Floating bridges transformed work positioning comfort and maneuverability for climbers. No wonder all modern saddles feature some style of bridge. The rope bridge offers compatibility with a large range of hardware, while also being easily and affordably replaced.
Why Should I Replace My Bridge?
The function of a bridge, suspending the weight of the climber on the pressure point of a piece of hardware that slides along the length of a section of rope, is among the most stressful applications for ropes. There are multiple things happening to that rope at a given moment:
- Friction - The ring, swivel, or other hardware connecting the climber’s system to the bridge is constantly rubbing against the jacket of the rope.
- Bending - The hardware also creates a bend in the rope, which can affect the function of the fibers within the rope.
- Flexing - Combining the bend with the motion of the hardware causes the rope fibers to contract and extend frequently during a climb.
"Even if a bridge doesnt show damage, retire it when its suggested lifespan has passed. If unsure about a bridge’s time in the field, go ahead and replace it. Why not?"
Edelrid TreeRex Saddle
When Should I Replace My Bridge?
Read the saddle’s owner manual. Most manufacturers recommend 6-9 months of use before retiring a bridge that shows no sign of damage. Of course, if it shows any sign of damage, retire it immediately. Types of damage to look for:
- Nicks/abrasion on the jacket
- Changes in diameter/flat spots, especially in the middle of the bridge
- Frayed jacket or core herniating through the jacket
- Popped, cut, or loose stitches on stitched eyes
Be sure to check the full length of the bridge, including where it passes through saddle hardware.
Remember - even if a bridge doesnt show damage, retire it when its suggested lifespan has passed. If unsure about a bridge’s time in the field, go ahead and replace it. Why not?
What Rope Should I Use?
Best answer - use the replacement bridge or suggested rope provided by the saddle manufacturer.
“But why not use something I have on hand?” Manufacturers thoroughly test their saddles and components to ensure proper performance and suitability. Unsuitable replacement bridges have led to catastrophic failures, resulting in serious injury and death. The materials used and how they’re incorporated in a rope’s construction determine the rope’s suitability as a bridge.
Take the guesswork out of whether your bridge is safe to use by choosing the one purpose-built for the task. If spending $20 on a replacement bridge is out of the question for a climber, then that climber has determined his or her life to be worth less than $20. The saddle bridge is the primary attachment point on most modern saddles- why not spend a few bucks to make sure it’s the right one?
The rope bridge is often the only point of attachment keeping us from falling from a tree. Isn’t it worth eliminating any question as to whether it’s up to the task? Get the right one, replace it regularly, and take one more risk out of the equation while working aloft.
As for choosing specifics—research, research, research, and stay within your expertise! Check out reviews both on Sherrilltree.com and social media. Ask other climbers you know. Remember, manufacturers have made user manuals to many of their products available online. Never hesitate to contact any manufacturer with questions about their products. Also, the customer service team at SherrillTree.com is ready to help through live chat on the website, email, or over the phone.
BONUS - What are the Best Attachment Points to Add to my Bridge?
Tired of the stock ring on your bridge? Want to add more functionality? When switching to anything other than stock hardware, remember that doing so counts as a modification, which could void any warranty associated with a saddle. With that in mind, check out these options:
- Multiple rings - great for multiple attachment points, or spreading the bend radius of the primary attachment point. Rings do not usually wear in concentrated areas, adding to longevity. Inspect them regularly, regardless.
- Swivels - Allows for easier rope management and multiple attachment points. Watch for grooving, and retire according to manufacturer guidelines.
- Pulleys - Reduce friction when twisting from side to side. Pulleys also have a larger bend radius. These two benefits generally add up to reduced bridge wear.
- Carabiners - Easy on and off, but are subject to grooving like swivels.
- Rigging paws - Multiple, separate attachment points for cleaner connections. Subject to grooving
- Hybrid types - The Rook and California Swivel are examples of hybrid types. The Rook combines a pulley, rigging plate, and swivel. The California swivel combines the rigging plate and swivel with a wide base to increase bend radius and increase the lifespan in regards to grooving.