The Main Parts of a Skateboard
If you look at a photo of a skateboard, you see it has parts that include:
- The Deck – This is the platform that you stand on and use to perform tricks and maneuvers. It has a nose and a tail, and most modern skateboards have a lift at each end of the deck. Most decks also have griptape to ensure your shoes stay in good contact with the deck. Decks can be made of different materials, such as plastic, maple or even bamboo. The length and shape of the deck varies based on the style of skating you want to do, such as a trick board, longboard, cruiser and so on.
- Trucks – Underneath the deck you find the t-shaped gear known as trucks. There are two of them and they are the component that secures your wheels to your board. They can be loosened or tightened based on your preferences and doing so can let you turn slowly or very quickly. Trucks themselves have lots of little parts, including a kingpin, locking nuts, washers, axles, pivot bushings, hangers, baseplates and more. As noted, the truck is what connects the wheels, but it is also what allows you to turn rather than remain stuck in a fixed, forward path. Whenever you shift your weight while riding a skateboard, it is the trucks (and their bushings) that pivot the board.
- The Wheels – Made from durable materials like polyurethane, wheels can be small and hard for street riding or larger and soft for “cruising”. Wheels also have different profiles, with the larger ones looking like rounded squares or rectangles if sliced for a profile view. You will find an amazing range of options in wheels from a bunch of different sizes to a wide array of shapes, including rounded modern wheels, older and squarer styles, and wheels with varying degrees of hardness. You must also some options with “dual durometers” or a softer outer wheel and harder inner core that are quite expensive but provide dual function. You can even get them in many different colors!
- Hardware – This is not so much a single part as the various nuts and bolts that will affix the truck to the deck and the wheels to the truck, and which requires the use of an Allen key or screwdriver to mount properly. There are some bolts and decorative elements that may also be part of skateboard.
And then there are the bearings.
All About Skateboard Bearings
These are one of the most complex parts, though they seem pretty straightforward. Why are they complex? As weird as it might sound, it is their simplicity that makes them complicated!
After all, bearings are some of the mechanical world’s most important parts, and yet they must meet a wide range of demands.
Skateboard bearings sit on both sides of your skateboard’s wheels (meaning you need eight for your skateboard), and they offer smooth movement of the wheels. Though you don’t often hear this, you must also be sure your bearings are kept from rubbing up against one another through the use of a spacer. Skip this or take a shortcut and re-use the same spacers over and over, and you’ll cut your bearings’ life span by about half!
The spacers allow the axle nut to be tightened all of the way down and permit the inner rings of the two bearings to be fixed on the axle. This allows the wheel to rotate the most efficiently. The spacers are also helpful for reducing the loads put on any bearing (both “axial” and “torsional” loads). Be sure to get a spacer sized for your wheel as you end up with unbalanced wheels that are prone to wobble and inconsistent performance.
Bearings always take a huge amount of physical abuse even when paired with a properly sized spacer and wheel, and it is because they may not be designed for the kind of side to side forces they endure.
As parts originally designed for machines, they were meant to support the spinning of mechanical devices, but they also allow skateboard wheels to turn extremely smoothly, even as they take a lot of impact, side to side movement, and exposure to materials like water and dirt.
Modern skateboard bearing design has taken steps to help overcome issues due to impact and exposure.
The Design of Skateboard Bearings
Though you see lots of variation in design and looks of skateboard bearings, most feature:
- Outer ring or race
- Inner ring or race
- Ball cage or retainer (holds the ball bearings inside)
- Balls or ball bearings, with most featuring six to eight pre-lubricated balls
- Shields, with some models having shields on both sides, though many argue that a single shield allows for a faster ride.
- C-rings are not always included, but are helpful when mounting the shield to the bearing
A lot of the modern skateboard bearings are given ABEC ratings, but not all. This is because ABEC ratings are not a skateboard industry standard. They are a machinery standard with higher ABEC numbers meaning better performance. What you want to pay attention to is whether or not any bearing is “skate tested and approved” or given some sort of manufacturer’s skate rating. This is more informative for a skateboarder than the ABEC figures (though all data is useful!).
Picking an Ideal Skateboard Bearing
How can we use this information to help in the skateboard bearing selection process? Essentially, you need to look specifically for bearings that:
- Are made of durable materials, with steel the preferred option (you also see ceramic, titanium, and so on)
- Are sized to the standard 608 (or another recognizable size such as y-bearings, mini, and so on – also called “non-standard” bearings)
- Withstand lateral (side to side) impact and/or demands
- Resist damage or issues caused by dirt and water
- Be easy to clean if contaminated with dirt and debris
In our list of 16 different skateboard bearing options, we included only those that meet these basic requirements. We reviewed the various pros and cons of each option, but it helps to know that our selections included only the most appropriate and preferred in design and function.
However, even if you choose the very best bearings, you may still run into trouble if you do not maintain, rotate and replace bearings as needed.
Bearing Maintenance is Important
If you talk to long-time skateboard enthusiasts, they all agree that (apart from worn out decks) it is the bearings that are the most commonly damaged, worn out and replaced part of the skateboard. It does not matter if you are doing street tricks or riding in skate parks, the bearings must be replaced and maintained.
How? It is not a difficult matter to take good care of them, and some basic tips include:
- Protecting them from a lot of exposure to dirt, dust and water
- Cleaning them and lubricating them often (see below)
- Performing a regular spin check on each bearing periodically
- Replacing them (and the spacers) only as needed
To clean and lubricate them, you just remove the bearing taking the following steps (or you can also invest in a tool known as a bearing puller!):
- Prepare a space with a towel or sheet to hold the different washers and nuts as well as other parts
- Remove the axle nuts and washers
- With a clean rag and a degreaser, wipe the axle and washers, and set them aside on the towel or sheet
- Pull the wheel to the end of the axle and use the axle’s threads to help you get a firm grasp on the inner area of the bearing
- As you do this, twist the wheel away and lock the threads, but be careful not to turn the wheel or pull the bearing away just yet. Instead, when the threads grip the wheel and bearing, twist it and allow the bearing to ease out
- Wipe down the bearing completely and repeat the process on all four wheels
- If you need to do a more in-depth cleaning because they are failing to roll or have become clogged, you must remove the protective shield and spray the interior with something along the lines of WD-40 (never use a lubricant). Spin the balls and keep doing this until the debris is gone.
- Dry the interior and then place one or two drops of lubricant on the inner OR outer case/chase and spin to work the lubricant all of the way around
- Return the shield and wipe down the entire bearing
- Return it to the wheel (with the shield always facing outward) and restore the wheel to the skateboard’s truck, pushing the bearing deep into the wheel
- Put the washer back on the hanger and then the spacer inside of the wheel (repeating the bearing mounting process with the second, outer bearing)
- Put the washer in place, tighten the wheel and adjust tightness.
- Check that no lubricant is leaking, give everything a final wipe down, and you’re good to go until you see your bearings need replacement
And how can you tell it is time to do a replacement? That varies based on how you ride, but for the most part, a bearing that jams, makes a lot of noise, causes a wheel to turn slow when under load (in use with you on the board) or leads to a lot of wobble is a bearing that has to GO. And if you do one bearing, it is best to do them all (as long as the bearings have been used for some time and are not only recently replaced/installed).
And with all of that, it is time to look back at that list of the 16 best bearings available on the market. These are brands and models consistently ranked by skateboarding enthusiasts as the best, most reliable, easiest to install and more. We did make note of any pros and cons noted with the different bearings and what type of skateboarding they seem to support best. That means it is time to choose!
Making Your Choice
So, now that you have a good idea of the performance, purpose and general design of the best skateboard bearings on the market, you can choose the sets that are a good fit to your needs. You may want to consider whether a brand offers a warranty or guarantee, too. There are a lot of factors that can affect the performance of a skateboard bearing, so take your time and compare a few to see if their price is going to give you the value or performance desired.