Expensive Bearings

Posted: 2019-11-11 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Another post from the Silverfish archives (every time I do a deep search on my laptop, I find more and more of these).  This time, discussing my thoughts on expensive bearings.

My original post was as follows:

Your mileage may vary, so bear with me on this. Having tried out a few sets of expensive bearings in the past year, and comparing them to cheaper bearings , I definitely feel like expensive bearings can make a difference in roll speed. Furthermore, I feel like the adage of “buy cheaply, buy often” as it pertains to bearings is somewhat misguided. While bearings won’t make or break your setup (your Krown board won’t win an IGSA race just by slapping some uberbearings on it), there’s a LOT more to it than just buying as cheap of bearings as possible. Now, we’ve all known ‘that guy’ whose hacked-up S9 board and uberbearings rides like sh!t, but that goes back to keeping your bearings properly maintained. ‘That Guy’ doesn’t take care of his board , so any bearing that he swears is the best is going to be better than the beat-to-hell bearings he had before. But, I’m honestly wondering if anyone has legitimately bought, ridden, and taken complete care of any ‘uberbearings.’ I’m madly in love with my Tekton bearings because I feel like they hold speed better in the flat sections of some downhill runs I do, and I can say the same for Element Swiss and Ceramics, as well as Ninja Ceramix and Boss Speed Ceramics. Obviously, wheel size, shape, duro, formula, core, etc. have a greater impact on rollspeed than bearings do, but at least according to my experience, bearings do have a positive impact on things.

User Metaldestroyer seemed to agree:

In my experience a well-maintained set of nice bearings lasts a hell of a lot longer than cheap bearings . Reds die on me in weeks of skateboarding, swiss last up to a year. And my ceramic super reds are a whopping two years old and still just as fast as my brand spankin new magics, so there you go.

My buddy Hiersgarr also agreed:

This is a topic worth discussion as longboarding reaches new levels, with people pushing the lines and progressing all the time. I say let’s have a serious, real discussion about the finite detail of bearing quality and roll. This discussion would do nothing to challenge the established, accepted fact that it is absolutely pointless to get the speediest, priciest bearings for most disciplines of skating (it’s okay to have this discussion). I for one, could say that yes, a fine, small detail to racing at as fast speeds as possible is the quality of ones bearings . Basically, bearings are very susceptible to slowing through any number of means. Proper maintenance is the answer, but when that is controlled for, the properly maintained high quality bearing is worth testing under such circumstances. Without getting too ahead of myself I would believe Mischo Erban has an opinion related to the quality of his bearings . He is an engineer who holds the longboard downhill speed record*, hard to imagine he hasn’t thought about it by now.

*this discussion is from 2013, when Erban did hold the longboard downhill speed record, and right before the industry kicked it into gear and began putting actual effort into bearings.  Mischo used, I believe, Seismic Tektons…shortly after, Kyle Wester broke the record on Bronsons

Incrediboy729 offered a slightly different opinion:

I can definitely feel a difference in my Bones Swiss Six as compared to my Reds. Whether or not it’s worth the money is debatable, but there is definitely a difference. I believe this kinda summarizes it. there is NOTHING wrong with bread and butter bearings , (reds, magic, zealous, mhs) but if cost wasnt an issue, id be running custom-fit 6 ball tektons in every setup, because they are probably a tiny bit faster. Not enough for me to warrant purchase, but enough to be acknowledged. I think we collectively adopted the “never buy expensive bearings ” mantra because of the annoying Swiss-Ceramic noobs, and the fact that 90 percent of us cant afford/dont need anything fancy

The point I was trying to illustrate was that there’s a difference more than enough to just be “acknowledged,” but Incrediboy posits that only if cost weren’t an issue, he’d go for better bearings.  It’s still cheaper to buy one set of $30 bearings and maintain ’em than it is to buy one $10 set a month to throw away when they wear out or break prematurely.

And finally, TestMonkeyUnlimited offers another differing opinion:

Bearings have been adopted from standard applications; Abec ratings were, and still are, created for the industrial applications they are subjected to. The lateral side-load forces they are exposed to when skateboarding doesn’t correlate. The best bearing is any with double side-shields, that are maintained regularly; the equivalent of the “3,000 mile oil-change”, if you will. Running ceramics is akin to only using synthetic oil in your vehicle. But even more costly, comparatively. So just clean them often, because even at 10 bucks, you still wouldn’t chuck & replace them every couple of weeks… Lube really is the cheapest component, so clean & re-lube often. I can’t make that any more clear. And ditto on the placebo effect; unless your trying to shave hundredths off of race times. But for street? No.

He’s absolutely right ABEC rating doesn’t matter.  But, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t seek quality when buying bearings.  Stick with offerings from skateboard-specific retailers.  Find a budget and stick with it.  Know what you’re looking for in a bearing, and find one that fits within your budget.  That’s all part of being an informed consumer, and that was my job when I was working at the skateshop…and, of course, a huge reason I started this blog in the first place.  That’s what I’d add to TMU’s post:  There’s a point of diminishing returns when you look at price point in skateboard bearings, but you can’t automatically say that expensive bearings are “the exact same” as the cheaper ones.

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