608 Skate Bearings
So many lousy bearings are available to the skater today, it is amazing that wheels still roll. Some products do stand out as being better than the rest. I suggest these bearings for use in cement skatepark or street environments where 99% of skating is being done today. Dirt contamination is the #1 enemy of the skater, followed by proper mounting and alignment issues. The bearing's ABEC level is rarely a problem. Most skate companies flat out lie about their ABEC rating being any more than an ABEC 1. ABEC stands for Annular Bearing Engineering Committee of the AFBMA (American Bearing Manufacturers Association Inc.) (ANSI/ABMA/ISO 3290).
In my opinion, a well designed 608 skate bearing should include: 6-7 balls, dual labyrinth seals (or at least an outer labyrinth seal and an inner shield), quality steel construction, delrin or phenolic cages, and a light grease lubricant. The bearing set should also include a set of precision spacers.
A standard 608 bearing has 7 x 5/32" balls inside held evenly spread out by a delrin or brass cage. Without a cage, 11 x 5/32" balls can be squeezed into the constraints of the bearing. The more balls in the bearing (ie. high capacity), the stronger it is radially, but not axially (due to filling slot necessary to fill this type of bearing). Also, some friction issues can arise if the balls are allowed to rub against each other, but this is not mission critical on a well greased bearing. The general consensuses is that fewer balls make for less friction with the same axial strength. In some discussions that I have had, special reshaping of the actual race shape and the use of larger balls is required to use fewer balls. I have tested some 11 ball bearings and they do seem to ride slower than the standard 7 ball bearings.
- Bones Swiss - THE STANDARD for speed, but suffer from poor sealing and lack of a quality spacer.
- Oust Bearings, Inc. - High quality labyrinth sealed bearings and precision spacers. Very nice!
- Biltin Bearing - A lower grade, poorly sealed bearing, but with a superior integrated spacer system.
Bearings of note: (due to poor availability)
- SKF FREEstyler bearings - Well sealed and by a name brand bearing company. No spacers.
- NTN Formula Extreme Skateboard Bearings - Well sealed and by a name brand bearing company. Spacers!
By using a quality bearing and going through proper skateboard preparation you can maximize bearing life, increase speed during high side load, give the rider superior feedback, and improve slide control. Free spin has almost no affect on bearing performance while riding, do not worry if your bearings do not free spin forever, riding is the test.