Long-term Bearing Grease Reactions

Posted: 2020-04-06 in Uncategorized

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten more and more enamored with the idea of using grease, as a bearing lube, instead of a thin oil.  The idea being that, while grease is thicker and will generate more fluid friction inside the bearing, I’m a pretty casual skater and don’t necessarily need the extra speed boost; I’m not a competitive, internationally-ranked racer, nor am I blasting airs out of a 20′ tall halfpipe.  My priorities are somewhat low:  Get my feet on a board at least once a month between April and October.  And, because of this, my bearing lube priorities are about preservation moreso than performance.  Grease generally won’t evaporate as quickly and thoroughly as an oil will, and when grease evenly coats all the surfaces, it protects them from rust.

With that being said, I’ve used 3 grease over the past few years: Amsoil synthetic grease, Lubriplate Aero, and Phil Wood bike grease.  Of the three, the Lubriplate is definitely the fastest – my experience is that it’ll actually reach the same sort of speed as Speed Cream.  Of course, I’m not talking about straightline speed; too many variables in skateboarding to put a quantifiable number to that.  I’m meaning “speed” in the sense that it spins up quickly and doesn’t bog down while coasting…that familiar sensation of motion and flow.  AMSoil is right in the middle of the three – it takes a little more effort to spin up to speed, but because of sciencey stuff and chemical engineering, it still runs out really nicely (I think “shear” is the quality described here).  Phil Wood takes more effort to get up to speed, but also bogs down quicker.  Buuuut, Phil Wood held nicely and kept the bearings and axles from rusting up after riding through an Upper Michigan winter snow run during my college years.  +1 for real-world durability to Phil Wood.

I clean my bearings using the method recommended by Bones bearings:  Wash in acetone to break down the old oil/lube and remove dirt and impurities; rinse in alcohol to remove the acetone dregs, and promote quick evaporation and drying; then re-lube and reinstall.  Of the three greases listed above, the Phil Wood and the Lubriplate got cleaned out entirely by the acetone bath.  The AMSoil largely withstood the acetone, and stayed packed into the bearings.

Going back to my old adage on equipment reviews:  The results speak for themselves when I look at what I continue to use, there are reasons that AMSoil has slowly taken over my entire quiver over the past 2 years.  It protects over the course of years, it doesn’t break down, and it doesn’t feel slow underfoot.

I’m excited to see the results after this year, though.  When Zealous Skateboards launched their bearing brand in 2012, the hype was strong over their “magical” bearing grease:  A unique nano-ceramic blend that not only filled in scratches and wear marks inside the bearings (effectively self-healing), but the additives also bonded with the surfaces inside the bearings (on the races and the balls), and essentially created ceramic bearings for you…as “ceramic” bearings that cost you, the consumer, less than $40 per bearing are usually only ceramic-coated steel.  While the Zealous grease is an industrial-grade product, I happened to track down the consumer-grade grease on Amazon, which I went all-in for this year, and applied it to every single one of my boards.

As it pertains to performance thus far (I’ve only put a couple miles on a board with the Zealous-style lube), break in is quite slow – similar to that of Speed Cream.  In this context, of course, “break in” refers to the process by which the internal motion of the bearing spreads the lube around evenly, and spins out the excess.  Bones Speed Cream, at least in my experience, takes about an hour of riding to fully break in, and it feels like the Zealous-style will take about the same.  Funny that a brand new set of Zealous bearings has substantially less break-in time, but I know I overpacked the bearings when I cleaned and re-lubed mine, as it’s incredibly hard to apply grease neatly to a 608 bearing (big ups to Lubriplate, as the Aero is designed as a low-temp, low-viscosity lubricant and comes with a small applicator, which makes it SUPER easy to get just the right amount inside your bearing).  So far, the Zealous-style grease feels pretty darn neutral, but I’m excited to try the bearings out this year and see where it shines.

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