Here’s a little fact: Without bearings, your inline skate wheels won’t turn around. Rollerblade ball bearings may be a small component, but they’re one aspect to which you must pay enough attention.
Even though pretty much all bearings work irrespective of brand, some inline skating situations require bearings with certain qualities.
In this post, I’ll show you how to buy inline skate bearings. Here, you’ll learn everything you need to keep top of mind when shopping for rollerblade bearings.
Unless You Race, Most Bearings Should Be OK
Before we proceed, I’ll state one simple truth. It really doesn’t matter what bearings you choose for your inline skates. Pretty much any bearings should and will do the job.
Choose bearings according to your specific skating needs. For example, if you race or skate slalom, precision and performance become critical considerations.
But if it’s recreational or fitness-focused rollerblading, go with whatever option you like.
5 Things to Consider When Buying Inline Skate Bearings
Here’s a nice little list of what to look for when hunting around for a pack of bearings that’ll work in your situation.
1. The size of the bearings
2. The Materials used to manufacture the bearings
3. The rating of the ball bearings
4. The number of ball bearings inside the bearings
5. Whether the bearings are serviceable or completely sealed
We’ll now consider each of these factors so you can learn what you need to know before settling for a particular bearing option.
1. Size of the Inline Skate Bearings
You can buy size 608 bearings for your inline skates or size 688 bearings. The 608 size is the standard size for rollerblade bearings. Most skates regardless of the brand come with 608 bearings. I go with size 608 standard skate bearings every time. And I’d encourage you to go with the standard size.
One similarity between 608 and 688 bearings is that both have a core that measures 8 mm. If you take a ruler or tape and measure the hole at the center of either of these bearings, it’ll be 8 mm.
But what’s the difference between 608 and 688 rollerblade bearings? The main difference is that size 608 is bigger than size 688 bearings. That said, the core has the same diameter and you can use either for pretty much all inline skate wheels.
Now, you can run 8mm axles through either of these skate bearings. But if you use spacers, you should be able to pass 6mm axles through the cores.
Are there inline skate bearings with a 7mm core? Yes, but they’re increasingly harder to find. Because virtually all skate bearing manufacturers produce 8mm bearings.
2. Material Used to Produce Rollerblade Bearings
The best inline skate wheels are durable because they’re made using materials that last. As far as bearing longevity, steel bearings are your best bet.
Now steel alloy bearings are super tough. Another good reason to choose steel alloy rollerblade ball bearings is that they’re more affordable than others.
If you head over to Amazon or other places that sell skate bearings, you should easily find good sub-$20 steel skate bearings (16-pack). So, stop wondering why pretty much everyone uses Reds steel bearings.
I’ve skated the 16-pack Bones Reds Bearings 16 at $35-ish. That means you’re paying about $2 per bearing. And that’s dirt cheap, huh?
*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
But there are other good inline skate steel bearings that cost that can be had for even less. Take the 16-pack (affiliate link) Rollerbones 8mm Bearings, for example. If you go with this skate-rated steel option, you get 16 bearings, enough for two 4-wheeled inline skates.
If you think these cheapo Bones Reds inline skate bearings don’t work, think again — because they do. These steel guys roll really smoothly, like a dream, and they last. And last.
But steel alloy skate bearings don’t behave too well when exposed to moisture — they rust.
And that’s why many skaters buy ceramic bearings. Ceramic inline skate bearings resist rust pretty well. However, ceramic bearings typically don’t outlast steel bearings.
Other Materials in Inline Skate Bearings
Titanium bearings are also common, and titanium is known for its high tensile strength coupled with a high melting point. It’s also light and tough and boasts anti-corrosion properties, just the kind of inline skate bearing you need.
You might also find bronze-coated ball bearings, and these are good, too. For me, steel alloy bearings such as Bone Reds beat other kinds of bearings hands down in many respects. Plus, they’re cheap and can be replaced without needing to deplete your life’s savings.
All that said, it seems like skaters have agreed that ceramic bearings are the finest skate bearings that can be had. Ceramic bearings are certainly not cheap. But there’s a reason many pro-level skaters and those in competitive inline skating favor ceramic bearings over other options.
3. Inline Skate Bearing Ratings
Ah, bearing ratings. If one idea drives endless debate in the skating universe, it’s bearing ratings. Some skaters want to exclusively skate ABEC-rated bearings while others like me don’t really care about ratings.
Other skaters favor skate-rated rollerblade bearings while others are OK with other bearing ratings similar to the ABEC rating.
Many skaters out there have this inexplicable obsession with ABEC-rated bearings. Rollerblades in the ABEC camp seem to believe these bearings are faster, stronger, and generally better than other bearings. But that’s not entirely true.
The ABEC rating is based on the ABEC scale, an industry-accepted bearing rating standard developed by the Annular Bearing Engineering Committee.
There are five ABEC classes namely ABEC 1, ABEC 3, ABEC 5, ABEC 7, and ABEC 9. ABEC 1 bearings have the smallest tolerances while ABEC 9 bearings offer the highest tolerances. Generally, the lower the rating, the lower the precision and efficiency.
Additionally, a higher rating often correlates with high spinning capabilities. You can generally expect an ABEC 7 bearing to spin faster than an ABEC-3 bearing. That said, you shouldn’t think that the higher the rating the higher the speed of the bearing.
ABEC 7 vs. Other Bearing Rating Systems
Manufacturers need a way to communicate to the end-user the kind of bearing performance they may expect. Different skate brands use different bearing rating systems, and I want to shed a little light on non-ABEC rating systems.
I’ll start with class-based systems, specifically the SG bearing rating scale and the ILQ rating system. These two systems are pretty similar to the ABEC rating system.
And just like the ABEC rating system, these two alternatives start at 1 and end at 9. That is, we have ILQ 1, ILQ3, ILQ5, ILQ 7, and ILQ 9 skate bearings. Likewise, there are SG 1, SG 3, SG 5, SG 7, and SG 9 bearings.
Swiss Rated Rollerblade Bearings
Swiss engineering has earned an enormous amount of praise and respect the world over. And Swiss-rated bearings are probably the best option on the market today in terms of roll smoothness, precision, and speed capabilities.
The Swiss rating is the highest rating that can be had. They’re referred to as Swiss-rated because they’re produced using the world-famous Swiss engineering Technology.
However, not every ball bearing that calls itself Swiss-rated is actually produced in Switzerland.
Some of those tempting options you see online originated from locations that rely on profit-focused sweatshops that leverage child labor. Most so-called Swiss-rated inline skate bearings
Skate Rated Bearings
Do you know why Bones bearings are so popular? It’s because they’re designed for a specific application –skating. Most other bearings are no more than industrial bearings, and they’re not specifically manufactured with the needs of skaters in mind.
Other bearings are designed to provide extremely high tolerances in various industrial applications such as machinery. In comparison, the engineering behind skate-rated bearings focuses on delivery roll smoothness and speed.
With Skate-rated bearings, the pricier the bearings, the better they are performance-wise. At least, that’s true in most cases.
A Rating System Works Best for Same-brand Bearings
Now, a set of ABEC 7-rated inline skate bearings are comparable to a set of SG 7 bearings and ILQ 7 bearings. But while these systems can be used to compare bearing performance across brands, they’re intended for intra-brand performance comparison.
For example, an ABEC 7 bearing set from Bones Reds may not always demonstrate similar performance to ABEC 7 bearings from another brand.
Read Credible Bearing Reviews Before Buying
And that sure makes shopping for ball bearings a little confusing. It’s best to read reviews from real users of the bearing brand you’re eyeing before buying.
Ask around to learn what other skaters are using and what their experience was like. But the best approach is to actually buy and use rollerblade bearings from specific brands.
That way, you’ll form an objective personal opinion as to how the quality and performance of each bearing set.
What if you’re still confused after reading all the bearing reviews on the web? Go with tested and proven bearing brands such as Bones, Mini Logo, Bronson, Yellow Jacket, and ABEC 9 among others.
4. Number of Balls Inside the Bearings
With ball bearings, your wheels would not rotate around their axles. Inline skate bearings can have anywhere between 6 and 8 balls rotating inside the races. But bearings having 7 balls are more common.
Some skate brands are offering options with 6 or 8 balls, though. Usually, when it is 6 balls, they’re relatively large and that results in less friction. Reduced friction translates into longer, faster spinning.
As for 8 ball bearings, these ones are smaller since they have to fit inside the same amount of space as their larger counterparts. More bearings mean better skater weight distribution. What’s more, having more balls increases the bearings’ ability to withstand lateral or sideways forces or loads. If you’re into slalom skating, consider choosing bearings with 8 balls.
5. Are the Bearings Serviceable or Completely Sealed?
Some bearings come with removable plastic retainers or removable shields, usually rubber shields. These bearings may allow dust, grime, and debris to get in. But it’s pretty easy to take off this protective cover or the plastic bearing retainers and clean the bearings and re-lube them.
Typically, the majority of shielded rollerblade bearings are premium options. But the skate market offers many affordable bearings that offer serviceability.
But you need to take care when yanking rubber seals off. Otherwise, you’ll damage them. Bearings like these are described as being serviceable.
The downside with this kind of bearing is that skating it through puddles or blading over dusty surfaces can clog it up pretty quickly. Fortunately, you can easily take off the shield and deep-clean your inline skate bearings.
Sealed Skate Bearings Keep Dust, Debris, and Moisture Out
However, some bearings are completely sealed. These bearings normally feature two non-removable shields that keep things sealed nice and tight.
Bearings like these are the best bet for skating dusty roads. Grime and dirt stay out so that your bearings can run smoothly for longer. But there’s one downside with bearings having non-removable shields. Once these bearings clog up and roll performance dips, you’ll just have to replace them.
So, decide what bearing design makes the most sense to you. If you hate the idea of bearing maintenance but are OK with reduced performance at some point, choose sealed options. But if performance is critical to you and you don’t mind greasing your hands every once in a while, definitely choose non-serviceable inline skate bearings.
How to Choose Inline Skate Bearings: Final Word
Consider the number of balls inside the bearings. Also, pay attention to the bearings’ rating. Try bearings across skate brands and rating systems and ride them. Ask other skaters for recommendations, too.
Look at the bearing material as well. And don’t ignore the bearing’s size. With those selection tips in mind, you’ll confidently pick options that enhance your performance outdoors.
Happy inline skating!