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Metrorock vs BKB Somerville
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By Johnny Nubbins
Jul 18, 2013
So with the soft opening of the new BKB Somerville gym, I've found myself struggling with the decision of whether to switch gyms from Metrorock. I've been there a few times and have some impressions, but haven't made any decision yet. Here are some thoughts:

The bouldering is really intimidating. Those walls are high. Though there is a more 'typical' height additional boulder section on the mezzanine.

The walls look nice, at least for now before they get super-streaky with rubber. There are a ton of spinners, or at least holds that start squeaking on the fancy wood when you grab them. And in one case earlier tonight, when you try to use them as a clipping hold. A little disconcerting.

The rope walls seem significantly taller than Metrorock, but the angles and features don't seem quite as interesting.

The setting seems pretty good. A fair number of reachy moves, but not too bad. The grading feels inconsistent, and even in the 5.11-5.12 range, the movement doesn't feel particularly difficult, the holds just get a little worse. Overall I feel the setting, at least in the lead and TR areas, is a bit better at Metrorock. Who knows how this will change.

The crowds, at least at the moment, seem really not bad. I have to wonder how this is going to change over the next few months..

Some of my thoughts. I'd love to hear other people's input, especially on the bouldering, as I try to decide what I want to do here..

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Jul 18, 2013
tell them that they have to use set screws on those Vertical Solution walls- its an unfortunate side effect of the smooth surface, but basically any hold bigger than a fist needs a screw.

hopefully the setting gets better as they find their groove. Boston seems to have suddenly become ground zero for big gym with Central Rock and BKB opening in addition to the two others already there! lucky you!

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By Johnny Nubbins
Jul 19, 2013
I know.. it might sound a bit like I'm complaining, but honestly its great that my problem is deciding between which of three great gyms I want to join. Could certainly be worse!

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By Nick DiBella
Jul 19, 2013
Hey Johnny,

Nick from Brooklyn Boulders Somerville here. I just ran across your post and wanted to thank you for the honest feedback. Frankly, as our soft opening ramps up into full swing, we're hungry for such candid information. We love hearing from our community and the people who probably spend as much time on our walls as we do.

It will be awesome to show you some of the improvements we're working on each time you return to the facility. I'm also putting the information from your post into the hands of some of our route setters and operations team so that we can tighten some holds, clean some walls, and get this place up to snuff.

Next time you stop in, feel free to drop me a line, I'd love to do a quick walk through with you and some of your friends and see what we can work on over the next few weeks.

Thanks,

Nick DiBella
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville

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By GMBurns
Jul 19, 2013
Climbing at Morro Anhangava in Southern Brasil. <br /> <br />(photo by Isa Vellozo)
One thing to remember is that MetroRock has been around a while and it has a good base of people running it. As a result of their experience both as climbers and climbing-gym operators you're going to find their experience to better overall until this new gym gets up to running speed.

I wouldn't knock the new gym until they've been at it for a couple of years, to be honest. Give them a chance and understand that they need to gain steam before you can compare the two gyms.

I used to set at MR and enjoy the scene and crowd there. Good people made it a fun place to hang, too, and they treated their setters professionally, too. This was when Bill was running the climbing side of things, not sure if that's changed. But what I'm saying is that things are good at MR because they have that experience and they run it like it's a good place to climb. So give this new place time to catch up.

Having said that, though, I used to live in Ball Square and if I were still there I'd probably be checking out this new gym if it was noticeably closer to me, especially if it's on the T (they don't have an address on the website that I saw). However, creaky holds are not confidence inspiring...and seriously..."Brooklyn"?!?! I know it's a corporate name but come on! I don't know many Bostonians who would be caught dead wearing a NY-based shirt. No bleapin' way.

Still, glad there's some good competition out there now.

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By shoo
Jul 20, 2013
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
BKB = insanely expensive. Student deals are a joke. As far as I'm concerned, that's all I need to know.

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By eigensheep
Jul 22, 2013
I personally prefer BKBS's facility over MR's since the floor is much cleaner and the building has much better natural/electric lighting & AC. But I agree that the BKBS's bouldering section is a bit scary with tall routes and stiff crash pads. Still, I think it's the best place to go, especially if you live near Cambridge and Somerville

Also, if anyone is interested, I am selling a specially-approved transferable 'First-Ascent' membership from BKBS for $750 which I purchased last March. As much as I would love to enjoy the new gym, I will be unable as I will be relocating to Austin, TX for a new job this Friday.

The pre-sale annual membership currently sells for $829, so you'll be saving $79 and getting an exclusive 'First Acsent' access to the newest and best rock climbing gym in New England until its grand opening. The memberships at BKBS are not transferable but I did discuss my situation and got an approval for an extenuating circumstance from Lance (CFO?).

So if anyone is interested, please PM for details

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By Eric8
From Framingham
Jul 22, 2013
$829 is the price that saves you money??? lol that is insane guess everyone will keep going to metro

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By Johnny Nubbins
Jul 22, 2013
To Eigensheep: PM sent

To Nick: Thanks for your response, I'll definitely take you up on your offer!

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By cjdrover
From Somerville, MA
Jul 22, 2013
Taken at MWV Icefest 2014.
For me the choice to switch from MR to BKB was a given since I live about a 4 minute walk from BKB. That being said, I still enjoy MR and CRG as well, and have 10-punch cards to both (check Groupon!).

I have a feeling the spinners will subside as the wood compresses. Anyone who has had a home wall knows it takes time for the plywood around the T nuts to compress. Same with the pads - they are definitely stiff now, but I expect they will soften up.

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By Adam Sadowski
From Watertown, MA
Jul 22, 2013
I know this is about MR v BKBS but I want to throw a shout out to the CRG Watertown gym. I've been going since they opened and think they've been doing a great job. Plus, he early hours and weight room make it that much better.

Hopefully the addition of two large gyms in the area will take the stress off of MR it was always painfully packed...

Looking forward to checking out BKBS soon!

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By Zach Kling
From Indianapolis, Indiana
Jul 22, 2013
Winter bouldering gets cold.
Never been and probably won't, but how tall are these bouldering walls that people are scared of them?

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By Ming
Jul 22, 2013
At Railay East Beach in Thailand
In regards to spinner. I have encountered an unusually high number at BKB - I don't know if the holds have not been torqued down enough or it is the finishing of the walls that is so slippery. On a self-belay station I spun 3 different holds in one route when I step on them a little off axis from the screw hole. Then I hopped on the 11C they put up and about 1/2 up a foot hold shifted a few degrees and spit me off the wall.

So far of the 4 routes I've tried on self-belay, 3 spun. And then I did enounter a few spinners on the bouldering walls too but not at the same frequency.

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By Evan Race
From Albany NY
Jul 22, 2013
Hey John,

Evan here, the head route setter here at BKBS. First off I'd like to say thank you for your post. Constructive criticism is crucial to helping us become better and better. We're working hard here to make this gym as flawless as possible. A lot of spinners are occurring due our t nuts still settling. Once the t nuts have been used for a full rotation well see a massive drop in spinning holds. We have been going through daily re-tightening and set screwing certain problem holds. We're expecting this to resolve soon. This is our soft opening so not everything has been 100% tweaked and we are still adding feet and changing things to fix some reach issues. The rubber streaking on the walls is just something that comes with the wood and texture. I will say however it does come off quite easily and we will be washing the walls section by section as we strip and reset.

Wanna say thanks again and if you have any questions feel free to drop me an email.
Evan@brooklynboulders.com
Evan Race

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Jul 22, 2013
Evan- i think the Front in Ogden and the Bloc in Tucson also went through a spinner phase, but they both use way more set screws than the average gym due to the surface being so smooth. When I set at the Bloc, we were instructed to use set screws on anything bigger than a fist sized hold. The Front does something similar as well.

Best of luck- if I ever get out to Boston I'll be sure to check the facility out- i love those Vertical Solution walls!

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By CatProx
From Somerville, Massachusetts
Oct 14, 2013
I was not enamoured with brooklyn boulders at all. They seem to have a high injury rate, their walls are all flat with varying degrees of slope, and nothing else. There are no features to play with on the walls. Everything is primarily hold-bassed. I also felt like a lot of the routes were made for people who were a little taller and stronger. They didn't really have the same creativity in setting. I did an awesome 5.10B I really enjoyed, but all in all I just have MORE FUN and Metro Rock. I get plenty challenged, I learn a lot. It seems like brooklyn boulders is more grueling and strength-based, and a little less puzzle-solving, and "I have to move my body HOW!?"
Also this is silly, but the stereo system is better at MetroRock. I can hear music all over the gym, unlike at Brooklyn Boulders where it's only really good by the excessively-high bouldering area. Seriously what is with the height of those walls?

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By jim.dangle
Oct 15, 2013
Yes, but which has the cutest chicks?

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By CatProx
From Somerville, Massachusetts
Oct 16, 2013
Well Jim, that all depends. If you're into European girls, then definitely check out Brooklyn Boulders. If you like girls who are muscular and really into rock climbing, check out MetroRock.

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By Alissa Doherty
From Boston, MA
Oct 24, 2013
Route finding
Can't really speak to the caliber of chicks at either gym but I've been a member of both gyms so I can definitely speak to the quality of climbing. I don't boulder or toprope much so my experience is with the lead walls only.

At BKB, you will get strong on an overhang. There is only one lead wall that doesn't have an overhang which means about two routes at any given time. Their setting is a little less thoughtful than at Metro and clips are often desperate so I've found my clipping "lock off" skills have gotten really good. That said, I've gotten bored of BKB after a few months. I do the same warm-up, moderates, and project every time I'm there. There just isn't a lot of variety in climbing style and there are not a ton of leadable routes in the first place.

I used a day pass to go back to Metro this week and was reminded why I love it there. The route styles are so varied and there is a ton of different, featured stuff to lead. I haven't had sore muscles in months but after my visit to Metro, I felt like I had really gotten worked. I think that I might have made some strength gains at BKB because I am forced into overhangs but I love more thoughtful routes that involve stems, smears, mantels etc. Metro is just more mentally stimulating--and thus more fun!

Lastly and nothing to do with the climbing--I think that crowd is more fun at Metro. Lots of folks that love to climb for sport and are less about portraying any kind of 'image'.

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By CatProx
From Somerville, Massachusetts
Oct 24, 2013
I have never lead-roped. The idea is terrifying to me, but maybe I'll get there someday.
But it's good to hear a lot of my opinions are reflected here.
More-fun routes, and more-fun people. Yeah, BKB seems more "image-concerned". More Cambridge I guess? It's a different, much more "work-out-club" scene. Where as Metrorock seems to be a bit more of the outdoorsy, here to have a good time, vibe. A little more hippie/punky/geeky.

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By Russ Keane
Nov 25, 2013
Where's Waldo?
"I was not enamoured with brooklyn boulders at all ... their walls are all flat with varying degrees of slope, and nothing else. There are no features to play with on the walls. Everything is primarily hold-based."


I couldn't agree more. They really missed an opportunity when the designed this gym. Hundreds of feet of plywood walls, with complete uniformity. No corners, roofs, aretes, etc, which make for a fun indoor experience. Very very disappointing in my opinion.

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By shoo
Nov 25, 2013
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
I have been climbing at Metro forever, and made the switch to BKB, mostly due to convenience of location. Let me start with the bottom line:
Bouldering: 9/10, BKB wins hands down
Ropes: 6/10, Metro wins hands-down
Facilities:, 8/10, BKB wins slightly
Community: 5/10, very different communities, strong personal preference to Metro

Let me just say that this is a very good climbing gym, which I will try to highlight. The problem is the missed opportunities, which could have made it a fantastic gym.

Bouldering: This is clearly the highlight of the gym. The bouldering is FANTASTIC. There is a lot of it, the setting is great, the wall shape variety is very good. Really, I think they did everything pretty much right here. The ground isn't particularly soft, which makes coming down off the ultra-high problems a touch dangerous, but I don't mind that too much. Overall, solid 9/10 here. I am not much of a boulderer, and this place makes me actively want to boulder. That says a lot.

Ropes: Here's where things start to fall apart. I'll try to break it down a bit.
Wall material: The wooden walls thing is terrible. Sure, you can make things nice and curvy (which they only sorta do, see below), but the inability to smear, the constant creaking of the holds, and the increased likelihood of spinners is very annoying. Some people care about the rubber streaks, and they work very hard to clean them between settings. More on that later. Give me the Rockwerx style walls any day. Not the most important thing in the world to me, but still why not use the best if you're trying to be the best? 4/10.

Walls: Some good, some bad. There is a fair bit of variety in the wall shapes for top-roping, which is a plus. However, when it comes to leadable features, everything is lost. 70% of the space is the exact same overhanging-curve-to-moderate-overhang feature. The tongue is pretty awesome looking, but the reality is that it's a bit boring as it stands. In the end, almost everything is a big flat overhang which varies only in the degree of overhang. But there is a fair amount of safe and fun climbing space, so 7/10.

Use of space: The draws are set in such a way as to force climbing only under the bottom of the tongue. Want to use the edge to set some cool overhanging arrete? Too bad. Want to climb in a corner? Maybe 2 possibilities. While I'm at it, the placement of the draws themselves is stupid. They are maybe 3 feet apart over the entire climbs so I spend more time clipping than climbing. Worse, they are placed in such a way as it is virtually impossible to set anything that traverses at all. The last holds are set such that you have to super high clip the shuts, while your last draw is at your belly button. I often don't bother with the shuts and just lower off the last draw. I've already finished the climb, clipping an anchor doesn't add to either safety or fun. I also don't particularly like autobelays, but whatever, others do. 4/10.

Setting: Mostly pretty good given the variety restrictions (see above use of space). One big problem: there isn't NEARLY enough of it. At any given grade range, there is generally only one or two routes set, often none at all. You could fit DOUBLE the amount of climbing variety in the space available without looking too cluttered. Maybe if more time was spent setting and less scrubbing the rubber off the walls. . . My complaints about the setting are mostly about the poor use of space. It's not really the setters' fault that the setting isn't the best, so I'll give a 7.5/10.
As an aside, whoever ER is needs a raise. That guy/gal sets some REALLY fun stuff.

Facilities: Not going to go into depth here, but BKB has pretty nice facilities and space to work with. I don't really use much of it, so I can't say much. Take my 8/10 with a grain of salt.

Community: Trying too hard to be an urban hipster haven, not hard enough to be a climbing gym. The events and local partnerships are nice. There are a lot of events and things going on. However, it just doesn't feel like a climbing community to me. Maybe they just haven't been around long enough. Everything just feels so forced to be cool that it isn't fun. I am not cool, nor do I want to be. I want to hang out with my awkward and awesome friends enjoying our pointless hobby in a place that reflects who we are. Cool is cold. 5/10.

The Bottom Line: It's a great gym, but the missed opportunities are extremely frustrating. There is a lot wrong with BKB, and I think it can easily be summarized in their slogan and marketing attitude. Every time I see that "Exist to Inspire" pasted over every e-mail, wall, card, whatever, it makes me die a little inside. I don't want to exist to inspire. I like climbing. BKB only mostly fulfills that for me. 7/10.

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By jTaylor
Nov 26, 2013
damn. extremely disappointing how expensive these boston Gyms are. I am originally from MA and left years ago and moved to the west coast where i began climbing. Now unfortunately, I am temporarily back east and can't believe the prices of these gyms. if the prices were reasonable, i'd gladly make the commute from the North Shore to boston to and get a month pass.

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By B-Mkll
From Bozeman, MT
Nov 26, 2013
.
I'm personally disappointed to see no mention in this thread of the merits of Rock Spot Climbing in Hyde Park. Sure, it's a small gym, and the roped climbing ends up being more like bouldering with ropes, but I've been climbing (and granted, working) there for over two years now and I find the boulder setting to be of the highest quality. It's some of the most inventive, puzzling, and realistic (V5 = V5, not V2 like at other places) that I've seen in a gym anywhere, particularly compared to the other Boston gyms where strength wins over beta and technique (BKB, I'm looking at you). The community is small, tight-knit, and very open. I know a lot of folks who have memberships at Central AND at Rock Spot because they like the bouldering and community here.

Prices are cheap compared to the other gyms. If you live anywhere south of downtown Boston, or particularly in southern MA/ South Shore, it's worth checking out as you get reciprocity with membership to their two MUCH nicer and larger gyms in RI.

Plug done. Just want some fairness in the exposure here.

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By Alissa Doherty
From Boston, MA
Nov 26, 2013
Route finding
I responded with my thoughts on BKB and Metrorock since that was the topic of this thread but, as an unbiased climber, wanted to validate Benjamin Mackall's biased claims.

I think that the setting at Rock Spot may be the best in the area. It is very thoughtful and challenging. I find it to be much truer to outdoor grades than other gyms which often inflate grades (Central Rock being the worst offender in my limited experience). As a non-boulderer, the height of their walls leaves a lot to be desired, but with such quality setting, I think Rock Spot generates climbers with really great technique. If I was more into bouldering, I'm sure this would be my gym of choice.

In response to jTaylor, Rockspot is also pretty inexpensive.

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By jim.dangle
Nov 26, 2013
Gyms are expensive in general especially in Eastern MA but there are some deals that soften the blow. Groupon and boston.com often have deals. Most of the gyms run early bird specials (on Weekdays). Most weekday nights-- at metrorock at least-- have discounts for something: lady's night, teacher night, etc. I think they even have a guys night-- for the bros, yo.

Definitely wish there was a real climber's gym around but I just don't think there is a market for it. Ultimately these gyms have to cater to families and hipsters to turn a profit.

Do any of the many universities around have climbing gyms?

JIm

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