Monday, December 10, 2007

Review > Synrock > Side Pods

Ahh, it seems that Routesetter have beaten us to the punch on this one (last time I post what we're reviewing :P) but to offset our review you can read there's here:

Onwards, and at times upwards...These are the holds in question, how can something like this cause so much controversy? Well I bolted the holds up and made sure Chris came in the back door (so he'd not see the wall, he has a keen nose for new holds) and then handed him the biggest hold of the lot... here's his face..Yup that about says it all! That's pretty much my face when I unpacked them the other day, I stood, I scratched my head, and then I grabbed a wrench, bolted them on and had a climb.

These holds are ugly as sin to look at, really ugly. The finishing is so-so, the colors are awful and the see through ones should just be banned! Some of the holds have glue on them, some have pit marks on the polycrete so it means you can see the end of the nails that are inside, they're just plain and simply ugly. One thing we did find endearing about the look of the holds is the fact that the name of the holds and pat pend is obviously inscribed by hand, so every time you get one of these through the post you know that its hand made, be it a little sloppy, but hand made none the less!

Once you get over the fact that they look awful, you can get to climbing on them. Now, its a well documented fact that I hate really small single pad holds, if I want to give myself an injury i'll get a fingerboard, strap on some weight and i'll knacker my hands. But in the interest (and there was a ton) of the holds I taped up, chalked up and had a bash...
Brutal on vertical, use them on a slightly overhung wall (15 over) and its brutal yet delicate climbing. I can see where these holds are going to be a dream.. when you want to force moves because with the polycrete and the rock on top you have no choice but to hold the hold the way it was set and therefore intended by the setter. That's where, for me anyway, these holds come into their own!

But wait! There's more! Let's talk about texture, these holds have it in spades, buckets of it, AND you can sand them down if you want... lets face it they're rock, so they clean up well and whats more they grip like nothing else out there on the market. That's what really surprised us, the look like they're going to be horrible and then they're not that bad to climb on, whether or not they're the best thing to pull on for hours on end is a different matter, because I can see tweaked joints and people ripping off happening alot. Also one thing you'll notice is that the holds feel cooler than your normal run 'o' the mill bolt ons, this is the rock talking to your finger tips. I even chucked the heat on in the wall for a few hours and where other holds were getting a little slippery the pods just went "yeah, whatever... you can still pull on us cos we're coooool"

Opinions are divided, really divided on these holds. I can see the benefits of what they are and what they do, but I think that with some time and a little more TLC when they're being made these holds will become a staple of any wall, if you see them at a commercial gym is another case. Well you will see them at my local wall because they're getting bolted up and we're asking anyone that has something to say about them to post a comment on here so we can see what the people have to say...

These holds are a love hate thing. They have screw holes so you can use them as screw ons, they have bolt holds, so you can use them as bolt ons, therefore they can be placed pretty much anywhere, so that's cool. When you use just the bolt you're thinking that the hold could spin, but they don't, which was an eyeopener, and my wall is varnished. The texture is amazing, the colors are baaaaaaaaaad, the finishing is not up-to par but (and this is a big but) if you close your eyes half way and bear down you could almost think that you're outside.

For me holds need to look pleasing to the eye, that's what makes people want to reach up and grab and to pull. These holds, thou semi pleasing to pull on are not pleasing to the eye and therefore don't really make you want to pull on them. Jim over at Synrock has more holds to offer and I shall be buying more, but I will be getting the bigger holds, these for me are too small for my pulling enjoymentCHRIS' LAST WORD
Hmm tricky. I like these holds, but I do like pulling on small things... they do look horrid, but they pull like rock. They have a unique texture, but they are rock. They do force the climber to climb a route the way its set, but you can't really use them for anything else.


There are many holds with rock like texture out there that aren't made from rock, there are many dual texture holds out there on the market as well. These are the only holds that I'm aware of that are made from rock, and therefore in my eyes are worth a look at from anyone. If they looked a little nicer, and the finishing was a little bit cleaner then you'd see these holds everywhere.... EVERYWHERE. For now they're a little bit niche, and therefore aren't going to be seen that much... but if you have a nice slab of vertical in your house, or a wall that's not too overhung then you can set some amazing (probably) stopper routes with these


EvilJelloMan said...

It looks like you got a lot of the thin crimper sidepods - this isn't surprising, as these are one of the spots where the holds really shine, so it's no shocker Jim would choose to send them out for testing. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more realistic crimp. That said, there are TONS of other rockpod shapes, and some thicker sidepods that have various jug and sloper configurations. I'm not a huge fan of the nasty crimp either, but it has a place in the gym. Did you see that massive two-hand jug sidepod in the review? I need to get my hands on that hold.

ntmb said...

Yeah I saw that beast, I think that in the new year I'll grab some of the larger holds and see whats up with them. Their holds are unique, and I want to get some more, because crimping when training isn't my thing, Chris loves it, I hate it.

I think that Jim is doing something that like I say in the review, if the presentation is a little better will go a long long way

We'll see what the gym goer's say in a few weeks


rockpodz said...

"For me holds need to look pleasing to the eye, that's what makes people want to reach up and grab and to pull"

I think you need to readjust your brains reward system. When you learn to become more tactile and less visual your climbing ability will greatly improve. You don't climb with your eyes grasshopper.

I have two coments on the hold rating thing. First you apparently have no concept of the term quality. Ten years from now those pods I sent will feel and work exactly the same as they do now. By contrast, if they last that long, the plastic holds that are on your wall now will be nasty polished blobs. Quality is a temporal term, you can't measure it in a day.

And texture? An 8 while some plastic holds are getting a 9? I realize that the holds you got are smaller crimps and you are comparing texture with larger hods but do YOU realize that the holds I sent are smaller crimps and you are comparing them to larger holds?

Fontainebleau SANDSTONE gets a texture of 10 - these are around 9.5. On the Fontainebleau scale no plastic hold would get a texture greater than 5. Plastic just sucks compared to real sandstone.

ntmb said...

This is why I knew this review would be a controversy....

"For me holds need to look pleasing to the eye, that's what makes people want to reach up and grab and to pull" this is science fact, if something is pleasing to a baby then they will want to reach out and explore it. This is carried through to adult life... I agree with what you're saying partially. When we are outside we don't care what we pull on, if its there we use it, but at home when you see something that isn't as pleasant looking then you start to wonder. Maybe its just me.

When we say quality on our reviews it states:
"Are the holds simply made well? Do they lay flush to the wall? Is the material that they're using of a good quality?" that is what we are basing our review upon in this regard.

Ok we could be off on the texture, we're not completely mad. But its hard to judge texture when its just your finger tips that are contacting a surface, like we said in the review we will buy some more bigger holds from you and when we've climbed on them we can very well adjust our texture score. Chris is over tmrw with some other climbers, and as the holds haven't been moved to the gym yet (for the public) we will get some more opinions so we'll run a score check.


Louie Anderson said...

I'm going to post this reply on both sites (climbingholdreview and routesetter).

Having had the chance to set with and climb on these I feel qualified to comment.

One thing that puts me off about these holds and the company in general is Jim's attitude. Accurate (in my opinion) feedback is offered from two different review sites (and more threads in the past) and never once have I seen Jim respond with any sense of caring or recognition that there might be some truth to the comments. Instead he tells the reviewers and those commenting that their values are off and that they basically have no clue what they're talking about.

Bottom line is that if you are going to be offering a commercial product, appearance is very important. Right now these are lacking in that regard and deserve the comments they've received. Jim seems to think there is not a problem with quality control on these holds, but I have not (personally) seen one of these that did not have epoxy oozing out between the urethane base and the gripping surface. Most of the ones I've seen also do not have a clean transition between the two surfaces. To me these represent a quality control concern. Again the comments seem to be on target. That covers the visual appeal of these holds.

Jim seems to feel the selling point is the texture that you grab. I disagree. Some of those I've used have a nice texture while others are so coarse and irregular that they do not provide a comfortable training experience. And lets face it, that should be the goal with these; they are in fact artificial holds for use on training walls. We are also told that if (when?) the holds get glassy or caked with chalk that we can sand or chemically etch the surface to restore it. I guess this is fine in theory, but I doubt many people will put that effort into it. I have also found that on at least half of the ones I've climbed on for any length of time that brushing them with a normal nylon brush will loosen the aggregate in the mix. With them being that sensitive to brushing, I can't imagine they will last anywhere near as long as Jim suggests. This is especially true in a commercial gym environment with a much higher degree of usage. The "rock" surface also is very prone to chipping and sometimes snaps (on larger shapes) when the urethane base flexes. Both of these concerns need to be better addressed as well.

I think Jim may be on to an alternate approach to artificial holds, but he's a lot further away from a final product than he seems to realize. If he could develop the product a bit more (and a thicker skin at the same time)I'm quite sure that these would be better received. They would certainly be a lot more commercially viable at that point.

EvilJelloMan said...

I agree with Jim that the ratings don't seem fair - these things are super versatile, because you can use them to force real sequences. Tell someone the voodoo talus isn't versatile and you'd get laughed at, and sidepods are pretty damn similar. These are as versatile as a set of small crimps are ever gonna get. Don't compare them to some giant macro sloper, because that isn't the type of hold you're looking at.

The texture rating is also a joke, as I have yet to see any hold even come close to the feel of synrock. My fingers are peeling like crazy right now, because I just got home from the gym, pulling on plastic all night. I know if I put in the same length of a session on synrock my fingers would be feeling a whole lot better.

It seems to me your review was negative in all categories because you have two concerns - the appearance, and the fact that you don't like crimps.

How do you have holds with a comment like "if they looked nicer, you would see these holds EVERYWHERE" and only give them a 5 overall?

ntmb said...

Let's look at this some more. These holds are rated on a number of criteria, and the holds they should be looked at are the Steeps from Teknik or some of the Delire holds, which we're in the process of reviewing... they're not being rated against slopes or pinches... at the moment they are on their own.

Lets look at the rating system:
Texture: 8 > The holds are small, and there is a small surface, it grips sure, but not that much.
Price: 5 > They're not the cheapest, they're not the most expensive
Color: 4 > The holds aren't that nice to look at. Baby blue is horrible, they could do something with this
Versatility: 4 > They are crimps, dual texture crimps... what are you going to use them for?? CRIMPING!
Quality: 4 > Glue, scuffed plastic and you can see the heads of the nails... is that quality to you?
Take Texture add Price add Color add Versatility add Quality and divide by 5.. so thats 8+5+4+4+4=25 now divide 25 by 5 and you get 5. We said it all, good or bad.

Yes I hate crimps, and I feel that we were objective in the review. We're trying to get a route up in the gym and we'll see what the people say.

I always knew that the review would divide people, there will be more holds that the general public will like and I will hate. Chris likes the pods and I don't like them, I like the Delire pinch we grabbed the other day, and Chris hates it. It's life.

EvilJelloMan said...

Well I'll certainly be keeping an eye on this site to see if the ratings stay consistent. I expect to see every small hold get a lower rating on texture, simply because it's small, and I expect just about every dual-texture hold or small crimp to get a 4 in versatility. After all, it's a fair and consistent rating isn't it?

I completely agree about the colors being awful, and even agree that Jim's quality control is sometimes lacking on these prototype holds, but I still feel like the numbers don't jive.

I'd love to see what people would say if you took, say, the new hex crimp from contact, and gave it a 4 in versatility and two grades lower in texture than any other contact hold, because it's smaller.

Yes, I'm a huge fan of these holds so I'm biased, and yes, Louie is absolutely right that Jim's way of dealing with criticism isn't going to win any customers, but I also don't think you're giving enough credit to a truly innovative concept that the creator readily admits is still in the prototype stage.

ntmb said...

Well I was going to put the Pods up against the Teknik Flaps, but they're much larger.

We're trying to objectively rate holds as we see them on their own. Maybe we should point this out at the start, when we get enough reviews then we shall show the reviews back to back.

If you have any ideas on how we can improve our ratings please drop me a mail direct. Input is important to us... maybe we'll create different colors for the reviews so its easier to see easily that these holds are in the crimp class etc etc.

We gave the holds an 8 on texture aswell, thats pretty good isn't it?? The Sequence stuff we did last week has 0.5 difference.. the Blox and Plates got 8.5 because the Blox have a rougher more aerated texture, the Plates the same and the Virus got more because the texture is something you can climb on all day... thats consistency right??

After some feedback the other week we downgraded some of the scores as we saw they were out of whack.

I think that Jim is onto something, I said as much. I think a little TLC to his holds will take him to some heady heady heights.

Cheers, coffee time :)


rockpodz said...

Louie said:

"Jim seems to think there is not a problem with quality control on these holds, but I have not (personally) seen one of these that did not have epoxy oozing out between the urethane base and the gripping surface. Most of the ones I've seen also do not have a clean transition between the two surfaces."

Louie received some proto's last year and none of the holds he received are for sale for precisely this reason - and they lacked the modifications to make them break-proof.

All of the earlier holds and most of the proto's sent to routesetter used this old method of attachment where the synrock grip surface was poured from the attachment surface. The problem with this is that it makes it impossible to get a perfect mate between the urethane pod and the synrock grip portion because the pouring surface is always different.

In the pods for sale on the web page I've switched to pouring the synrock portion from the bottom. And the reason I did that was so I can use much less glue because I can get a nearly perfect fit between the two. But my reason for doing this is mostly to just use less glue. I really don't give a rat's ass about how these things look as long as they climb great.

My beef with routesetter is that they did not specify that the holds they were reviewing were prototypes. That's pretty much it.

But at the same time I really don't care what these things look like. If people won't buy them because they are ugly that's fine with me. I don't plan on making a lot because that will eat into my climbing time. Climbing is a passion for me not a thing to make money off of. If people don't want to climb on them because of their looks then I don't want to sell these to them. I understand the soup nazi - I am the soup nazi (for those younger folks google it).

As to the texture of synrock I did send some way too rough protos to louie - that texture came from the mold - sand them down and dump them in muriatic for half an hour and you will get the regular synrock sandstone texture.

Yes a freshly etched synrock hold will brush off loose grains for a while - but only to a point. The more you climb on this stuff the better it gets. We have a local ymca that has over 10 year old synrock holds on a high use wall and that stuff is amazing. You just want to hold on to it. It does last forever.

rockpodz said...

When we say quality on our reviews it states:
"Are the holds simply made well? Do they lay flush to the wall? Is the material that they're using of a good quality?" that is what we are basing our review upon in this regard.

Ok, lets see. Materials - rockpods use a high quality urethane. That's the best you are going to get in a typical plastic hold. Equal there. Rockpods also use high strength hardened masonry nails. This is because pure urethane has an unfortunate tendency to creep. Tighten a urethane hold, and you are also going to have to tighten it again in a half hour because the stuff creeps. The nails distribute the force of the bolt tightening throughout the urethane body of the hold so it doesn't rotate - which I think you mentioned. The steel makes them stiff. A property that poly lacks. If the plastic hold companies could do this they would except that they can't because the shapes are all different and each hold would require a custom fit. I design the pods around the nail framework like rebar. Higher quality materials - higher quality engineering.

The custom synrock material is designed to have a thermal conductivity and heat capacity identical to rock - the grip surface on plastic holds is... well it's plastic. Not quality there.

And the synrock grip surface is joined to the super stiff pod with an aerospace grade epoxy. Not the stuff you buy at the store but a pricey off ratio (not 1:1) ultra high strength epoxy that carbon fiber aircraft wings are made from.

So it seems to me that the podz are made of a lot more quality materials than a typical plastic hold.

As I see it, you don't like the surface finish and the color? A rather 2-dimensional view of a 3-dimensional thing.

Yes you can see the nail head but run your finger over it and you can't feel it. Would you rather have a hold that you have to tighten forever and rotates or see that speck of nail?

Louie Anderson said...

Glad to see a tamer response Jim - Thanks!

As I said at the end of my comments above, I really do think you're on to something. It just needs to be refined in my opinion.

If you don't really care about commercial success, then you're probably looking pretty decent as far as having a final product. If you want more gyms and retail customers to take notice, some of these things need to be addressed.

No one else is creating and using a material in their holds like what you do with the Synrock. As such, it is certainly a valid offering to the market. If the texture is a little more regular and consistent now- all the better.

I would definitely agree with the comments above on color. Add something to the mix (at least on the clear ones) to where you can't see the metal reinforcing pieces inside. The visual impact due to this change alone would jump these things way up in appearance.

I seem to remember the double sided pinches as being my favorite ones. From what I've seen of the more recent versions, they would probably still be my favorites.

We're all resistant to change, it's human nature. Perhaps some of that is reflected in these recent reviews, but I'm quite positive that if some of these changes were to occur you would likely get a much different response.

Whatever your goals with this, and whatever you choose to change (or not), thanks for bringing another option to the market and to the setting community. When it comes down to it, I will always vote for more hold variety, whether I choose to use them or not, it just opens up more options for everyone.

rockpodz said...

you know the funny thing is a lot of people like the clear plastic with the nails. I really don't want to make those because the clear stuff takes longer to cure in the molds.