Inline skate bearings and the ABEC scale

If you think you need new bearings for your inline skates, it is best to check the bearing wear using the tests provided in this article. Your bearings are the core of your wheels and reduce friction so you can skate smoothly and efficiently. Therefore, they must be properly maintained from season to season.

wear check

The following are indications of significant bearing wear from a finger-flick, no-load spin test:

  • One or more of your wheels periodically get stuck
  • One or more of your wheel(s) are seized
  • One or more of your wheels require a lot of force to turn
  • One or more of its wheels spin freely for only a second or two

In addition, the following are signs of significant bearing wear from a spin test with the skater loaded:

  • As he skates, he hears a loud, grinding noise from his bearings.
  • It takes a lot of effort to build up and maintain speed when you skate.
  • Your bearings are hot to the touch after a roll.

You may also want to replace the bearings on your inline skates if you decide to switch to a different type of bearing. You may want to switch from shielded bearings to race or sealed bearings.

Learning the ABEC Scale

Bearings are rated on the Annular Bearing Engineering Council (ABEC) scale. Ratings are numbered 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 on the ABEC scale. The higher the number, the higher the manufacturing precision of the bearing.

However, there are no materials required to meet ABEC specifications. The bearings just have to be made with a certain precision. That is all!

Maintenance of your bearings

Inline skate bearings generally come in sets of four to eight. Before heading to your favorite sporting goods store, write down the information displayed on the outer shells of your bearings. Don’t forget to flip the bearing over and include the text that is inscribed on the other side.

If you’re happy with the original bearings that came with your skates or the last set you installed, buy the same bearings. If you have serviceable bearings like TwinCams or YAK and don’t mind doing your own cleaning and lubrication, then you can stick with the double-shielded type, especially if they’re from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that your skate manufacturer recommends. .

On the other hand, if you have sealed or non-serviceable bearings and are concerned about doing your own cleaning and lubrication, even periodically, you may want to stick with this type of bearing and simply replace them when they need to be changed.

Also, if you have shielded bearings with pop-up caps, like the Powell Swiss or Black Hole brands, and you like them for their ease of maintenance, it’s probably best to go back to using this type of bearing.

Purchase of new bearings

My K2 skates have 8mm TwinCam ABEC-1 double shielded bearings with the following inscribed on the shells:

twin camera



Typically, the manufacturer or brand does not make much of a difference within the three categories of shielded repairable bearings, shielded repairable bearings with pop-up caps, and non-repairable sealed bearings. An 8mm bearing size and the 608 designation are fine for recreational inline skaters. ABEC rating is another story!

ABEC-1, 3, and 5 are the most common bearings that come with inline skates, as well as the newer ABEC-7, which are gaining in popularity. Whether a skater can go faster with ABEC-5 bearings compared to ABEC-1 bearings has never been proven, scientifically or otherwise.

Also, the increased accuracy may not make a significant difference to the recreational skater traveling in the 10-20 mph range. The average skater doesn’t require a higher rated bearing because the difference in performance is so minimal that it would only be apparent at speeds an inline skater never reaches.

Also, the higher accuracy eventually deteriorates down to ABEC-3 or 1 due to dust, dirt, and normal wear and tear. To increase your skating speed, you’d better improve your technique and learn how to reduce wind resistance. These are proven ways to become a faster and more efficient skater.

So get the most affordable ABEC-1 or ABEC-3 inline skate bearings you can find, clean and lubricate them with oil or grease annually, and you’ll be fine.


When it comes time to purchase new bearings for your inline skates, be sure to write down the information that is inscribed on the outer shell of your bearings before heading to your local skate shop. Also, keep in mind that an ABEC rating is nothing more than a heading accuracy. If you find a bearing set at the right price that fits your skates, but they have a lower ABEC rating, go for it anyway! You will probably never notice the difference.

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