If you’re searching for the best bearings for your skateboard setup, you’re likely debating whether you should go for standard steel or spend more on ceramic. This component is a make or break in the ride of your setup.
Learn everything you need to know before you buy.
What are Ceramic Bearings?
Although it’s logical to assume ceramic skateboard bearings are in fact 100% ceramic, this is not the case.
Many of them have only ceramic balls, yet they are named ceramic bearings.
Typically, they are made with ceramic balls, made of silicon nitride, to provide minimal friction as they spin. The benefit of silicon nitride is it is much lighter and harder than steel.
Standard vs. Ceramic Bearings
When it comes to comparing standard bearings versus ceramic, there are pros and cons to each. Let’s dive right in.
Pros of Standard Bearings
- Affordable (typically $20 or $30 for a set).
- Durable (especially when taken care of with lubricant).
To ensure you’re getting a decent set of steel bearings, avoid those that are incredibly cheap (under 10 dollars) and shop for well-known brands such as Bones. Be careful of third-party sellers online who are impersonating the brand—it’s best to buy direct from a reputable shop.
Cons of Standard Bearings
- They rust with water or moisture exposure (but so do ceramic bearings).
- Some are made of cheaper steel and don’t perform well (use the tip above to avoid this).
Pros of Ceramic Bearings
- They last a bit longer than standard bearings.
- They provide a smooth ride.
- They are less dense than ceramic bearings (leading to less friction).
- They perform better in freezing temperatures.
- They are low maintenance.
- They are self-cleaning.
Cons of Ceramic Bearings
- Expensive (80% more than decent regular bearings).
- No faster than standard steel bearings (even though they’re lower friction).
- They can rust the same as steel bearings.
- They require more maintenance than standard bearings.
- Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t stronger than steel bearings.
- They are fragile and can be broken through high impact.
What Does This Mean for ABEC Ratings?
An ABEC rating defines the tolerance of the bearing. It was created by the Annular Bearing Engineering Committee (ABEC) to create a measuring scale for the precision, speed, and efficiency of bearings. A higher rating equals higher performance on tolerance and precision. The grades on the scale are 1,3,5,7, and 9.
You can’t compare apples to apples using an ABEC rating when it comes to standard and ceramic bearings.
This is because the scale doesn’t relate to ceramic bearings. They stand alone as a high-quality bearing type that provides great performance in extreme weather, shock resistance, and normal wear and tear.
Are Ceramic Bearings Worth It?
This is a highly debated topic that is ultimately up to personal preference.
To keep it short—if you have the money to test out new skateboard setups and want to explore ceramic bearings, go for it.
Otherwise, their high prices are mostly for vanity. While they are known to last a bit longer than steel bearings, you can typically buy two sets of steel bearings for the price of one ceramic bearing.
The answer to this question also depends on your skating style. If you’re performing high-impact tricks like jumps on large stairs, steel bearings will be better because they can take high impact.