Beal BIRDIE - Compact belay device with assisted braking
Compact belay device with assisted braking for lead climbing or top rope. All metal construction, with cam friction components in stainless steel for great durability.
The Click Up+ is an updated version of the popular Click Up assisted braking belay device that was first introduced six years ago. We reviewed that back in 2013 and then the original Click Up was chosen as our Best in Test in our Assisted Braking Belay Devices group test in May 2017. With such high praise for the first version, could the new '+' model live up to, or even improve on, the original?
We've had the Click Up+ for a few months and have been testing it at the climbing wall in the winter, where we used it on old wall-type ropes for top-roping, and leading on thinner ropes. It has also been used outdoors in the Peak District and the Costa Blanca.
The main visual change in the device is the shape. The Click Up+ is slightly larger than its predecessor, being longer and tapered to fit better in your hand - but it actually weighs a fraction less. This weight saving is most likely due to the increased use of plastic in the body of the device, with the forged metal section being a good bit smaller. The basic mechanism has not changed much although the hidden spring in the original has been replaced by a double spring mechanism in this one, which is more obvious. There is also a small sprung plate which separates the climber and hand rope called the 'V-proof System'.
So there isn't much difference between the two devices in the way they sit on your rack. They both use the carabiner supplied which is an essential part of the locking mechanism. The increased use of plastic may make the new version a little more fragile although it still feels very robust.
As an aside, we found that the surface of the supplied Climbing Technology carabiner does wear quite quickly and leaves some slightly protruding edges where the rope runs over. We have replaced ours because of this, which is unfortunate since the device itself seems to have a very long lifespan, and yet you can't just replace it with any carabiner - it really does need to have exactly the same diameter. We have fed this comment back to Climbing Technology, who are looking into it.
One of the strong points of the original Click Up was its handling of the rope and the ability to feed the rope through quickly when paying out to a lead climber. This was the main feature that put it above other devices in our group test - it simply is unbeatable when it comes to combining quick feed without locking up the device, with safe quick locking in the event of a fall. Unfortunately the Click Up+ seems to have taken a step backwards in this respect. When feeding quickly it locks frequently and has become difficult to use. This is significantly worse with older and fatter ropes above 9.8mm.
We approached Stefano Codiazzi of Climbing Technology about this at the trade show in Munich in January and he made this video for us in response:
The main difference appears to be that the optimum hand position has been changed so that you held the rope higher when feeding, as illustrated in the two photos below:
Once we tried this it did indeed work as smoothly as illustrated by Stefano in the video. In further conversations we discovered that the main reason for this had been a possible problem with the original device should you hold the rope really high with both hands. This is an unnatural position for most experienced climbers but has been seen with some beginners. This feature when combined with the 'V-proof system' plate makes such a problem virtually impossible and as such can be said to make the device safer.
The problem we have with this is that it appears to have solved a problem that 99% of users never had. No experienced climber would hold both the climber and control rope high above the device; most actually prefer to loosely hold the hand rope below the device and feed it through by releasing it. To this end the position of your lower hand was irrelevant - it worked in all positions. The Click Up+ only really works if you hold your lower hand out in front of the device as shown in the video. What is worse is that the extra sensitivity means that any slight deviation from this position will probably mean you will lock the device up. Once locked up the Click Up is slightly harder to unlock than the original, since the notch in the device that keeps the carabiner in place is deeper.
It is also claimed to work on ropes up to 11mm diameter. Since there are virtually none of these around any more we haven't been able to test this, however I would strongly doubt this since we were getting it locking up on slightly furry 10mm ropes.
Overall for us, the handling for feeding the rope is some way short of a '+'.
When catching a fall the extra sensitivity obviously is more of a benefit. It responds incredibly well to any fall and locks solidly. We have used it on some pretty thin ropes down to around 8.9mm and it was fine, and as a bonus the feeding was much smoother as well, although still not as good as the original Click Up. There can be a tiny bit of slippage on the thinnest rope with a heavy climber, but usually it locks solid if you release your holding grip a bit on the lower rope.
When lowering from a fall or belay, that better ergonomic design of the device is an improvement. It sits nicely in your hand and is easy to angle to reduce the friction and lower the climber smoothly. The fact that it is made of plastic also means that it doesn't get quite as hot in your hands on long lowers although, as with the original, it should not be used for abseiling. We did notice the V-proof plate lifting a little on occasion when lowering. This doesn't appear to cause any problems though.
Overall this is a bit of a disappointment. The feeding mechanism is too sensitive and has been implemented to avoid a problem that the vast majority of climbers would never experience. It is a safer device for top-roping and for belaying with inexperienced climbers, but most people who use the old Click Up will find the new version frustrating. You can adapt your belaying style to make it work almost as well as the original, but you shouldn't have to do that. We are pleased to say though that the brilliant original Click Up is still available!
CLICK UP + is an innovative manual braking belay device, evolution of the well-established CLICK UP model, that has been available to the public for seven years now. Designed specifically for indoor and crag climbing, it can be used with all dynamic single ropes in the 8.5 to 11 mm Ø range. Lightweight and compact, it allows for belaying a leader or a top-roping climber, both hands handling the rope.
See this product at the Joe Brown - Snowdonia shop
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See this product at the Outside Ltd shop
|We agree with UKC - the original Click Up is a much better device for most users - especially experienced sport climbers.|
See this product at the Needle Sports shop
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