My current belt is a Harbinger with a Velcro closure from a sporting goods store. After six and a half years, I wanted a “real” lifting belt. The most common size is 4 inches wide and 10mm thick so I decided to trust those with much more experience and go with that.
One of the companies that immediately jumped out in front of the pack was Pioneer, made by General Leathercraft. They have a reputation for quality and service, making belts for some of the strongest competitive lifters in the world. Besides, or maybe because of the quality, they offer a lifetime warranty against pretty much everything but stains and embroidery. In other words, if something fails that will impede functionality, it should be covered.
Pioneer has built their name on custom work, at least under the current guy running the show, Matt Hadden (3rd generation family-owned business, BTW). General Leathercraft has been around for a long time, but belts are what have made them known. They easily have some of the most impressive and unusual belts in the industry. You’re limited only by your creativity….and budget. And exotic wildlife laws.
I opted to go ahead and order the lever belt now for a couple of reasons. First, they were having one of their best sales of the year for July 4th. Second, I received a gift card for Father’s Day that covered a big chunk of the cost. Thanks, fam!
As someone who’s weight tends to fluctuate depending on my ability to resist donuts, I normally wouldn’t choose the lever. However, in June, Pioneer announced their new ADJUSTABLE lever. During the July 4th sale, they offered it for pre-sale to determine how many to have made for an anticipated October delivery.
I went back and forth on Instagram (old folk could use email I guess) and sent through my design ideas and questions and they worked with me to iron out the details. Once I was sure my design would work and look good with the color scheme I chose, I placed the order online, uploaded my graphics, and added notes to make sure everything was done as I wanted.
HOW’D IT TURN OUT?
Though I won’t have the adjustable lever until some time in October, I got my new belt in yesterday afternoon with the standard lever. This thing is SICK!
I have to say, it’s even better than I hoped. The suede is smooth and top-notch. The embroidery looks great and matches the design I created perfectly, both inside and out. I was a little worried the gray might be too dark for the red, but the folks at Pioneer looked at it and assured me it would look good. They were right.
Unlike some of their competitors, this belt is one piece of 7mm thick leather, with a 1.5mm thick piece of suede on either side to complete the thickness. Too many belts are made from multiple layers and include a cheaper piece in the middle, like a filler.
I’m interested to see how quickly it breaks in, especially since I probably won’t use it much until later in this training cycle…unless I decide to start using it at lower percentages for the purpose of breaking it in.
So a good belt isn’t cheap. If something is built to last a lifetime, it’s probably going to cost more than something you can get in the sports department at Walmart. If you want a stock belt, Pioneer has those starting as low as $54.95 for a 6.5mm belt and you can pick up an 8.5mm lever belt for as little as $82.99. The 10mm like I chose starts at around $105 for the lever.
Options are where it can get pricey. Some of the exotic leather can run north of $300, but it’s not hard to get the suede version over $200 either. The customizations can quickly double the price of the belt itself. Mine has a custom image on the outside, a different color suede on the inside, an embroidered message inside, black edging, and upgraded red stitching. I stayed with the stock silver lever since it’s only going to be used for a few months.
I then placed an additional pre-order for the adjustable lever which will follow sometime later this year. Once they’re available to order as part of the belt (instead of in addition to) I think they’ll be around a $30 upgrade, instead of the $59.95 list price. I ended up getting mine for $49.30. This will make me one of the first to get one, but also gets my belt in my hands NOW and will give me a backup lever down the road.
Ouch. Buy once, cry once. Right, Coop?
During the ordering process, we were told 6 to 8 week lead times on custom orders. Mine shipped three and a half weeks to the day from when I placed the order. That’s amazing. I can’t thank Matt and his crew enough for getting this done so fast and with such quality, nor can I recommend their brand enough.
Since I’m a nobody and can’t help you out with price, Brandon Campbell Diamond has a discount code worth 10% (BASEMENT) that I’m sure he’d be happy if you used. While you’re at it, be sure to check out his YouTube channel for lots of great reviews and garage gym info.
Adam over at Garage Gym Lab did a great review with more technical details on his belts. Yes, plural…big flex. He’s also the guy who gave me the color information for my gym walls when I did my renovation. Probably because I have that color now, he’s currently redoing his gym and changing the color. I’m sure it’s so we don’t match. Kinda hurts.
If you’re in the market for a belt, I can’t think of anyone from all my research that is going to beat Pioneer either in quality or service. It makes sense because ya know whats’s great? American made. Ya know what’s better? Texas made!
Be sure to follow Pioneer on Instagram and check out the photos of all the awesome belts they post!