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Vulcan Alpha Bumper Plates Review

Vulcan Alpha Bumper Plate Review - Versatile & Unique Basic Bumpers

Now I hate to ruin the surprise right out of the gate, but the Vulcan Alpha Bumper Plates are probably the most unique, versatile, durable, and reasonably priced bumper plates currently on the market, and I’m extremely excited about finally getting to review them.

I realize that there are more exiting things to actually read than a bumper plate review, but I truly believe that you’ll be glad to have discovered and read this review if and when you find yourself in the market for new plates, as they are about as close to the perfect bumper plate as you can get.

Last Updated January 2018 – minor revisions and price checking.


Alpha Review Intro

Vulcan Alpha Bumper Plate Set

Vulcan Alpha Bumper Plates with a set of V-Locks

The first thing that you should know about the Alpha Bumpers is that they are made using a completely different rubber compound than what is used for the run-of-the-mill virgin rubber and crumb rubber plates. Now I’m no rubber expert by any means, but it’s pretty clear that this new compound offers more advantages and more versatility than the classic materials. It is almost as if Vulcan managed to find a material that unites all of the best features of the other bumper plate styles. The most notable of these features being:

  • durable enough to be used both indoors and outdoors (from stall mats and platforms to gravel, asphalt, and concrete.)
  • quiet enough to be used in gyms and boxes where noise is a genuine concern.
  • high enough density to deliver a dead blow when dropped  – no bouncing and skipping around the platform like crumb rubber plates.
  • extremely accurate to claimed weight.
  • all the while being thinner than just about all other non-competition bumpers.

When you consider the above items along with the fact that Alphas are colored you can see why I say that they have all of the best features of the other plate styles – HI-Temps for their indoor/outdoor versatility, XFs for their noise dampening, basic black bumpers for their slim profile and low bounce, and competition discs for their accuracy and color theme. On top of all that, Alphas are priced very competitively. They sell for less than HI-Temp and Eleiko XF, and much less than competition style plates.

Below is a chart showing set prices for the Alphas, HI-Temps, and XFs. These numbers are pre-shipping, but it’s possible to get both the Alphas and the HI-Temps shipped for free (you will not be so lucky with the Eleiko XF). Also, set sizes do vary slightly so it’s not completely apples to apples, but the chart still paints a pretty clear pricing picture.

Alpha HI-Temp XF 
160 lb $319 $323  $314
250-260 lb $472  $498  $510
340-370 lb  $620  $667  $692

 

I didn’t compare the Alpha price to basic bumpers because basic bumpers don’t offer any of the advantages of the Alphas or the crumb rubber-style plates; like say indoor/outdoor use or noise dampening. Interestingly enough, while the smallest 160-pound set of Alphas runs about $50 more than the same size basic bumper set, that gap gets smaller and smaller as the set size goes up. Additionally, if you compare Vulcan Alphas to colored basic bumpers you’ll see that Alphas are generally less expensive.


Accuracy

I own 320-pounds of Alpha Bumpers (no 10’s), and I put each and every plate on the scale to check for accuracy. I kid you not, every plate was spot on.

Full disclosure, my scale is only accurate to within a tenth of a pound, so I cannot claim that these plates are within 10 grams of stated weight or anything like that, but then again they very well could be – which would be pretty awesome considering no such claim is made by Vulcan. Perhaps someone else with a set of Alphas and a more accurate scale will chime in regarding the accuracy of their plates down in the comments section.

In any case, having every single disc in a non-competition weight set come in precisely at their stated weight is quite impressive, at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s certainly the first time I’ve seen it happen among such a large quantity of plates.


Appearance / Color

Vulcan Alphas are basically the same mold shapes as the standard black Vulcan Strength bumpers. The difference is in the rubber compound that’s used, and the specks of color in the rubber.

In the pictures the color specks make the plates look like crumb rubber, but when you see the plates up close and are able to touch them, you’ll notice right away that the plates feel much more like a regular bumper than a crumb rubber bumper. With crumb rubber there is a sort of rough texture that you can feel as you run your hands across the surface, and you can’t feel that with the Alphas – they are smooth and seamless.

Vulcan Alpha color flakes look like crumb rubber, but there is no texture - completely seamless

Of course the colors themselves correspond with the IWF-color scheme, with the 25’s being green, 35’s yellow, 45’s blue, and 55’s red. There really is no IWF-color for a 10-lb plate, so like what most companies do, Vulcan went with grey.


Bounce

Alphas have just the slightest bit more bounce than the high-density, basic bumper plates, but it is negligible. The real difference is between Alphas and crumb rubber plates. As you probably know, crumb rubber has a tendency to skip and bounce about the platform. There is none of that chaos with the Alphas – just a reliable, dead blow.


Indoor/Outdoor Versatility

Prior to the Vulcan Alphas, the only plates that could consistently handle being dropped on abrasive, outdoor surfaces were the crumb rubber plates like the HI-Temps. Standard virgin rubber bumpers are just too firm to be safely dropped on asphalt, gravel, and other uneven outdoor surfaces.

Crumb rubber is still a completely viable option for outdoor training and WODs, but you still have to deal with the erratic bounding; bounce that can be even more unpredictable when dealing with uneven surfaces. Again, Alphas don’t have that insane crumb rubber bounce – they dead blow like a basic bumper.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to convince you that Alphas are 1000x better than crumb rubber when it comes to the outdoor use thing, but because of the low bounce, IWF colors, lower price, and the fact that Alphas don’t flake apart like crumb rubber, they are arguably a better value.


Insert

The Alphas have a stainless steel hooked insert. These are like normal inserts, except they have welded rebar that the rubber of the bumper gets molded around; with the point being to create a more permanent and improved bond between the insert and the bumper. What this means to you as an Alpha owner is that your bumpers are unlikely to ever experience insert separation. Sure it’s not the most common bumper issue, but it does happen and it’s always nice to know that it’s been addressed. You’d be surprised how few companies even bother to use hooked inserts despite them having no impact on cost.

The Vulcan Alphas have a hooked insert that sits flush with the rubber rather than above the surface of the plate - this reduces insert on insert friction

It’s also worth noting that the inserts sit flush with the surface of the plates. When you have plates stacked against one another on the sleeve there isn’t excessive rubbing and wearing down of the inserts themselves. Many cheap bumpers (and even some of the nicer plates) have the inserts actually sitting above the rubber surface, and this slowly wears down those inserts. Again, not the hugest issue to have, but at least it’s not going to be your issue.


Low Noise

Vulcan Alphas have the advantage of being roughly 30% quieter than virgin rubber plates when dropped from an overhead position. That 30% figure is Vulcan’s based on tests they did with a decibel meter, which I cannot confirm, but I can confirm that they are noticeably quieter. I’d say that they are about as quiet as XFs (for those of you who have used those in the past), but without the excessive width, unpredictable bounce, and high price.

Reducing the noise that comes from a dropped bar is important for a lot of lifters, personal trainers, and coaches. Garage/home gym owners have neighbors and families to think of, and many CrossFit boxes share walls with retail stores. Prior to the Alphas, your only real choices for quiet bumpers were HI-Temps and the aforementioned XF. HI-Temps are thick, bouncy, and slightly more expensive – and not that much quieter than basic plates. XFs are certainly a quiet plate, but they are insanely thick, over-priced, and carry a bad warranty.

With the Alphas you get quiet plates at a reasonable cost. On top of that, you get a normal plate thickness, less bouncing, and even added color. I have no problem with HI-Temps or XFs from a functional standpoint, nor do I worry about their durability (for the most part), but I’d be lying if I said they compared to the Alphas when it comes to features and price.


Odor

You know that awful smell when you get new rubber products? That horrible, lingering smell that forces you to store your plates outside the first week or two? Well that smell is less of an issue with the Alphas. Again, Alphas are made from a completely new and different rubber compound, and while they don’t smell like roses or bubble gum, they certainly aren’t offensive like virgin and recycled rubber, and what little smell there is dissipates quickly if cleaned and stored outside overnight.

Clean? Yes, there is a thin layer of silicone on the plates that you need to wipe away with a rag and some soap, but as you probably know from other rubber products, that’s not all that unusual. That silicon is put on deliberately at the factory to protect the rubber from blooming and discoloring as it oxidizes. Pretty normal stuff.

Again, rubber stinks when fresh from the factory, but there are varying levels of this odor and some people are more sensitive to than others.


Plate Width & Diameter

Alpha Bumpers are the same 450 mm diameter as any other Olympic bumper plate. The only exception to this is the 10-lb Alphas which are closer to about 400 mm (below image has the 10’s stacked on the 25’s).

Vulcan Alpha Bumper Plates - Size difference between 10's and the rest of the set.

This is very interesting to me because with pretty much all other bumper plate brands and styles, the skinny 10-lb plate is by far the most fragile and the most likely to fail. It’s also the plate size that comes with the worst warranty. All Vulcan did with their Alpha 10’s is take 11-12% or so off the diameter of the plate and add that material back to the thickness. Now you get a pair of 10’s that is only moderately smaller, more durable, and much less likely to ever need to be replaced. And yes, they can be used for technique purposes.

In terms of the thickness of each plate, I have attached the dimensions in the chart below. You’ll notice that not only are Vulcan Alphas thinner than the HI-Temps and XFs, but also marginally thinner than basic plates as well. By “basic” I am referring to standard bumper brands like the HG, AB Sports, and so on – these brands and models all share just about the same overall plate dimensions.

 Bumper Plate Widths Vulcan Alphas Basics HI-Temps Eleiko XFs 
10-lb 1.17″ 1.00″  1.375″  1.25″
25-lb 1.81″ 2.00″ 2.25″ 2.75″
35-lb 2.55″ 2.75″ 3.175″ 3.75″
45-lb 2.95″ 3.25″ 3.75″ 4.75″
55-lb  3.34″ 3.75″ 4.75″


* Vulcan Strength didn’t round their Alpha plate widths for the product description like everyone else seems to have done, so I didn’t either.

The width difference between a basic 45-pound bumper and the 45-pound Alpha is negligible

So what difference does the plate width make? The thinner plates are generally considered better because you can load more plates on the bar, you can store more plates per storage horn, and they are less cumbersome to move around the gym. Sure 45-pounds weighs 45-pounds, but does it seem easier to move around a 3″ wide 45-pound plate, or a 5″-wide 45-pound plate?


Warranty

The warranty for Vulcan Alphas is fantastic, and also very specific. You get one year on the 10-pound Alphas, 3-years on the 25-pound Alphas, and 4-years on every other size. This is hands down the most competitive warranty for non-competition bumper plates around.

In the basic bumper plate market, a good warranty is a full year on the 10- and 15-lb plates, and 3-years on the 25-pound plates and above – you can find this warranty from a handful of the more reputable bumper vendors. However, the industry norm seems to be about one year on the whole set, with there commonly being a shorter 3-6 month warranty on the 10’s and 15’s. Eleiko, for instance, offers only a year on their premium XF Bumpers, and that 1-year doesn’t even include the 10-pound plates.

That being said, I feel as though I should remind everyone that you simply will not destroy 25+ pound bumper plates without literally setting out to do so, and about the only situation in which I can see a 10-pound plate being thrashed within the first year is if you are using them in lieu of technique plates in an Olympic training center or newbie CrossFit box; which you really have no business doing. Frankly, if you teach the Olympic lifts to new lifters, you need to invest in some tech plates – that’s what they’re for.

At the end of the day I’m impressed with the Alpha warranty – it’s extremely generous, and better than what you’ll get on any other basic bumper plates.


Alpha Bumpers Review Summary – Pros & Cons

Vulcan Alpha Bumper Plates - Fantastic bumpers for Olympic lifting and CrossFit

Vulcan Alpha Pros

  • Alphas are extremely accurate to stated weight – it’s like lifting with competition plates at a fraction of the price.
  • Just as quiet as XF crumb rubber plates, but not nearly as thick, cumbersome, and expensive. Alphas also won’t flake apart like crumb rubber tends to do.
  • Alpha bumpers can be used both indoors on platforms and rubber mats, or outdoors on concrete, asphalt, and gravel without any risk of damaging the plates. Virgin rubber and recycled rubber plates cannot handle being dropped on these abrasive and uneven surfaces for any length of time.
  • The price for Alphas blows away the price you pay for HI-Temps or Eleiko XF; the only other models that are both quieter than virgin rubber plates, and suitable for outdoor use. Not only is the price better, but the Alphas are slimmer and include IWF colors.
  • Alphas have a dead blow much like virgin rubber plates – no erratic bouncing. Compare that to the crumb rubber plates that bounce and skip all over the place (HI-Temps are especially known for their crazy bounce.)
  • The famous odor associated with new bumper plates doesn’t exist on new Alphas. They do have a slight odor, of course, but it’s nothing compared to virgin rubber, and it dissipates quickly once removed from their packaging.
  • Vulcan opted to use the the anchored insert in the Alphas. This goes a long way to prevent insert separation, and it’s a feature that none of the crumb rubber plates have. The insert is also seamless, which is pretty normal – save for the Eleiko XF.
  • The Alpha warranty is solid – much longer than the industry average for basic bumper plates.

Vulcan Alpha Cons

  • Technically Alphas cost more than basic black bumpers, but so long as you buy 260-pounds or more, the difference becomes negligible. Plus, if you look at all the pros, that price difference seems meaningless anyway.
  • When the heavier plates are lying flat on the ground, there isn’t much of a bevel to get your fingers under when you go to pick the plate up. This is becoming oddly common I’m finding.
  • Alphas are out of stock more often than not. This speaks to their popularity, but waiting for a product that you wanted in your gym yesterday does suck, and is a drawback.

I don’t want to sound like a salesperson, but there are really no significant drawbacks to the Alphas. It’s rare that a new product offers this much versatility & value without a significant drawback or three, but I’m just not finding anything negative here. I’d have to start making stuff up in order to bad-mouth these plates, and of course I see no reason to do that. Fact is, Alphas are solid.

Then again, if you don’t care about noise, accuracy, training outdoors, or any of those other perks I discussed, I certainly wouldn’t fault you for sticking with basic bumper plates. But if any of those features are important to you, I think that you’ll find that the Alphas are the way to go. I just don’t see anyone regretting an Alpha Bumper purchase.


 

If you have any questions about these plates, or if you are an Alpha owner who would like to contribute your 2-cents, please use the comment section below. I welcome all feedback – positive or negative. I also greatly appreciate those shares.


 

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{ 61 comments… add one }
  • clay June 4, 2016, 10:53 am

    Vulcan is a strong company. I have the Elite and some black bumpers and want to pull the trigger on the new Power Bar. I am in VA., so basically I get free overnight delivery. I hope as a company they grow because their shit is legit. The deals with the bar and bumpers are good deals, especially when they are out of stock and they offer pre-order discounts. I got turned on to them because of your reviews and thank you for that.

  • Tony June 5, 2016, 8:54 pm

    This definitely sounds like my pick for bumpers when I need to add more weight. The inside/outside capability combined with all of the features that make OFW/Vulcan black bumpers top-of-the-line make it kind of a no-brainer.

    Really cool to see Vulcan innovating like this. Just curious, have you tried using this outside on a rougher surface? Can you verify that they’d hold up on par with hi-temps?

    • jburgeson June 6, 2016, 2:02 am

      I did use them outside, both on concrete and asphalt, but no dirt or pebble surfaces. They got super grungy of course, but they didn’t get cut up or shred pieces of rubber, and they wipe clean and look brand new. Matter of fact many of the pictures were taken towards the end of the review, but you can’t tell they were even used once I cleaned them up. I can’t tell you what they’ll look like a year from now since I haven’t had them that long, and I alone cannot put the kind of miles on them that a box could, but everything seems to point to good news.

      I know a good number of readers already have the Alphas. Maybe some of them will have used them on a larger variety of surfaces and be able to offer some feedback.

  • Kat Lee June 6, 2016, 5:31 pm

    I’ve used the Alphas outside on cement and tarmac and they hold up great!! There isn’t any cracking or any damage to the rubber even on a rougher surface. They look and feel just as smooth, shiny, and brand new as when I got them out of the box.
    Friction between the plates and ground while loading/unloading the plates on and off the barbell (you know, pulling/pushing them off and scraping them on the ground), didn’t leave any noticeable damage or abrasions to the rubber.
    All and all, these are awsome plates and by far my favorite to use. They will not disappoint and are well worth the reasonable investment!!

  • Justin June 8, 2016, 9:40 am

    Nice review. I strongly considered getting the Vulcan plain black bumpers, but they were out of stock for a long time. Especially because they used to offer a set that let you pick a pair of 10s, 25s, and 3 pairs of 45s without 15s or 55s. I ended up going with mostly used iron (lucked out on some Ivankos) and 160lbs of Rogue Echos. As I infrequently use bumpers, the Echos are fine, but these look like they would have been a great alternative. The splash of color, in appropriate IWF color scheme, is nice since most home gyms are pretty much all black.

    • jburgeson June 9, 2016, 9:11 am

      They still have that 3 pair of 45’s set I believe. I think you ditch the 35’s and 55’s for the extra two pair of 45’s, if my math is correct anyway.

  • Hyden July 17, 2016, 9:22 pm

    These look awesome and I’m considering buying a set along with a Rogue Ohio bar, that combo sound good?

    • jburgeson July 17, 2016, 9:32 pm

      Yeah both are great products, definitely. For CrossFit?

  • Casey July 21, 2016, 11:21 am

    How have you dealt with the shipping of the bumpers? Did you pay for the lift gate service?

    • jburgeson July 21, 2016, 12:51 pm

      Yes I have, and no I didn’t. Each bumper is in its own box, so they can just be picked up one by one and put on their hand cart.

  • Sky August 22, 2016, 3:01 pm

    Do you recommend these bumpers over the OFW bumpers over at Fringe? I’m about to pull the trigger on a colored OFW bumper set (for home CrossFit setup) but then I saw this Vulcan review on your site and now I’m wondering what the best option is at this point.

    • jburgeson August 22, 2016, 3:11 pm

      If you’re willing to pay the difference, they are a better plate, but the OFWs will still be fine. It might not matter though because the Alphas are very hard to catch in stock. Noise levels are night and day though, so if that matters you may want to hold out for the Alphas. Other than that, both will last.

  • Mark August 29, 2016, 2:48 pm

    Are these plates made in the USA? Usually that’s an advertising point but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Looking to pair with Rogue equipment.

    • jburgeson August 29, 2016, 3:05 pm

      No they are not made in the USA, and neither are any of the Rogue bumpers save for the HI-Temp crumb rubber plates. Bumpers are just one of those items you almost have to accept as being imported, or be willing to buy a lesser product for potentially more money.

      • Mark August 29, 2016, 7:57 pm

        Thanks for confirming my suspicions. Having a second opinion is huge.

  • Tao-Nhan Nguyen September 15, 2016, 8:07 am

    Just came across your article, great work.
    So far I thought the Hi-temps were the quietest plates around but your article seems to point otherwise. Just to clear things up, in terms of noise, are the Vulcan Alpha plates quieter than both hi-temp and XF plates ?

    • jburgeson September 15, 2016, 8:10 am

      That is correct, and with less bounce.

  • Matt December 12, 2016, 11:59 pm

    Any possibility of doing a test for sound? I’m curious how the Vulcan Alpha, Eleiko XF, and standard bumpers (or hi-temps since they’re common enough as reference plates) differ. Can you record a video of dropping say 135lb/185lb/225lb from overhead (jerk) with the phone at a set distance?

    • jburgeson December 13, 2016, 10:13 am

      I don’t have the XFs anymore. I have to get rid of stuff from time to time in order to have room for new stuff, and well, the XFs took up a lot of space.

  • Paw April 7, 2017, 9:00 pm

    Does anyone want to split a a set with me? the price of the plates will be cheaper if we buy more + we shipping would be split. I’m in the Los Angeles, CA area.

  • Terren May 2, 2017, 2:28 pm

    Have you compared these to Vulcan’s Color Bumpers? The color bumpers are only slightly more expensive and I’m having trouble determining what is different. Have you compared them?

    • jburgeson May 3, 2017, 2:33 am

      The colored bumpers are the same as the basic black bumpers, only color. The Alphas are the unique plates of all the basic styles (non-competition). Assuming you don’t need full color and you are shopping for pounds vs kilograms, the Alphas are the best basic plate option for the money in my opinion.

      • Terren May 3, 2017, 9:59 am

        Wonderful. Thank you very much! It’s a pity they don’t have KG Alphas, but I will live. I can math. I hope they’re in stock when I order.

        And thank you for this website. It is a fantastic resource.

  • Joe June 21, 2017, 12:51 pm

    I am on the fence between the Eleiko XFs and the Vulcan Alpha Crumbs. I read this and your XF review. You seem to favor Vulcan’s. Am I correct? If the price was the same, would you still prefer the Vulcans? And, I have to ask this, you aren’t compensated or motivated to prefer Vulcan’s are you? Sorry, had to ask. Big purchase for me. Thanks for the awesome info on your site, best one I’ve found.

    • jburgeson June 21, 2017, 1:30 pm

      I do prefer Vulcan’s because of both the smaller plate width and the lower price. Eleiko XFs also have a weird seam in the insert that terrorizes the finish on bar sleeves, while Alphas are seamless and anchored.

      It’s a fair question. I do have some banner ads and affiliate links on the site (there is already notice of this on every article page btw). They do not impact my opinions though, as I value the quality of my content and I take pride in what I do here. Matter of fact, I could get a pretty nice commission for selling XF plates all day long, but I genuinely don’t think they are the best option when compared to the newer Vulcan Alphas. If you asked me which competition bumpers to get, even with huge commission potential from recommending Eleiko Trainers or Sports, I wouldn’t recommend them over Rogue or Vulcan. I’d have to lie through my teeth to make Eleiko a better buy, and I’m unwilling to do that.

      I also maintain that I should not be the only source of product feedback. A lot of valuable information can be found in the actual product reviews. I am but one source.

      • Joe June 21, 2017, 2:57 pm

        Thanks a lot for your response. It is really appreciated. There are other sources of information, but you’ve actually owned both, so that carries weight, plus you have a terrific website with loads of great information. I do my homework. It just happens that you are one of the best resources of quality information.

        • jburgeson June 21, 2017, 3:03 pm

          Of course, and thank you too.

  • Joe June 21, 2017, 3:05 pm

    While I am here, what did you think of the Eleiko XF barbell? I thought it looked pretty great, but I’ve never had a chance to try it. How did it stack up to comparable bars in your experience? A sport training bar would be great too I think, but I wonder if it much better in practical terms for a one person garage gym? I thought maybe the resale, if necessary somewhere down the line, would possibly be better than some other bars. I always try to consider every angle.

    • jburgeson June 21, 2017, 3:26 pm

      The XF is a great bar – nicer than most (maybe all) bars in the CrossFit/WOD/multi-purpose category; course it’s also twice as much money so it kinda better be. It’s still an Eleiko so you’re getting the same shaft, sleeves, and finish of the Sport and Comp, just fewer bearings and the dual-marks. Grip is a little softer, but it’s still more substantial than run-of-the-mill dual-marked bars. Spin is great, standard Eleiko whip, no signs of corrosion, etc. Only drawback I’ve run into is with the silly black bands on the collars – they are doing what elastic rubber does when exposed to fluctuating temperatures – starting to crack. I’ll probably just pull them off – looks cooler without them anyway.

      I always intended to review it, but it seemed like I’d be writing for a very limited audience to write about a $700 WOD bar so I kept putting it off. I’ve actually been considering doing the review again since Eleiko brought prices down a bit, but its looking like it’ll be replaced with a nexgen bar itself. I’m watching it though.

      • Joe June 21, 2017, 3:36 pm

        Thanks for the quick response. That is good to hear. You may be speaking of the Sport Training bar when you refer to the $700? The XF is $499. You have both the XF and the Sport Training Bar right? If so, how do they compare as far as actual use?

        • jburgeson June 21, 2017, 4:38 pm

          The XF used to be close to $700 after shipping – $650 or something for the bar. Sport was $769 or something like that. Was too much. I don’t have a Sport anymore. The only real difference in performance is the knurl depth (which 4/5 people wouldn’t notice) and the bearing total. XF spins great tho so it would be hard to miss too.

          • Joe June 21, 2017, 6:35 pm

            Good to hear, thanks for answering that question. That really helps. If you want to sell your XF let me know ;) Otherwise I’ll probably buy a new one.

          • Joe June 30, 2017, 5:50 pm

            I am still teetering between an XF and Sport Training barbell. The Sport is $200 more which is a lot, but I don’t want to upgrade later. I just want one bar for oly lifts. It’ll be my first (and hopefully only) oly bar. Was there a reason you sold the Sport and kept the XF?

            • jburgeson July 1, 2017, 1:42 am

              Bars just come and go – they need to to make room for something else. If I can get most of the original cost back I’m more likely to let a bar go – even if I really like the bar (and Eleiko has high resale value). I’ll eventually even replace the XF – probably with one of the new NxG Eleiko bars.

              So Sport over XF for $200 more? Well shaft is the same, knurl is effectively the same (both are aggressive), finish is the same, and sleeves are the same save for that black band on the XF. Differences include less bearings in the XF, dual marks on the XF, and no center knurl. Is a center knurl, more bearings, and only IWF marks worth $200? It is for serious Olympic lifters. Rotation on the XF is great but Sport is smoother. Also, and I don’t know why this bothers people so much, but veteran Oly lifters tend to scoff at the dual markings on an Oly bar. People hated the Klokov for that feature (and other reasons obviously, but that still came up.)

              $200 is a lot of money, but if it’s a dedicated Oly bar that won’t be used for WODs or benching and you do have reasonably high goals with your training, I see no reason not to spring for the Sport (assuming it doesn’t break the bank.) That said, the majority of lifters would never notice any performance differences between the two – they would only assume their were differences because one cost $200 more. It can be a tough decision, but ultimately you have to go with your gut. It’s not a clear “buy the…” like it is with some other bars.

              Hope that helps a little haha

  • Jon June 21, 2017, 5:15 pm

    I’m considering the Alphas and also Rogue Competition Bumper plates because they are even thinner than the Alphas. If money not a factor which would you choose? But I just realized the Rogue don’ have 10lbs plates.

    Finally my brother said he doesn’t like to bench with bumper plates, hence he likes the Rogue. What’s your experience?

    • jburgeson June 21, 2017, 5:32 pm

      Yeah Comp bumpers don’t have 10lb or 5kg plates. You’ll have to get a change plate set along with them eventually.

      Both are perfectly fine options, and both can be used for anything at all. If money isn’t an issue, and you don’t need the quietness of Alphas for Olympic lifts, comps are definitely more pleasing to own, thinner to store, easier to carry, and you’ll never run out of sleeve length. Whether they are worth the price increase is up to you though.

      I don’t know why your brother doesn’t like to bench with bumpers – most of us do that every day. Weight is weight. Actually in a way, when you’re benching 300+ pounds of thick bumpers it looks far more impressive than 300-pounds of thin plates. Big ol’ block of weights on that bar, bar bending in the cups. Dunno man! haha

      • Tnn June 21, 2017, 7:47 pm

        Doesn’t the thinner profile make benching feel better with comp bumpers as opposed to the thicker bumpers? I understand the alphas are a great deal and the rogues cost much more but the rogue 45s are 1 inch thinner than the alphas.

        The Weight distribution Would feel a bit better?

        • jburgeson June 21, 2017, 8:01 pm

          I know what you’re asking – there is a slight difference in how tight and compact everything feels when you start loading so far from the center of the bar. Three basic bumpers take over 9″ of the sleeve, but the same in comp plates takes up only 6″, and powerlifting discs only take up 3″! The bar will flex more the further from center you go as well. So yeah it does feel different, but it’s so slight until you get to 3+ plates. And since bumper purchases are normally based on ones Olympic lift/CrossFit needs, it feels off to make a bumper suggestion based on the bench press, you know? But I mean if all other things are equal and you want a compact load for benching, then by all means go Comps.

    • Jon June 21, 2017, 7:52 pm

      Lol sounds good thanks for your comments.

      Also I’m planning to get the Rogue HR-2 which can handle 3 plate horns in the rear storage upright. So I can use them to store 45lbs, 25lbs, and 10lbs plates. The change plates can be on the floor or something. Are there any disadvantages of not getting 35lbs plates? Like will there be a big difference when I load the bar with a 25lbs and a 10lbs vs a single 35lbs to do say power clean? I definitely don’t want to carry 55lbs plates. Trying to make my garage gym as simple as possible.

      • jburgeson June 21, 2017, 8:10 pm

        You’ll never miss 35’s so long as you have two pair of 10’s and collars. A lot of people don’t buy 35’s, and I’m one of them. It’s a little different with kilos, but yeah with pounds – stack the 45’s, get two pair of 10’s and one pair of 25’s, and you’re good to go.

        The exception is with first-time sets. If the set price is better than pairs, take that initial pair of 35’s. All you’ll ever add in the future is more 45’s anyway.

  • Duncan August 6, 2017, 3:14 pm

    There is a Canadian Company, Northern Lights, that is offering what they call “Colour Fleck” bumper plates. Having examined both the Northern Lights offering and the Vulcan Alpha, they appear identical. Also, Vulcan (and Northern Lights) now offer a 15 lb plate, with Orange flecks.

    • jburgeson August 7, 2017, 12:34 am

      I wouldn’t assume they are the same, pretty sure Vulcan has a patent, and they also have Canadian distribution (barbellbros.ca). When you say “inspect”, do you mean you’ve physically handled both brands?

      • Duncan August 7, 2017, 3:15 pm

        I have laid a Northern Lights plate next to a Vuclan Alpha and done a direct comparison. Appearance, feel, odour, all are identical. Even the little factory inspection stickers that are in the insert on new plates are the same. Absent cutting the plate apart to see if the Northern Lights version has an anchored insert, I’d wager that they are the same plates, coming from the same factory.

        • jburgeson August 7, 2017, 6:05 pm

          I looked into it a little and it looks like anything can be copied except for the rubber compound, as that is proprietary and belongs to Vulcan exclusively. The same sticker makes me think they come from the same plant, but China is pretty strict about patents so it is very possible that it’s just a normal bumper blend rather than what Vulcan is using. Who is to say! Admittedly I don’t know much about Northern Lights anyway, so I don’t know if its normal operating procedure to straight up copy other products, or if they make the appropriate changes to respect patents.

          • Mike M August 21, 2017, 11:06 pm

            So this gets a little more similar,
            even the NL 10s are smaller diameter like the Vulcans. Thicknesses and diameter are the same across the set.
            However warranty on the NL set is only 90 days.
            the NL 340lb set is about $400 cheaper than bbros here in Canada.

            • jburgeson August 22, 2017, 1:06 am

              Where are you seeing these prices exactly, for the NL sets?

              • Mike M August 22, 2017, 6:14 am
                • jburgeson August 22, 2017, 11:03 am

                  I’m not going to lie, this is very confusing to me because FD is showing US prices and has US locations, and isn’t showing shipping costs or even allowing the purchase of the plates without walking into a brick and mortar store. Barbell Bros is in Canadian prices and does include shipping. The FD prices compared to US prices are actually about the same once you factor in shipping.

                  If anyone in Canada has actually purchased a full set of the knock-off Alphas, I’d love to hear what you paid for them and from where – because I don’t think there is any situation in Canada where you’ll walk away with 340-pounds of Alpha plates (knock off or real) for CA$530 shipped.

                  • Critter September 28, 2017, 10:42 pm

                    I have been looking into bumper plates for a while now and just as I had made up my mind on the Alphas I found the Northern Lights set of Fleck that as many have said seem identical to the Alphas but a little cheaper. The big thing that has me caught up is with the Vulcans I have to order online and wait who knows how long, plus pay a lot in shipping. However the NL’s are sold in a store near me in Dallas that has me tempted to get that 260lbs set. Seeing as Id save a little on the price of the set but the big savings is on the shipping. Plus lets not forget the plus side of getting the plates same day.

                    Of course with making a purchase like this I don’t wanna end up with a shit knock off but knowing that most of these are made from the same plants in China and it isn’t uncommon for brands to charge more for a product because of their name when they know the Chinese plant is making them for another lesser company as well. I cant find much on the internet about the differences, so if anyone comes across anything Id love to know. Still stuck… pay more for Alphas and have the peace of mind or save some money and get what may be the same product???

                    • jburgeson September 29, 2017, 4:21 pm

                      Yeah I’ve looked into this a little thanks to another reader in Canada; where Northern Lights does most their business. Vulcan has a patent on Alphas, as they created them. Northern Lights can copy Alphas all day in Canada because nothing can really be done about a US or Chinese patent in Canada, but they couldn’t sell them here in the states without being at risk of a lawsuit. Either they are taking that risk, or they are different enough to be safe from a violation. I don’t know which, and I don’t think Vulcan does either. It is probably safe to say that Vulcan’s bumper manufacturer would not risk Vulcan’s business to supply a Vulcan product to Northern Lights, as Vulcan is one of the largest buyers of bumpers. Northern Lights is nothing.

                      Also when you hear that all bumpers come from the same place, that’s a half truth. The good bumpers come from the same couple places, but there are still plenty of places to buy cheap bumpers in China (I don’t even sell anything on this site yet I get those emails from China three times a day trying to sell me wholesale bumpers and such). Also a couple of these companies now own their own facilities in China. So they are still made in China, but it’s not “outsourced” so to speak.

                      In any case, I’m not saying not to buy them, as savings are savings and in many cases bumper are bumpers. But if you are interested in Alphas specifically because of their features, there is a small chance you won’t be getting exactly what you think you’re getting. There is a chance you will be too.

  • brent November 23, 2017, 11:11 pm

    Hey JB,
    I was just about to pull the trigger on purchasing some Fringesport Vaughn Comp KG bumpers (BF sale) and saw their up close video…. I thought to myself I’ve definitely seen these bumpers before at a Fitness Depot store in my city.

    I read the reviews and the one that tipped me off was that it “feels like plastic.” That’s exactly what i thought when i touched them, they don’t feel anything like Rogue Comp KG bumpers which i use at a local WL club.

    The real kicker here is that Northern lights spec’s match up to Fringesport’s, width = 1.25″ – 2.5.” I checked Vulcan’s spec’s as their Absolute KG comp bumpers appear to look the same as the Vaughn’s (Fringesport), but the width’s don’t match.

    I don’t think that the Northern Light “Fleck” bumpers are the same as Vulcan’s Alphas. I base this on the assumption that Vulcan’s Absolute comp KG bumpers don’t feel like plastic and look/feel like rubber… Again, I’m making assumptions here for which I’m hoping that you may be able to shed some light on….?

    In order to settle the debate re: Alpha’s = NL brand, I’m going to purchase a 10lb plate (NL “fleck” coloured), and cut through it to see if there’s any rebar or not.

    I’ll let you know the results ASAP…

    • jburgeson November 24, 2017, 10:27 am

      That’s a great idea. I know a few are curious.

      Fringe finally giving away those old Vaughns huh

      • sonnyncredible March 2, 2018, 6:08 am

        Another thing to note is that the diameter of the NL fleck plates may not be 450mm. I have the Rogue HG 2.0s and I compared them to Northern Lights Black bumpers. They seem exactly the same in feel and odor but the NL bumpers are a tad taller. Their website lists them at 17.75″ (as opposed to 17.7″ ~ 450mm for the Rogue). The fleck plates are also listed as 17.75″ tall. I was considering the fleck plates but if the diameter is in fact non-standard, it’s a deal breaker for me. It would be great if someone can do a diameter comparison.

        I’ll probably go with the Alphas as I live right at the border of Washington and BC and can order them from either the US or Canada.

        Another unrelated question: it would be great if you can comment on the snugness of fit on the bar. I didn’t see that mentioned in your review. Thanks!

        • jburgeson March 2, 2018, 10:11 am

          They fit snugly, as they should; really no different than any other high-quality bumper. I don’t have the NL for a diameter comparison tho.

          • sonnyncredible March 2, 2018, 10:15 am

            Thanks! I just spoke with someone from NL. The fleck plates are made in Canada so probably not from the same factory as the Alphas. They use the same ‘rebar around the insert’ design though. Unfortunately, the diameter on these is 17.75″, same as the NL black bumpers. They’ll be slightly taller than the standard 450mm diameter.

            • jburgeson March 2, 2018, 12:34 pm

              I’d love to see photos of this North American bumper plate factory because there is about a .001% chance they are made in Canada.

              • sonnyncredible March 2, 2018, 4:08 pm

                If that’s the case, it’s blatant false advertising. Maybe the store clerk I spoke to didn’t know any better.

        • Duncan March 2, 2018, 11:44 am

          I have 530 lbs in Alpha plates, and 30 lbs (2×15) in the NL fleck. Dimensionally the NL is identical to the alpha. The only way to tell them apart is to look at the name embossed on the disc.

          JB, 15’s are now available in Alpha plates. Time to strike that con off the list.

          • sonnyncredible March 2, 2018, 11:50 am

            Thanks for the confirmation. So in your opinion they’re both 450mm? Also can you comment on the odor when comparing the fleck plates to the Alphas?

            • Duncan March 2, 2018, 12:38 pm

              Sitting on a bar or a weight horn side by side the dimensions appear absolutely identical. I just went and measured them with a measuring tape. Based on my tape and measurements they both landed between 445 and 450 mm, and were within a mm or 2 of each other.

              To me the dimensions, physical appearance, and odour are all identical. I bet if I licked them they’d taste the same. I placed 2 Alpha 15’s on one side of the bar and 2 NL 15’s on the opposite side and dropped it a number of times from both hip heightand shoulder height. Both sides of the bar bounced to the same height, and came to a rest at the same time.

              Based off my totally non-scientific testing, my uneducated opinion is that they are the essentially the same plate.

              If I have to replace any of my plates in the future (unlikely) I will likely get the NL plate. Being in Canada they are both easier and cheaper to get, and I see no difference in performance.

          • jburgeson March 2, 2018, 12:44 pm

            So removed! haha thanks D

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