The Basics

The concept behind a bearing is very simple: Things roll better than they slide. The wheels on your car are like big bearings. If you had something like skis instead of wheels, your car would be a lot more difficult to push down the road.

That is because when things slide, the friction between them causes a force that tends to slow them down. But if the two surfaces can roll over each other, the friction is greatly reduced.

A simple bearing, like the kind found in a skate wheel

Bearings reduce friction by providing smooth metal balls or rollers, and a smooth inner and outer metal surface for the balls to roll against. These balls or rollers "bear" the load, allowing the device to spin smoothly.