Snowboard bindings are the conduit of a snowboarder's imagination. Whatever maneuvers a boarder dreams up, snowboard bindings are the tools that link brain to board, converting cranial impulses into a heart-pounding sensory rush.
If well-matched to a rider's board and riding style, snowboard bindings can be trusted to swiftly initiate energy transfer and accurately respond to even the faintest bodily shifts. The right snowboard bindings can bring a boarder's loftiest riding ambitions to life.
When assembling a new boots-bindings-board combo, choose items in this order:
Some useful shopping considerations:
Key snowboard binding components:
Snowboard bindings are divided into 3 general categories:
Strap bindings: This is the most common type. Straps (usually 2) secure each boot in place. The highback does not move. Adjustment options are usually plentiful, and support and cushioning are good. Chief downside: Manually buckling and unbuckling the straps can be difficult while wearing gloves or in very cold conditions. Strap bindings are generally suitable for both soft and firm-flexing boots, though each boot-binding combo should be evaluated individually. Prices run from low to mid-range.
Rear-entry bindings (also known as speed-entry or convenience bindings): They look similar to strap bindings, but the highback is hinged and drops like a drawbridge to permit relatively easy in-and-out access for a boot. It is a time-saving design preferred by many casual riders. Feet are stabilized by a yoke system that applies uniform pressure across the forefoot. Performance-focused riders sometimes claim this design sacrifices board control. These bindings are suitable for both soft and firm-flexing boots, though (and we repeat) each boot-binding combo should be evaluated individually for appropriateness. Prices range widely, from low to high.
Burton EST (Extra Sensory Technology) bindings: These specialized bindings are compatible only with Burton's Channel mounting system. They eliminate the restrictions of mounting with discs, allowing the rider virtually unlimited stance, width and angle options. Price is at the high end of bindings.
These 2 factors influence every purchase:
Snowboard bindings typically offer general sizing—small, medium and large, or S/M, M/L and L/XL. The binding must be compatible with the size of your boot. Fasten the straps and check their length. They should not dangle excessively when tightened. Look for different bindings if the straps are overly long after bindings have been cinched to your boots.
Boot comfort is priority No. 1 when assembling a boot-bindings-board system. A compatible binding will grip a boot snugly and securely, but without the need to vigorously force the boot into position or pinch it into place. A snowboard binding should allow a boot to flex but not let it wobble loosely. Conversely, you should not need a crowbar to squeeze a boot into a binding.
If your boots feel snug yet comfortable on your feet and the bindings apply a secure yet flexible grip, you likely have a good match. At a store, some people will try standing in a boots-binding combo and occasionally even ask to do so with the bindings temporarily mounted to a board. This has limited value, since the board is resting motionless on a hard, flat surface. You cannot flex a board and get a true sense of how bindings allow you to steer or initiate energy transfer unless you are moving on snow.
Snowboard bindings start at around $120 and head higher. As prices go up, weight usually goes down. Factors that cause price tags of bindings to rise:
As previously mentioned, evaluating the on-mountain performance of bindings can be tough to do in a store or online. As a result, bindings are purchased according to price more often than boots or boards.
REI's assortment of bindings emphasizes established brands that use quality components. Solid construction is important in bindings, which consist of many moving parts that face constant pressure from body movements during a ride. Lower-price models found at discount stores usually come with a corresponding drop in quality.
Bindings at REI.com are sorted as recreational, intermediate or advanced, which is kind of a throwback to days when boards were sorted that way. Interpret those terms as follows--recreational (basic) to advanced (sophisticated), with price points to match.
Manufacturers enthusiastically promote proprietary features (and their whiz-bang names) found on their bindings. These features may or may not benefit your particular riding style. Determining this may require some detailed homework on your part.
Bolt patterns are commonly either 2x4 or 4x4. Burton opts for its own diamond-shaped, "3D" pattern found only on its boards. Burton also has introduced a linear option it calls Channel.
The difference between 2x4 and 4x4 patterns is the vertical distance (in centimeters) between the bolt holes.__The horizontal holes are always spaced 4cm apart. Vertically, though, the 2x4 pattern offers lots of bolt holes, spaced every 2cm. This provides double the stance options of a 4x4 layout.
The Channel system uses 2 slots (front and back) instead of bolt holes. Burton's EST models (Extra Sensory Technology, if you were wondering), are engineered exclusively for the Channel slots and permit highly customized settings. A separate kit modifies Burton 3D bindings to work with the Channel system, but the EST bindings offer the best match. EST bindings can be positioned to allow a rider's feet to sit almost flat atop the board itself, enhancing a rider's feel.
Technical contributors to this article include Adam McVay, REI snowsports product specialist; Todd Hogan and Dustin Kingman, REI product information specialists; Jake Darro, snowsports specialist, Burton Snowboards.
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: Wed Nov 14 13:55:14 PST 2012
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