Bearings are an essential part of a longboard complete; they allow the wheels to spin on a fixed truck axle. Having a good quality longboard bearing will definitely make a difference in your experience, but don’t go too crazy with spending your money.
Most of the cheaper bearings will do the job just fine and last for a long time if you keep them away from water or dirt while using them in combination with bearing spacers and washers.
What is the difference between a skateboard and longboard bearings?
There is no difference between the skateboard and longboard bearings. Regardless of the size of your wheels or type of skating you do, street skate or longboard, the bearings are the same size. The only thing you need to pay attention to is the dimension of the bearing spacers.
Bearing spacer has two measurements, one is the axle diameter and the other is overall width. The first measurement, the axle diameter, is generally 8 mm for most skate trucks, regardless if they are meant for skateboarding or longboarding.
But to make sure you’ll have a good fit, you should pay attention to the second measurement, the overall spacer width. A common overall width for skateboard bearing spacers is 8 mm, while for larger longboard wheels you’ll need a 10 mm spacer.
The same applies to built-in bearings, which are described in more detail later in this post. If you’re buying them for smaller wheels chose 8 mm x 8 mm and for larger longboard wheels the measurement should be 8 mm x 10 mm, presuming you’re skating on commonly used trucks.
Bearing spacers + Speed washers
A bearing spacer is a metal cylinder that fits into a wheel between the bearings. Often, longboard beginners don’t know about the bearing spacers and it doesn’t help that some cheaper longboard completes are being sold without them. The same goes for the speed washers (a.k.a. speed rings or bearing washers) which fit between the bearings and the axle nuts and between the bearings and the truck’s hangers.
Bearing spacers help increase the lifespan and performance of the bearings. Their purpose is to reduce the weight distributed between the bearings and make sure that they are perfectly aligned with each other when being put under pressure (especially when you’re performing slides).
Having them installed will result in your slides being smoother and more consistent. Without the bearing spacers, you will not be able to fully tighten the axle nuts without preventing the wheels to rotate.
What’s the problem, Doc?
Knowing that you need spacers and washers when using regular bearings, let’s have a look at some disadvantages that come with their use:
- They are small and can get lost easily
Bearing spacers and speed washers are quite small parts which often require additional attention and handling with care when you’re mounting or changing wheels. If dropped on the floor, they can easily get lost and sometimes it’s even impossible to recover them.
- They make changing / mounting wheels longer and more complicated
Installing those additional parts prolongs the time of changing/mounting the wheels. Also, as the spacer is “floating” between the bearings, you’ll need to change the position of the board/axle in order to be able to mount the wheel on the axle.
- Inconsistent spacer length
Not all spacers are built with precision in mind. Some cheap spacers are not the same length, which can cause additional complications.
The solution – Longboard bearings with built-in spacers
Longboard bearings with built-in spacers have their inner ring (race) elongated on both sides, acting as the bearing spacer and speed washers. No extra bearing spacers and speed washers are required. This makes changing / mounting wheels much faster and less stressful. All you need to do is insert the bearings and you are ready to mount your wheels without any extra effort.
What about the price?
Bearings with built-in spacers are also known to be of a better quality and with better quality usually comes a higher price tag. Compared to standard longboard bearings, they are a bit more expensive, but usually worth those extra coins.
However, not all brands stand for this. Due to its popularity, more and more brands are introducing bearings with built-in spacers and choosing “the good ones” can be quite tricky. Unless you’ve tried a set for yourself or got a recommendation from someone you trust, you might end up spending more money without any guarantee that they will be as good as promised.
Prices start at around 17,00 € and can get as high as 100,00 € or more for a set of 8 bearings. Those more expensive usually feature “ceramic balls” which are considered to be more durable and stronger. In my opinion, you’ll be more than satisfied if you spend around 20,00 €, which is just around 5,00 € more than you would spend on a standard set of 8 bearings.
Recommended: Zealous bearings
There are many buying options, but Zealous stands out with a high level of quality and affordable pricing. They are the only built-in spacer bearings which I can recommend at the moment while being 100% sure that they will not disappoint you. Some individuals might disagree but most people who have tried Zealous bearings will nod their head when I say “Zealous bearings are definitely one of the best built-in spacer bearings on the market right now”.
For a while, I was looking at them online, wondering if they are worth the money – because they were so cheap! We have a saying where I come from “We are not wealthy enough to buy cheap stuff”, meaning that cheap stuff doesn’t last for a long time and therefore it’s better to buy something more expensive. Higher the price, better the quality, right? Wrong. With Zealous longboard bearings, this is not the case. You pay for them much less than for other comparable built-in spacer bearings, but they last for ages.
Zealous bearings feature the built-in spacer and speed ring. They are produced from high-quality materials and feature a super tight rubber sealing which prevents water and dirt from entering the bearing. This rubber sealing can be easily removed so that you can clean your bearings from time to time. To be honest, I haven’t cleaned mine for a full year and they still roll like crazy – fast and silent. They are lubricated with a nanoceramic lube which has excellent repellant to water and makes the bearings run at a considerably lower heat.
Are Bones REDS better than Zealous?
Bones REDS bearings for longboard and skateboard are the most popular bearings around the world, leading by being the most popular brand in United States. Most riders choose REDS because of their unbeatable reputation in street skateboarding scene too.
REDS come pre-lubed with Speed Cream lubricant developed specifically for bearings making them spin forever right out of the box. They are built using high standards and high quality materials and feature the non-contact removable rubber shield. This enables you easy cleaning while providing with the minimum friction.
Bones REDS and Zealous are both on top of the game and whichever you choose, you can rest assured that your wheels will be spinning very good for a long period of time, especially if you take good care of them; it’s recommended to clean your bearings at least once a year or every time after skating in the wet.
What are your favorite longboard bearings?
What are your favorite bearings for longboard and why? Share your experience through the comments below and help others with their choice. Much appreciated. Thank you!