Monday, October 24, 2016

Working Class Climbing - Great Plates Series

Working Class Climbing is a company launched in 2016 out of Simi Valley, California that is owned by Mark Bradley with Louie Anderson being a major player in the company. The vision of Working Class is to be an everyman’s company that provides reasonably priced holds by taking a practical and minimalist approach to hold designs. Pricing structure for this new company is also different, in that the displayed retail prices are the "gym" price provided to everyone with an additional bulk discount of 1% off for every $1000 up to 5%. After some not so formal or scientific research, Working Class has retail prices that appear to be consistently a little less than most major hold companies that also advertise the use of a separate manufacturer. They currently have just over 400 holds for sale along with two sets of feet. The actual hold manufacturing for Working Class is done by Catalyst (Jasper, Georgia). You probably have seen their polyurethane from companies we have reviewed previously. Enough business let’s talk about these holds.

Basic Description 
   The Great Plates series consists of 45 edge style holds ranging from X small up to 3 XL. Gripping surface and hold depths range from 1/2" to 1.5" and vary from sloping at 20⁰ below horizontal to nearly finger bucket incut.  

Design, Construction, and Finishing
   These holds have great hollow-backs which definitely cut weigh down on the larger holds, and is really impressive considering how thin all of these holds are to start. Each bolt hole is recessed just enough to have the bolt head flush or barely below the surface of the hold. On the X Small, Smalls, and Mediums there are washers and tapers to accept flathead bolts. The backs and edges are appropriately sanded, cleaned up and devoid of noticeable blemishes or pockets. Every hold has at least one pre-dilled and countersunk setscrew hole, and any hold XL and up has two setscrew holes. The setscrew holes are out of the way and are negated by being countersunk. All of the gripping surfaces were comfortable and had a deep enough lip to almost always grip open-handed even with our modest climbing prowess. The taper was designed to not allow for any sort of thumb catch, and only the 3 XL has a full blown thumb catch or pinch because of the right angle along the gripping surface.

Very Thin Holds
   This Great Plates series will definitely not get in the way of climbers due to their low profile. The thinness of these holds allows for flex which easily passes the break/tightening test pictured below left, but they also flexed when weighted. so a setscrew is required on any side of the XL and larger holds that will be climbed.
Break Test Pass
"Drop" Test Damage
The extremely thin taper of these holds is definitely pushing the limits of what polyurethane can withstand. We have shown in previous reviews and from experience with every major brand of PU spread this thin can and will chip. So we tried to pack a few years of use and abuse into a brutal drop test where we spun the holds so they would land on an edge on to concrete. This test was modified in that we tossed the holds up instead of dropping them. One toss to 10’ and three more tosses to 15’ proved to be plenty rough especially for the smaller hold. The solid medium hold was chipped in three spots after the four “drops”. We were expecting more damage especially to the larger hold, but the edge was only blunted after multiple drops. Our speculation is that the solid holds are more prone to chipping because they are more rigid than the hollow backs. These holds would most likely not sustain this kind of damage from normal commercial use, especially with the well padded floors of today.

Variety of gripping surface angles
Form and Functionality
   All of the holds have a slightly rounded lip on the outside edge of the gripping surface which leaves the climber with a crimp at the edge of the slopers, but makes for very comfortable grips throughout the series. The entire series has different holds that will work well for vertical to at least 50⁰ overhung with varying difficulties and with potential beyond 50⁰overhung. The texture has a good combination of lasting grip while not shredding skin. The extreme taper of the holds makes them nearly as directional as dual-tex, and the taper eliminates opposing thumb catches, which definitely helped force movement. The length of the gripping surfaces opens up plenty of options for matching, but the compatibility for blocking within this series can help force sequences when necessary. The low profile keeps them out of the way, but the larger holds have fairly large foot prints which can monopolize wall space in smaller gyms and home walls.

Overall Impression
   We are suckers for comfortable texture and ergonomics on edges, especially at this price point. Having to use a hand full of screws for every climb involving many of the XL and larger holds is bothersome, but we also realize this is becoming more standard for setting, especially in commercial gyms. The build quality on the holds is great, but the extremely thin design is pushing the limits of what PU holds can withstand. This series may come across as very rudimentary, but the ergonomics and subtle variability of the gripping surfaces are very sophisticated. The Great Plates and hopefully subsequent additions would be a fundamental series that could be set for anyone from new climbers to national level competitions.


  • ·         Comfortable gripping surfaces
  • ·         Variety of gripping surfaces (slopers to tips buckets) for a variety of wall angles
  • ·         Compatibility for setting slots and blocks
  • ·         Lower up front price

  • ·         Holds are prone to spinning and flexing, but nice setscrew screw holes negate issues
  • ·         Possibility for chipping due to very thin tapered edges
  • ·         Only 45 in the series so far which may not be enough for  consistent long routes
  • ·         XL and larger holds have relatively large foot prints for small gripping surface