Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to Make the Continuum Hangboard

  1. coherent whole that is characterized by a sequence or progression of elements varying by minute degrees so that no part is perceptibly different from the adjacent parts, although the extremes are quite distinct.

SICGRIPS' goal as a company is to produce innovative commercial rock climbing training products. However sometimes through our R & D process we come up with a product that may be helpful for training but not commercially viable for one reason or another. In this case it is because the board is too labor intensive to make. However, instead of throwing out the design, we offer the construction details here.

The Continuum Board is a simple and elegant do-it-yourself hangboard utilizing wooden dowels cut on a slight diagonal which offer a progression of difficulty along each rail and between rails. It is limited in what it can do and is notdo-it-all hangboard. It is not near as versatile as our Gstring Climbing Grips. But what it does, it does well. It was inspired by Sonnie Trotter's Vice Board and Eva Lopez's Progression and Transgression boards. It is a relatively cheap way to create a great looking and functional hangboard for those who have the time, tools, skills and like to be creative. If you're lacking these, please support your fellow climbers and buy a board from Sonnie or Eva (or Gstrings from us! :-)!

This board offers tendon and skin friendly training that includes jugs and finger slopers through crimps.  It is very simple to increase the difficulty as you get stronger simply by moving the position of your hands. The board can be easily customized to fit your needs. It is a functional and great looking board that can fit into the decor of a living room, den or bedroom without the wild colors and weird patterns that resin boards often have.


It will take between a few hours to a full day of work depending upon if you have all the material and tools assembled and and your skill level with the tools.

Tools needed

Table saw, clamps, hammer, and a drill/drill press. A highly skilled woodworker could probably also get by without the table saw but it would take a high level of precision working with a hand saw to slice the dowels diagonally. However from my perspective it would be tons of works and a PIA to do accurately. My suggestions is, if you don't have a table saw or access to a table saw, forgetaboutit!

Material Needed

  • various sized dowels (see Design section below). Dowels smaller than 1" are hardwood, while the larger dowels are Poplar. If you special order the dowels, you could have a set of matching hardwood dowels but it would significantly increase the price.
  • 3/4" hardwood plywood (oak or birch) - 27"-32" long and 8"-12" wide.
  • various sizes of nails 
  • wood glue
  • scraps of wood to create a cutting jig
  • various lengths of wood or drywall screws

Design Strategies

The key to the Continuum design is taper cut dowels that range from slightly positive to sloper, depending upon where your hands are placed on it. The boards I have made so far all use a diagonal slice through the dowel at the 75/25 position on one end to the 50/50 position at the other end. Other percentages could be used to yield rails with a different characteristics. However this combination seems to offer a good useable range.

The board can be easily be customized by the size and number of dowels used. I would recommend a board width of approximately 27"-32" which will fit nicely above a doorway. Each rail will consist of two 13"-16" dowels cut on the diagonal. Here's a couple of suggestions for places to start. The first one below is a "wide ratio" board with a decreasing difference between rail diameters (4/8", 3/8",  2/8", 2/8"). The second example is a "close ratio" board with smaller and consistent size differences between the rails (1/8"). 
A board could also be made with 2 or 3 rails with either a small (close ratio) or large differences  (wide ratio) between rail size. Suggestions for a close ratio 3-rail board are: 7/8", 3/4", 5/8" or 1", 3/4", 1/2". A wide ratio 3-rail board could also be made with dowels of 2", 1", 1/2". The design will depend upon how many rails you desire, how close a progression you desire, and how strong you are or hope to become. The dowel sizes will also be affected by whether you're going to leave it natural (more difficult) or put a high friction finish on it (see below). My suggestion is to make the board according to your best guess and use it without a finish. If it's significantly too difficult, then add a high friction finish to it.

cut dowels laid out on board to show taper (configuration A below)

Two dowels of each size are used to make up one rail. These can both be easily cut from the standard 3'-4' long dowels available at hardware stores and lumber yards. There are three strategies for how arrange the taper of the two rail halves.

Arrangement A (board shown above) allows hands to always to be equidistant apart while hanging on equivalent rail positions. However, the difficulty for each hand will be slightly different. That is, the index finger of one hand will always be slightly move positive than the index finger on the other hand. Same for the pinkies. Some people contend that it is important for consistent training and avoiding injuries to always have the hands about shoulder width apart - which would favor this arrangementIn both B and C arrangements, hand difficulty will be exactly the same for both hands given any particular difficulty, but the distance between hands will vary.  Arrangement B places the more difficult positions in the center with hands closer together and the easier positions at the ends. Arrangement C is the opposite of B and probably offers the most aesthetic looking board.

Arrows show direction to move hands to increase difficulty

The height of the backing board will depend upon how many dowels you use and their size. I would recommend 3/4"-1" spacing between each rail. If you plan on training a closed crimp position on any of the rails, you should allow at least a 1" clearance between those rails, depending upon your hand/finger size. Once you decide on a layout, simply add up the numbers to figure out how tall to cut the backing board.

a smaller width board using configuration C above


The key to this design are dowels cut on a diagonal (see illustration above). This was done using a make-shift jig with a moveable "fence" nailed to a scrap of 3/4" plywood. Using a scrap at least 8-10" wide will keep your hands away form the saw blade. The fence is positioned so that the dowels are cut at 50% of the diameter on one end and 25% on the other. The percentage stays the same for each dowel size, however the actual amount cut off changes for each dowel size. Therefore the fence has to be moved after each size is cut. The jig allows you to set the fence on the table saw once with further adjustments only made to the fence on the jig to accommodate different sized dowels. The dowels were drilled for a nail at either end to hold in place on the jig while cutting. Make sure the nails will clear the saw blade. The smaller the dowel, the more of a challenge it will become and the measurement and tolerances become more critical. The smallest dowel I've cut using this method is 1/2" dia.


Wood or sheet rock screws along with wood glue are used to assemble the board. The screws can be done either from the front or from the back. If they are screwed from the back it will give a cleaner looking board but it is a more difficult to assemble. If it is screwed from the front, it is easier but may not be aesthetically as nice. If done from the front, I would recommend using black drywall screws (see mock-up at the top of the page) which give a nice contrast to the wood and can be used as position markers for placing your hands. A 3/4"-1" wide temporary wood spacer strip is used between the rails to keep them straight and evenly positioned while screwing and gluing. I also used small finish nails to temporary hold rails in place while screwing and gluing. When gluing, make sure excessive glue is wiped immediately with a damp rag. It might be possible to get by without screws but it would be difficult to clamp the dowels to get a good glue joint. I've not tried this so do at your own risk!


If a raw natural finish is desired, then just sand the board with 80 sandpaper and it's good to go (it's actually easier if you do the sanding on the rails before screwing and gluing). One of the nice things about training tools made out of wood is that they are very skin friendly. Intense training on textured urethane resin board can trash your hands fast. However, the down side of wood is that it can be difficult to train the size you desire because of lack of friction. If you desire to increase the friction on your board, a finish can be applied with a matt/satin clear acrylic or polyurethane varnish with Shark Grip (or some other commercial non-skid additive) added for friction. This is a clear slip-resistant additive that won't change the look. Aluminum oxide (220-400 grit used in sand blasting) can also be added but it will be visible in the finish. You could also use one of the additives in house paint if you want a "camo" board so that blends in more with the room!


If mounting above a door, make sure the backing board is wide enough to screw into 2-3 studs. Make sure to use a stud finder before drilling. Use four to six #14 in. wood screws to mount to the wall. Make sure the screws go into the studs! If you are unable to screw into studs, make sure that you use strong expanding toggle bolts that can handle the weight.

the smaller version mounted on the Crack Rack

You could also integrate it with or mount it on a removable mount like this that is based on a doorway pull-up bar.


The larger diameter rails are used as jugs and/or finger slopers. The smaller diameter rails can be used for open, half, or closed crimps. Because of their round nature, they will always be skin and tendon friendly. A couple of systematic approaches for training using this hangboard can be found on Eva Lopez's blog or the Anderson brothers Rock Climber's Training Manual.

I hope this post provides some ideas for the do-it-yourselfers out there who want to build a functional and aesthetic hangboard similar to this. If you have questions, suggestions, or modifications, let me know.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Minimalist Running and Hiking Sandals

Every once in a while I'll come across a product that I like so much (other than Gstrings and Pocket Rocks! :-) that I just have to plug. Earth Runner Sandals are one such item.

Several years ago I got into minimalist running shoes. However, I wasn't sure what to do about sandals. Before I got into minimalist running shoes I had worn Tevas, and Chacos. Chacos are heavy duty and well suited for hiking but they're the polar opposite of the minimalist approach. They're heavy, sculpted, huge arch, thick, and a big heel-toe drop - in short clunky! And also for me, the straps just never worked well - they always tightened around my big toes and strangled them. I finally gave up on them. For hiking I wore my minimalist trail runners and for around town I went back to good 'ol flip flops, which (except for the arch) is about as minimal as you can get. However, they're called "flip flops" for a reason. The loose fit and the constant slapping against my foot is annoying. Quick on and off - but horrible for anything other than casual walking.

After I had gotten into minimalist running shoes, I read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and became intrigued by the Tarahumara who run ultra-marathons either barefoot or with minimalist Huarache type sandals made out of car tires and inner tubes. It's an incredible book and the feats (pun intended) accomplished by the Tarahumara and others who have learned from them, are mind-boggling. Interest in the Tarahumara and their sandals has gradually spawned a small cottage industry that's developed different versions of the Tarahumara sandal made from modern materials. As I started searching for the "perfect" minimalist sandal, I found a number of small companies making high quality versions of them.

I studied the different nuances and implementations before making a choice. Good design is one of my most important values, whether designing rock climbing training products or desiring the most functional sandal. I chose what I thought was the best design. Oops! The real proof is in the actual use of the sandals. While they were good, the heel strap and helping sleeve just did not work well in keeping the strap on my heel. It was a bit clunky looking and performing. I readjusted them ad infinitum as per their instructions and videos, but the heel straps always felt as though they were about to slip off - and sometimes did.

I went back to researching how other minimalist sandals implemented the heel/ankle strap. Somehow in my original search I either didn't see or glossed over Earth Runner sandals. They looked to have a subtle and unique implementation of the heel/ankle strap. I tried readjusting my current minimalist sandals to approximate, as closely as possible, the Earth Runners. However because of the short length of the straps and the Velcro (yuck!), it wasn't possible to exactly duplicate them. But it definitely helped with the heel problem. This showed me the superiority of the Earth Runner design and I decided to go ahead and get a second pair of sandals: The Alpha X model from Earth Runners. I wasn’t disappointed.

Here's what I like about Earth Runners. The other top three brands have some of these characteristics, but not all of them which is what makes Earth Runners special:
  • Shaped-molded footbed/sole: Most minimalist sandals of the Tarahumara ilk, are thin enough they will gradually mold to your feet. Earth Runners come pre-molded with a slight curve up around the edge of your feet, which gives them a head start molding to your feet. This especially helps on the slightly thicker soled models and also helps from catching your toe, which is easy to do on a totally flat-soled sandal at the end of the day when you're tired.
  • Choice of soles: Two different Vibram soles offer a range of sole material, tread types, and thicknesses (see photos above). One a bit thinner (8mm) and more of a barefoot feel and one that is slightly thicker (11mm) with a bit more cushion but still minimalist.
  • Leather foot bed or bareback: Leather is comfy and stylish but bareback is much better for trails if it will be wet or muddy.
  • Leather or nylon webbing for straps: For running and hiking.nylon rules - little stretch and it wears like iron. For around town - leather is comfy and fashionable (if you're not vegan).
  • Custom foot outlines: Optional personal custom foot outlines. Good if you have unusually shaped feet (Mortenson toe, etc). I've also suggested to Michael that he offer an option to have different right and left foot tracings, which would be helpful to those with different sized feet. I know in climbing shoes, those with different sized feet often have to buy two pairs of shoes in order to get a good fit for both feet.
  • Light weight: You hardly know they're on you're feet.
  • Cam-buckle quick release for the ankle strap and ease of getting them on and off or adjusting. Others have Velcro, elastic, non-quick-release buckles, or are simply tied. It also allows you to easily tighten for a run/hike or loosen for casual walking.
  • Overall design and attention to detail: This is the big one and why I think they're the cream of the crop. Simple, aesthetic, high quality construction and materials. The cross-ankle strap secures your foot without extra straps, leather/elastic sleeves, or rubber liners that others use. The geometry is nuanced and unique to the Earth Runners and the adjustability, comfort and security of the ankle/heel straps is near perfect.
  • Comfort - I've already said it, but these are the most comfortable sandals I've ever worn.
Finally, as climbers, we often carry a pair of shoes up the climb clipped to our harness or in a climbing pack for hiking back down. Shoes are bulky and add weight. Earth runners are a great solution to that. They are light, slim and clip easily to your harness or stow easily in your climbing pack. They're also great for hiking to the crag. Wouldn't it be great if they made them with an option of 5.10 Stealth dot rubber!

Check them out - I think you'll find they're a great product: http://www.earthrunners.com/

P.S. I haven't touched on the optional earthing aspect that is offered in Earth Runners. Earthing is a controversial topic but I personally think there is something to it. However, since I spend most of my time in the office, workshop or house compared to hiking/running/climbing, the earthing aspect wouldn't offer me much. An earthing foot mat, or earthing sheets for the bed would be more efficient than relying on the amount of time my sandals would be in contact with the earth. YMMV. For more info on earthing see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/ and http://www.earthrunners.com/pages/earthing

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Good Design Principles

One of the things that drives me as the owner of SICgrips is good design. I don’t want to create something just to be trendy and different or to follow past designs just because they have come to be accepted as the standard. It’s good to think outside the box and let the function of the product along with good design principles determine its form. Below are the ten principles of good design according to award-winning industrial designer Dieter Rams. These are principles that we've adhered to as best as possible when designing Gstring Climbing Grips. The many wonderful comments we've received over the last 3 years <http://sicgrips.com/Comments.html> affirm that. In the near future you'll see these same design principles embodied into Pocket Rocks and all future SICgrip products.

Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design


Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development and of obsolescence being a crime in design in the 1970s. Accordingly he asked himself the question: is my design good design? The answer formed is now his celebrated ten principles.

  1. Is innovative - The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  2. Makes a product useful - A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
  3. Is aesthetic - The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  4. Makes a product understandable - It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user's intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  5. Is unobtrusive - Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.
  6. Is honest - It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  7. Is long-lasting - It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail - Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  9. Is environmentally friendly - Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  10. Is as little design as possible - Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Why Not Polyurethane?

The last few months we've been down a long wandering path in Pocket Rocks development. It's difficult keeping to a release schedule when the design-->prototype-->testing-->repeat cycle is dependent on one main person (me) who is a perfectionist. Since I'm also the main person who runs the company, this gets further complicated when partnering with other companies to implement the design. Development time and uncertainty increase by 10x.  :-(

While I won't bore you with all the details, one of the major side-paths taken in the development of Pocket Rocks was trying to mold them in urethane. Since this is the industry standard for climbing holds in gyms, it makes sense to use urethane, right?! They look really slick, so what's not to like?! Well... what makes good climbing wall holds isn't necessarily the best material for training devices. Here's why I believe urethane is not the optimal material for Pocket Rocks:

  • Texture. While many urethane climbing holds offer wonderful texture for climbing walls, that same texture becomes a liability with intensively training on a small range of grip positions. Texture is nice for simulating different rock types in the climbing gym and for actually climbing a route. However for training devices, skin and joint-friendly surfaces are more important. They may not offer as much friction, but the purpose of training isn’t to make it easy, right?!
  • Weight: For portable training devices, wood can be significantly lighter depending upon what type of wood is used. A set of equivalent urethane grips can be almost twice as heavy. For portability wood makes more sense.
  • Efficiency: Urethane relies on silicone molds that have a very limited lifespan and degrade with use. New molds have to constantly be made from a physical master, which is both labor and material intensive. The design for wood grips is stored electronically as a CAD drawing file and each grip is precision machined with no degradation or deviation over time. Each one is always the same. It’s also much easier to make design modifications.
  • Longevity: The wonderful texture of urethane holds wears under intensive use, and once it's smooth and polished, there’s no easy way to restore it to its original condition.
  • Sustainability: Urethane training devices use non-renewable resources that aren't easily recyclable - at least that I'm aware of. Wood is a renewable resource and is also biodegradable. When used in small quantities and sourced from managed plantations or eco-woods, it doesn't contribute to deforestation. 
  • Air bubbles: In two-part molds we ran into issues with air bubbles in the prototypes. I'm not sure if that was due to the unique design of Pocket Rocks or the incompetence of the hold company. :-/
  • Labor: Pocket Rocks require a two-part mold for urethane because of their shape. This drives up the cost of labor compared to climbing wall holds, most of which are simple single-sided, easy-pour molds. While cost isn't the final determinant, in combination with the other reasons it is a significant factor. One of our design goals for Pocket Rocks is to offer a lower cost portable training device.
In short, for training devices, look beyond urethane...

CAD rendering of hardwood Pocket Rocks

Stay tuned for news about the release of Pocket Rocks.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Three Gstring Mods to Add Versatility

This month I'll cover three ways that you can modify your Gstrings for added versatility:
  • Adding finger stops to vary grip depth
  • Marking cord to consistently set grips back to the same angle
  • Creating a dual texture surface to ease friction on finger joints

Finger Stops

One of our design decisions when creating the Gstrings was to only have one flat edge in order to keep the grips simple and maximize space for other grips types. This meant instead of having a myriad of different edge and pocket sizes like some hangboards, there is only one large flat edge. To get the same versatility as a hangboard requires you to vary the depth of fingers on the edge. Some training programs (such as Eva Lopez's) rely on precise edge depth increments to control difficulty and guage progress over time. By using a finger stop you can consistently set the finger depth location back to the same place or easily adjust it incrementally. 

To create a finger stop you'll need a small half-round dowel, a square dowel or a small strip of wood slightly longer than the width of the grips (6.5"). You'll also need two large strong rubber bands that can stretch at least 6.5" 
  1. Cut the length of the dowel slightly wider than the width of the grips (approximately 6.5").
  2. Use a fine line marking pen or pencil and mark the depth of the grip position you want to  train. Optionally, you may want to create multiple lines so that the finger stop can be incrementally moved over time (i.e. a series of lines spaced 1/8" apart).
  3. Place the dowel on the flat edge and loop the rubber band around one end. Pull the other end through the inside of the grip and loop it around the other end of the finger stop. 
  4. The finger stop can also be used on the back of the grip on the sloper surface to limit the amount of surface contact of the hand. We recently used this mod for a dead-hang contest for an AAC fund raiser at Seneca Rocks. Using the finger stop assured that each contestant had exactly the same amount of sloper surface to hang from.
  5. The finger stop can be removed when not in use or it can be stored out of the way in the back corner of the flat edge.

When using a finger stop it's important to be able to also set the grips back to the same precise angle each time (see below).

Cord marking 

When setting Gstrings to different grip positions or adjusting the difficulty of a grip position by slightly changing the angle, it is important to be able to consistently re-set the grips back to the same angle. This is discussed on the SICgrips website so I won't go into the details here.

One additional note: if you have Gstring PROs with black or multi-color cord, use a light colored nail polish or acrylic paint for visibility instead of a marker.

Dual Texture

When training on the flat edge, even though we've purposely designed the edge in an ergonomic manner with a skin friendly StikGrip surface, the friction of the curved edge can still wage war on your skin because of the high pressure on the inside of your finger joints. This is especially true if this is a grip position that you focusing on in your training and are doing many repetitions with added weight, as some training protocols call for.

In order to ease the friction on finger joints, score two lines through the StikGrip about 1/2" apart with a steel straight edge and utility knife. After scoring all the way through, peel it off to expose the smooth aluminum surface underneath. This effectively turns the Gstrings into a dual-texture grip: friction where it's needed and smooth where it's not. 

Hopefully these simple mods will help increase the versatility of your grips. Let me know if you have other mods that you've done that have increased their versatility so that I can pass them on, too.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Innovative New Chalkbags

One of the founding principles of SICgrips is innovation. We love to innovate and we love innovation when we see it. Not innovation just to be different but innovation that solves a problem or makes something easier or better. Something that is so obvious and makes so much sense that you say to yourself "Why didn't I think of that?!" I've just run across a product like that and it's a chalk bag! But first let me share three scenarios I've experienced that illustrate the need.
  1. Have you ever sat down at the base of a climb, in the gym, or on a ledge and ended up spilling half or more of the contents of your chalk bag? It's not such a disaster in the gym (except for the mess) since a refill source is usually close by. However, if you're out at the base of a climb or several pitches up…a bit more problematic!
  2. A couple years ago, my climbing partners had grown bored with the local gym with its "gigantic 20' walls. We decided to travel an hour+ to a "new" gym, only to arrive and find out it was a "chalk-less" gym. That is, they didn't allow the use of loose chalk only allowed chalk balls due to health concerns because of chalk dust in a confined area and because of the potential mess. I can certainly understand that, but it sure was a hassle emptying out all the chalk out of our bags and then having to buy chalk balls.
  3. And finally…last year I was two pitches up at Seneca Rocks and I'd just put in a piece of pro at a decent stance and was de-pumping before moving on. I looked down to find the best foot hold and noticed out of the corner of my eye what looked like a smoke trail or dust, but didn't pay much attention to it. After several more moves I got to another non-stressful stance and went to chalk up again and it hit me…that was my chalk ball sailing down the wall that was making the "smoke trail". Somehow it had fallen out in the process of fondling it at the last stance. 
Now...full disclosure before I tell you about these great new chalk bags. We recently were contacted by Hanchor, a foreign company who wanted to become a Gstring dealer. In the process of talking with them I found out they also manufacture and retail their own line of soft goods for climbers. They offered us the opportunity to become a dealer for their chalk bags and sent us two chalk bags to evaluate: the Kangaroo and the Hula. Wow, are they cool!

So what sets the Kangaroo and the Hula apart and makes them worthy of mention in a SICgrips blog post? Well…they both have an integrated chalk sock built into the bag. No more mess, spilled chalk, or lost chalk balls.

The Kangaroo has a internal zippered chalk pouch that chalk is added to. It's positioned on the front side of the bag behind the logo. When worn in the traditional position, this places the pouch in the natural place for your hand to grab when you go to chalk up. It's also a dual mode chalk bag, since the chalk pouch can be unzipped and half the mouth of the pouch attached to the other side of the bag to hold it open. This way you can also have access to loose chalk should you want it. The best of both worlds - socked or loose.

The Hula also has two innovations. The first is that it has a 360° chalk sock tube, so that no matter where you put your hand in, you can grab it and chalk up. The second is that it has two 180° external zippers making it super easy to add chalk. For those who frequently reposition their bag (boulderers & trad climbers in chimneys and off-widths), this bag is probably the better option.

Both chalk bags are super burly, meticulously detailed, and constructed out of heavy-duty nylon. Both have a holder for the handle of a small brush if you're a "pad person" and come with a waist belt. I personally like the Kangaroo which gives me the dual option of a chalk in a sock or loose. Other people will likely prefer the 360 degree chalk sock option.

Here's a short video that gives a bit more info:

Here's a link on to the manufacturer's website. Our own store page will also link you directly to their website. Check them out - I can't recommend the bags highly enough. Support your fellow climbers and entrepreneurs. It's through climbing community support of great ideas like this (and Gstrings!) that we can keep innovation alive and great new products coming.

Oh…and I'm not the only one who thinks it's a great product - so does Mr. Honnold!

Friday, March 21, 2014

What New Products is SICgrips Envisioning for the Future?

Where is SICgrips headed in the future? Well...to give you a hint, here's an outline of some proposednew grip models and devices. Sorry, no timeline is available yet. These may or may not result in production models for sale but thought we'd leak a few tidbits just so that you know we're not resting on the accolades of the current Gstring models (or out climbing all the time!) We continue to push the envelope on innovation in training devices for climbers.

Where is SICgrips headed in the future? Well…to give you a hint, here's an outline of some proposed portable grip models and devices that are currently on the drawing board - sorry no timeline available. These may or may not result in production models for sale but thought we'd leak a few tid-bits just so that you know were not resting on the accolades of the current Gstring models (or out climbing all the time!) We continue to push the envelope on innovation in training devices for climbers.

We don't want to give away too much at this point but they're based on the values we established when we started up SICgrips: quality, simplicity, versatility, and functional beauty. Most of the proposed grips will feature some type of 3D adjustability along with some new ideas and and maybe a variety of materials. They're listed in descending order of size in relation to our two current products. These are working names for the most part and may or may not be renamed: 

Ladder Rocks
Gstring PRO 
Gstring Classic (original)
*Chock Rocks (probably the next product out) 
Gstring Minis (or Pocket Rocks)

Beside these, we're in the think and test stage of the following products will utilize the grips listed above and/or traditional climbing holds:

Gstring Gallows (folding doorway hanger for Gstrings and mount for holds/hangboards)
Crack Rack
Virtual Gstring Campus Bar

Stay tuned…

Also, we'll soon be sharing a way to easily and accurately set Gstrings in order to record and track your training.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Lowering Gstrings for Additional Exercises

Gstrings are incredibly versatile. However, I suspect that most users don't utilize them to their maximum potential, and most people have probably not tried the exercises shown below because of the need to lower the Gstrings. For more discussion of these exercises and positions go here and scroll down to Building block exercises and Core strengthening.

hanging push-up       
mantle / press-up
overhang pull-up
undercling step-up

Lowering the Gstrings can seem like an extra hassle, but with one of the methods listed below it's quite easy and uses very little extra equipment. Here are seven possible ways of lowering your Gstrings. Each has its own pros and cons. Hopefully you can find one that suits your requirements:
  1. CARGO TIE-DOWN STRAPS ($7-$30) - Purchase from a hardware or large department store.  PROS: quick release buckles makes it easy to adjust; no need for 'biner to attach the grips if they come with a "J" hook on at least one of the ends. CONS: Extra tail or loop (depending upon configuration) hangs down; cost; made for holding cargo, not humans. The ratings are way beyond the stresses exerted on them by hanging or doing pull-ups, however use at your own risk. 
  2. PURCELL PRUSIK - Make from 5mm-7mm accessory cord. First tie the ends with a Frost Knot or a Figure Eight to form a hang loop. Then proceed according to the linked diagram to tie the Prusik on the loop of cord.: PROS: nice and neat - no loose ends hanging down; quick to adjust; can also be used as an adjustable tether at belay stations for multi-pitch climbing. CONS: limited adjustment range; uses almost twice as much rope as the blake-hitch method; 'biner is needed to connect grips. 
  3. BLAKE HITCH - Made from 5mm-7mm accessory cord with Figure-Eight on the bight to form a loop to hang grips from. PROS: wide range of adjustment; uses smaller length of cord than Purcell Prusik option. CONS: extra tail hanging down; length can only be adjusted up to half its tied length; 'biner is needed to connect Gstrings.T
  4. CLIMBING ROPE + PRUSIK - Use a piece of old climbing rope with figure-eight loop for hanging and an overhand stopper knot in the end. Then attach a small Prusik Loop made with 5mm-7mm accessory cord to slide up and down the rope for adjustability. PROS: Simple to tie and set up; widest range of adjustments possible for a given length of cord; climbing rope piece can also be used for Chris Parson's workout. CONS: extra tail always hangs down; 'biner needed to connect Gstrings.
  5. CLIMBING SLING - Use a climbing sling (double length is probably best) with an overhand knot(s) to adjust the length and/or add a fixed position or two for different exercises. PROS: most trad climbers already have slings; simplest; fullproof and secure - no worries of a friction knot slipping. CONS: least adjustable; need to tie extra over-hand knots for additional mounting points; need 'biner to connect Gstrings.
  6. TIED LOOP of ACCESSORY CORD or TIED SLING OF WEBBING - Use a Double Fisherman's Bend (cord) or Water Knot (webbing) to make loop. Tie additional over-hand knots along loop to make multiple clip-in points if desired. PROS: most climbers have extra cord or webbing lying around; foolproof and secure - no worries of a friction knot slipping; simple. CONS: not adjustable on the fly; need 'biner to connect Gstrings.
  7. DAISY CHAINS - Only if you happen to have two daisy chains already. PROS: simple and effective CONS: Expensive if you have to buy them; may not lower the grips as far as desired for some of the exercises.

If you're tying your own loop with cord or webbing, you'll need to figure out the maximum amount of cord needed so the grips will hang at the lowest position desired. Remember to take into account the length of the grips including the hang loop and 'biner. Also, remember that you'll need significantly more cord to allow for knots. Prusiks, Figure Eight, Blake Hitches, Frost, and Water Knots all use a considerable amount of extra cord.

Hopefully this will give a range of ideas for how to lower your Gstrings and experience more of their versatility. If you have other methods for lowering your Gstrings - please let us know!

NOTE: When using Gstrings in a horizontal or prone position make sure to use some type of padding underneath you as a safety precaution.

The security and safety of all knots depend upon: the knowledge of the tier; the knot being properly dressed; using the proper type and size of cord; and the strength of the anchor point.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Making a Gstring Backboard

SICgrips is committed to innovating and providing the most versatile training products for climbers. Our goal from the beginning has been to target products for people who aren’t able to put up a home climbing wall, who travel a lot, who want an alternative to the traditional hangboard, or who want more flexibility in mounting. This includes those (like students, renters, or those with fussy partners!) who can’t or don’t want to put holes in their walls. :-) When it's possible to feasibly market these products, we will. When it's not feasible for whatever reason, then we’ll provide basic instructions for the do-it-yourself types to make themselves. This is the first of several projects that we'll share over the next few months.

Gstring Backboard features:

  • provides a higher mounting point for the Gstrings, allowing more clearance for hanging
  • easy to put up and take down
  • provides a semi-rigid mount so Gstrings are similar to actual rock or hang boards.
  • stores easily behind an open door, in a closet or underneath a bed
  • easy to mount and dismount the Gstrings
  • cheap to make

While there are both permanent and temporary ways to mount Gstrings, we've heard from some users that when Gstrings are hung from a doorway pull-up bar, they don't have enough clearance to hang even with bent knees. The Gstring Backboard is one way to address this issue. It requires one of the many versions of popular doorway pull-up bars that cam and apply pressure to the top and front of the doorway trim and are easy to put up and take down. Many climbers already have one but if you don't, they can be purchased for $15-30 from sporting goods or department stores, or Ebay.

Items needed 
(total cost ~$15 depending upon what you have on hand):

  • modified Iron Gym-type pull-up bar (see below)
  • basic hand or power wood- and metal-working tools
  • 2' x 2' x ¾" piece of birch plywood (or equiv. hardwood)
  • 2" x 2" x 10' pine for Backboard frame and crossbar
  • #8 wood screws or 1 ½" nails
  • 2 pcs. - 5/16 " x 2 ½" lag screws (hang bolts for Gstring hang loops)
  • wood glue
  • 2 pcs. - ⅛" x  1.5" x 4" mild steel for pivot plates (available from your local hardware store in a 3' long strip)
  • 2 pcs. - ¼" x 2 ½ " hanger bolts with wing nuts and large washers for pivot plate
  • 2 pcs. - ¼  x 2" lag bolts with washers for pivot plate

(This won't be a comprehensive step-by-step set of instructions because the Backboard is fairly simple to make. I'll cover a few specific things that may not be obvious.)

Modifying pull bar:

The dimensions given here are based on the doorway in my home. You’ll need to modify to fit your specific situation.
Remove the foam padding from indicated areas. Cut the horizontal handles off the pull-up bar with a hack saw or saber saw with a metal cutting blade, so there’s ¾" left beyond the center of the bolt hole. The photo shows ⅞", however ¾" is probably better so that it's doesn't run into the plywood backboard when mounted. (With the handles cut off, it can still be used as a pull-up bar using the center foam grip position).

Reverse the horizontal crossbar. Instead of it attaching to the bottom of the curved uprights (the normal way), attach it to the top of the crossbar. This will raise the backboard 2".

Cut plywood to 16" x 24". It could be made a bit taller (18" x 24") or it could be made slightly smaller 14" x 24"). If you have a wider piece of plywood, it could also be made as wide as your doorway). If you’re using the Backboard with the Gstring PROs, it will need to be at least 16” - 17” tall.

Drill a 1" hole in the vertical frame supports exactly in the middle lengthwise. Drill it so the edge of the hole is even with the edge of the wood. Remove excess from hole to edge of wood so that it becomes a 1" slot to slide onto the pull-up crossbar.

Drill a 5/16" hole in the pivot plate and then cut out a diagonal slot from the edge of the plate to the hole. This may need to be a little wider than 5/16" at the edge so it can pivot on the bolt and lock with the wingnut. The plate pivots open to mount on the pull-up bar and then close and lock with a couple turns of the wingnut.



  • A washer was added to the hang loop to protect it from threads on the Backboard hang bolt. Then the hang loop was re-tied to make it as small as possible.
  • I added tape to bottom of board so the edge is more visible - anyone 5'11" or taller needs to duck :-)
  • I added a strip of yoga mat on ends of horizontal wood bar to protect the doorway from being scratched and dented. 
  • If you use the Backboard with Gstring PROs, you'll want to make sure
    that the board is at least 16"-17" tall because of their length. Instead of a vertically mounted hanger bolt, you'll want to use lag bolts and mount them horizontally at the top of the board face going into the top frame member. This will allow you to conveniently hang the 'biners on them.

  • t-nuts for mounting resin climbing holds, campus strips, or hangboard
  • a wider piece of plywood (up to width of doorway) can be used, though it will add weight and bulk). No matter what size of backboard you design, the pull-up horizontal bar should always be located in the middle vertically.
  • a set of hardwood edge strips could be added to simulate Eva Lopez's Progression or Transgression boards. Access to a table saw would be needed in order to accurately cut a set. The Gstrings could still be hung and accessed even with the edges if designed correctly. She has a done a lot of research and has come up with an effective finger strength training program based on this type of board. The drawback is that it only trains edges. However her blog has a wealth of information for training in general.

You might want to check our website to see examples of other non-permanent alternatives for mounting Gstrings if you haven’t already seen them :
In the near future we'll include instructions for how to make a similar type doorway mounted backboard, that doesn't use a pull-up bar. Stay tuned.

Make and use at your own risk. SICgrips makes no claims, explicit or implied, as to the safety of the Backboard for you and your situation because there are too many variables, including: strength of door frame casing; strength of doorway trim; climber’s weight and how the climber uses the backboard; what brand of pull-up bar is used and its strength rating; and the size, construction quality and materials used. When using the Backboard, do not use huge dynamic moments as it could stress the Backboard, pull-bar, and doorway beyond what it can hold. I am fairly light (135 lb.) so my use is not a good "yardstick" by which to determine your use of it. You can do a "hillbilly" test to help determine the strength of doorway trim by doing finger pull-ups on it to see how it reacts. This will stress it more than the backboard will. Gstring Climbing Grips are rated for climbers weighing 225 lb. or less. Therefore the Gstring Backboard combination should be below that limit. However, due to other factors mentioned above, it could be even less.