The human/snowboard interface.
Your bindings are much more than just a means to keep you on your snowboard. Correctly fitting bindings allow a positive transmission of power, efficiently converting your energy into action – you'll turn smoother, land better and ollie higher. And its not just the better riders who stand to benefit – novices need just as much feedback from their bindings to correct mistakes and progress their technique.
What can be considered the 'right' bindings continues to be shaped by things such as your ability, weight, foot size and preferred riding terrain, so make sure that you discuss all of these factors with your local snowboard shop when you go in to buy.
Virtually all traditional two strap bindings follow a similar design of baseplate, highback and straps. The alternative are 'step in' bindings, most of which allow rear entry access where the highback folds backwards towards the ground. This means that the user doesn't have to loosen and tighten their straps every time they want to get out of their binding, which speeds up the process.
The building block of the binding, where much of the strength and power transmission happens. Baseplates are most often made from glass-fibre reinforced plastic or aircraft grade aluminium, both of which are light and strong. The stiffness of the baseplate is determined at the design stage and is tailored to the intended use. Baseplates can also be made using carbon fibre, which produces a very lightweight – and expensive – binding.
The loop-shaped piece of material towards the back of the baseplate. Designs vary, but the heelcup can be used to help hold your foot in place, or to adjust the size of the binding by sliding it backwards or forwards. On bindings with adjustable forward lean, it's also used as the solid base to adjust from.
Primarily designed to transmit the rider's power in a heelside turn, many are now designed to help retain the rider's ankle in the heelcup to minimise heel lift. Generally speaking, the stiffer the highback, the more precisely it transmits power – a stiff highback makes for a responsive turn.
Forward Lean adjuster
You can adjust your riding position by setting the forward lean. An increased amount of forward lean will give you very responsive turns, but demand more input and ability from the rider.
Straps and ratchets
There has been a lot of development in strap technology in recent years that has made them more comfortable and supportive than ever, while keeping your foot locked into place. Wide, padded straps spread the load over your foot, which means fewer pressure points and more comfort. Many straps are now supplied with removable inserts which stiffen the straps for a more positive response. By using these it's possible to fine tune the binding to the rider's requirements, or completely change their riding characteristics, depending on the style of riding being done that day. Ratchets are the buckles that you tighten to keep your foot in place – and they're increasingly quick and easy to use.
To step in, or not?
Many newcomers to snowboarding complain that putting traditional two strap bindings on is slow and cumbersome and some prefer the convenience that fast entry and exit into your bindings brings. True step-ins, where you literally stepped in to your binding, are a thing of the past because performance was hindered in the quest for convenience, but every year, new bindings systems come on to the market that while they're not as quick as a true step in, speed up the entry and exit process without sacrificing performance. Good examples of quick entry bindings are the Flow system and K2's Cinch design, although you lose a degree of adjustability and some response of the conventional two strap system.
Hole patterns
Your bindings attach to you board using bolts that pass through binding plates and screw into inserts that are built into your board. The binding plates are made with various insert patterns in mind. Some of these are compatible with more than one system, while other are not. There are three main binding insert patterns in use.
This system uses 4 bolts in a square pattern, each 4 cm apart. Virtually every snowboard company in the world uses this pattern. Some companies ship with extra 3D binding plates for use on Burton snowboards.
Used exclusively by Burton snowboards. 3 bolts are used in a triangular pattern. Burton bindings ship with universal disks so that it's possible to use a Burton binding on a 4x4 insert board.
Burton's newest binding system which simplifies things to the point that only two binding screws are used, one on each side of the binding. Not compatible with any boards except those that use Burton's Channel system.
Bindings vary in stiffness to suit terrain and riding styles. If you like to ride fast and hard, or demand a lot of control (such as when freeriding, or riding the pipe) you will probably benefit most from a stiff binding. If you're more happy pootling around the piste, or are big on jibbing, then a soft flexing binding will serve your purposes better. Many intermediate riders, or those that like to ride everywhere, would probably get the most our of a mid flexing binding.
This guide is brought to you in association with SS20 and Whitelines.
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