Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review > So Ill Holds > Knuckles

Soill Holds
Following up on the $200 question (If you missed it you can read it: here) we're looking at some of the starter / bulk sets of holds that you can buy for your first wall. First up we have the So Ill / Cryptochild "Knuckles". When So Ill replied to the $200 question they included the Knuckles as one of the sets that they'd suggest, they included them in the answer for an "Expert" climber. Now we thought that this was a little strange because the "Knuckles" are actually listed as easy on the So Ill holds website... a mystery? Lets see, but first... lets look at the holds in question:

30 holds... that's a lot!

We started filming the walk through and just decided to skip it and get the holds on the wall as fast as possible. Cedric had dropped past and as he is the Andrea Boldrini climbing shoe rep for Canada we figured we'd let him set something... Chris mentioned he was a pretty fast setter as well as being pretty damn strong.

The first route went up and we began to notice something, there are A LOT of hand options on these holds, and when they're set on a steep wall they're more challenging that we expected. First route done we did what we normally do, set something that would be challenging... well challenging was what happened, a nice route that went up across the roof. We were actually being nice when we set the roof, we used the bigger holds, but it still ended up being hard as hell.

So thus far:
  • 45 degree wall: They're a challenge
  • Roof: Even the big holds from the set are harder than we thought
Learning our lesson on the roof, we re-set the route and added twice as many hand holds across so that it'd be easier... yup that works... more holds is better when you're playing with these guys. Route three being dispatched we set what we decided would be a beginner route... HA! Putting the Knuckles onto some Motavation volumes made getting across any horizontal sections nice and easy as the angle of the volumes coupled with the incut nature of the holds means you're playing with what is essentially some mini jugs... and then Chris set a move on the vertical wall that is really stretched and has no feet; it's hard to make the move but again the incut nature of the holds inspires the climber to try something a little outside their comfort zone

  • 45 degree wall: They're a challenge... but fun
  • Roof: Even the big holds from the set are harder than we thought, use more holds on the horizontal terrain and they're great
  • Vertical: Easy as hell, these holds are pretty kid / small hand friendly
  • 30 degree wall: this is probably where most intermediate climbers will want to use them
These holds are an interesting mix of hand positions, but the question that needs to be answered is "Are they easy?" Well that's a little tricky. Yes they are easy holds, there are options for hands, lots of options and if you're playing in the realm of say a vertical wall to 30 or maybe even 45 degree walls then they're pretty easy (Obviously easier on a 30 than on a 45). Get them on a roof and they're hard but you can do it... it's just going to push you a little harder than you'd expect.


One thing that is noticeable with these holds is that there are options, normally more than one per hold for your hands, so they're incredibly versatile, so when it comes to bang for your buck you're getting something that can offer a number of different variations at the spin of a wrench, or in most cases you can just mentally tell yourself to grab the holds in their secondary position... if you have a home wall with shallow angles and you need to add some variety then these are a pretty good option, we'd say intermediate climbers more than beginners, but if the wall is vertical then beginners will have no problems.


  • Number of holds: 30
  • Type (Bolt / Screw Ons): Bolt
  • Price per hold (set price divided by number of holds): 176/30 = $5.86 per hold
  • Color: Black
  • Bolt placement: Middle
  • Sanding: Good
  • Hollow backed: No
  • Soft back (Rubber backed): No
  • Texture: Slightly crystalline
  • Set size:
  • Versatility: Great
  • Pre-drilled screw holes: No
  • Shaper: Jason Kehl
  • Weight: 10lbs
What needs to be pointed out is that there are three distinct styles, what we call:
  1. Smooth pinches
  2. Fat lips
  3. Small lips
Smooth pinches (Left image): The smooth pinches generally have a large edge with a nice smooth edge that's quite large on one side and normally have a smaller lip on the other... they make for some really nice pinches that are finger friendly.

Fat Lips (Middle image): The Fat Lips are characterized by their large radii lips that run through the entire set of holds. Although the lips allow people with small fingers to use these holds more like jugs anyone with larger fingers might find them a little shallow

Thin Lips (Right image): These are the most incut of all of the holds some people with sausage like fingers might find getting them around the back and utilizing their full depth. These holds if you've got some steep or roof terrain on your wall are the most likely to be the ones you use up there... just use more of them than you think as they're pretty hard; shallow walls make for easy climbing with these holds.

These holds are really well built; they have a nice weight to them despite their small size, the construction of the holds is such that they have a really good texture to them and the Fat Lips and Smooth Pinches don't have any sharp angles on the shapes, the Thin Lips do have a nice rounded radius to the grabbing area but as they're thin they can seem a little sharper than you'd like when you're hitting them at high speed or when you're cranking hard.

Cryptochild holds are best sampled in black, the color is nice and even across all of the holds... the more chalk you get onto them the better the little Cryptochild skull and logo shine through. None of the holds need a set screw hole as their small stature deems them unnessary!

Sanding across the range is very very good, there isn't one hold that isn't sanded completely flat across the entire range, all of the bolt holes are straight and perfectly drilled with the washers being square and flush to the back of the holds.



Good, the holds were packed into a bag that was sealed; the box came through without too macy scrapes. Some scraping occurred as the holds weren't individually wrapped.

These holds certainly look like Knuckles, so the name fits :) Options is a word that's going to be used a bunch, if you're starting to climb, have a basic wall and you need holds that can be used in a bunch of different ways then these guys certainly have options... they're an interesting mix of hard and easy. The way we set they kind of erred on the harder side of the spectrum, but we made sure to set easy routes to see just how easy these holds can be, and easy is something if you just chuck them onto a single panel like we did then you have a wall of holds to just grab and practice moving about on.

Roof? I'd say yeah sure, just add twice as many holds as you think you need because none of these holds are particularly deep, when you're up there they are more like hanging on by your finger tips rather than super deep incuts (We found the Thin Lips the best on a roof)

These holds have a very particular feel to them, the texture is a little crystalline and it gives some really good grip on the shallower shapes without really giving you too much trouble with your skin peeling off. Out of the three "sets" of holds (although they are technically one set of holds) the ones I don't really like are what we call the Thin Lips and I find their edges being a little too thin for my liking and on some of the problems we set I found it hard to get my fingers into the incut (these were some pretty specific moves with some hard body positioning) thus making some of the moves I was trying harder for me than say for Eve who could just slip her fingers into the gap.

I think that if you're looking for a set of holds for a new wall these make for some interesting climbing, steeper terrain is going to be harder and shallow terrain is going to give you the most fun with these guys. When you look at the price you're looking at some really good value... what i'd probably do is pair these with the Herbs (screw on jibs) so that at the same time you're working on your hand strength you can work on your footwork as well.. or if my wall was larger i'd probably look at their Starter Bolt on kit or their Giant Starter Kit as you're going to want bolts as well!!!

Starter could call them that but with the way we set there is nothing beginner about them. I like the fact that So Ill has catered a set for those who are being introduced to the sport but to all the other strong climbers out there, these holds have a place on your wall too. Just in the size of the set alone there is a plethora of problems that could be set. The size of the individual hold is small and won't take up too much room on the wall. We have some pretty big holds like the Boss from Pusher and when we have a few of these features up, there isn't much room left. At least with this starter set, we could have good holds scattered around to play on.

I really like the set as a whole. The shapes are comfortable and I had a lot of fun setting with them. We set the first problem for ourselves and it ended up being much easier than expected. On our next one we really pushed the limit and setting long powerful sequences with these holds and it was fun. I set some problems to work on Nick's technique but the problem either comes out too easy or impossible for him to do. When we set for Nick and Eve, we force a move to make them work but it was much easier for them to work out the sequence with these holds; there are lots of grabbing variations and no one grabbed the same way

Beginner set...definitely, with a big BUT: I wouldn't scratch out buying this set if your not a beginner because they're a whole lot of fun to play with :)

  • Lots of grabbing options
  • Small wall foot print
  • Good for beginners and intermediate / expert climbers
  • Large set size, great if you're just building a wall
  • The thin lipped holds might be a squeeze for people with big digits

No comments: