Platinum Picks: The best bindings of 2012
Editor’s Note: The 2013 Snowboard Platinum Picks are here. Check ‘em out now! Boots and Bindings coming soon…
*After you've glanced at the 2011/12 Platinum Picks below, be sure to check out a sneak peek at tons of 2012-13 gear, as displayed at the 2012 SIA Snow Show in Denver.
Bindings have come a long way since the early days when they looked better suited for catching mice than keeping feet locked to boards. They’ve also advanced since the 90’s when there was a choice between low, mid and high back. Low backs barely came past the ankle, while high backs practically grazed the back of the knee. Remember the good ol’ toe strap that preceded the toe cap?
The Platinum Picks are not a selection of personal favorites among the Snowboard Mag staff, a bunch of random reviews of bindings designed by our advertising partners, nor a nod to current trends. Here, we highlight some of the best binding innovations from brands around the industry. We also give thanks to the engineers (read: binding nerds) who spend endless hours working to improve bindings, so that we can do more riding and less adjusting with each new season. Have a look at these seven bindings and see which technologies might work best for you.
If there were an award for binding tech names, we might have to give it to Forum for transporting us to the beaches of Jamaica with the drop of a few words like, Good Vibes and Simmer Down. But Forum doesn’t need an award for its naming skills; the brand has already earned plenty of recognition with its Good Vibes technology. It begins with the original free flexing Hinge Disk, which provides true-to-board flex. By splitting the baseplate, designers have rid the binding of excess material thereby heightening board feel and allowing for a natural flex. Plus, Good Vibes has been further improved from past seasons with EVA footbeds featuring new Simmer Down canting. All you need to know about Simmer Down, is that it provides riders with a comfortable stance, the ability to pop with power and full-foot cushioning. To top it off, Forum turned to L.A. band The Bronx to create a punk-inspired graphic for the Republic.
If you’re going to call your binding the boss, then it better come with some serious features. Starting with the packaging, a soft case that resembles a briefcase, Ride means business with El Hefe. The Eclipse RS Highback is precisely shaped and responsive providing the rider with top-notch comfort and control. Ride’s Custom Flex ankle strap has multi-density padding and 3D shaping to further contribute to good fit and board control. The 3D Thin Grip toe strap’s spider-like web is made from rubber and designed to keep your foot firmly in place. The Infinity chassis is light, flexible and easily adjustable, and therefore perfect for freestyle riding. El Hefe also comes with three Wedgie ultra light, canted Footbed options, 2.5, 4.0 and 5.0. The numbers represent increasing degrees of angle, which Ride says allows you to, “Pick your level of added pop, drive and support.” In keeping with the brand’s bold aesthetic tradition, this binder comes in black with regal hints of gold and royal blue.
What separates Union from other binding producers is that each part, from heelcup to hardware, is exclusive to the brand. The MC may look like your average binding, but it’s loaded with technology that makes it lightweight yet durable and responsive from edge to edge. One of the binding’s tech highlights is the Metafuse Heelcup, which Union claims is, “The absolute lightest and strongest in snowboarding.” The Stage III baseplate is machine cored to get rid of extra weight while maintaining strength. The carbon toe ramps and asymmetrical-symmetrical high backs work together to provide optimal edge control toe and heel side. Added bonuses include, Universal disks, Precise Adjustment Forward Lean (so you can easily tweak the high back to the terrain and conditions you’re riding), and an almost unheard of lifetime warranty on the base. This binding is more about innovation than flash; it’s for those who believe the new black is still black.
When it comes to bindings, Flow has always been in a category of its own, largely because of its original FSE or SpeedEntry binding system. For the rider, FSE translates to easy entry, free of butt-soaking ratcheting at the top of every run. The baseplate is made from lightweight aluminum alloy with rocker for responsiveness. Responsive basically means stiff, so this binding best suits an aggressive rider who spends more of their time making turns than hitting rails. The Tweak.7 SupportPanel tech allows for high back rotation for those that want to fine-tune their setup. To ensure you feel as little of the day’s action on your calves and underfoot as possible, the NXT FSC features OC Kush gel-kushioning wrapped high back pads and moveable landing pads. Avoid holding up your crew at the end of every run with Lateral Airframe MINIratchets designed for tool-free adjustment.
The National features K2’s newest and most exciting tech of the season, a Tweakback Airlock Highback. The Tweakback is designed specifically with freestyle riding in mind, so when you’re cruising down the run it remains stable, but when you decide to take flight while tweaking a grab, its pliable urethane flexes with you. The Auto single ratchet system has been a mainstay in the K2 binding lineup for a few seasons now and for good reason. Like magic (or straightforward mechanics for the less imaginative reader), the toe strap tightens around your boot as you ratchet the ankle strap and automatically loosens as you release it. For those less than perfect snow days, also affectionately known as chunder, crust, hardpack or ice, K2 built EVA Harshmellow Shockpads. They absorb chatter and dampen vibration for ugly conditions and flat landings. The National is available in two colorways, blue or white.
Many snowboarders also skateboard, including Burton team riders Keegan Valaika and Jack Mitrani. Riders who are accustomed to the feel of a skateboard underfoot search for a similar sensation on snow, so Burton designed Hinge Technology. With Hinge, the binding’s heel hoop and baseplate work independently creating lateral flex for increased foot roll and ollie pop. Despite its fancy name, the AutoCANT SensoryBED Cushioning System’s function is straightforward; it tilts you into an optimal position for riding. The Heel Hammock lulls you into the comfort of a sunny getaway and eliminates loss of circulation due to overly tight straps. In 2007 Burton introduced a binding to board interface known as the Channel with EST (Extra Sensory Technology). It remains a feature of several bindings in the Burton lineup, including the Malavita, because you can easily set up and switch up your stance. Plus, you can dial in your angles to the exact millimeter. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
Spark developed the Burner, a splitboard-specific binding, after receiving feedback from riders who loved the 2010-11 Blaze but wanted something stiffer. If you’re likely to encounter a variety of conditions while rallying down the mountain this season, this is the binding for you. The ankle and toe straps were beefed up with PU leather for increased stiffness and durability and fitted with tough buckles, which tighten and release with ease. Built from Spark’s own molds, the toe and ankle ladders are precurved, so you can tour all over the mountain and sail smoothly down it. According to Spark its highbacks feature “the widest range of lean on the market” with 25 degree forward lean and -5 degree for touring. The baseplate has also been adjusted since last season resulting in a stronger pivot area for touring and seamless binding to board mounting.