Every seamless skateboard ride rests on the smallest components. That means every part installed on our skateboards is pivotal to how well we’ll perform.
We know the deck provides a stable platform, the trucks hold the skateboard’s parts, and the wheels keep us rolling. But besides these, we also have bearings that decide the precision of our skating.
Today, we will learn about ceramic VS steel skateboard bearings, the most common and widely used wheel core types. Here, we will see which performs better and lasts longer.
Table of Contents
Characteristics of Bearings on a Skateboard
Before we decide which is better, ceramic bearings VS steel, let us first see what aspects make up these skateboard wheel parts.
Bearings are not a single solid object stuck into a wheel’s center. They also have parts. The first is the shields. These are thin, rounded discs protecting the bearings against dust, dirt, and grime build-up.
Remove the shields, and we will find the balls and retainers. The balls are tiny spheres that run inside the bearing. But they don’t spin irregularly.
Instead, each bearing has a retainer to keep the balls spaced evenly, thus helping ensure a smooth roll.
Ultimately, the casing, better called inner and outer races, house the bearing’s parts. The races also serve as the bearing walls.
2. ABEC Ratings
The ABEC labels printed on skateboard bearings speak about their speed, precision, quality, and overall performance. Here is a short guide.
- ABEC 1 – Cheap but has the slightest precision.
- ABEC 3 – Often present in cheap skateboards but not fast or smooth.
- ABEC 5 – More acceptable speed for beginners, slightly costly, but reasonable.
- ABEC 7 – More than decent in smoothness but a bit pricey.
- ABEC 9 – Fastest skateboard bearings suited for downhill skating and cruising.
Note: While ABEC 7 and ABEC 9 bearings are fast, their speeds can also affect their durability. Riders’ experience reveals these wheel cores can get damaged too quickly under speedy rides.
3. Bearing material
We now know about the skateboard bearing’s parts and ABEC ratings. So, what are skateboard bearings made of?01 Steel
Steel bearings are widely accepted wheel cores for their balanced wear resistance and price.
Quality bearings of this type exhibit enough speed and durability. Of course, it would be a different story if the brand or manufacturing company used substandard raw steel.02 Ceramic bearings
From the insides to the exteriors, these bearings come from a compound called silicon nitride.
Although coming from non-alloy materials, ceramic bearings are exceptionally durable, though less than steel. What makes them stand out is if other wheel core types overheat, these do not.
Hence, they can tolerate high-speed skating.
Differences Between Steel and Ceramic Bearings
How we define ceramic and steel bearings is mainly about their primary materials. And yet, there’s more to that. Let’s learn more about these wheel cores through their salient differences.
1. Moisture resistance
Yes, skateboarding is an outdoor sport we do when it’s mostly sunny. While some skaters still prefer to skate in wet weather, doing so has consequences, especially when using steel bearings.
Steel bearings have less liquid or moisture resistance, making them more prone to rusting and gradual wearout. The bright spot about ceramic wheel cores is that they don’t suffer as much from such circumstances.
So, we may be better off with ceramic skateboard bearings when riding in the rain.
Although many consider ceramic bearings the more durable type, both skateboard bearings have vulnerabilities.
Do steel bearings last longer than ceramic? A steel bearing, as mentioned, can have its life shortened because of its exposure to water and moisture. But it handles vertical forces better than ceramic.
Ceramic bearings longboard users are fast, but they have to worry more about their bearings breaking after high impact hits them. And such a thing often happens when skaters land on their boards from exceptional heights.
No engines, but overheating? Yes!
Skateboard bearings can overheat, but such instances only happen to steel ones. Overheating does not occur in ceramic wheel cores. What are the benefits?
First, ceramic bearings are less likely to expand. Subsequently, they won’t produce much friction to slow down the skateboard.
How faster are ceramic vs steel bearings? Not that much. Studies show it’s only faster by around 20 to 40 percent.
However, we want to emphasize that running momentum is also significant. And such an aspect is better with ceramic bearings, like ABEC 9 ceramic bearings, for example. These wheel cores retain speed better than steel. Hence, skaters might have to push their boards a bit less frequently with these bearings.
5. Pros and cons
Steel and ceramic bearings have their upsides and drawbacks. Let’s assess them below.
It’s easy to say that ceramic bearings are the most expensive, according to the sentiments of several skaters. But we would not know if they fit our budget until we checked them.
Here’s a short price list of steel and ceramic skateboard bearings.
- TwoLions Full Steel Pre-Lubricated 608 Bearings – $11.98
- Bones® REDS® Skateboard Bearings -$17.95
- Zealous Bearings for Skateboards and Longboards – $22.94
- Oldboy Ceramic Skateboard Bearings – $47.00
- Bones Ceramic Bearings Reds – $88.95
- Bones Swiss Ceramic Skateboard Bearings – $150.95
Which is Better?
Perhaps, the good thing about steel and ceramic bearings is choosing either one will yield exceptional benefits surely.
Steel bearings are excellent for skaters on a budget. However, going for this bearing entails some risks when skating in rainy weather. Also, they are more prone to overheating.
On the other hand, if budget isn’t a constraint and you’re not into landing tricks from extremely tall places, ceramic bearings are better overall. They’re light, quiet, and faster than steel.
Performance-wise, they can retain speed longer. And most of all, they are less vulnerable to water and moisture damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth getting ceramic bearings?
It depends on what you value. If you do a lot of tricks like flips, ceramic inline skate bearings are not worth it.
But if your main concern is moving as fast as possible, ceramic types will deliver in that regard.
Tips for choosing the appropriate bearings for you
Given the exceptionally unique advantages of steel and ceramic bearings, how do we choose the best for our skateboard? Consider the following tips.
- Know your preferred skating style – Skateboard bearings have weight and impact limitations. For example, ceramic bearings are not the best when jumping high.
- How much can you spend? – With the price differences among skateboard bearings, it’s pretty easy to spot which set suits the budget. However, times might call for you to spend more to get a quality bearing.
- Skating conditions – As mentioned, steel bearings are vulnerable when ridden during rainy weather. Also, they have overheating tendencies. So, we should also consider these aspects.
Are there other types of skateboard bearings?
Are there bearings besides ceramic and steel? Yes! The third type we might want to know about is titanium bearings.
These bearings have the core of the steel type. However, manufacturers add a titanium coating on the exteriors.
Beneficially, the bearings get added protection from rust. Also, titanium wheel cores suffer less friction. But if there’s one thing we will love about titanium wheel cores, it’s their improved durability.
They last longer and withstand more impact than steel bearings. Hence, we can skate more and better with them.
Do you want to skate smoothly? Are you into thrilling skateboard stunts involving gigantic stair leaps? These are only a few questions you should ask yourself before buying skateboard bearings. This way, you will know what bearings are best for skateboards.
Now that we know the differences between ceramic VS steel skateboard bearings, we can finally decide what to choose. By then, we can ensure quality rides and maximize our spending.
So, it’s only about choosing the rust-proof bearing or the more affordable one. With our preferences considered, we get more good than bad.
Hi, I am Charles Harris. I opened this site to write as much as I can about my biggest passion – skateboarding!
I started as a clumsy yet passionate rookie 10 years ago to now a still passionate yet much better skateboarder! But I have to tell you, the whole journey has always been fun and rewarding, indeed not without hardship.