When choosing snowboard bindings it’s helpful to have a few ideas on what to look for. Snowboard bindings act as the interface between you and your snowboard. They tell your board what you want to do and how you want it done. They often look like radical little alien booster pods with all sorts of aerodynamic shapes, toxic colors, waffled highbacks, shiny buckles and so on. In the end, they’re meant to accomplish one thing- keep you connected to your snowboard in mind and spirit, as well as body.
Rule #1, it’s important to match the flex of your boots to your bindings so that they work together and not against each other. So, if you ride park and like soft, flexible boots then you may consider getting a binding that has a soft, flexible high-back and base. If you like to ride hard and fast in steep terrain you may want a responsive binding with a stiffer highback and a hardened base.
Bindings have evolved quite a bit over the years. There have been some major break-throughs from glass infused base to carbon fiber and urethane highbacks. All are designed to perform in specific ways to accommodate certain riding styles.
Some of the standard features you should look for on today’s bindings include the following:
Tool-less adjustability varies from binding to binding. Some companies like Flux employ a greater degree of tool-less adjustments on their bindings. This allows you to fine-tune the fit of your binding on the fly. No more going back to the car for the screw driver, hex key or allen wrench and fiddling about with cold, stiff fingers. You can adjust your straps, highback and even your heel loop on some models right there on the hill with your gloves on. If something loosens up just reach down and tighten it back up.
Adjustable toe-ramps and heel ramps. The toe ramp adjustment (aka gas pedal) is more common and it extends out toward the toe-side edge of the board. It allows you to leverage your toe-side turns more easily and it helps mitigate any toe drag you may encounter from overhanging boots. The heel ramp extends the length of the base from the back of the binding. It serves to accommodate larger boot sizes. Some bindings accomplish this by utilizing a telescoping heel loop, which offers additional room for larger boot sizes.
Full length foot beds that cover the top of the entire base add extra comfort and keep ice and snow from building up in the binding and the base plate.
Toe caps run across the top and front of the toe box on your boot. They hold the boot in place by “cupping” that frontal area and pulling your boot back and down into the binding. The hold is designed to be secure and comfortable. Some toe cap straps give you the option to run the strap over the top of the boot also.
Asymmetrical highbacks and ankle straps employ various shapes that extend into areas behind the boot and around the ankle where leverage is most needed for a specific style of riding. “Asym” highbacks that extend toward the outside of the boot and ankle are geared for freestyle riding and those that extend toward the inside of the boot an ankle are geared for all-mountain and freeriding. Some asymmetrical straps and highbacks are swappable allowing you to choose which style you want to use on any given day.
Rotating highbacks that allow you to angle your highbacks so that they are positioned directly behind your boot. This allows for more direct energy transfer and greater response on your heel-side turns.
Forward lean is the mechanism located on the rear side of the highback. When you slide the forward lean down it prevents the highback from moving back any further. This puts the highback at greater forward angle thereby giving you a higher level of response. It takes less effort to turn your board and the result is a more powerful and dramatic heel-side turns. Freeriders who like carving big turns at high speeds often use forward lean.
The latest development in binding technology came out last year (2012) by a new company, Now. Now bindings are radically different from other bindings on the market in that they use an aluminum ring that pivots up and down to mimic the feeling you would get while riding a skateboard. The ring is held down by the base plate and then attached to a axel which is suspended from above and support by an A-frame chassis. As you apply pressure to your toe and heel side the whole binding tilts forward and back giving instant energy transfer. There are four points of contact at each corner of the binding. Each contact point has a rubber bushing, which absorbs vibration. These bushings can be swapped out for harder or softer ones that affect the response and dampness of the ride. Now’s highbacks sit inside of the heel loop itself so they can be removed and ridden for a very loose feel without affecting the fit of the binding.
So there are a few points on snowboard bindings that may help you understand what to look for in choosing the right binding. There is still much more going on in the industry with materials technology and design. Some bindings are designed to allow your board to flex more naturally while others focus on responsiveness and power. When you go to your local shop have the salesperson give you an overview of their lines and the pricing. Bring your boots in so they can help you match bindings up and it shouldn’t take long at all to find the right binding.