If you’re new to the skateboarding hobby or learning how to make modifications to your board, you’ll probably find yourself doing research on skateboard bearings. Simply put, skateboard bearings allow your wheels to roll, and the kind of bearing you have determines how smooth and fast your ride is. They are generally made with one of three different materials: steel, ceramic, or titanium.
Steel is the industry standard material. If you purchase a pre-assembled skateboard, especially one from a commercial store, chances are good that you have steel bearings. Steel is durable, and because of this, steel bearings are a good choice for riders who travel over uneven terrain or like to pull high-impact stunts. Be careful, however; a pre-assembled skateboard may be made with steel, but that doesn’t mean it’s of high-quality. If you’re planning on catching plenty of airtime, you might be better off using high-end steel bearings. Quality varies product to product. Steel is also highly corrosive, so it’s best to avoid moisture wherever possible.
Ceramic bearings are ideal for riders who use their boards to commute over relatively even terrain. Equipping your skateboard with this material will provide a smooth, seamless ride that can handle higher speeds than steel. It cannot, however, handle quite as much impact. Ceramic is a perfect material for riders who just want to get somewhere, as opposed to riders who like to use their boards for tricks or stunts.
Titanium bearings resist rusting better than steel, and therefore will tend to last longer. Otherwise, their performance is similar to that of steel bearings. You will need to adequately lubricate and oil your bearings to ensure a smooth trip, and while titanium and steel can both handle high-impact stunts better than ceramics, they are also more dramatically affected by the friction in your wheels- which means they may not be as effective at higher speeds.
A functional skateboard requires two bearings per wheel. Each bearing is made up of five parts; the shield, the outer race, the inner race, the balls, and the retainer. A skateboard bearing should have between three and seven balls. If you choose ceramic bearings, be aware that only the balls are made of ceramic. The rest of the piece is likely to be made up of steel, which means it can still rust and moisture should be avoided. The balls also form the explanation for why ceramic bearings can take speed better than those made with metal. Steel and titanium will expand based on heat, so the friction generated by the wheels at higher speeds causes the balls to become too large to move smoothly. With ceramic, this is far less of a concern.