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New England Alex Honnold Signature Bi-Pattern Glider Review

Maxim Alex Honnold Glider  9.9 mm bi-pattern
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Price:  $244 List | $244.00 at REI
Pros:  The unique TPT sheath reduces drag and resists abrasion, affordable
Cons:  The same TPT sheath adds friction in some belay devices
Manufacturer:   Maxim Dynamic Ropes
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 9, 2015
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46
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Catch - 15% 6
  • Handling - 40% 3
  • Durability - 25% 6

The Skinny

With the New England Alex Honnold Glider you get performance that is about as good as could be expected from a rope named after a guy best known for not using ropes. The most distinguishing characteristic about this 9.9 mm rope is the single-pick weave of the sheath. We were able to confirm marketing claims that this construction reduces drag and increases sheath durability. The same weave, however, compromised handling in our tests and may be responsible for customer complaints about sheath slippage. Despite such a low price for a 70 meter bi-pattern rope, we prefer other options in the workhorse category, like the Top Pick Sterling Marathon Pro or the Best Buy Sterling Evolution Velocity. Additional mid-diameter and skinny sending ropes are examined in The Best Rock Climbing Rope review.


Our Analysis and Test Results

This rope is unique for several reasons. It offers the most affordable price for a 70 meter bi-pattern that we know of, and is the only rope reviewed with a one-over-one, or 'single-pick', sheath. Additionally, this is the only rope we've seen named after a professional climber. We're somewhat suspicious of this kind of marketing ploy being used to sell such an important piece of equipment, but we do appreciate that a portion of all rope sales are donated to the non-profit Alex Honnold Foundation.

Performance Comparison


Kevin Morris flakes the Alex Honnold Glider at a mult-pitch belay in Red Rock  NV. The stiff handling of this rope made it difficult to belay up the second with a Reverso or ATC Guide in auto-lock mode.
Kevin Morris flakes the Alex Honnold Glider at a mult-pitch belay in Red Rock, NV. The stiff handling of this rope made it difficult to belay up the second with a Reverso or ATC Guide in auto-lock mode.

Weight


The 63 g/m weight for this 9.9 mm rope is comparable to many of the other ropes in this size class. Not particularly heavy or light. The 9.8 mm Sterling Evolution Velocity is 62 g/m while the 10.1 mm, Top Pick workhorse, the Sterling Marathon Pro is an identical 63 g/m. However, both of those ropes are sold in various lengths while the AH Glider only comes as a 70 meter, which can be burdensome at this g/m weight.

At 63 g/m  and only sold in a 70 meter length  the New England Alex Honnold Glider can be a chore to lug around.
At 63 g/m, and only sold in a 70 meter length, the New England Alex Honnold Glider can be a chore to lug around.

Catch


This rope provided the hardest catch of any ropes tested with a 9.5 kN impact force from the UIAA. It also features the lowest static and dynamic elongation; 5% and 29% respectively. We stress, however, that these numbers do not make it unsafe and may actually be useful in certain situations. When sport climbing, you don't have to worry about high impact forces straining your gear placements, and the shorter stretch could keep you from hitting a ledge or the ground in a tenuous situation.

Handling


The most unique aspect of the Glider is the single-pick braiding on the sheath. Almost all other climbing ropes today feature a two-over-two, or 'double-pick', weave. New England calls this 'Twill Pattern Technology' and touts its benefit of reducing friction and drag. We agree that the sheath is smoother than most, which mildly reduces the rope drag for the leader. For the belayer, however, this is no 'glider', as friction was markedly increased. While lowering with an assisted braking device, or belaying a follower from above in auto-block mode, we experienced bunching in the sheath that would increase the resistance of belay device, or cause it to momentarily jerk and jam. The sheath and core felt like they were sliding separately against one another. This greatly increased the effort required to perform either of these tasks, especially when compared to all the other ropes tested.

Belaying a second from above in auto-block mode can be a pain with the New England Alex Honnold Glider because the sheath bunches up and amplifies the friction through a rappel device.
Belaying a second from above in auto-block mode can be a pain with the New England Alex Honnold Glider because the sheath bunches up and amplifies the friction through a rappel device.

Durability


Abrasion resistance for general rock climbing is increased by the one-over-one braiding on the sheath. After continued use, the sheath kept its like new appearance. But with toothed ascenders it became fuzzy and fat faster than usual. Not a safety concern, but certainly annoying.

Our biggest worry though, is that the inconsistent motion of the core and sheath together could lead to sheath slippage. This is when the core and sheath slide out of position relative to one another and you're left with only a floppy sheath at one of the ends of the rope. This problem has been observed by testers in this and past OutdoorGearLab reviews of Gliders. A brief search of online customer reviews revealed that some others users have been reporting the same issue.

Best Applications


The thicker diameter and extra abrasion resistance of the Alex Honnold Glider mean that it is great for hard use. We envision lots of sport whippers or trad climbing on coarse granite.

Value


At $244 this is the cheapest 70m, dry, bi-pattern rope sold, and by a large margin. If you are looking for all of these qualities then it could be right for you, but for shoppers with different tastes, the Alex Honnold signature version is not available in any other options.

Gina Kruetzkamp rappelling the route Birdland in Red Rock  NV on the Alex Honnold Glider. The bi-pattern makes setting up a rappel easy. This is one of the least expensive bi-pattern ropes we tested.
Gina Kruetzkamp rappelling the route Birdland in Red Rock, NV on the Alex Honnold Glider. The bi-pattern makes setting up a rappel easy. This is one of the least expensive bi-pattern ropes we tested.

Conclusion


New England has done an admirable job trying to offer a long bi-pattern rope at an affordable price. They should also be applauded for supporting such an inspiring climber as Alex Honnold and contributing a portion of the proceeds to his foundation, which seeks to improve lives worldwide with simple and sustainable solutions. The sheath of the Glider, however, adds frustrating friction for belayers and increases the possibility of slippage. For these reasons we recommend bi-pattern shoppers spend a little extra money on one of the higher performing ropes we reviewed.

Other Versions and Accessories


The Alex Honnold Signature version of the Glider is only available in a 70 meter bi-pattern. Maxim does make other diameters using the same TPT sheath weave including 9.9, 10.2, and 10.5 mm with standard, dry, or double dry treatments.


Jack Cramer