Bearings – thoughts and maintenance
On the way home from last week’s carpark session I decided to ride in the downpour back to my flat. The good side was that all the muck was rinsed off my board, the bad side was that once dry, my bearings crunched and didn’t spin anymore. It was time for an overhaul…
I really like bearings and over my time longboarding I have tried and loved the following (click on the pic for more info):
- SKF Speedskaters
Pros – really good value for money and quite fast.
Cons – only sealed on one side so can require more regular cleaning when compared to normal bearings. For some reason the bearing sheilds have bent inwards
- Rockin Ron’s Ballistech missiles
Pros – Really fast (the fastest I’ve used anyway and there are some good reviews on Silverfish) and hard wearing, seals are very effective. In the 2 years I’ve had them they’ve only needed cleaning twice
Cons – prone to rusting and appear to be noisier than other bearings. Also, sadly I’ve just heard that Rockin Ron Foster (the maker) is no longer making any bearings as he has now retired from the business. Boo…
Pros – The bearings and the races are stainless steel, so no rust, very durable (used on the South America LongTreksOnSkateDecks trip by Paul and Aaron)
Cons – Probably best for 10mm axels (but come with top hat inserts for 8mm)
Bearings I’d love to try but haven’t yet:
Pros – Ceramic so harder/lighter and no worries with rust like with conventional bearings! Used by a certain founder-member of Skatefurther, Nat Halliday (and others) on such trips as SkateNZ and Adam C on the South America LongTreksOnSkateDecks trip. Cheaper alternative to the Bones equivalent with the same performance (so I’ve heard).
Cons – Are there any, I’ve not heard anything bad about these bad boys!
There are lots of different methods and points of veiw relating to how best go about cleaning bearings. Basically, the process can be put broken down into 3 sections (I won’t go over how to remove them from wheels):
Aim: to degrease and get rid of all dirt from the bearings!
Equipement: Any cleaning kit (Bones, Oust) or make a shaker thing for yourself
Cleaning solutions from best to worst:
– White spirit: smelly, effective but the environmental factor as well as the fact that it is an irritant and fumes are harmful put me off using it.
– 90% (or more) alcohol: A good alternative to the above but not as harmful to humans or environment
– Citrus cleaners: good for getting gunk off and the hippiest option but the high water content means that particular attention should be paid when rinsing/drying to avoid rusting.
– Water: Iron bearings + water = rust (much hairdryer action needed) still good as a last resort though
1/ Assemble the bearings on the shaker and pour in your choice of cleaning solution until it reaches half way up. The bearings on their holder can be seen on the left (thanks for the pressie Tim!), shaker in the middle and 90% alcohol on the right.
2/ Shake! I always feel that it helps cleaning if you get a good rhythm going – I was aided in this by the musical talents of A Tribe Called Quest blasting out my speakers. Take out the bearings and spin them a bit to loosen up any dirt…then shake some more. If the solution is really mucky, rinse out the container and add more solution (shaking again).
3/ Leave the bearings in the solution to soak. Meanwhile, clean the bearing spacers and shields with more solution and leave to air-dry on a paper towel.
1/ Take the bearings out the solution and dry off the excess. If using citrus cleaners, I’d be tempted to rinse in water. If you’re using alcohol most of it should evaporate by itself (magic). Nevertheless, take a hair dryer to the bearings…heat them up good and make sure they’re bone dry.
1/ Once cool, re-assemble the bearings adding a little oil (Bones speed cream, Nitro oil or Oust Metol). Never user WD-40! For the first time, I’ve used some grease, just because I’m curious and because it is likely that I’ll be riding in damp conditions for some time yet. I’ll let you know how I get on.
The bearings are now squeaky clean! Here’s a little before and after:
If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve this method the please let me know. Obviously, the best bearing would be a completely waterproof bearing but I’ve yet to come across one – perhaps it’s still lurking out there, waiting to be discovered…