There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to skate, but you find that your skates are not cooperating with you. Even though you might be putting in your best effort, your wheels might be feeling slower than usual.
If you are experiencing this, it is most likely due to your skate’s bearings inside of your wheels. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to replace it entirely.
This article will walk you through what bearings are and how you can make skate bearings faster for a better skating experience.
Table of Contents Hide
- What are bearings?
- How do you increase bearing speed?
- How do you change your bearings?
- How do you clean and lubricate bearings?
- Why are my new bearings slow?
What are bearings?
Bearings are a component of your roller skates that sit inside the wheel itself and allow for the wheels to move and attach to the skates. It is made up of the following components:
- Shield. As the name suggests, it protects the inner parts of the bearing from external debris. Bearings may come with a metal or nylon shield.
Metal shields are sometimes sealed to the bearing itself so that the bearing cannot be taken apart, making it difficult to clean and lubricate.
You’ll usually find that this is the case for lower-end bearings. Most bearings have a removable nylon shield that makes them easier to maintain.
- Inner race. These are placed on the axes of the trucks. This is the only part of the bearing that can be changed out for a different size (7mm or 8mm).
- Balls. There are about 6-8 balls inside of a given bearing. These allow the bearings to move.
- Retainer. These keep the balls in place inside the bearing and helps to separate them so that the weight is evenly distributed. The balls must be kept separate, or else they could cause each other to spin in opposite directions.
- Outer race. This forms the outside of the bearing and is what stays in contact with the wheels.
Some bearings are given an ABEC rating (1,3,5,7,9) that is supposed to tell you how “fast” they are. However, this rating system was designed for machines.
Contrary to what you might think, the ABEC scale does not measure the speed of a bearing. Many bearings now are not rated on an ABEC scale because they are considered above it.
And having an ABEC rating doesn’t necessarily make a bearing better. These are ideal for recreational or beginner use.
When choosing a bearing, you want a high-quality one that can keep on rolling with the least amount of torque and resistance and one that is durable under a load.
Some skaters opt for skate-rated bearings because they are meant for high-impact roller sports and will last for a long time. They are able to take hard impacts that you often find in a demanding sport like skateboarding.
How do you increase bearing speed?
Over time, you’ll notice that your wheels will begin to slow down. They’re not rolling along as much as they once did, but you’d like for them to go faster. There are a couple of ways you can go about this safely without damaging your gear. Below is what you should and shouldn’t do to make your bearings faster.
How to Make Skate Bearings Faster:
Clean your bearings
Your bearings are going through a lot more than you may realize.
From the skatepark to the road, they are constantly encountering dirt, grime, debris – you name it! All of these particles and materials accumulate inside the bearings over time. You don’t notice it until you look at the bearing itself, or you’ll find that they start to act up and not be as speedy anymore.
The best way to counteract this is to clean them.
Apply Speed Cream or low viscosity lubricant
For a quick fix, you can apply Speed Cream. It is a high temperature, low viscosity lubricant made especially for skating conditions.
It helps to reduce friction and add a layer of protection against corrosion. If you don’t have time to sit down and take your bearings out, you can apply the Speed Cream to the outside of them while they’re still in your skates.
Otherwise, it is recommended that you remove the bearings from your wheels and apply one to two drops of lubricant inside the bearings.
Replace the bearings
If your old bearings aren’t cutting it even after trying some of our suggestions, then it may be time to get an upgrade.
As mentioned previously, it’s highly recommended that you consider skate-rated bearings as ABEC ratings are not a reliable measure of performance or quality.
Some of the best bearings you can invest in are made of ceramic because they don’t rust, are known to last upward of 20 years, are self-cleaning, lighter than their metal counterparts, and are more durable.
Additionally, they can withstand high speeds and acceleration.
What you shouldn’t do:
DO NOT apply WD-40 to your bearings
There’s a lot of misinformation out there in regards to using WD-40 to maintain bearings. While some skaters swear by it, it will ultimately ruin your gear.
This is because WD-40 is a solvent, not a lubricant. It was designed to accelerate water evaporation and will leave your bearings bone dry once it evaporates away.
DO NOT remove the lubricant
Yes, removing the lubricant can make it seem like your bearings are going faster, especially if you’re just testing it out with a hand spin. However, this will not fare well in the lifetime of your hardware.
It’s normal for lubricant to slow down the bearings in a hand spin, and it doesn’t matter if it does. We only care about how fast we can skate on it.
With a load on the bearing, the balls inside the bearing have more mass to them, plus heat from friction to help push the lubricant out of the way when rolling.
Lubricant keeps the bearing cool with less friction, which ultimately helps with durability. You should only remove the lubricant if you intend to clean the bearings and re-lubricate them again.
How do you change your bearings?
You’ll know that you need to change your bearings if they start to rust, are noisy when they spin, or still appear dirty even after you clean them.
Bearings should ideally be able to spin freely and quietly without any rust, dirt, grime, or any other particles. But how do you change out your bearings?
Find out in the steps below!
Method 1: Using the trucks on your skates
While there are different tools you can use to remove your bearings (as you’ll soon find out), they aren’t really necessary.
At the minimum, all you need is the trucks on your skates, which are handy if you don’t have access to the tools.
First, make sure that your skate is lying flat on its side on a stable platform like a table. Then, put the wheel onto the truck and pull on the bearing at an angle. It should pop out pretty easily. Repeat for the bearing on the other side of the wheel.
To put the bearings back into the wheels, first push both of them as far as you can with your hands. You’ll notice at this point that they are not fully pushed in. You can fix that by then putting the wheel onto the truck and again pushing onto the bearings.
Method 2: Bearing tool
This tool makes the changing process faster and easier. All you have to do is press the button on the top of the tool and place it straight into the bearing.
After the tool is connected to the bearing, release the button. The tool and the bearing should be “stuck” together.
Then, grab the wheel and pull the bearing straight out. You might have to wiggle it out too. Release the bearing from the tool by pressing the button again.
To put the bearings back with the tool, insert the tool into the bearing with the protective shield facing outward. With the wheel on a flat surface, put the bearing and tool on top of the wheel and push them into the wheel. Press the button to release from the bearing.
Repeat with the other side.
Method 3: Bearing press
If you thought changing bearings was easy with the bearing tool, you’ll be blown away by the bearing press. When you want to take the bearings out, you have to hook the wheel onto the end of the press. Then, press the lever down to remove them. Easy right?
And it is just as easy to put them back in. Pull the lever up to reveal a rod that you can put the bearings on. Place one of the bearings onto the rod with the protected side out. Then, place the wheel on top of that.
Lastly, put the other bearing with the protected facing outward. Place the rod down into its original position and push the lever down to insert the bearings into the wheel.
How do you clean and lubricate bearings?
You may not notice it all the time, but your roller skates come in contact with a lot of grime and dirt no matter where you’re skating. And unless you have sealed bearings, you’re going to have to maintain and clean them to keep them functioning normally.
While it is another chore you have to add to your list, it’s worth it in the long run to keep your skates in top-notch and durable.
Follow the steps below to clean and lubricate your bearings.
Step 1: Take the bearings out of the wheels
You’ll need a skate tool, bearing puller, or the trucks on your skates for this step. You want to first use the skate tool to remove the axle nut and wheels from the truck. The bearing puller is then going to pull out the bearings from the wheel itself.
Make sure to take out both bearings from each wheel.
Step 2: Remove the shield from the bearings
Depending on what kind of bearing you have, you may have one or two shields that need to be removed before cleaning. Find a sharp tool like a knife and carefully lift the shield off of the bearing and keep it to the side.
Step 3: Clean and dry the bearings
Now it’s time to clean the bearings. Many skaters like to use acetone, lacquer thinner, gasoline, or MEK. However, these are not ideal as they can be irritating to your skin and dangerous to your health.
A non-toxic alternative is a citrus-based cleaner.
Once you’ve chosen your cleaner of choice, submerge the bearings in the solution in a container. Then, close the container and shake it until the solution looks dirty. Take the bearings out of the solution and wash them with hot water to rinse off the cleaner.
Immediately follow up with a hairdryer to avoid rusting.
Step 4: Add lubricant
Lubricants are the (not so) secret ingredient to bearings. They are where the magic happens when it comes to skating.
For this step, try finding a low viscosity lubricant made for skating. If you don’t have that on hand, oils for sewing machines and electronics will also do. Avoid thicker oils, which can collect and hold onto debris.
All you need to do is add two to three drops to the inside of the bearing.
Step 5: Put the bearings and wheels back together
The last thing you need to do is put it all back together. Remember to put the shields back on the bearings, insert the bearings into the wheels, and tighten the wheels onto the frame.
Why are my new bearings slow?
It is pretty normal for new bearings to be slow, especially by hand. They are designed to be under stress, so how long they spin without that load is not indicative of their actual performance.
Like new skates, you also have to break into new bearings. They require the freshly made steel balls and races roll against each other and have the lubricant settle onto all surfaces before they start to perform at their optimum level.
You’ll need to ride them for a few miles or hours until the lubricant thins out and allows them to go faster.
While bearings seem like a small part of your skates, they play a big role in your skating. They are the main part of your wheels that allow them to rotate and ultimately let you skate. It is important for you to maintain their upkeep and have them performing at their best.
After a while, you might notice that they’re not going as fast. This can be due to dirt, particles, not enough lubricant, or simply just a busted bearing.
Whatever the reason, you’re now a bearings expert and can face any situation. Check out our top picks for best skate bearings.