Bearings…ABEC ratings explained…do they make you skate faster?

By Larry Kaufman

Cale was looking for some articles to post on the Team buy generic cialis 20mg Rainbo website, so here is my first attempt. I’m not a writer; I’m a Fireman (an Engineer by degree).

I’ve raced bicycles for over 30 years, cross-country ski raced, attempted marathons, and played ice hockey since I was 5 years old…I consider myself a lifelong athlete…never great at any, but endeavoring in all.

I started quad-speed skating indoors with Team Cyclones about 2-1/2 years ago and started inline speed skating about 2 years ago (mostly indoor), last summer was my first outdoor season. I hold a USARS level 2 speed coach card, which means nothing more than I read some books, took the test, and sent in my fees.

In any case, I would welcome all feedback regarding this post…is it too basic…to technical…poorly written….etc.

Thanks for reading (my e-mail is

It’s been written that the four “T’s” in athletics are Talent, Technique, Training, and Tools. These four items will determine how well any athlete will perform at any given endeavor. They are listed in order of importance and one can only alter the last three.

Talent is the most import asset of the four, but, as noted above, it is the only one of the four “T’s” that athletes (you) have no control over. It is your God given ability. Talent is why some people are Lance Armstrong’s, Greg Lemond’s, Shani Davi’s or Joey Mantia’s and some people are not.

This is not to say that Talent, which may be “untapped” or “unrealized”, cannot be released by the remaining three “T’s” (everyone has some Talent, just different amounts). But, “you are who you are” and athletes need to work within their natural abilities to perform their individual best.

With that said, the least important of the four “T’s” are Tools. This lengthy introduction was meant to emphasize that fact that regardless of the quality of your Tools (In our case skates, wheels, and bearings); you cannot excel in athletics without proper Technique and Training.

I’m sure that everyone, in their sporting endeavors, has encountered another athlete that is performing better than they are with inferior equipment. I remember from by bike racing days being beaten readily in time trials by individuals with far less superior TT bikes…very discouraging to say the least.

So how

does this all relate to bearings, materials and ABEC ratings? The point is that you’re not going to shave 10 minutes off your marathon time or 2 seconds off your indoor 100 meter times due to better bearings.

In any case, this is a short proxy on bearings, ratings, and what the may mean to your inline speed skating. Why? Because I believe everyone should understand how their equipment works, and decide what works best for them.

ABEC – Annular Bearing Engineers’ Committee. This is the American Standard for rating bearing accuracy and tolerance (it is mostly based on sound and vibration). The standards are set determining bearing applications rather than speed skating (believe it or not, bearings can be used for many other things then skating!). For example, important machinery and tools may need precision bearings to properly operate at required high RPM’s.

ABEC numbers are odd numbers only and range 1 through 9. An ABEC 1 bearing is the least precise but most durable since tolerances are not that important. An ABEC 9 bearing is a more precise bearing, but in theory less durable, due to the tighter tolerances need to make that criteria.

In addition to ABEC ratings, other international standards are ISO Classes (generally, the lower the class the more precise the bearing…exactly opposite of ABEC ratings!) and DIN ratings (again, the lower the DIN rating the more precise).

Over the years, bearing companies that cater only to rolling sports have developed their own rating systems, sometimes not even noting an ABEC number. For example, Bones and BSB manufacture Swiss Bearings which they consider to be above ABEC ratings. What this means is the tolerances and precision are above that of an ABEC 9 bearing.

It is important to note that ABEC ratings do not take into account lateral loading, materials, or impact resistance, all issues which are prevalent in Roller Sports. This is why skate specific bearings sometimes seem to roll better than non-skate specific bearings. These lateral loads and impact loads and how the hub of the wheel and axle fit through the bearing will all affect roll.

So that kind of explains what the ABEC number is. But there is more…Bearing dimensions for most inline speed skates are:
8mm bore (this is the inner diameter through which the axle goes).
22mm outer diameter
7mm width
These dimensions are not always true for quad skates (if you want to know more about those, e-mail me

In addition to sizing, materials play a factor in bearings too. Again, generally speaking, there are full steel, steel with ceramic balls, and full ceramic bearings. A set of full ceramic bearings can cost nearly $500! The biggest claimed benefit of ceramics is they do not heat up. This in theory makes them less prone to expansion and, again in theory, offer consistent, better roll. In addition, ceramics are supposed to offer longer life since they do not wear as steel does.

So what do better bearings offer?
Better roll
….maybe, assuming your push and technique are sound. Most experts agree that at the low RPM’s skate wheels spin (2500 – 4500 rpm) the ABEC ratings should not really make too much difference.
Better longevity
….definitely, I have some Swiss bearings on cycling equipment that are over 20 years old and still rolling great (proper maintenance is the key).
Psychological boost
….I’d say, just look at how long a Swiss bearing lets a wheel keep spinning compared to lower rated bearings….it has to make you faster…doesn’t it?

What it really comes down to is cost to benefit, if you can afford them, Swiss Bearings roll more smoothly and efficiently than other bearings which on any level, will help your skating.

2 thoughts on “Bearings…ABEC ratings explained…do they make you skate faster?”

  1. hi,
    my son is 9 n is a good skater .I recide in India. I want to know which type of bearings would be best for his quad skates.(speed skating)

  2. Hi Larry, I have Saloman Outdoor Inline Skates with 77.5/78A Wheels and Skate for fitness 4 to 8 miles average 3 days a week. What ABEC# do you recommend. I’m 58 years old. Thanks for info !

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