As a casual easy-going longboarder, and 6 boards in, I was thinking: “what have I learned?” – the full subject/answer is for a much longer post in the future, but I just wanted to cover one aspect now: bearings.
Alongside bushings, to match my weight and style, the one thing I almost certainly will keep changing on any future boards I buy complete, is the bearings. As a casual longboarder, not pushing the envelope in dance, freestyle or downhill, can I tell the difference between bad and good bearings, cheap and more costly? The answer is very firmly “yes”.
So far we have used bearings from Atom, Venom, Bones, Oust, Bronson and some unknown unbranded makes and I may not be able to tell the difference between makes, but I can certainly tell the difference between cheap and bad, and some costing a bit more. Is it worth spending a little more on your bearings? The answer for me is “yes, but not too much more”.
So, how much is spending a little more? Well, the bearings that have all come with complete boards have been quite frankly rubbish – “rubbish”, being that the board, under load (remember any ol’ bearing can spin forever without any load) does not travel as far and is just harder work. At the end of play, I feel more tired and just have not got as much done nor had as much fun. I guess it is simply an easy item for the makers of complete boards, in a very price competitive market, to use to help keep their costs down – there is no visible branding needed and in a shop people just flick the wheels (unloaded).
We first bought £8-12 bearings to replace the bad ones, but found some of them to not be too much better – I doubt it is a make/brand issue, it is just a consequence of the manufacturing costs. The step change in improvement has come from spending a bit more: £20-30 bearings – for us: Bones Race Reds, Bronson G3, Zealous & Oust. This is where the effort, speed, the run etc. have all been significantly better and overall just made the boards more fun to use.
On the next board (oh’ yes more to come… :-> ) I am going to try out some more expensive again Swiss and Ceramic bearings, just to see if they make an even bigger difference – I suspect not, but it will be fun to see.
Crunchie makes a good point, which is that a new bearing will generally be better than an old expensive one. Our philosophy is now to change bearings when they start to show issues (sounds rough, don’t run smooth etc.), frequently, if necessary. Consequently, I am not going to spend a lot on bearings, given we may replace them often – £20-30 for a set works for us.