At last week’s Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, UT, Mad Rock announced that they would be adding climbing holds to their portfolio of products for climbing gyms. Rather than create their own line of grips, Mad Rock has partnered with Volx Holds, a leading climbing hold manufacturer in France.
Mad Rock had been looking for a European brand to distribute in the US, with the hope of bringing a different style to the North American market. “There are plenty of really good hold companies in the US, and we do have good relationships with a lot of them, but we wanted to offer something unique,” said Kenny Suh, Marketing Director at Mad Rock.
Christophe Picard, Volx’s Business Manager and head shaper, agrees that Volx can bring something fresh to the continent. “The US and the European markets have both evolved to have their own distinct style, in much the same that individual shapers evolve to develop their own style,” he said. “For example, as I now live 2 hours away from the Magical Forest of Fontainebleau, I get a lot of my inspiration from there, and try to transcribe it back into my shaping.”
While Volx has over 2,000 different shapes in their European line, Mad Rock has selected about 80 sets they believe will be popular in the states, including many of those shapes inspired by Font. “We’ve all seen font shapes come from different companies, but [Picard] lives there and knows all the intricacies of the font shapes … his are very unique and authentic,” Suh observed.
One big change for Volx is switching from polyester resin to polyurethane for their North American grips. “We knew there was a different trend on the material used for manufacturing the holds in the US, so we started looking at various options,” said Picard. They ended up talking to David Filkins, owner of Element Climbing, and found that they shared the same vision on quality and customer satisfaction.
“Element Climbing is very excited to be partnering with Volx and MadRock as the U.S. manufacturer for this premier climbing hold brand,” said Filkins. “We have anticipated the increase in production by streamlining several of our key operational processes. We’re looking forward to further establishing ourselves as a key player in our industry; not only as a top climbing hold brand, but also as a competitive manufacturer.”
Element produces their own line of holds and also manufactures for Enix and Meuse climbing holds.
While Element already had a good reputation for their urethane, they recently switched to a new polyurethane formula called NEO-LITH GT that offers improved strength and durability. “This means NEO-LITH GT withstands use, misuse and the occasional abuse while retaining the Element Climbing texture you love,” Filkins touted in a recent press release.
Partnership and Growth
Picard feels that bringing their holds to North America was a natural step for the growing company. “We are the number one climbing hold manufacturer in France and are exporting all over Europe (more than 15 countries), and further afield including Japan,” Picard noted. “It seemed logical for us to look to the North American market as the next step.”
Partnering with Mad Rock may give Volx a leg up trying to break into the crowded North American climbing hold market. With close to a dozen sales reps across North America, Mad Rock has connections to climbing gyms across the country that already purchase climbing shoes and rental equipment from the company.
“I don’t think other hold companies have sales reps that travel around the country showing the holds and interacting with setters and gym staff, not at a national level,” said Suh. “That’s a good way for us to differentiate ourselves. We’re going to come to you, you’re going to see the new stuff in person when it comes out, not online.”
The people at Mad Rock and Volx are confident they are bringing something new to the market, a fresh approach with shapes that stand out from what’s currently available in the US. “We’re aiming for the difference! Different climbing influences and culture transfer in the design. And also best quality materials and products, and strong philosophy of customer service,” Picard enthused.