This is third and last installment post for the 2014 Stratton Demos. These are my general thoughts on four pairs of 2015 snowboard bindings that I rode on the last day- Salomon Balance, Gnu Psyche, Flux DS and Flux RL. The snow conditions were left over powder from the day before with about 4 fresh inches on top. All the bindings were ridden on a 156 Arbor Coda (2014). The Flux RLs were ridden on the Coda and a 155 Arbor Whiskey (2015). All bindings were ridden center stance.
Generally speaking, most people tend to gravitate towards mid flex bindings. They might be on the softer or stiffer side of mid-flex but hardly ever beyond that. Of course there is always the person who strictly jibs and wants the floppiest binding out there and there are big mountain, backcountry people dropping into 50 degree chutes that want the stiffest binding. But I think most manufacturers make the bulk of their bindings in the middle ground categories because the majority of riders will be looking for something comfortable, forgiving, and at the same time relatively supportive. I personally like a binding that melts into the board- one that you don’t notice but it interacts with your riding style and the board in a seamless way.
2015 Salomon Balance
The Balance is a new binding in Salomon’s line for 2015. It is billed as a park binding but with a 6 flex rating which will also put in the all-mountain category. The “Drumframe 4D” high back was pretty soft at the top but wide enough to support big heel side turns. I had no pressure issues and lots of room to grab and tweak. Likewise, the ankle strap was very cushy and fat- no pressure points and equal support all the way around the boot. The canted foot bed also felt very soft and comfortable. The binding as a whole seemed to be designed towards that “fat and cushy” approach where shock absorption and comfort are the focus.
The toe strap was very stiff and inflexible (see Gnu Psych) in comparison. It was easy to get it centered with the tool-less adjustments but it did not want to conform to my boot (Nike Kaiju). There was definitely a lot of empty space on either side of the toe box that was a bit of distraction as I took off. Overall, I felt that the Balance was adequately responsive for all-mountain riding but really is focused on the comfort and dampness departments.
2015 Gnu Psych
Gnu Psych: The Gnu Psych is a really lightweight, medium flex binding with an aluminum base plate and chassis. It uses Gnu’s Fastec reclining highback for rear entry step-in along with the auto lever that opens automatically when the high back is lowered. The auto lever can also be opened manually if you ever wanted to relieve strap pressure when getting on the lift. The Psych has firm but cushy EVA foot beds and asymmetrical highbacks with extra support on the inside allowing for better tweaks and grabs. As with all rear entry bindings you need to take a few minutes to set them up so that you get the proper fit every time you step into the binding. But the Psych also has a convenient micro-adjust ratchet on the ankle strap to tighten or loosen the strap as needed.
Getting my boot into the Pschs took a while longer than I expected. I had to jam it in there far enough to reach down and pull the highback up so it cleared my heel. Once that was accomplished the rest was cake. The back lever came up easily and the auto lever worked great locking me down in a comfortable, snug fit. The toe strap, like the Balance bindings, is made out of a stiff plastic-like composite that Gnu calls “Thin-Fit”. It is a low volume strap that is supposed to be form fitting around the boot. The problem is that instead of having a ratchet to tighten it down Gnu has tool-less adjustments on each side. I could not get my boot to fit right in there and so it remained kind of loose- but at least it never came off while I was riding. I know this is part of the set up procedure and easy-in/easy-out design of rear entry but it would be nice to be able secure that sucker tight as needed.
That said, these bindings were absolutely amazing. Zero pressure points and the base plates and ankle straps had the perfect balance of comfort and response. The highback did its job without getting in the way or putting undo pressure against my legs. The response was spot on as every turn, press and ollie felt natural and effortless. These would probably be a great binding for intermediate to advanced riders looking for one binding to do it all.
2015 Flux DS
The Tech: The Flux DS is a mid to mid-stiff binding with a newly designed “Absolute Fit” freestyle shaped ankle strap and F.T.M (Flux toe mask system) Versa toe straps. Flux uses the UU Fit System on all their bindings. The UU system puts the straps right against your boot so you have a full 360 degree wrap (with heel loop) that provides better comfort, support and a more natural feel. The new Versa toe straps are made from a softer material than used in previous models so they conform to the shape of your boot better. The base plates use soft rubbery stabilizers (removable for a looser feel) at the corners to allow for board flex. The Ultima hybrid footbed use soft EVA foam on the inside and hard EVA towards the outside for a “canted” feel giving you more leverage on presses and ollies. And finally, all Flux 2015 bindings are coming with urethane disks that will flex with the board on a full 360 degree spectrum.
2015 Flux DS (L) and Flux RL (R)
The Ride: These bindings were a little stiffer than what I normally ride and they had really quick response especially when blasting down powder runs over and around water bars, stumps, culverts, etc. The ankle straps are really wide and beefy which added to the response level but also felt a little constricting. The winged high back, foot bed and toe straps were all comfortable and supportive. The bindings also felt very light and part of this is due to Flux getting rid of the forward lean adjuster and using the attachment holes to adjust the forward lean. I think the DSs would be a good match for an all-mountain rider with mid to stiff flex board.
2015 Flux RL
The Tech: The Flux RL bindings are softer than the DS’s and they use the Ultima Freestyle Highback, FTM Versa toe strap, and the Alpha base plate. It also has the hybrid cushion foot bed for a “canted” feel and F-Tech 3D fit ankle strap. The Ultima Freestyle Highback is lightweight and like the DS does not use the traditional forward lean. Also, like most Flux bindings, the highback sits right up against the inside of the heel loop for a gapless fit no matter where you adjust it to. This is supposed to increase response and energy transfer.
The Ride: The RL’s were my favorite binding of the four, or at least as good as the Gnu Psychs. They allowed for excellent range of motion and the buttery flex felt incredible with presses and ollies. At the same time, I could lay into high speed carves and feel totally supported and comfortable. The binding had no pressure points and the 3D ankle strap felt cushy and snug but not restrictive at all. The highback let me tweak and grab with no undo pressure or hang-ups. This binding would work equally well in the park and for all-mountain riding. It will probably match up great with most any board except the stiffest.
So there is the 2015 snowboard bindings that I rode at the Stratton demos this year. It was a fun time with some great snow on days 2 and 3. If you have any questions on any of these or these boards and bindings then fire away. I’ll do my best to get you a quick reply.