Do ABEC Ratings Matter For Roller Skate Bearings?

Without a doubt, skating would not be possible without roller skate bearings. We definitely would not have much fun skating without the use of bearings because we would not be able to skate very far.

Sourcing the right roller skates and understanding ABEC ratings can be quite a task but, this article will certainly clear up a few things for you.

ABEC Bearing Rating

Roller skating is a recreational activity enjoyed by many. It originated in the Performing Arts but became much more popular as time went by.

Whether you see it as a sport or an art form, one thing is certain, roller skating has been a part of many social movements and a staple of minority factions of society.

Roller skate bearings are essential to roller skates, so it warrants further understanding.

What Exactly Is ABEC?

ABEC ratings can leave a lot of people confused, but it doesn’t have to be. We should start first by explaining exactly what ABEC ratings are.

ABEC is an acronym which stands for Annular Bearing Engineering Committee. This committee was founded under the American Bearing Manufacturers Association which (ABMA) is a nonprofit organization.

Roller Skate Bearings

They work alongside the U.S. customs making sure that bogus products don’t come into the country while fighting to combat counterfeiting.

They also give bearing manufacturers accurate specifications in an effort to have all ball bearings categorized into specific classes to measure up to a universal standard.

AMBA History

In 1934 the AMBA officially became an association after they helped the US in World War II.

It’s important to note that roller skate bearings aren’t only used in roller skates,  but many engineering applications such as jet engine turbines or simple products like lazy susans.

Today the ABMA aims to be the voice of America’s bearing industry as well as the leading national association.

ABEC Rating System

ABEC formulated a standard which they called the ABEC scale to measure varying ball bearing tolerances.

Therefore, manufacturers adhere to the ABEC scale based on the precision of the ball bearings they create. Good manufacturers do their best to measure up to the ABEC standard. 

In this way, the ABEC standard ensures that products (in this instance roller skates) are usable and functioning properly.

ABEC also provides dimensional specifications for ball bearings so that producers of the various parts can gain an understanding of the dimensional tolerances.

They also help manufacturers to design specific parts that are able to accommodate the type of product that the bearing is going to be used in.

The ABEC rating scale is categorized into odd-numbered sections that begin with 1 and go up to number 11. The higher the number, the greater the roundness and precision the ball bearings are.

What Is Ball Bearing Dimensional Tolerance?

We mentioned earlier that ABEC looks at the tolerance of ball bearings, but what exactly does that mean?

To put it simply, it refers to the closeness of the ball bearing to the size required for the ABEC standard. Generally, the dimensional tolerance of ball bearings coincides with a specific size published by the ABEC standard.

ABEC Ratings For Roller Skate Bearings

Manufacturers must adhere to a certain tolerance so that the bearing can be classified within a certain ABEC rating.

For example, ABEC-1, ABEC-5, or ABEC-9 refer to certain sizes or tolerances. The higher you go in the number of memes that the tolerance is reduced, and therefore you get a more precise bearing.

These bearings must be able to meet the higher standard that goes with that number.

The Top Roller Skate Bearings

Based on the ABEC rating we have just outlined, any right-thinking person would assume that choosing a roller skate bearing with an ABEC-9  rating would probably be your best bet, especially if you want to roller-skate at a high speed.

However, this is not necessarily the case because an ABEC-9  rating would be very precise but,  this is not necessarily so for roller skates.

Consider that an ABEC-9  rating is going to cost you quite a bit more than an ABEC-1 rating with no substantial difference, so it is better to not waste your money.

Also, you need to understand that tolerance doesn’t mean that much when it comes to roller skates unless you intend to use your skates at a speed of 240 mph.

If you were using a space shuttle or jet engine that the ABEC-9 would be the better option but an ABEC-1 or ABEC-3 rating is perfectly fine roller skates.

Choosing the Best Roller Skate Bearings

Now that we have established that roller skate bearings do not matter for roller skates, it may leave some to wonder about the other ways they can choose the best roller skates.

You are free to ask your roller skating buddies or try them out for yourself. Looking at reviews online may also prove helpful but take comments with a grain of salt!

It is always wise to stick with reputable companies with many years of experience because they know what they are doing.

Also, look into companies that manufacture bearings for skateboards and roller skates only, this means that this is their specialty. You can completely ignore the ABEC ratings if roller skating is your objective.

Things To Look For:

Top Roller Skate_Bearings

The most important thing to consider When deciding on a good roller skate bearing it’s probably the type of material used in the bearing itself.

The bearing consists of different parts and the material used time makes a major difference in performance and durability.


The sealed and shields of bearings are specially designed for protection against outside debris while also helping to keep the lubricants inside the bearing.

There are many types of shields but the most popular are metal and rubber.

Metal shields are usually the most durable, but they are more difficult to clean, and they provide the worst protection from outside debris. Metal Shields are also not removable most of the time.

On the other, hand rubber shields can be removed without much effort, but they also have the disadvantage of being damaged quite easily.

You mostly see regular and labyrinth rubber, but the regular seals are usually a bit better than the metal seal. The labyrinth seal tends to sit in a groove creating even more distance where dirt can travel. these are more fit for skateboard bearings.

Side or Axial Loads

Side or Axial Loads are very important in Roller skates. The ball bearings use radial loads which refer to the speed of the bearing spin in one direction.

In machinery the boiler bearings need to be quite fast like over 100 mph,  but not in skates. However, because roller skating involves a lot of spins, turns, and jumps there is a need for side or axial loads.

So look for roller skates that have more emphasis on axial or side loads since they tend to wear and tear more easily in roller skates.


Retainers are used to space the balls in the bearing more evenly.  They usually use two main materials which are metal (mainly Brass or Steel) or nylon.

You may find that nylon retainers provide less drag than the metal ones they are also smoother and faster when you are skating.

ABEC Ratings Roller Skates

Additionally, nylon retainers usually work just fine even when they are deformed or cracked. This is not so for steel retainers which may scratch the balls resulting in the metal shavings emanating from the bearings.


It goes without saying that the balls allow the bearings to roll. This is perhaps the most essential part of the bearing and is made from two main materials which are steel and ceramic.

Ceramic balls have the advantage of being smoother and stronger than steel balls. Even though ceramic balls are stronger and smoother than steel balls they are also malleable and susceptible to cracks.

The steel ball will deform instead of cracking which means that the ceramic balls will eventually disintegrate while these steel balls are more durable.

Remember that whenever ceramic balls incur damage they must be replaced, so if durability is what you are after then steel balls are the way to go.  However, if speed is what you are after then ceramic is the better option.


The races (sometimes called rings) serve as tracks for the balls to roll in.  There are two races,  which are the outer and inner races.

The races are usually held together by the balls which means that usually, the ball bearings do not pay much emphasis to sideload.

Different manufacturers handle the races differently so that the balls run smoothly.  That said, you should remember that the bearings were not created to float on their own, n the truck axle.

They need to be held in place by a spacer and washers so that stress on the bearing will be reduced in the face of side loads.


This is perhaps the most important part of making sure your bearings do not accumulate dirt. It is the single most significant thing you can do to take care of your bearings after you have purchased them.

Bearings that are lubricated and clean are probably the most indispensable thing you can do to keep your bearing in good working condition and also helps to make sure that it lasts for a long time.

ABEC Ratings For Roller Skate

A well-lubricated bearing will run smoothly and will maintain speed.

Ceramic and race-style bearings use a bit of oil which results in a faster spin but the downside of this if that it tends to leak slowly because the oil is thinner in nature.

Of course, you will need to re-lubricate the bearings to keep them in Tip-Top shape.

You also have the option of purchasing a grease-based bearing which has the benefits of lower maintenance, but the downside is that they would need to be broken in so that the thicker grease starts to flow.

However, once this is done you will have little to no maintenance to do on your bearings.

To Sum It Up

So do ABEC ratings matter for roller skate bearings? The simple answer to this question is no.

In fact, many people are beginning to realize that ABEC ratings really do not matter in the case of roller-skate bearings.

The only real difference is the price you will pay for a higher rating and many manufacturers use this as a marketing tool fooling the uninformed public.


Hi there, my name is Tom and I have been roller & inline skating since I was a little kid. Learning the sport at such an early age allowed to me gain a lot of experience and try different types of skates. It took me a lot of trial and error to learn some of the roller skating tricks so I decided to share my journey with you guys!

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