History of Bones Bearings
By George A. Powell
In the early 1980s, skateboarding was at a low ebb and it was difficult to find top quality bearings. American bearing companies like Fafnir had vacated the bearing market because the Japanese produced vast quantities of lower cost bearings and U.S. companies could not compete at the price Japanese bearings were selling for. The Japanese bearings were of good quality but were not very fast. German bearings were better, but many skaters wanted an even faster bearing to help them go higher on vert ramps or to roll farther with each push.
Seeing this need, I set out to find the best bearing I could that would still be affordable to skaters. I looked in America and in Europe. My search ended at a small, custom bearing manufacturer in Switzerland. Their bearings were faster than any we had ever tested before and, at the time, only a little more expensive than German bearings.
I worked with the Swiss manufacturer to optimize a bearing for skating. I changed from a standard stamped metal ball retainer to a high speed precision molded plastic one that could be removed by skaters to allow better cleaning of the bearing. We left one shield off so skaters could get to the inside of the bearing without any tools to clean and re-lubricate it. Next, we adjusted the tolerances and clearances to allow the bearing to take the combination side and vertical loads imposed by skating better than normal bearings do (which are mostly designed for electric motors). Finally, we replaced the usual lubricant with a special one we developed ourselves called Bones Speed Cream™.
Re-engineering this fine bearing for skating produced the fastest, most sought after, most competition successful bearing in the history of our sport. In fact, it is still the fastest bearing you can buy for skating even after all these years and after many other companies have packaged and hyped you to buy their ABEC-1, 3, 5, 7 or 9 “super bearings” with cartoon characters, racy names or whatever.
We test all these bearings with custom equipment we have made to compare the important qualities of bearings like drag and vibration at high speeds and extended roll at low and medium speeds. Then we have our team ride the bearings until the bearings “die” to see how long they will last and how they perform in actual skating environments. Some of the bearings you will see advertised or sold in shops are junk and some are pretty good, but no bearing we have ever tested has equaled the performance of Bones Swiss.
The only thing negative we can say about Bones Bearings is today’s price. it is high because the Swiss have to charge this much to make money, and we have to pass our increased cost long to you. I know this puts Bones Swiss out of reach for many skaters and so I have been searching for a bearing that approaches the performance of our legendary Swiss at a lower price.
When I considered where I might find such a bearing, I thought of China because I have visited this rapidly developing country a number of times to help introduce skateboarding to the Chinese. While there, I discovered that parts of China are highly developed, possess good manufacturing equipment, and are capable of producing high quality items at low cost. So I started a search in China for a bearing manufacturer capable of producing a great skate bearing with a little help from us.
Two years and many tests later, we have come amazingly close to the performance of our own Bones Swiss for about half the price using a Chinese bearing manufacturer to our design specifications. We call this product Bones REDS™.
I know that most Chinese bearings offered to skaters today were selected for their low cost, not their quality and performance. This has resulted in a number of nicely packaged, poor quality Chinese bearings being successfully promoted with big ads in skate mags. These companies don’t want you to know that their bearings are just the cheapest bearings they could buy placed in a pretty box and they don’t even tell you where they are made.
I mention this because Bones REDS™ are not a low quality bearing in a pretty package, but could be mistaken for this before you ride them just because they are made in China. What we are doing with Bones REDS™ is similar in concept to our affordable Mini Logo decks and wheels many of you have enjoyed this past year—great product at a rock bottom price.
Bones REDS™ have very low friction, are made from the same fine materials as our Bones Swiss, are designed to the same specifications, have similar high speed ball retainers, have a single shield for easy cleaning and come pre-lubed with Speed Cream™ to make them fast and long lasting.
We are proud of Bones REDS™ and so we are not afraid to say our affordable bearings are made in China... the homeland of Chin. Bones REDS™ should be available in your local shop. I know you will be pleased with the price and the performance of Bones REDS™.