Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review > Blue-Pill Climbing > Spax One

Hailing from Blaubeuren, Germany, Blue Pill is the brain child of Johannes Kielmann and Jospeh Wetzel, both of them are routesetters and shapers that seem to be multi talented. These guys also have a company called Kletter Kultur (Translation: Climbing Culture) which is a routesetting business that looks after setting / cleaning and all the ins and outs that us routesetters all love

So... these guys seems to be pretty well set up... and as it seems to be the case of late, these routesetters turned their attention to what they were using to set and then started a company

We were contacted as we normally are to see if we'd want to play with some of their holds; Noodles being a lovely little Euro boy that he is always wants to see holds from Europe, jumped at the chance (and he's the boss so the rest of us didn't have a choice)... we're pretty glad he jumped at the holds we recieved

NOW... lets look at the holds quickly and then Noodles can make a small admission to what he did:

Blue Pill Spax One

Noodles confession:
"Hi, I didn't read the website before I set with these (I rarely do to be honest), I sat around, felt up the holds and imagined what I could do... it was only when the holds had come off of the wall and I was in the process of recording the video, please remember sometimes I record before I set with the holds and other times I set afterwards, that I read their description

These are "competition holds" that are mainly footholds and dirty thin crimps" or as their website says difficulty  is "no picnic"

What I did is something that if I'd known what they were intended for then I'd have maybe (probably not) taken another route with them..."

Now he's got that off of his chest lets continue:

Competition holds is a very specific thing to say; any hold if set right can be a competition hold it doesn't really matter how its classified by the maker. Are these holds competition holds?

Yes and no (ha)


Because if we had a gym or a home wall with a slab then these holds would be there for sure, even a slight overhang if you're climbing around 5.10 would benefit from having these holds screwed on to the wall, and not just for feet! In some cases these holds that were probably meant to be feet will make a pretty good hand hold... they're not "easy" holds by any stretch of the imagination

Now take what seems to be happening with climbing, be it indoor, culture these days.. there are more and more volumes being used... where would the Spax 1 set be good for... volumes. Actually 100% of the holds would work in a volume covered wall most of the time... Slabs (we covered this) and slight over hangs

It's where these holds won't work for hands is where you need to draw the line, anything over 15 degrees unless you're using them to be feet is out of the picture. No one is that strong that they want to walk into a climbing gym and they want to haul on these thin holds, but for feet... sure it's not an issue

These holds beg for volumes and they beg for slabs (have we ever mentioned that we think every gym everywhere should have a bag ass slab to overhang in it?)... they beg for a routesetter to set at the edge of the grade that they're aiming for.

Spax 1; they aren't for everyone by any means, same for the Spax 2 that we will review much later in the year... but what they inspire is creativity, they will push foot work and they will push what people think that they're capable of standing on, or pulling on... they're really a routesetters wet dream


We set two routes with these holds for weirdly enough a competition but we didn't use them as intended... volumes, used as hand holds, we did the lot and not only did we do it once we did it a few times and we did it all...

So where do we suggest these holds be used?

If you see 45 degrees up there... well that's for feet, do you see 30 degrees up there? Again that's for feet! These holds live on a 15 degree wall and slabs all day long... volumes all week long and competitions is where they will really shine and they'll test any climber out there

  • Number of holds: 30
  • Type (Bolt / Screw Ons): Screw Ons
  • Price per hold (set price divided by number of holds):
  • Color: Ours are black
  • Bolt placement: None
  • Sanding: Good
  • Hollow backed: No
  • Soft back (Rubber backed): No
  • Texture: Good but do require brushing, a few shapes have polished a little
  • Set size: XXS - XS
  • Difficulty: Very hard
  • Versatility: Good
  • Pre-drilled screw holes: Yes
  • Shaper: Jospeh Wetzel
  • Weight: 2.98lb
  • Where can you get them:
What we received is a number of sets the two that stood out and really needed to be reviewed first are obviously this review, so the Spax 1 and then when we get a chance we'll look at the Spax Crimps. Both sets of holds complement each other with the Spax 1 being the smaller less incut version (stay tuned for the other review over the summer)

The holds came from Germany so we cannot comment on the shapes that if you buy them in North America, Catalyst will be pouring but we're expecting them to be up to the same quality as we received

On the build front these holds were well made and considering the thinness of some of the shapes they really held up well to constant abuse, even without one of us to take them off of the wall and baby them a little we didn't get any chipping or cracks. Texture on these holds is good, but not enough that when they do get chalked up you will have to brush them off, only one of the holds has "polished' from all of the hand and foot traffic which is kind of surprising. Even with a good clean the texture hasn't come back and now the holds is slick so it makes it harder to grab onto (its actually a foot hold / volume hold) so it's not so bad; but something we'd not want to see

Sanding was pretty good across the line; with a few shapes that could have done with a second or two longer on the ol' belt to take all the edges down to where they should be

As these holds are screw ons it's nice to see inset screw holes for mounting these on the wall and every holds has a little BP logo on them

Color-wise these holds are black and even when they've been soaked in a vinegar bath and then pressure washed they come up nice and clean



I think that this set of holds has ruined screw on holds for me

I honestly think that.. and it's not in a bad way it's in a good way.... Holdz upped the game with their comp screw on line and I really thought that there was going to be no upping their game but... but then these holds came along and yeah I didn't read what they were sort of meant for and I set how I saw fit and that shows two problems...
1) Size, the sizing for there holds is all over the place. There are holds that are bigger than stated
2)  What is suggested for these holds is upto the setter and their mind magic... we obviously (as we normally do) ignored, or didn't read what these holds were suggested for and we went along as we normally do

Normally I do sometimes read what angles etc holds are meant for, but this time I just didn't and the reason the comp routes were so hard is because I used something for "not really what it was intended for" BUT damn these holds do make for some awesome comp problems that's for sure

With them being so thin I expected problems with them but nothing has happened other than some polishing in a few areas; for me that's a bit of a bummer because it means if I owned the gym and I used all of these holds a lot them I'd be replacing them frequently or I'd be hiding them away and I'd only use them on "special occasions"

I have, it seems, a lot of German holds on my wall currently. I built our new little test wall and I ordered loads of Wataaah holds because I wanted something different from the norm that people buy and set with here in Canada... and then these holds came in (it look a while from our first discussions to actually getting holds to review) and I'm pretty impressed by both Blue-Pill and Wataaah (can't wait to see Stone Loves holds now). I do have more Wataah holds because I spent too much but when I compare the brands side by side I'm happy with everything...

Blue-Pill is expanding into the North American market RIGHT AS WE SPEAK, they're up and producing holds and I'm expecting them to make a big mark in the market very very soon...
They have new volumes that they're making with Blocz who make some amazing stuff, they're at the CWA which is happening this weekend AND get this they're at the Canadian Lead Championship which weirdly enough is happening this weekend in Montreal

I've been aware of this company for some time and it took a year to get a review up and running but here's my final thoughts

DO you need foot holds?
Buy these
DO you have a slab?
Buy these
DO you have volumes that need to be spiced up?
Buy these

Apart from the polishing I'm happy with the shapes

When you give any of our team hard technical holds then that's probably how we're going to set! Give Noodles a set of screw on holds that are this small and this thin then he's going to set right on the edge of possible and that's what he did this time, I helped him set and I foreran the problems time and time again to make sure that everything flowed how we wanted it to flow

Climbing on these holds give you a taste of slim balancy moves and I ran these problems with Noodles time and time again and what was pleasing is that even with the holds being brand new we didn't have any skin problems what-so-ever. Comp holds need to be like that, just enough grip that the climber can hold on but not enough that they can just haul through the moves, this comes from the texture and from the shapes

Of course this is a fine edged line to walk because not enough texture then the moves end up being harder than you wanted and there is a risk of them wearing quikcly over time with lots of traffic and then too much texture just rips peoples finger tips apart and that causes problems as well

Blue-Pill Climbing have done exactly that, they walked the line and they've done it well... but with the polishing we've seen these holds will be cleaned and hidden away for special circumstances, which is a shame because the Spax Crimps seem to have more texture and will hold up better to lots of people climbing on them....

I like the holds, especially for use on volumes which is a big part of climbing these days it seems... slabs they're great as well... polishing is the problem :(

  • Competition screw ons avaliable in North America and EU
  • Great for slabs and technical footwork / hard comp routes
  • Light and strong
  • Slight polishing on some shapes that have been left on the wall

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