|Your bearings are at the core of your wheels and reduce friction so you can skate smoothly and efficiently. Hence, they need to be maintained properly from season to season. If you think you need new, inline skate bearings, it's best to check your bearings for wear before you head to the local shop. |
Checking for Wear
The following are Indications of major wear from a no-load, finger-flick, spin test, when one or more of your wheels:
a. Stick(s) periodically.
b. Require(s) a lot of force to spin.
c. Spin(s) freely for only a second or two.
In addition, the following are signs of major wear from a spin test with the skater as the load:
a. You hear a loud, grinding noise from your bearings when skating.
b. It takes a lot of effort on your part to pick up and maintain speed.
c. Your bearings are hot to the touch after a roll.
You may also want to replace your inline skate bearings if you decide to switch to a different type of bearing. You may want to change from shielded bearings to sealed or racing bearings.
Learning the ABEC Scale
Bearings are rated on the Annular Bearing Engineering Council (ABEC) scale. Ratings are numbered 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 on the ABEC scale. The higher the number is, the greater the manufactured precision of the bearing.
However, there are no required materials to meet the ABEC specifications. The bearings only have to be made to a certain precision. That's all!
Servicing your Bearings
Inline skate bearings usually come in sets of four to eight. Before you head out to your favorite sporting goods store, write down the information thatís shown on the outer shields of your bearings. Donít forget to flip the bearing over and include the text that's inscribed on the other side.
If youíre happy with the original bearings that came with your skates or the last set you installed, by all means buy the same bearings. If you have serviceable bearings like TwinCams or YAKs and you donít mind doing your own cleaning and lubrication than you may want to stick with the double-shielded type, especially if they are the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) that your skate manufacturer recommends.
On the other hand, if you have non-serviceable or sealed bearings and are squeamish about doing your own cleaning and lubrication, even periodically, you may want to stick with this type of bearing and just replace them when they need to be changed.
Moreover, if you have shielded bearings with pop-out caps, like Powell Swiss or Black Hole brands, and like them for their ease of maintenance, itís probably best to go with this kind of bearing again.
Buying new Bearings
My K2 skates have 8-mm, double-shielded bearings with the following inscribed on the casings:
c. 608 ZZ
Normally, the manufacturer or brand doesnít make a lot of difference within the three categories of shielded, serviceable bearings, shielded, serviceable bearings with pop-up caps, and sealed, non-serviceable bearings. A bearing size of 8 mm and the 608 designation are fine for recreational, inline skaters. The ABEC rating is another story!
ABEC-1, 3, and 5 are the most common bearings that come with inline skates, as well as the newer ABEC-7s, which are gaining in popularity. Whether a skater can go faster with ABEC-5 bearings versus ABEC-1 bearings has never been proven, scientifically or otherwise.
Furthermore, the higher precision may not make a significant difference for the recreational skater who travels in the 10 to 20 mph range. The average skater doesnít require a higher-rated bearing because the difference in performance is so minimal that it would only become apparent at speeds an inline skater never attains.
In addition, the higher precision eventually deteriorates down to ABEC-3 or 1 due to dust, dirt, and regular wear and tear. To increase your skating speed, youíd be better off to improve your technique and learn how to cut down on wind resistance. These are proven ways to make you a faster and more efficient skater.
So, get the most affordable ABEC-1 or ABEC-3 inline skate bearings you can find, clean and lube them with oil or grease on an annual basis, and youíll be just fine.
When it comes time to purchase new bearings for your inline skates, make sure you write down the information that's inscribed on the outer casing of your bearings before you head to your local, skating shop. In addition, beware that an ABEC rating is nothing more than a bearing precision. If you find a set of bearings at the right price that are suited for your skates, but they have a lower ABEC rating, go for it anyway! You'll probably never notice the difference.
Jim Safianuk is the writer and publisher of the three-part, inline skating series entitled Skating Lessons, as well as the two-part, maintenance series named Skate Maintenance. He is also the developer of the Inline Skating Center, a site which serves as a hub for the adult, recreational, inline skating community. To visit their Skate Maintenance department, click here: http://skatemaintenance.inlineskatingcenter.com/
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