Lets make this short and sweet. There is so much miss information in the skate world regarding bearings and ABEC ratings which stands for Annular Bearing Engineering Committee. This is truly one of those confusing subjects steeped in mystery and stigma but in reality is simple science and engineering.
Let me begin by saying I am not an engineer nor claim to have that level of expertise but having worked in and around bearings for 20 years I have absorbed a few things. The most simple and best resources for this information are simply found at Bones Bearings and Seismic Bearings. Those guys have been doing this so long that theirs is a no nonsense intro to keep things simple.
ABEC ratings. Such a simple term but so misunderstood. All we are saying here is that the higher the ABEC rating which only goes from 1 to 9, is a measure of the average size of the individual pieces of the bearings measured in 10,000ths of a millimeter. What we are most concerned with here is the inner race, outer race and the ball bearings. The more consistent the size and the closer each piece is to the set standard the higher the rating. The problem with this is and always has been what is the quality of material. You could make an ABEC 9 bearing out of wood but that does not make it good for riding. This is in part why Bones has tossed the whole ABEC system aside since in our sport it really does not apply. The first time you take your high end ABEC 9's off a 6 stair and land hard guess what, no more ABEC 9 bearing. What matters now is the quality of the materials. Better steel equals stronger more durable bearing which will last longer. It is that simple, do not complicate it.
Throw your opinions aside here and just realize this is it. You can if, and or but this subject all you want but it does not really change anything. A high quality ABEC 3 bearing is better than a low quality ABEC 9 bearing in many cases. Keep in mind too that these companies are making thousands and thousands of bearings and only test a handful so every once in awhile a piece that is out of tolerance gets through so your set of ABEC 5 bearings may have 7 ABEC 5's and 1 ABEC 3 or maybe 1 ABEC 7 if you are lucky. There is some rolling of the dice here. If you pay for the higher end Bones Swiss be rest assured that those folks spent a little bit more time measuring and sorting to make sure you get the right stuff so yes it is worth spending more on average. Then again you can always get lucky too.
Bottom line here, buy good stuff and take care of it. Most bearings when rolling rough only need a thorough cleaning and lube and much of the time a good used bearings is better then a new bearing. It has been broken in and just wants some TLC. But most of us are too lazy and it is just easier to buy new. Which is cool.
Other fun things to keep in mind is to swallow our pride and realize Skateboarding did not invent the skate bearing. This 608 size bearing is for thousands of other items in this world we are not that special. Frankly from a speed point of view and durability the skate bearing is actually a bit over engineered. That may be my opinion a bit but considering what we do with it and the other applications it has it is a small miracle of engineering. If you want more awesome techy information go to Bones and Seismic. Other sources like Wikipedia will give you a good definition of terms and in fact the ABEC pages themselves will give you more data then you ever really need to know. Then again maybe one of you may become an engineer yourselves, design a better bearing and become the next leading bearing manufacture making skateboarding and all things that spin better.
Have a great ride.
This is Tim and Boardmart spinning off.