4 December 2017

Edge Hangboard

I’ve just added the Edge hangboard to the shop. I’m excited to see this hangboard released which I’ve collaborated with Edgy Climbing Holds to design. I’ve used wooden fingerboards for 12 or 13 years and they propelled my standard in climbing beyond what I imagined they could (more on this below). So despite being on the face of it an extremely simple device, it is hard to overstate their importance in climbing training. I’d call fingerboards and fingerboarding the core exercise and equipment for strength in climbing. Something every climber ought to have in their home and use year round.

My first fingerboard was a single campus rung which cost me a few pounds. I used it to go from being stuck at around 8b/V10 for quite a few years to jumping forward to E11/9a/V14 in the space of about a year and a half. However, it wasn’t just any old piece of wood! The rounding and finish was just right for pain free comfortable training, and so I could do more on it and get stronger. Since then I’ve used some of the more popular models of wood fingerboard which are also pretty good. I’ve also visited some climbing walls with some fingerboard models which I feel are just nasty. Perhaps you can get away with lots of training on these for a while, but they just make my fingers hurt and as such end up being counterproductive in the long run. Obviously you can still make something great to train on by yourself if you have the skills. The problem is most people don’t do it and just want to buy one. So when asked to help design the Edge, I tried to think of the things I’d always wanted to make a fingerboard that is just right.

First, I wanted to avoid plunged pockets. I’ve seen some climbers do exactly what I tend to do and use poor form by ‘nestling’ fingers against the sides of the pockets for extra advantage. After a quarter of a century of climbing, my index finger joints have become permanently twisted. It could be just normal climbing that does this, I cannot be sure. However, I wanted to ensure my core training tool could not contribute to this. So I wanted a fingerboard to have an open rung to force the user to use good form.

Edge Hangboard from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.

Second, I wanted three rung sizes, all with a carefully designed profile. I experimented with lots of profiles and settled on shapes that for me hit the right balance of depth, roundedness and finish and would most likely suit most folks strength levels. Some climbers have asked me about the rung depths which are 45mm, 21mm and 15mm, so that they might compare between other hangboards, but this does not tell you anything useful as the difficulty of hanging the rung is a function of not just the depth but the roundedness and texture/finish of the wood. I’m all for looking at numbers in training where they can be genuinely informative. However, in my view this is not one of those cases. Which brings me to simplicity.

My overriding goal with the Edge was to make the design simple. Removing unnecessary complexity to me is a highly desirable goal in all aspects of training, including the equipment. Simplicity re-focuses the athlete on the important things like level of effort, strict form, completion of the training and listening to the body. Additionally I’m acutely aware through coaching many climbers that the somewhat garish appearance of some fingerboards are an impediment to building fingerboarding into the regular routine of climbers with family/shared homes and busy schedules. A fingerboard that is conveniently situated is a lot more likely to get used, but some non-climbing relatives or friends legitimately object to a loud or ‘homemade’ looking training setup being installed in an otherwise nicely decorated kitchen or living room! So we wanted to make the appearance of the Edge as low-key and neutral as it could be without sacrificing any functionality. Climbers who live in a climbing household, or alone, might scoff at this idea, but I’m certain that a good number of climbers I’ve coached will welcome it and finally get their home fingerboard installed.

Finally, we wanted to make the hangboard from wood that is sustainably and locally sourced and manufactured. The hardwoods used to make fingerboards is a resource which can be a contributor to environmental damage along several lines (GHG emissions, transport, deforestation etc) and we didn’t want to be a contributor to this. We knew this would noticeably raise the cost compared to some other boards which sometimes use imported wood and/or manufacture in distant corners of the globe. Edge boards are made from Scottish Ash and each board carries the precise grid reference of the source tree. It also carries the Scottish Working Woods logo. As a licensee of this label scheme, it ensures that the wood and manufacturing is local, and the scheme is managed by a range of environmental organisations such as The Forestry Commission and Reforesting Scotland, which promote sustainable practice of both forest management in Scotland and production of wood products. Clearly, this is something that’s important to me, and my guess is that it will be important to lot of climbers, who as a group are more environmentally aware in general and supportive of efforts to minimise the impact of our activities on the environment.

So, with all that said, if you are thinking “that all sounds good, I would like one, but how do I use it” I took some time to make the 25 minute video with a good deal of information about most aspects of how to fingerboard. My view would be that what’s not in this video is less important, but if it leaves you with further questions, please leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer it, and if need be update the video. The video is aimed at folk who don’t yet habitually fingerboard, or do a bit and want to get more out of it. In due course I’ll make another one with some even more geeky details for real board monsters.

You can check it out and order here (shipping worldwide).

How to Hangboard from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.