Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review > Artline > Fresh Line > Mini Slopers 1

When some one drops us a line and asks us if we want to review their holds there are generally two answers...

Hell yes

When Brice asked us to look at what we wanted to play with from his company Artline we had to make some pretty hard decisions... arguments happened but in the end we all decided what we'd want to see that would give us a pretty good overview of what they're offering

Noodles in all his wisdom chose these:
Hailing from the "Fresh Line" these are the Mini Slopers 1... lets take a closer look:

The lines of holds at Artline are under a few different categories:
These are from the Fresh Line and although they don't say the word "Font" anywhere in their description you know that these are Font inspired holds... why do we say Font? Because lets face it these are Font slopers when you look at them.

Noodles when making the walk through (may have lost his mind) but he did make a claim before setting with them (and then going off for surgery) that these were probably the best Font holds he'd ever seen. THAT is a big claim; considering he'd only just opened the box and had touched them for the video, is he right? Lets see:

Straight out of the box we all kind of lost our mind with these holds, they have a great weight to them, they're not light but they're not heavy, they have a reassuring weight that feels strong. If you've ever been close to a sandstone crag or have climbed on sandstone then you'll recognize the feel from these guys; it's actually pretty unique. Then when you add something that with the fine of a texture and then look at the shaping shaping well then you're starting to have something that feels like that legendary bouldering destination

Questions did arise on the texture front as we were fondling the shapes; that was... is it a too fine for a commercial gym setting? Now having shapes that are very Font like is awesome but if you're brushing them all of the time because they chalk up well then it's a bit of a pain in the ass... there's a fine line between texture being too much, too little and just right. It's kind of Goldilocks and the Three Bears... of course everyone has their own preference when it comes to texture, we do, but when people are looking at fresh holds and they're going "well they feel like sandstone but I think these holds will get slick pretty damn quick" then there's probably going to be a problem

As soon as Noodles was done talking we ran off to the gym as it was the reset and we had lots of things to play with, to say that we were inspired would be an understatement. The goal for these holds was to set a medium problem (so around V4-5) so lots of people would have a chance to climb it and then after the comp people could work on it as much as they needed. What was set was probably a grade harder than we really wanted... and here's a fun confession... when we filmed the route it was at the far right of the wall (with another Artline route being in the center of the shot) and all of the footage is rubbish (so there' no climbing video this time (sorry!!)) so we don't have any climbing footage and well Noodles can't walk right now so we're kind of stuck, at some point we will film some stuff

We set too hard for the holds, so when it came down to comp time only a few people got up the route and the people that did actually make it to the top really had to work for it. The problem ended up being one where you had to stem your way up the wall and be very careful about how hard you moved to the holds... why? Because of the nature of these holds if you go too fast you're done, if you go too slow then you're done, you need to find the correct balance in the movements to make the move.

These holds are climbing zen; you really need to be slow and careful to get the most out of them... next time we're going to get the larger more crimpy sets and some of the larger slopers because we believe that the full range is going to be like having Font at your fingertips... literally


It's actually rare that we use the slab symbol; these holds are totally suited to slabs and like Artline suggests we don't (actually we know lol) think that going over 15 degrees is feasible, maybe as a quick bump of as something to keep you in balance but there is no way you're going to be hauling ass on these... even at 15 degrees you're not going to be pulling too hard for too long. The best place for these holds is straight up vertical walls and even then you're going to be doing some delicate climbing.

  • Number of holds: 10
  • Type (Bolt / Screw Ons): Bolt they have two screw holes so they could be screwed on
    • This is a dual insert system, you can use flat-head or countersunk see more: here
  • Price per hold: for the PolyEster set (PU: is 115 Euros) (set price divided by number of holds): 
    • US: $158 / 10 = $15.80 per hold
    • EU: 85 euros / 10 = 8.50 euros per hold 
  • Color: Traffic yellow
  • Bolt placement: Middle
  • Sanding: Awesome
  • Hollow backed: Nope
  • Soft back (Rubber backed): Nope
  • Texture: Fine sandstone
    • Artline uses two different foams; see the Monster Bleau review coming soon to see the difference
  • Set size: Medium
  • Versatility: Depends upon the terrain
  • Pre-drilled screw holes: Yes
  • Shaper: The French shaper Brice Anziutti
  • Weight: Polyester: 6072g so 13.4lbs
    • Polyurethane: 4385g so 9.6lbs 
  • Where can you get them: 
Right lets start with PolyEster vs Polyurethane.
  • PolyEster is a resin that's generally mixed with sand and then poured into a mold. It's cheap, it's much much harder than Polyurethane and it feels more like rock. It's also a little heavy; if you throw holds to hard ground (or onto another hold) it will likely chip a little and lastly it doesn't like being washed in chemicals, use a pressure washer
  • Polyurethane is more popular in North America; it's a simple mix and pour with nothing added except color. It'll cause some heat as it cures and then voila pop it out of the mold and sand away. It does feel a little more plastic then PolyEster, but it's light and strong
These holds are Polyurethane and when picking up a single hold you'll notice a nice "hey this feels like a rock" weight to them. They are heavier than they look but it's a nice weight and nothing to really complain about unless your walls are 300ft high and you need to haul a bucket :) Our guys came in Traffic yellow and it is like the yellow lines painted down the streets of the UK; you can tell that it's been mixed well as the color is completely solid from edge to edge.

The sanding is straight as a die in all cases of the smaller holds we're reviewing over the next few months. There is a QA stamp and a date on the back of the holds (You'll see Noodles in the video having fun with the QA guys)

Which bolts? Who cares; these holds have the awesome takes anything system so flat head, capped or normal bolts all fit... nice because when you're on a ladder putting up that last hold and you only have one bolt you just need to worry about the length and not the type. Also it's nice to note that any hold (Polyester only as Polyurethane doesn't need this system) that's over 5cm has a safety system built in that if the hold breaks will hold the majority of pieces in place rather than just shattering and chucking chunks everywhere... see the image below:
Lets get into the shapes; they're very Font-esque, they feel like sandstone and that's because they're not overly grippy. This is because the foam that was used was probably a different density to what most people would probably use... of course there is a trade off in doing this. The holds will need to be brushed from time to time to get the texture back more than your average hold with has a slightly more aggressive texture. That is the price you pay for holds that really feel like rock! If they had used a foam that gave more grip the holds would have probably ended up being a little easier to hold onto and you'd not have to brush them so much... again it's a trade off and one that we're pretty happy with.

You're not going to be going above 15 degrees with these guys, but if you have slabbed walls then you're going to make your customers pretty happy having these guys on the wall... they're super fun on this terrain.



Ok so let me start off with the elephant in the room... the price. Depending upon the exchange rate then could you get these holds cheaper by ordering direct?

Looking at sending a box from France to Canada that has a MAX weight of 7kg (the holds are 6.4kg) is 55 Euros. 85 + 55 = 140 Euros which today is $154.60 then you add in the time it'll take for them to come from mainland Europe and then you'll get nailed on import charges etc etc... it is actually cheaper to buy these holds direct from Holdtopia than getting them from Artline direct

I'm kind of surprised by this; but mind you Holdtopia / Walltopia are bringing in containers of walls and holds at the same time so the shipping for the holds ends up being dirt cheap. I'll have to admit that of course they're making money from buying the holds as they're probably buying them at less than wholesale because of the numbers that they're buying them in but the fact that the price is pretty much the same means the customer isn't getting ripped off and for that I'll tip my hat.

Back to holds, enough math for now...

These holds I said are the best Font holds I have ever played with; and they are. They are the best by far Font style holds that I have ever gotten my chalked up hands upon! Yes I said it, and before I wandered off and had ankle surgery again I climbed a bunch on these holds. They are as close to Font as I've ever felt... even down to the fact that too much chalk means you're going to get spat off

I really wish I was joking... there is a fine line between a hold that feels like font and then a hold that just does too much. Let me explain; if Artline had gone with a more aggressive texture then the holds would have still been great, would need a crap less brushing after a session and would be better for a commercial gym... what we have is the perfect facsimile of Font that needs to be brushed a bunch

Now; that is an obvious trade off! It's one where you have to make the decision about how often the holds are cleaned yadda yadda, how they're cleaned etc. What is funny to note that one of the holds that we also have the Monster Bleau has a much more aggressive texture than the Mini Slopers and it takes chalk like a champ. Does it feel like Font? Yes and no... once it gets all chalked up it does, but when it's new it doesn't

Lets get back to these Fresh Line holds. Do I wish that I'd ordered more of them for review? Yes, yes I do and thankfully (not counting the monster holds) there are 22 sets of these style holds from feet to jugs!!

If you're road tripping to Font anytime soon I'd beg your local setter or gym owner to spend some cash so you can crush in France... the trade off is you'll have to wear a gym shirt all the time on your trip :)

What is it with Jeremy and Font holds? I'm going to have to save some money and get on over there to see what this is all about. Now I'm no stranger to sandstone; I've been on a few trips to HP40 where I sent a few weeks climbing with some of the crew here, I've also been out to BC and various other places so I know what different types of rock feels like.

Same for holds right?

Yes and no; mimicking rock with plastic is always going to be an approximation of the real things; the only way you would be able to climb on rock is to either bolt rock to your wall or to mold from the rock itself, this of course is something that we have seen a few times from a few different companies.

Do these holds mimic Font? From the videos I've seen yes they seem to resemble it pretty damn well; even from some of the photos Jeremy has from when he climbed there you can see that these holds are pretty close to the real thing

Now, again, I've not been there but I've climbed on all of the Font style holds that we've ever reviewed so I feel that I can talk about them vs the other holds rather than the rock, so that is what I will do.

These holds are hard; they are subtle slopers that are going to make you work. Just grabbing them isn't enough, you need to position yourself for the move or you simply get spat off or you make life a little harder for yourself :) We set a little hard but that's fine, it gave people something to work upon between resets.... I like the subtlety of these holds; I like the delicate power that you need to use and HA! I love the color name. I do wish a couple of things though; next time we should look at something with a little more meat on them, that's an argument I'll have to have with Jeremy, and the other thing is the placement of the set screw holes... now I'm not sure if these are meant to be both bolt on and screw on. All of the holds have two screw holes which suggests screw on and could probably be used as such but the placement is generally within an area where you can get a sneaky thumb catch in if you needed it

Other than that these are some nice rock like holds that will test your skills

  • Best Font holds so far
  • You pretty much pay the same price in North America as ordering direct from France
  • Texture is quite fine so they need brushing a lot
  • The screw holes at times make thumb catches
  • Expensive

1 comment: said...

I have seen your video clip. very nice. I have actually read a lot of your blog posts in the last hour. I really enjoy what you are doing here. (And as a writer of fantasy novels, I'm enjoying looking at different aspects of that when you go through them in blog post). And truly, I love world-culture building.