Most skateboard bearings are made of steel. They are strong, durable, and affordable. But the best skateboard bearings are made of a ceramic substance that is often hailed as a high-performance alternative.
The question is, are ceramic bearings worth the extra cost?
What Are Ceramic Bearings?
Ceramic bearings are often made from a compound called silicon nitride (other compounds are also used).
As the name suggests, silicon nitride combines the elements silicon and nitrogen and is an incredibly hard substance that measures 8.5 on the Mohs scale.
The Mohs scale is used to measure the hardness of substances and goes up to 10. Sodium, potassium, and candle wax measure less than 1. Steel is between 4 and 4.5, and hardened steel is 8, giving you an idea of just how tough silicon nitride is.
It’s not just about strength, either. Bearings made from silicon nitride are also about 60% lighter than steel bearings and they self-lubricate.
Why Are Ceramic Skateboard Bearings Better?
Ceramic bearings last longer, produce less friction, move faster, and are heat resistant, so they can withstand more extreme temperatures than standard steel bearings.
For these reasons, ceramic ball bearings are often preferred by pro skateboarders, though many amateur riders still use the cheap steel skate bearings.
Do Ceramic Bearings Make A Difference?
Ceramic bearings can make a big difference when compared to standard steel bearings
If you’re a pro rider, you’ll definitely notice the difference and should see a big improvement when switching to ceramic bearings. As a complete beginner, however, you likely won’t notice it.
Your bearings should last longer, but again, if you’re not skating frequently, that won’t make much of a difference.
The problem with ceramic skateboard bearings is that they can be much more expensive than steel bearings.
Silicon nitride is expensive to manufacture in bulk and this leads to much higher prices that might be out of reach for amateur riders.
How Long Do Ceramic Bearings Last?
The most exceptional ceramic bearings will last for over 5 years, ensuring you get your money’s worth. On the flip side, you may get just 2 to 4 years out of a set of steel bearings.
It all depends on how often they are used and what product you buy, but ceramic bearings are harder, less reliant on lubrication, and help to reduce friction, so they usually last much longer than their steel counterparts.
What Do Ceramic Skateboard Bearings Score on the ABEC Scale?
The Annular Bearing Engineering Committee (ABEC) rating system is used to measure and rate the precision, speed, and efficiency of skate bearings. The higher the ABEC rating, the better the bearing.
The problem with the ABEC is that it’s not really the industry standard that many consumers believe it to be. In fact, brands like Bones Bearings don’t use it at all and prefer “Skate Rated”.
ABEC ratings can be useful to determine the quality of steel bearings, but it doesn’t really account for materials used and so it won’t help you much when shopping the very best skate bearings, including ceramic bearings.
Should I Use Ceramic Bearings for Roller Skates?
Yes, you can use ceramic bearings for skates, as well as skateboards. However, they can be costly and so they are not the best option for beginners and kids. They are also pointless if you’re only skating a few times a month and stick to simple moves and tricks.
Are Ceramic Bearings Waterproof?
Your ceramic bearings won’t be affected by rust in the same way as steel bearings, but they are still susceptible to environmental damage.
As always, you should refrain from riding in the rain and keep your board away from puddles, as it could reduce the lifespan and efficiency of your ceramic bearings.
Do Ceramic Bearings Need to Be Lubricated?
One of the great benefits of ceramic bearings is that they don’t require lubrication. You do need to think about rust on the steel casing, though, especially if you live in a humid climate.
Are Ceramic Bearings Worth It for Skateboarding?
The fact that ceramic bearings last longer and help to reduce friction makes them a must-buy for regular skaters, especially if you’re using a longboard. The lower friction means you can achieve faster speeds and maintain them for longer.
If you’re a complete beginner, however, steel bearings should be more than enough. There are more important things to focus on as a beginner, including safety equipment, trucks, and the actual skateboard deck.
Once your skills improve and you’re ready to invest more money in your hobby, consider ceramic skateboard bearings. Until then, stick with steel.