bearing is gold plated to prevent early rust or corrosive buildup. The rubber shield used with this bearing is easy to remove, clean, and replace. The bearings have also been heat treated to ensure that they can stand up to the elements.

The ABEC rating is 9 for low friction and fast speeds during use.

This set of gold-plated bearings is packaged in a metal carrying tin with packing foam between each product protecting it from damage during transit.

Durability9.5
Weight9.5
Appearance9
Speed10
Price10

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Sector 9 Ceramic Bearings ReviewSector 9 Ceramic Bearings Review

The Sector 9 Ceramic Bearings are a top of the line product for your longboard.

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These are ceramic bearings which have ceramic ball bearings inside creating less friction than steel ones. They do not generate as much heat even during high speed operation and any heat dissipates quickly without the ceramic material heating up which steel is likely to do far more.

Eight bearings, with spacers supplied for each bearing, is contained in the box. The bearings themselves are usually yellow or black on the outside, with a foam interior to protect from dirt and debris getting inside each bearing. Far less maintenance is required for these ceramic bearings because the seals are superior to those possible with steel bearings. As such, fewer cleaning products are needed and infrequent maintenance is required too.

These bearings are designed to be race grade and are most suitable for downhill longboarding riders who want the fastest possible speed down the mountainside/hillside with as little friction and downtime maintenance as possible.

Ceramic bearings are always several times the cost of steel ones. However, for serious downhill racers, there isn’t really another great choice.

Sector 9 is a complete producer of every type of longboard-related products and accessories one could wish for. Their product list includes bearings, longboards, skateboards, gloves, washers, caps, and more.

Durability9.5
Weight9.5
Appearance9
Speed10
Price10

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Magic ‘Shroom Longboard Bearings ReviewMagic 'Shroom Longboard Bearings Review

The Magic ‘Shroom Longboard/Skateboard Bearings are green colored products that will stand out.

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These 8mm bearings fit the wheels on longboards that don’t use a larger 10mm axle. The bearings come with built in spacers, so they don’t need to be purchased separately with this product to be ready for racing. The inclusion of spacers also ensures perfect alignment which helps with performing slides on downhill races. Indeed, Magic’s Racing Oil has been applied to get you started.

The dual green rubber shields provide a solid seal to prevent dirt from easily getting inside the toughened nylon cage where the steel bearings are housed. The speed rings are also well made too.

These bearings are extremely fast so racers will be happy, especially for the price, but they do need to be cleaned regularly to ensure the speeds stay consistent.

Durability9.5
Weight9.5
Appearance9
Speed10
Price10

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What is a Longboard Bearing?

A longboard bearing is a cylindrical object that is composed of several parts that when combined create a way to mount the wheels to the axle. The axle fits across the longboard enabling the rider to steer by leaning forward or back on the board.

Because of the need for a longboard bearing to fit the wheels, the size is standardized across the industry which ensures that all longboard wheels will fit the bearing, and then the axle. Both longboard bearings and skateboard bearings are actually the same size. The standardized measurements are 7mm width, 8mm core, and 22mm outer diameter. Any bearing for use with a longboard that doesn’t exactly fit these dimensions cannot be used.

Bearings are sold in a set of 8 in a bag or box. Sometimes they are packaged in a tin box with foam inserts between them to ensure they do not become scratched or damaged during transit. Two bearings are used for each wheel, so 8 replacement bearings are enough for four wheels. These parts must be stored in a cool, dry place to ensure they do not rust before use.

Owning a set of spare bearings is useful in order to swap out worn bearings for replacements without needing to find a repair center or borrow some bearings from a friend. Bearings typically use a fast lubricant to help it rotate at a higher speed consistently.

What makes Longboard Bearing different?

Longboard bearings are the same dimensions as skateboard bearings. With that said, some bearings are still classified as suitable for longboard products but they can be used interchangeably.

These types of bearings are entirely different from ones used in other mechanical devices. For this reason, do not try using a bearing designed for a different device with a longboard as this won’t work and could damage the longboard in the process.

Longboard bearings are actually comprised of 7 parts that essentially are layered one on top of the next, with some fitting inside one of more other components when assembled.

The seven parts are:

  1. C-ring
  2. Bearing shield
  3. Outer ring
  4. Inner ring
  5. Steel balls
  6. Ball retainer
  7. Rubber seal

We go into greater detail about what’s inside each bearing in the next section. 

Things to consider

Here we break down more information about longboard bearings:

Bearing Composition

The modest bearing may seem like a single, lightweight part that’s not too complicated but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Regular maintenance needs to be performed on the bearings to keep them performing properly and it is often only then that riders learn they have 7 parts inside each bearing that are working together to help keep their longboard wheels turning on the axle.

The parts are (from axle side to road side):

  1. C-ring
  2. Bearing Shield
  3. Outer ring
  4. Inner ring
  5. Steel balls
  6. Ball retainer
  7. Rubber seal

C-ring: a small ring that slots into a groove on the outside that locks the bearing to the bearing shield.

Bearing shield: this ring is a medium size and sits at the side of the bearing to stop dirt and minor debris from entering the chamber with the ball bearings.

Outer ring: the outer ring is a metal exterior that all other parts neatly fit inside.

Inner ring: the metal inner ring is smaller than the outer ring because it has to fit inside it. When using the bearing inside the wheel, the inner ring is the part that the axle slides through.

Steel/ceramic balls: usually steel, but sometimes ceramic, balls sit inside the ball retainer. Either 6 or seven balls are the key component inside the bearing casing that allows the bearing to rotate.

Ball retainer: this part keeps each ball bearing in the correct place so that the casing may spin around the ball bearings. The ball retainer is also known as the Delrin crown with the terms being used interchangeably.

Rubber seal: this part is a soft rubber ring which prevents debris and dirt getting into the interior of the bearing from the other side.

Bearings only perform perfectly when each component is functioning correctly. Cleaning bearings regularly is crucial to avoid dirt building up and preventing the bearing from rotating either at a slower speed, or not spinning at all. When longboarding in urban streets, bearings get dirty 2-3 times faster and correspondingly need to be cleaned more frequently.

Bearing Loads

A bearing has a busy life with all the movement going on. Turning this way and that, in an almost never-ending cycle can take its toll. The better bearings have the track space between the inner and outer race designed to be as friction-free as possible. Whether the force is vertical, torsional (random turns and unexpected twists) or axial (left to right, or right to left), the bearing needs balls that will hold up to the stress.

The better quality bearings feature a groove that is deep enough to ensure the balls stay secure in their housing to avoid additional friction within the bearing itself which would disrupt smooth movement. Both the quality of the materials and the consistent lubrication of each bearing are crucial for longboarders to achieve top speeds.

How to Clean & Lubricate the Bearings

Owning a good set of bearings is important to a longboarder, but maintenance of these bearings is equally important. So much so that an average set of bearings that are well maintenance will still perform better than a high-quality set that are poorly maintained. This is particularly the case when boarding on streets that are slick from recent rainfall with the dampness able to seep into the bearings despite the seals on either end of them.

A slowdown in wheel performance or a noise coming from the bearings are two good signs that the bearings need to be cleaned and lubricated.

Accessing longboard bearings is done in two different ways:

#1

Using a bearing puller is the first method. Reusing existing longboard bearings is possible by extracting the bearings using the puller to do so. It is important to be careful not to damage the shield – one of the seven parts identified above – during the extraction process. Simply grasp the bearing edges, not the surface, gently using the bearing puller. Once removed, the bearings can be cleaned which is described further down in this guide.

#2

If you do not own a bearing puller and cannot borrow one from a fellow boarder, it is still possible to use your hands and a little bit of determination. This approach is not the best idea because treating the bearing too roughly can damage it and then it will most likely need to be replaced.

Undo the nut, remove the wheel, spacers and shields present on the axle. Then turn the board over so that the trucks are facing upwards. Move the wheel on the edge of the axle with it positioned half-way through the bearing, then angle it up and push with a degree of force to encourage the wheel to free itself from the bearing. Perform this on both sides of each wheel to remove the bearings.

How to Replace Longboard Bearings

Begin with removing all the wheels and bearings using either one of the two methods described above. Once these have been removed, slide the new bearings onto the axle, now slide the wheel on to the axle, and then slot the new bearing into the wheel. Repeat the process for the second wheel and then again on the opposite side until all bearings have been replaced. With the bearings replaced, now replace the washers and nuts too.

Start by removing the wheels and bearings using one of the above methods. Once you have removed all the old wheels and bearings, place the new bearings onto the axle, slide the wheel on top of it, and press down on the wheel to secure the bearing in place. Repeat the skateboard bearing insertion for the opposite side. Once you have replaced the bearings for all four wheels, replace the speed washers and nuts too.

Cleaning & Lubricating Longboard Bearings

The act of cleaning and then lubricating a bearing works wonders for its longevity, improved speed performance, and keeping things moving well.

Begin by removing and taking apart the bearing as described above. Remove any dirt that has built up around the 7 or eight bearings, remove the bearings, add a bearing cleaning solvent, and let them sit in a dish for the prescribed amount of time (see the solvent’s instructions to confirm the correct duration).

Once the solvent has done its thing, wipe each longboard bearing off and spray with a bearing lubricant. Only a bearing-specific lubricant will do. WD40 or similar other lubricant is not appropriate and will only serve to clog up the works. Remove the bearing shield, place the bearings in acetone, and keep them there for 15 minutes. Remove the bearings, using a towel to dry them. Once dry, add a drop of lubricant to each bearing, put the rubber shields back on, re-assemble the bearings, and place them in its proper position next to a spacer or the longboard wheels.

ABEC Ratings

Most bearings come with an ABEC rating. The rating reflects both the quality of the materials used and the precision of the manufacturing process for the bearing itself. Essentially, the rating is used as quality control telling buyers how precisely produced the bearing is which helps confirm how efficient it will be operating with less friction ensuring higher speeds.

It is important to appreciate that a high ABEC rated bearing will not always make a longboard faster unto itself. This is because other factors like board materials, ergonomics, lubrication, and how the bearing performs under different types of directional forces/stresses all play a part in the best achievable speed.

The grades are marked as 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. The higher the rating, the faster the bearing will operate and the less friction will naturally occur.

Here is a basic rundown:

  • ABEC 1 bearings are the slowest ones because the materials (usually steel) is low quality, crudely made, and subsequently exhibits the most friction during use.
  • ABEC 3 bearings are one step up from the cheapest ones, but don’t improve significantly in either quality or speed.
  • ABEC 5 bearings are the typical quality level of a mid-level longboard. Good speeds are possible with this type of bearing.
  • ABEC 7 bearings are getting into the top level for materials used, lower friction during use, and faster speeds.
  • ABEC 9 bearings are at the elite level and are commonly used with downhill boarders who care about eking out the highest speed in a race.

It is also useful to note that a few bearing companies have decided not to use the ABEC scale at all. One notable company is Bones Bearings, who use their Skate Rated rating system instead. Their belief is that the ABEC rating ignores newer innovations in design and that their bearings exceed the maximum rating from the ABEC system anyway.

Bearing Materials

The type of materials used with a bearing make all the difference and affect both longevity and price. A set of ceramic bearings that have been precision tuned will turn faster and roll longer than a bearing made out of stainless steel. This is one of the reasons why ceramic bearings tend to be more expensive. With stainless steel, not all products are equal either. Higher quality steel runs smoother with less friction when its finely tuned.

Bearings: Steel

The majority of bearings used with longboards are made of steel. The quality of the steel, the ball bearings, and the seals vary with each brand and model. It tends to be the case that branded steel bearings are better than non-branded ones, and that the more expensive bearings are superior to the less expensive ones (assuming the bearing also has a good ABEC rating).

Cheaper steel bearings tend to have poorer seals that let in more dirt and require more regular maintenance. Sometimes fewer steel balls are used internally and the parts that make up the bearing are less able to handle the forces experienced during varied movement by the rider. Cheaper bearings tend to screech when braking quickly too which isn’t too cool! Dropping a few more dollars on a better set of bearings is a good decision.

Bearings: Ceramic

A few companies also now make ceramic bearings. These are even smoother with less friction than steel ones and don’t conduct heat which matters to riders in hot environments. The need for regular maintenance is also reduced which cuts down on the hassle factor and needing to stock up on so much cleaning solution and lubricant too.

Ceramic bearings are several times more expensive than the steel ones. The main difference internally is that there are more ceramic balls inside a ceramic bearing than steel balls inside a steel bearing. Apart from the ceramic balls, the other parts are all steel (the steel used with ceramic bearings is also superior to most). For use in locations with high humidity or a good amount of rainfall, the improved seals with ceramic bearings are more likely to keep out damp and dirty effectively. Ceramic balls don’t rust, so these types of bearings last longer too.

Bearing Spacers

These cylindrical metal parts are fitted inside the wheel between each of the bearings. The spacers help separate the bearings to balance them out evenly within the wheel to ensure the balance is right and avoids two bearings rubbing together causing friction.

Unlike with skateboards, bearing spacers are not always needed on a longboard because fewer or no tricks are performed on a longboard. The exception here is sliding which downhill longboarders may do and then they’ll want to add spacers if none were included by their longboard manufacturer.

Spacers are made from different materials like aluminum or steel and come in a variety of sizes. Typically, the measurement used axle diameter and the bearing width (8mm x 10mm is common). The spacer slots inside the wheel core between each bearing. A tell-tale sign that the spacer is too small is when it has been fitted and is heard to still be rattling around.

Speed Washers

Speed washers are thin, metal discs on either side of the two bearings. They are interchangeably called bearing washers, speed rings, and speed washers. The aim of a speed washer is to further reduce friction.

Washers are not mandatory, but just like with spacers, any fast riding should be conducted with washers fitted beforehand. These parts do rust and erode over time, but they’re easy to replace when they do.

Many speed washers are sold in large packs.

Best Brands

SCSK8 – This company produces assembled skateboards and longboards, individually branded decks, blank decks, trucks, longboard wheels, bolt packs, and bearings (ceramic bearings are in their range) all under either the Quest or SCSK8 brands. A snap back padded baseball cap with the SCSK8 logo is available too.

Supafly – The company was registered in Nassau County in 2015 and produces high-quality Alpha Gold and Alpha Phoenix bearings, and bearing spacers & washer combination kits. The quality of their materials is impressive.

Sector 9 – This company is an American company that produces skateboards, longboards, decks, trucks, wheels, bearings, clothing apparel, protective gear, and more. The history of the company dates back to 1993.

Magic Bearings – The company produces colorful bearing sets for longboards & skateboards, plus attractively branded spacers too. Their steel bearings are more affordable than some others.

FAQ

Q: Are generic bearings good enough for a high-end longboard?

A: Basic bearings will last a certain amount of time, but improved performance and significantly better durability is to be expected from name brand bearings.

Q: Do I need to clean the bearings frequently?

A: It is good idea to clean them every 2-3 weeks in order to remove any dirt and debris that may have gotten inside the bearing. Lack of bearing maintenance leads to slower speeds and eventually the wheels not being able to turn at all on the board. Ceramic bearings require less cleaning due to their improved rubber seals.

Q: Is the bearing made of a single part?

A: No. It is made up for 7 individual sections that work together to help each wheel turn.

Q: What is a spacer?

A: A spacer sits between two bearings or between a bearing and the wheel to avoid friction via unnecessary rubbing that would damage the components and slow down the wheels.

Q: Is a ceramic bearing better than a steel one?

A: Ceramic ones are generally better than stainless steel versions, but they often cost considerably more. A well-maintenance, name brand steel bearing is likely to be good enough in most cases.

Q: How many bearings are needed for each wheel?

A: Two bearings per wheel, usually with spacers and speed washers fitted too.

Recommended Reading

Best Longboard Bearings for Cruising / Best Bearings for Longboard Cruising

Best Longboard Bearings for Speed

Best Cheap Longboard Bearings