17th February 2006

Bearings – Busting The ABEC Myth

Bearings – time to break a myth. The ABEC scale has nothing to do with skateboarding whatsoever. In fact, it’s an American industry standard for machine parts. The higher the ABEC, the more precise the machining quality is on the bearing. Now, this is crucial in high-RPM machines. At that kind of high speed, a bearing with a low ABEC rating will simply explode and fall apart from too much friction and not enough precision. However, skateboards never get to that kind of speed! ABEC is just used as a marketing ploy to get kids to spend more. In fact, you can get completely unrated bearings (e.g. all Bones bearings) that spin better than the average ABEC5 mainstream street company bearing. Don’t pay much attention to ABEC. What’s more important is how the bearings are made – and most street companies use the exact same bearings as all the other companies. They just put their own shields on.

Also of note is the legendary “how fast do your bearings go?” test. You know how it goes; some kid will walk up to you, spin your bearings, and declare “mine spins longer/faster!” Of course, he then thinks his bearings MUST be better. Not true. Bearings were never meant to spin well under those conditions. They were built to perform well under the weight of a skater rolling down the street. As such, the only true test is how long they spin when you’re rolling.

Skateboard Bearing

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that some companies use a thick, viscose gel/grease instead of the normal mainstream thin oils, which just run out of your bearings quickly. This thick grease means the bearings completely fail the spin test… but god, do they roll! And they last far longer, too.

So, how do you know what bearings to buy? It’s a bit complicated, all this, isn’t it? Well, go for experience. If you find some that works for you, go for it. I used to use Nicotine bearings religiously before the company went bust, and only blew 2 in two years – not bad considering how many “mainstream” bearings I blew up previously. I’ve heard very good things about Pleasure Tool bearings. And of course, see what other people recommend. Just beware of brand loyalty/advertising! A lot of kids will swear by a company just because of the cool image they promote. For example, I’ve heard people say that they love Baker decks, but Birdhouse ones are terrible… when they don’t realise they’re made by the same company, and are in fact the same boards with different graphics. And like I’ve said, the same applies to bearings, so be careful!

– Tony Gale