Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review > Black Swan Holds > +/-'s

After our last review that didn't go quite some well for Black Swan we bolted up another one of their sets, this time we're looking at the Plusses and Minuses... the names a bit of a mouthful that's for sure. The sets an interesting mix: 7 holds, 2 medium jugs, 3 smaller crimps and 2 jibs... it's going to be a fun old time... there seems to be a good mix of shapes here:
Again the holds came in black with their yellow backs. The holds have a very mathematical look to them there are lots of squared angles apart from the two biggest holds that have some rounding done to them, the smallest of the holds that are being called jibs aren't really jibs... they're big enough to be used for your hands and they're not screw ons; (The rest of the climbing community call screw ons jibs) they're more like super incut feet than anything else!

Overall what you're looking at is a pretty positive set of holds for your hands that allow you to use different hand positions, depending upon how you set, and without being massively brutal on the hands or your skin, if you used the two smaller holds for feet then you're going to be laughing as they're massive, so massive that if you do use them as feet (like we did) then hauling on steep angles becomes more about how you're placing your hands than having to struggle with sketchy foot placements. Giving them to Eve was a bad idea as she sets low and hard and she managed to set something that gave Noodles a spazzed out neck for a few days... but these holds have seen most of our angles, except the steep steep stuff, and they perform better than we expected... a pleasant surprise that's for sure!


The smaller holds make great feet on steeply overhung walls, they can even double as handholds if you're feeling brave as they're a little incut and just enough to grab on and to be able to stick. Part of this is the fact that the texture on these holds is really grippy and works very well on these shapes. Having these holds on shallow angles is super fun they're challenging enough to let you work simple problems but they're easy to use on harder problems as well. We did sand some of the edges for when we played on the 45 because we don't like hitting sharp edges, having our feet cut off and find that we're hanging on something that could cause an injury.

This type of set is a jack of all trades, there's a little something something in there for everyone.


  • Number of holds: 7
  • Type (Bolt / Screw Ons): Bolt
  • Price per hold (set price divided by number of holds): $21/7 = $3 per hold
  • Color: Black
  • Bolt placement: Center
  • Sanding: Good
  • Hollow backed: No
  • Soft back (Rubber backed): No
  • Texture: Grippy, but not rough
  • Set size: Mixed
  • Versatility:
  • Pre-drilled screw holes: No
  • Shaper: Luke Turner
  • Weight: 0.9lbs
Build quality is excellent on these holds, there is lots of material behind the washers.. which means if you crank them up on the wall they don't crack, they just sit nice and flush to your surface. Most of the holds have a little Black Swan logo that's well placed and looks pretty pimp (it kind of reminds us of the Dragon sunglasses logo), none of the holds have set screw holes pre-drilled as they're not needed.

On the shaping there are sharp edges on these holds but we didn't really notice any pain until we started playing on the 45 degree wall and were hitting the holds hard, so we just sanded them down (as we were enjoying the problem) and continued on our way. Sanding is great as is the texture which is a love it or hate it affair (50/50 split in the CHR camp). The holds are yellow backed and the rest are black... given the name Black Swan holds we'd like them to go a little Henry Ford and maybe only offer black holds... or at least ditch the yellow.

Bolt placements are nice and flat and in the middle of the holds, they're very well drilled. There is one hold (top middle of the intro image) that has a couple of sharp lips where the bolt head sits, they're kind of worryingly sharp and we think that they could cause some scrapes if someone took an awkward tumble onto the shape (you know one of those "oops what happened to my feet" kind of falls) the other thing that should be made a note of with this hold is that you could use the bolt hole, even with a bolt in the hole, as a mono or a cheeky sneaky match; it's not something we'd suggest so we'd like the bottom edge to be removed for safety sake.

Overall a nice rounded set of holds, we wish we'd not seen the transparent hold as it wasn't very well made or poured... but we would like to see this kind of hold on the market more often as see-through holds look wicked (see Noodles comments for more on this)



These holds are fun to play with, the QA and build is much better, there is way more material behind the washer which means forces are distributed better. On the grip side they're grippier than you think when you first see them, Chris found it a little too much but I'm on the other side of the fence with it being just enough!

One thing that I should never have done is let Eve set with them.... I managed to slow myself up for a week or so with a pulled shoulder (this is just a side note by the way it wasn't the holds that did this). Eve likes to set low and pretty hard; basically she likes to see me suffer, which is fair enough and suffer I did... not managing to be able to nail the move under the 45 at the start and then getting it and when trying to get out I locked up my neck :( Sucks, but that's life. She managed to set an interesting route with these guys, the start move was from Black Swans volume that we have and the rest was interestingly hard.

You'd think that as these shapes (bar two holds) are so geometric i.e: square edges with no rounding that it would be a problem! It is and it isn't, the holds are small enough that you end up pinching them most of the time more than anything else. If you do set with them where the edges could be a problem then grab some sandpaper and round the edges off as needed, we did this and it works quite well.

The one thing that I thought was very brave was the inclusion of the see-through hold... I kind of wish that they'd not done this as it looks like it's been kicked to hell and back. That being said if Black Swan can perfect this medium of holds it'll be awesome to have sets of holds that are completely see-through as for comps it'd make them hard to read! Can you imagine huge slopers that are completely transparent? I can!! Amazing!

So the +/-'s... what do I think? I think that they have positives and negatives to them... therefore aptly named :D

Well these guys get a thumbs up from me. There made with a higher quality than the cripsies (which are in the process of getting redesigned and reshaped to increase the quality of the holds) and they remind me a lot of the Teknik Mathematics sets but on a smaller scale. Here's my breakdown of the plus and minuses of the Plus Minus

On the plus side. Well I already stated that they're better quality than the Crimpsies and you'd probably find it pretty hard to break any of the holds by over tightening. The bolt hole has a fair amount of material supporting the bolt, something that was lacking with the Crimpsies and caused them to break. They also have a cool looking yellow band on the far side of the holds. Once again, this is a step up from the Crimpsies, where the yellow stripe was so fine that you couldn't even see it when the Crimpsies were bolted on the wall. The set is diverse and incorporates different grips. They're mostly pinches but Black Swan has thrown in a couple of incut holds to spice up the mix.

On the minus side: They're small and the texture is rough, but these are all things I can deal with. All in all, this set gets a Plus from me.

  • Cheap
  • A good mix of grip styles
  • Nice texture
  • One of the bolt holes could be used as a mono :(
  • We don't like the yellow backing and then black tops, we'd loose the yellow


Anonymous said...

These look like EP holds from 1989. The fact that you guys gave these things a positive review saddens me.

Anonymous said...

considering the first review these holds are way better. If they're like EP holds from the 89' then that's for Black Swan to deal with.

Maybe they'll catch up with the rest of the world at some point


Anonymous said...

Where is this transparent hold that you speak of??? I would like to see a picture of it.

ntmb said...

the video wasn't showing, it's there now. You can see the hold in the walkthrough at the start

ntmb said...

it was the starting hold at the beginning of one of the routes