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Fixe Alien (Umbrella failure)
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By hrdeyo
From Longmont, CO
Oct 4, 2012

So I've been looking into getting some aliens because of all the amazing things I've heard. I hadn't yet because I've been satisfied with my Metolious, BD, and even rock empire cams. I've taken whippers on all of them and though I have blown marginal placements none of them have failed.

Recently I had a partner have a new yellow Alien fail when the soldered end of one of the cam wires failed and it came un-cammed or pulled through. I didn't see the placement.

Two days ago while climbing in the Yosemite a Fixe alien (Unsure of size) failed in the same way. didn't see this placement as this happened to a group climbing next to me.

Has this happened to anyone else, and also what is the difference between the Fixe Aliens and Totem Basics?

Not trying to bash aliens, just wanting some information.

I guess both of these could have been from poor placements, I definitely didn't mean to put any false info or fear out there.


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By Rob Fielding
From Las Vegas, NV
Oct 4, 2012
Third pillar of dana descent.

Hard to determine w out pics... could be user error


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By Gunkiemike
Oct 4, 2012

The "soldered ends" will likely pop off any time the cam umbrellas. That won't happen as the CAUSE of a failure but rather as the result of a bad placement. They aren't weight bearing; they are only there to pull back the lobes.


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By Paul Deagle
From Geneseo, NY
Oct 4, 2012
me

How does the cam umbrella? I am unfamiliar with this term.


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By Colonel Mustard
From Reno, NV
Oct 4, 2012
Colonel Mustard

Paul Deagle wrote:
How does the cam umbrella? I am unfamiliar with this term.


The lobes completely invert on cams that don't have some sort of cam stop (some sort of mechanism to keep the lobes from inverting). There's nothing "stopping" them in a placement that depends on the lobes staying in place like a nut rather than by the usual method of, well, camming. Encountering the irreversible force of a fall, they bend completely backward like an umbrella does on a windy day.


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By Josh Janes
Oct 4, 2012

Mike is right.

If you had a basic understanding of how Aliens work you'd realize that the soldiered ends of the trigger wires are only strong enough to handle the force of squeezing the trigger bar to remove the cam.

Since an Alien doesn't have cam stops, a poor placement could result in the cam inverting open in fall, thus breaking the trigger wires.

It's important to note that this is not a failure of the Alien; it's a failure of the user to place it well. Personally I find it mildly annoying that the title of the thread, given the history of Aliens, would mislead anyone to think a cam actually failed catastrophically.

If you are uncomfortable with the basic design of the Alien - the fact that they lack the added safeguard of cam stops or a continuous trigger wire that merely slides through the trigger bar freely in the event of the cam inverting - then I'd say don't get them. In the meantime, change your thread title to read "Alien trigger wire failure" instead of "Alien Failure."


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By Tradoholic
Oct 4, 2012

Josh, so what you're saying is that for $20 more per cam you can get a device that lacks the added safeguard of cam stops? Sounds like a failure of design.


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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
Oct 4, 2012
Toofast

Josh Janes wrote:
Mike is right. If you had a basic understanding of how Aliens work you'd realize that the soldiered ends of the trigger wires are only strong enough to handle the force of squeezing the trigger bar to remove the cam. Since an Alien doesn't have cam stops, a poor placement could result in the cam inverting open in fall, thus breaking the trigger wires. It's important to note that this is not a failure of the Alien; it's a failure of the user to place it well. Personally I find it mildly annoying that the title of the thread, given the history of Aliens, would mislead anyone to think a cam actually failed catastrophically. If you are uncomfortable with the basic design of the Alien - the fact that they lack the added safeguard of cam stops or a continuous trigger wire that merely slides through the trigger bar freely in the event of the cam inverting - then I'd say don't get them. In the meantime, change your thread title to read "Alien trigger wire failure" instead of "Alien Failure."


+100


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By slim
Administrator
Oct 4, 2012
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

S.P.L.T. Image wrote:
Josh, so what you're saying is that for $20 more per cam you can get a device that lacks the added safeguard of cam stops? Sounds like a failure of design.


the cam stops on the small metolius cams are so small that you can't count on them to work in a passive manner. the last few years there have been some problems where the cam stops on the silver and purple tcus have broken off without even being fallen on, due to manufacturing issues with the cam lobes.

i agree with josh - labeling this thread as an alien failure (as opposed to a user failure) is BS.


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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Oct 4, 2012
...

I find myself agreeing with Josh and Slim...

Hell, the title is the reason I opened this thread in the first place, especially since I had one of the failing DIMPLED Aliens.

It is a misleading title...


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By Josh Janes
Oct 4, 2012

S.P.L.T. Image wrote:
Josh, so what you're saying is that for $20 more per cam you can get a device that lacks the added safeguard of cam stops? Sounds like a failure of design.


No.

But I will say this statement is a failure of reading comprehension.


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By Tradoholic
Oct 4, 2012

I simply can't understand this cult of Alien lovers. Back in their day, yea they were the best, but now it's outdated. I think the new BDs are gonna blow 'em away.

Josh, so then what's the $20 advantage to the lack of cam stops? At least metolius has them.


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By Josh Janes
Oct 4, 2012

SPLT,

I agree that BITD (although this was before my time) they were unbeatable primarily due to their narrow heads and flexibility. And for a long time TCU's were their only competitor, though personally I prefer four lobes to three.

Now it seems that Master Cams, Zero's, and C3's have leveled the playing field, and the new BD's look like they'll be even better.

I have and use BD Micro Camalots, C3's and TCU's, but I think the reason I like Aliens despite these other options (and I can't speak for the other cult followers out there) is that they just feel right in certain situations. Two in particular:

1) In hard, uneven rock (like at the Gunks, for example, or gritty/crystal-laden granite, for example). I think this might be because the slightly softer 6061 aluminum just seems like it'll stay put better... I fully acknowledge this might be wishful thinking/my imagination.

2) In very thin, shallow horizontals. Maybe the short trigger wires and softer alloy at work? Well, they often seem to stay put and flex more freely than other cams... Again, I fully acknowledge this might be wishful thinking/my imagination.

Having cam stops is nice, though in practice I don't think I've ever utilized them to make a passive placement or have had gear blow for lack of them.

I don't recommend Aliens as THE small cam, but I do think they are complementary to other cams out there. And of course the hybrids are unrivaled but that's a different story.


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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Oct 4, 2012

Josh Janes wrote:
I have and use BD Micro Camalots, C3's and TCU's, but I think the reason I like Aliens despite these other options (and I can't speak for the other cult followers out there) is that they just feel right in certain situations.


Those other designs have improved small cam options but they are still not as good as aliens. C4s, still too wide sometimes. C3s, basically an overpriced TCU. No stem flexibility in the direction you want it. Mastercams probably the closest but have the lower range metolius cam angle, a poor trigger design and the harder lobes. Still would probably be my top pick as an alien alternative.

That new X4 looks cool, but honestly the stuff I was using 10 years ago, camalots and aliens has stood the test of time and new designs. Clyde Soles told me on here years ago that 'everythign you think you know about cams is about to change.' Well, I tried the Links, the Max and the Supercams, and they basically all suck compared to older cam designs. Even Dragons got worse than the thing they copied. So while I'm sure the X4 will be a fine cam, at this point I am doubtful it will be a significant improvement, or maybe even a slight improvement, on the current state of the cam art.


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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
Oct 4, 2012
Toofast

Josh Janes wrote:
No. But I will say this statement is a failure of reading comprehension.


Hahahahaha!!


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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
Oct 4, 2012
Toofast

S.P.L.T. Image wrote:
I simply can't understand this cult of Alien lovers. Back in their day, yea they were the best, but now it's outdated. I think the new BDs are gonna blow 'em away. Josh, so then what's the $20 advantage to the lack of cam stops? At least metolius has them.


SPLT,

It's OK if you don't like them, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. They work very well for what I do. The very flexible stems and soft cam lobes are a big plus for me, often aliens seem to bit in well where other cams feel less solid. YMMV.


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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Oct 4, 2012

TCUs were also available as FCUs (FCU=four cam units, I still have at least one yellow metolius fcu on the rack from the late 90s), but the layout of the lobes was different because of the U-stem. They were all bunched in the middle, instead of two pairs with the stem between.

The biggest benefit to Aliens for me, especially compared to Metolius, Bliss, or WC, has always been the cam angle. They just cover a bigger range, which seems to make a bigger differnce in the smaller cam sizes.

Secondary benefits were the narrow head width and the super flexy stem that gave confidence in horizontals and slanting cracks (although it also sucked in the bigger sizes, and why aliens above red or so would never make it on my rack, the head weight started making them a PITA to place overhead because they would go all noodly).Third was the softer alloy on the lobes for more "bite".

I still carry mainly tcus and C3s (which despite C3s having the stiff stem drawback, fit in places I would never get other competitors, I've had this happen repeatedly...attempt to place a different cam, head too wide, but C3 works)...most of my partners own aliens, so I end up climbing on them all the time and like them. I also own Alien hybrids (offsets), which are incredible for granite routes with pin scars. I wouldn't go on an El Cap aid route without a double set of hybrids, and have used the smaller two on a lot of free routes.

But it's very nice to have a selection, they all have their place IMO.


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By reboot
From Westminster, CO
Oct 4, 2012

It's funny people think cam stops on small cams as a feature. On the master cam & the older BD microcams they are no more than glorified spring stops: without them the cam won't operate, with them they are no safer.

Ah yes, the aliens are so outdated that only very recently has BD made the X4 with internal spring design (which btw, also do not have cam stops on the smaller internal spring/stacked-axle sizes). What's the big deal about internal spring besides narrower head width? The pair of lobes are closer together (if your placement only have good 2 lobes of contact you want them as close together as possible for stability). I own Totem basic cams which are both cheaper & slightly better (IMO) than the original aliens/Fixe copies. I particularly like the flexible trigger wire mesh than the rigid wire, allowing the lobe to rotate just as freely after some use (rigid trigger wire tend to get pinched by lobe deformity).

I've climbed on the X4s and they are indeed pretty sweet; I may get some in smaller sizes when available to the general public. I also have C3s & they indeed work in some placements where nothing else will, they are just not quite my workhorse cams.


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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Oct 4, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!

shuminW wrote:
It's funny people think cam stops on small cams as a feature. On the master cam & the older BD microcams they are no more than glorified spring stops: without them the cam won't operate, with them they are no safer.



yup. I've actually sheered the cam stops on small tcu's a couple times.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Oct 4, 2012
El Chorro

This is such an old discussion. Use whatever cams you want - they all have advantages as well as disadvantages, and none of them will work if you don't know how to place gear correctly.

As far as cam stops go, I'll take the bigger range, narrow head and softer metal of Aliens over cam stops any day. Since when do you guys use small cams in passive mode anyway? Isn't that what stoppers are for? I can see using a Camalot in passive mode, but not a TCU or Mastercam. FWIW, I've broken the stops of off both of the Metolius models. Not the cams fault - they were marginal placements at best - and I wasn't counting on the cam stops holding me in the first place.


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By Tradoholic
Oct 4, 2012

Josh, I agree with those advantages but I think they are largely imangined as you seem to indicate. The fact that the Aliens have that tendency to umbrella has always been the deal breaker for me and that they are more expensive it seems pointless to even consider using them.

As we all know sometimes you can't get the placement you want but you gotta go with it, without camstops the Aliens are more likely to umbrella and I don't see those other advantages overcoming that especially in light of the price. I've used almost all cams out there in a large variety of places and I always come back to my BD stuff, C3s for the little stuff. If Aliens could compete on price, add cam stops and make them look like they weren't made in a garage, not to mention that the big ones have a tendency to fold over because they are too flexible, I would say that they are great cams.

To bring it back to the OP, if FIXE had addressed these known design faults that cam wouldn't have failed. Good designs minimize the chance of user error and Aliens don't do that.


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By slim
Administrator
Oct 4, 2012
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

S.P.L.T. Image wrote:
Josh, I agree with those advantages but I think they are largely imangined as you seem to indicate. The fact that the Aliens have that tendency to umbrella has always been the deal breaker for me and that they are more expensive it seems pointless to even consider using them. As we all know sometimes you can't get the placement you want but you gotta go with it, without camstops the Aliens are more likely to umbrella and I don't see those other advantages overcoming that especially in light of the price. I've used almost all cams out there in a large variety of places and I always come back to my BD stuff, C3s for the little stuff. If Aliens could compete on price, add cam stops and make them look like they weren't made in a garage, not to mention that the big ones have a tendency to fold over because they are too flexible, I would say that they are great cams. To bring it back to the OP, if FIXE had addressed these known design faults that cam wouldn't have failed. Good designs minimize the chance of user error and Aliens don't do that.


how would the cam not have failed? if it walked into an open position, falling on it would invert the lobes and it would slice out - whether it be a tcu, alien, etc.


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By Josh Janes
Oct 4, 2012

Of course a broken trigger wire on an Alien that inverts is repairable. A broken cam stop is not.

I always err on the side of getting a tiny cam stuck rather than it inverting: When the pro gets tiny, I'd rather have a slightly bigger, slightly stronger cam that's tough to remove save my ass than a smaller cam invert and pull out of the placement.

I must be a total cult follower because I actually like that they look like they were made in a garage.


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By Tradoholic
Oct 4, 2012

slim wrote:
how would the cam not have failed? if it walked into an open position, falling on it would invert the lobes and it would slice out - whether it be a tcu, alien, etc.


If it was a .3C4 or bigger with a duel axel, it would have held. It it had camstops it would have had at least the chance to hold. Aliens have neither of these features.

You can replace the wires on an Alien but you can't replace your ass. When the camstop breaks on a Metolius then you have yourself an Alien.


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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Oct 4, 2012

S.P.L.T. Image wrote:
If it was a .3C4 or bigger with a duel axel, it would have held. It it had camstops it would have had at least the chance to hold. Aliens have neither of these features. You can replace the wires on an Alien but you can't replace your ass. When the camstop breaks on a Metolius then you have yourself an Alien.


That's some impressive baseless speculation. Sounds to me like a sub par placement busted the cam. Stops or a different brand doesn't mean it would have held, (or even fit!) it still could have skated.

If you're relying on cam stops to catch you you're dreaming, and you've already f'd up.


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By Tradoholic
Oct 4, 2012

caughtinside wrote:
That's some impressive baseless speculation. Sounds to me like a sub par placement busted the cam. Stops or a different brand doesn't mean it would have held, (or even fit!) it still could have skated. If you're relying on cam stops to catch you you're dreaming, and you've already f'd up.


You are right, but the chance to hold is a whole lot better than no chance. I think the fact that these other cams have at least tried to accommodate these problems shows their superiority.


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