Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review > Black Swan Holds > Crimpzies

UPDATE: Black Swan have removed these holds from sale at the current time and are reshaping them as we speak! As soon as they're back on the market we will be running a new review on the improved holds.

It's important to note that although we did only break one of the holds and pushed a few washers into a couple of the other holds that for a new company this is by no means as negative a review as it seems. We're super impressed that the holds could get torqued up so high and didn't break!!! For a new company making holds is a learning experience and if Black Swam continue to refine their products then we feel that they will be someone to pay close attention to in the future... stay tuned, Dalton is going to be coming back super strong!

Black Swan holds are another new company, we grabbed a couple of sets of holds from them so we could have a look at their product. the set we're looking at today are called the Crimpzies and they look like this:

Obviously these holds are crimps, they're small and in most cases they're thin... the Black Swan website says this about the holds:
"Seven of the best crimps we could craft! You can hit that crux move over and over and your fingers wont even notice."
Well that statement is not actually correct, for two reasons, in the walk through when talking about the holds Noodles states that "I'm pretty sure I can break this hold by putting it on the wall" and guess what he did; just by chucking a bolt into the hold and acting like an over-eager setter he managed to snap the hold! We're actually pretty sure that if we did the same with the other holds in this line we could do that same thing without even really trying... why? Because the holds are so thin and the amount of material that sits below the washer is so minimal that cranking down on these with a wrench will just snap them; the bottom like (despite the shaping) these holds aren't well designed.

The second reason the statement from their website is wrong is because your fingers will notice that you're climbing on these holds... they're crimps, some are deep some are shallow but they are crimps and they're pretty painful to boot

Now what we've started doing at CHR is setting a bunch of routes with the holds we get, and then we film the one route that we really liked with multiple people upon it. It helps us with video editing and generally the route that's been set will be one that all of the people really enjoyed climbing on. In this case it was a simple Noodles route from a stand up start on the 30 degree wall into and across the 45 and then finishing on the flat (using Black Swans Mini Volume as a base for the final hold. As the holds are crimps it took us a little while to dial in the hold placements (and the feet) to make sure the holds ended up being an interesting and challenging route... it actually turned out pretty well for a short route but there were a few things to note from when we were setting:
  • We didn't crank down on the holds when setting for fear of breaking them
  • Some of the crimps, although well sanded, flex when you put weight on them!
  • The holds are thin so you HAVE to use cap head bolts, if you use normal bolts they head will protrude out deeper than the hold
From the get-go these holds aren't getting a very good rep from us, but we did end up setting one route that we filmed a bunch on, as the set is pretty small we decided that a quick route from the 30 degree wall to the 45 and then to the flat with a crazy cross through would be the most fun and interesting for you to see! The holds on other routes perform pretty well on the 45 degree wall but they are painful to hold and pull on at that angle, if you're playing on these holds then the 30 or lesser angles are what we'd suggest.


If you do get yourself a set of these holds be warned that they are very painful on your fingers; if you're super strong and like a bit of pain put them onto the 45 and go nuts. But we'd suggest something a little shallower with these guys, more like 30 degrees and try to make the moves easier than you'd like to save your hands for something nicer. Although one thing can be said they are crimps, not in the purest sense of the term but they are definitely crimps in one shape or another.

Shallow angles are the best for these, we'd say up to 30 to make sure you don't hurt yourself, but if (like we said) you're strong crank it up a notch and hit the 45... there is one of the crimps (the one from the walk through where Noodles points out it's "like a deeper Hex or Rex" that can easily be used on much much steeper walls ; something more like our 60 comfortably

  • Number of holds: 7
  • Type (Bolt / Screw Ons): Bolt
  • Price per hold (set price divided by number of holds): $15/7 = $2.14 per hold
  • Color: Black
  • Bolt placement: Good
  • Sanding: Ok
  • Hollow backed: No
  • Soft back (Rubber backed): Optional
  • Texture: Grippy, but not rough
  • Set size: Small
  • Versatility: Ok
  • Pre-drilled screw holes: No
  • Shaper: Dalton Swan
The devil is in the details with these guys, Black Swan are a new company and sometimes a little direction is needed:
  • Some of the holds sanding was a little off, not by much to be honest if some of the thinner holds had been sanded anymore then they could have been transparent.
  • It seemed like the amount of material around or behind the bolt hole wasn't enough
  • A couple of the bolt holes (because the holds are so thin you can't / don't want to use a standard bolt but a cap headed bolt) weren't big enough to actually take the bolt head
  • The edges of some of the holds although not sharp weren't flat and flush there were some imperfections from the shaping
  • The slashes and dots that are on the holds look a little amateur almost like it came out of an art class
After we finished climbing on the holds we torqued all of them up like we did with the first one to see what we could actually break and what was bombproof. Other than the one hold we did break on video we did only manage to sink some of the washers on two of the other holds, but and this is a big BUT: we did put these way above what anyone else in their right mind would kind of stresses, the holds were actually making an impression on the wall we had them that tight (about 30ft lbs of torque according to our wrench)... so the thicker holds are pretty strong

Those things aside the texture upon these holds is really quite nice it's smooth and it's got a good grip to it. We like to think that Black Swan are kind of like the Ford Motor Company of old.. you know "you can have any color you like as long as it's black" but they do offer yellow, we need to check on whether you can get other colors. The price when you look at it is just mentally cheap and if they can sort out the QA issues and can keep that price then that'd be amazing

Poly urethane


We like, hell we love seeing new products... but sometimes it's going to be a rough ol review for some people... this is going to be hard for the guys at Black Swan to swallow but checking out their site in the about section I found this... anything italic is from their page:

Our Washers
All holds created by Black Swan feature embedded washers. These washer help spread the load from the bolt across the entire hold making them incredibly hard to crack from over tightening. You have to be very committed to breaking these holds; it won't be an easy task
Urm, reeeeeally? I broke a hold pretty well without even trying. In fact (we should have filmed this) after we were done climbing one night we had Dora break a few, she's 4ft 9in and can't turn a wrench anywhere near as hard as I can

Our Texture
We will never sell a hold that is hard on a climbers hands. We are climbers ourselves and understand how important texture is. We want you to be able to climb all day on our holds, not cursing at your sore pads.
Ok, I'll give you this one, except for the texture on the Mini Volume this is a little harsh, and the little features that are on some of the holds that snap off. What you say texture -wise about the crimp set is correct, if the holds were larger you probably could climb on them all day. Unfortunately the shapes is the thing that's going to destroy your fingers

Our Service
Every single one of our holds are first tested by us on our own wall. After preliminary tests, we sell only to local gyms before providing our selection to other gyms. We will not sell any products that have had any problems whatsoever. This is how we know our holds we stand up to our expectations and level of quality.
FAIL! You guys really need to test your holds and shapes better that you've obviously haven't done so far.

It's going to seem like I'm ragging on these guys, and that's because I am. The Crimpzies should be pulled off of their website and be totally redesigned from the ground up; the shapes technically are OK.... but just OK. These holds are crap pure and simple, if you put them next to say Tekniks Flaps or Contacts Hex OR Rex holds these holds just don't measure up on quality / on design; the only place that they do measure up on is price, because at $15 the price point is great, the problem is the smaller holds can break or hurt your fingers.

Black Swan need to sit down and look at some of their thin holds, redesign them and make sure that when an overenthusiastic setter spins a wrench too much or gets an impact driver that their product is solid. Remove the little details on some of the holds and just work on the shapes and their strength and then work on the supplementary details

I'd avoid these hold until they've been redesigned, even if the cost is just $15. I had some pretty high hopes for this set and I was kind of let down by their QA and the fact that I could sink the washer into the hold or snap them when on a flat wall. Now the other set we have (although flawed in some places) is much better and is something we're having some fun on.... stay tuned folks, it's not all bad when it comes to Black Swan there is some good with the bad!

We've seen a lot of holds over the years and we've helped quite a few companies improve the quality of their product. From Climb It putting a center column on their hollow backs to Motivations face lift on their volumes, I see another companies who's product will greatly improve if they spent a little time ironing out the details. These are pretty nice shapes and the texture (apart from the mini volume;) is nice to the touch and provides good friction. The praise ends there. In all aspects of detail, Black Swan needs to make some improvements.

First off: What's with the yellow in the back of the Crimpzies? You probably didn't notice uit because the color is completely hidden from view when the holds are bolted to the wall. I would think that this strip of yellow is for aesthetic purposes but Black swan has wasted their time since the strip is too thin and most of it has come off when the holds were sanded. Second: Bolt holes. The holes on all the holds weren't cleaned up and the bolt doesn't sit sit flush on the seat. There were even some where they didn't pour enough material around the bolt hole and parts of the washer are exposed. On top of that, there were a couple where the bolt hole wasn't centered. We got around that , but most of these details cause the hold to not sit flush on the wall creating stresses and therefore weakening the integrity of the holds.

Although Black Swan's prices are very competitive, it doesn't give them the excuse to make a sub standard product. My advice is to pay attention to the details and I guarantee that the next time I climb on Black Swan holds, I'll rant on how much fun I had climbing and setting.

  • Great price point
  • Good texture
  • Break easily if you're overzealous with the wrench (snapped holds / sunk washers)
  • Not much material around the bolt holes
  • Some production issues


Vincent said...


Anonymous said...

im pretty sure we got some of the first black swan holds at dallas rocks as one of our employees was involved with the company at the outset. the shapes are ok in my opinion for an amatuer shaper i guess. some are pretty useful from a utilitarian standpoint but by no means cool. almost all the holds we have gotten from these guys have broken within a couple rounds of setting and as a result im not impressed

Anonymous said...