Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: Going for Speed

The Best Bearings for Your Wheelchair

Reading time: 4 minutes

Alright. Another month has passed and here we are with more life improving gear. for my favorite month – July – we’ll be looking at my favorite mindset. Going faster.

The problem we solve here is going slow. I really don’t like going slow. Another way to frame it is reducing the friction, so you use less energy and go faster and further.

I really don’t like working against friction. Right now, as I’m writing this in Australia, my bearings are completely shot. Rusted and broken. I’ll be heading home in 18 days, so I’m just camping out in the slow grounds until I get back home and address this monumental issue.

When my bearing are either broken or just the standard ones that I got with the chair, I feel like I’m pushing against some force. I actually am. Even when going downhill, I’ve noticed that I hardly pick up any speed if at all.

Having the least amount of friction allows you to exert less energy to go faster. It means that one push takes you further and you’re more agile. You’ll be surprised at the difference from the gear below.

Solutions:

  • Front wheel bearings
  • Back wheel bearings

The bearings that came with my chair, when I had them in the air and gave them a spin,they spun for only a few seconds. Once I upgraded, they spun for minutes.

Front Wheel Bearings

Front wheels in a wheelchair, I believe they’re called caster wheels, typically will be compatible with your everyday skateboard bearings. A very good thing because there’s a big market for skate bearings. The technical bearing size is 608.

You can either go all out if you’re serious about having the best or go decent if you want the minimum best.

One thing to note is that most skateboard bearing packs come with 8 total bearings, 2 for each wheel. Wheelchairs only have 2 front wheels, so this is like buying double.

Starting at the minimum end. Probably the best bearings you could get at the lowest price. Anything less than these shouldn’t be considered.

The recognized standard bearing. Reds. These will give you what you need and might be good enough if you want to go fast.

Pros

Cons

  • Will rust over time
  • Not the absolute best you can get
  • Other Bones Bearings have cooler stickers, but that’s an opinion.

Before we get to the top two bearings. Here’s a good in between option that I found.

Pros

Cons

  • Not widely known, not by me at least
  • Will also rust over time
  • Might not come with a sticker

For those that live in the fast lane, these two bearings are for you. On the expensive side, but commonly known as the fastest bearings around.

First up:  Bones Swiss Ceramic

Pros

  • Literally the very best
  • Super fast
  • Bragging rights
  • Super cool sticker to brag about
  • Ceramic doesn’t rust
  • The best

Cons

  • Only the balls are ceramic and the casing could rust
  • Expensive
  • Made out of toilet

Second up: VXB Full Ceramic

Pros

  • Individually sold bearings (can buy 4 instead of the pre-packaged 8)
  • Full ceramic to go even faster (less friction)
  • Not so expensive
  • Uses black ceramic balls

Cons

  • A ceramic case can crack, which will ruin the whole thing
  • Not skate rated like Bones
  • I couldn’t even find an ABEC rating
  • No sticker

Back wheel bearings

The bigger wheels on wheelchairs are much like (if not exactly like) bike tires. Luckily, bike (bicycle) bearings are also an existing market that we can dip into, and the water is warm. I’m back after eating dinner and doing more research, the water is luke-warm but erring on cool.

Bike bearings are few and far and they vary. I recommend taking off your wheel and checking what bearing you have. This is what mine looks like:

Cosmo’s wheel bearing

As you will struggle to see, it says “R8 2RS.” I also struggled. After some searching, I found that this bearing is 1/2 x 1 1/8 x 5/16 (inches), which is also, 12.7 x 28 x 8 (millimetres). Also called an R8ZZ or a 6001 bearing.
The measurements are Inner diameter x Outer diameter x Width

There aren’t any big players that make Swiss bearings of this size, or anything of distinct caliber like Bones.
I’ve found generic or ceramic.
Generic will get you medium results – probably better than the bearings that came with your chair but nothing mind blowing.
Ceramic (with a metal casing) will get you the results that come with ceramic, faster and better.

Here’s what we got. Keep in mind these are both individual bearings, so you’ll have to buy four.

If you want to look for another size bearing and you figure out the metric size or the name (6001, etc.) filter through this page to find a good bearing.

To make this process much more efficient, here are some amazing tools

Bearings are as hard to take out as

Bones Bearings Press Puller

To take off your caster wheels, you’ll need some hex keys (also used for bike maintenance)

Texas Best Folding Metric and SAE Hex Keys


Overdeliver? Absolutely.

There is a next level of speed, not the drug, and it involves some sauce. Don’t get lost in the sauce, you can actually use too much.

Bones Speed Cream Skate Bearing Lubricant

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