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Dumbbell Set System Review
+LBS Quick Change Adjustable Dumbbells

By Wesley James
http://www.pipeline.com/~wjames/MuscleMaker/

Another product we received for review came from what appears to be a small start-up, a mom- and-pop company called Briceco. Their product is called +LBS. Its a system that allows the trainee to relatively quickly change the weight of fixed dumbbells and still have the same solid feel. The system eliminates the conventional plates and collars common to adjustable dumbbells and is intended to substitute for the common rack of fixed dumbbells found in commercial gyms. Frankly, I like the feel of this system. When assembled they feel quite solid and one can change the weight on a dumbbell reasonably quickly by screwing on the +LBS plates. They are not, however, a perfect answer. Allow me to explain.

Jim Brice, founder of Briceco - along with his wife, Ann- came up with a good idea. He apparently researched his idea through the patent office and then filed for and received a patent. So far, all is well. He located and arranged with an off-shore company (in China) to have his idea manufactured into a product, and it appears they delivered a fairly high quality product. That's where the problems start. Someone famous once said, "Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door." It wasn't true, either literally or figuratively, when it was said and it isn't true today. That's part of Briceco's problem. I'll elaborate shortly. Secondly, consumers should not be required, when buying a product, to order another product from another company and then modify the second product to accommodate the first. Its simply too much work. Unfortunately, that's precisely what would occur if one purchased the +LBS system from Briceco. You'd buy 4 each 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5 and 15 +LBS plates at $29.99, 59.00, 82.50, 99.00, 112.50 and 119.40 suggested retail price (SRP) respectively and six custom collars at $6.96 per pair (SRP), plus the optional rack at $105.00 (SRP). All this would come from Briceco. At that point, you'd think you had it all, but you'd be wrong. After spending all that money ($628.27 plus significant shipping charges), you'd have to go out and buy 6 standard dumbbell handles and the plates necessary to create pairs of 20, 55 and 90 lb. dumbbells. When they arrived, you'd have to assemble them and add the custom collars, which require an Allen wrench that does not seem to be supplied. If Briceco wanted to make this approach to acquiring their system an option for those who are do-it-yourself oriented, as a way of saving a few dollars, I'd have no problem with it. As it stands, its your only way to go. In my opinion, Briceco must offer their system as a complete, preferably pre-assembled, package.

Let's assume you went through the ordeal I've just described and acquired and assembled the components of the system. What would you have? I can only partially answer that question. What Briceco sent us to review was a single 15 pound dumbbell with custom collars (plus one extra collar) and a pair of 2.5 pound +LBS plates. This made most kinds of evaluation difficult, if not impossible. They might at least have sent a pair. It would have been useful to determine how practical drop sets or pyramid sets would be with the +LBS system. Alas, I can not say. My training partner and I were limited to using the "system" for kickbacks and one-armed lateral raises.

As I mentioned earlier, it seems apparent that the man behind the system was Jim Brice. It's a fair bet the idea was a solution to a problem he faced. Not everyone faces the same problem nor, even if they did, would they choose the same solution. Brice may have solved his problem but a good product designer builds as much flexibility into a product as possible. In this regard, Mr. Brice has fallen short. The illustration at left approximates what a +LBS plate looks like. It's actually fairly clever. The side of the plate not shown is simply a flat surface with the logo and weight of the plate cast into it. As you can see from the illustration, there are two holes that pass through the plate. The center hole assumedly allows air to pass through to prevent air-pressure from impeding the tightening of the plate. The outer hole is intended to serve as a way of spinning the plate onto the custom collar- in practice this is probably more useful on the larger plates than the small ones we had for testing. Because of the design it is only possible to add one plate to each side of a dumbbell. This limits the amount of weight you add to the weight of the largest single +LBS plate (15 lbs.). A relatively simple design change would have made the product far more flexible. Had the flat side been cast like the recessed side, it would have been possible to use a double-ended collar to permit the user to stack multiple plates. This would have encouraged purchasers to add additional plates to the system over time, as they become stronger. Moreover, had the hole in the center of the plate been enlarged sufficiently, it would be possible to use the plates on standard bars as well. These simple, no-cost, changes would not have affected the function of the plates within the system in the slightest.

I'd like to hope that Briceco will take our suggestions to heart, fix the product design, package configuration and marketing. I believe the product could serve a truly useful purpose in the market for the very significant number of serious home-training bodybuilders and even some small commercial gyms (by using multiple systems). I can't, in good conscience, recommend the system, as is, to most readers. For those who need a solution enough to assemble the system as its currently offered, the pricing is reasonable by the standards of today's market. Jim Brice seems to be a pleasant fellow and he might even be willing to ship a system pre-assembled if you were to communicate with him directly. On the other hand, he may get pissed at me for suggesting that he would be so cooperative. You can work it out with him.

Copyright © 1996 Physique Tools and Wesley James


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