Some of the fundamental details of all hard plate bindings are covered here.
First, a note on binding stiffness: The stiffness of your entire linkage (boots,
bindings, and board) is determined by the stiffness of each element. Most people
carve best with some amount of flex in the linkage: If every part of your
setup is super-stiff, you can get knocked around on anything other than perfectly
groomed runs. Some folks choose a softer binding, and use a very stiff boot
and board. Other folks choose a stiff binding, and a softer boot and board.
In any case, it is always important for the boot/binding interface itself to
have as little slop as possible. Any slop in that interface will limit how far
you can put the board on edge. You want to control flex in the boots, binding,
and board, but you don't want flex in the boot/binding interface.
- Some bindings, like
the F2 and Snowpro, do not offer disks that work with the Burton 3D hole pattern.
On the other hand, if you have Burton bindings with the 3D disks, it's relatively easy to find Burton disks that work with the 4x4 insert pattern.
Some very old boards (mostly asyms) use a 5 hole insert pattern, and only
work with bindings that have a corresponding hole pattern.
- Bindings can severely damage the topsheet if the screws holding them in
place get loose. Unfortunately, many bindings such as Cateks and Bombers attach
to the board with screws that are normally hidden underneath the binding's
sole plate. In order to check for the proper tightness, you have to remove
the plate. If you tighten the binding bolts at room temperature, you will
need to re-tighten them when they are exposed to the cold. Be sure to tighten
binding screws in a star pattern - after tightening the first screw, tighten
the opposite screw. Also make sure there is no dirt between the board and
binding plate, and make sure there is no dirt on the bolt threads or insert threads.
- The consensus is that it would be nice to have more than 4 binding bolts
to offer more strength for the stresses of carving (which is why the 3D pattern
adds insult to injury). Some binding plates have multiple sets of holes to
allow more flexibility when positioning them on the board, and you may find
that more than 4 holes in the binding line up with inserts on the board, in
which case you can use them.
- When attaching bindings to the board, the binding bolts should get at least
4 full turns of engagement with the insert threads. The thread pitch on M6
binding bolts is 1 mm, so you need 4 mm of travel. If you add or remove risers
under the bindings, you need to use shorter or longer bolts.
- You may need various lengths of binding screws. A lot of standard binding
screws are 6M×16. You can also find 6M×20 size. To get a different
length, like 18 mm, you can either grind down the 20 mm length, or use washers.
- Be wary of screwing bolts through the bottom of shallow insert holes. First
determine the depth of the inserts by finding out how many turn it takes to
bottom out the screw: then make sure you use less than that number of turns.
- A lot of bindings have a gasket of some type that separates the binding from the board, and this gasket often provides compression so that you don't need to use washers. However, for bindings that do not have gasket compression, you might want to consider washers, or belleville disk springs.
- If you are racing or hard carving, go with bindings that have at least 6mm
diameter bails - the low-end 5mm bails are just that - low end.
- When you are learning, you can use plastic bindings, but you will outgrow
- If you weigh more than 200 pounds or carve hard, you need mission critical
bindings like the Bombers or Cateks, and you should avoid plastic bindings.
- Don't use skiboard bindings for carving - they will probably break on the
- If your bindings come with low-grade steel that corrodes or rusts, you should
replace the hardware with stainless steel. See the parts
Also, don't use regular aluminum screws - they are not nearly strong enough.
- One benefit of using boots and bindings from the same manufacturer is that
you are guaranteed to have a rock solid boot/binding interface:
- Burton boots are designed to mate with the Burton Physics step-in bindings.
- UPS/UPZ boots are designed for the Snowpro bindings.
- Raichle boots have perfect fit with the Raichle X-bone bindings.
The boot/binding interface
with some combinations of manufacturers can be a bit sloppy. Ideally, binding
manufacturers should offer different sets of toe and heel bails that are designed
for different brands of boots.
|One handy on-slope tool is the midget ratchet wrench, metric version (model 2307, with hex bits), made by Chapman Mfg, and sold on Amazon.com as the "Chapman Offset Hex Screwdriver Set, 1.5mm-6mm, 8 Pc". The wrench itself is about 4 inches long. It's really compact, but can provide major torque. It has all the bit sizes to adjust Bomber bindings, and newer Cateks that use the 10mm kingpin (it doesn't have the 8mm bit required for the older Cateks with the 12mm kingpin). Of course, it's one more thing to lose in the snow.
Boot tightness and pre-release
- If you use regular bindings with a toe clip, make sure the clip does not
flop forward and hang over the front edge of your board when you are skating,
otherwise it will gnaw the metal edge on your board. Plus, it will catch in
the snow, and cause you to face plant right in front of the lift.
- Softer bindings like the Burton Race or F2 series are often preferred for
- BX boards can use softer bindings to help absorb the shock of landing jumps
- Some softer All-mountain boards might be overpowered with stiffer bindings.
- Some people are paranoid about premature binding release, and contrive leashes
to keep toe bails from flipping open. For step-ins, some people jury-rig leashes
that keep the front bail attached to the front of the boot, so that if the
heel pins release, you can still try to keep your boot in the binding by pressuring
against the toe bail.
- For regular bindings, don't set the toe and heel blocks too close together,
otherwise the binding will be too tight, which will cause the sole of your
boots to bend, which can result in pre-release. Boots that do not have lengthwise
ribs to stiffen the sole are more susceptible. You should be able to close
the toe clip using moderate force with one hand.
Don't try to adjust the "stiffness" of a binding setup by making the toe/heel blocks too loose or too tight.
- For bindings with a toe clip, the set screw on the toe clip should be adjusted
so that the toe piece comes to rest just after the point of maximum tension,
and so that there is at least ~ 1 cm of clearance for your fingers to grip
under the toe clip for release. Don't let the toe clip over-extend and lose
- The setscrew on the toe clip has a tendency to grind a crater into your
boot. You can duct tape a 1"×1" piece of metal to the top
of your boot, or replace the setscrew with a round-headed carriage bolt, or
at least a flat-head 8 mm bolt.
When tightening any of the screws in a binding, you may notice that the
screws skip and stutter as you crank them down. To prevent this stuttering
and get better thread grip, apply grease to the head of the screw where it
makes contact with the binding plate. Use a non-petroleum synthetic grease,
available from BomberOnline, or from bike shops:
- Bomber Butter
- Pedro's Syngrease
- Buzzy's Slick Honey
- Tri-Flow Synthetic Grease
- Finish Line Teflon Grease
- Tognar sells binding shims that might be usable for snowboards. Stores that
specialize in selling Plexiglas (like TAP Plastics) may be able to fabricate
custom binding shims. Use either HDPE or UHMW plastic (the stuff that cutting
boards are made out of).
- With some bindings, you adjust the cant/lift using shims that go under the toe/heel pads. This approach is not the best way to go, because sometimes the toe and heel pieces wind up being non-planar to each other. Plus, you need to carry around a bag of spare shims. It is more convenient to stick with bindings where the entire sole plate has cant/lift, like Bombers or Cateks.
- Just about all manufacturers made a kid's version. Bomber sells a junior binding.
Step-in vs Regular
There are two major types of bindings:
Regular bindings: Regular bail bindings usually have a wire bail at
the heel, and a wire bail / toe clip at the front. To engage, place your boot heel into
the heel bail, then lean down and manually flip the front toe bail to lock in
the boots. You often need to be on a relatively flat surface when engaging regular
bindings. Older bindings sometimes had the clip on the heel bail instead of the toe bail.
Step-in bindings: Step-in bindings provide an almost hands-free method
for your boots to "click" into the binding. Step-in systems for hard-shell
boots come in several flavors: rat trap, Intec, Burton Physics, and F.A.S.T.:
|Intec: Originally invented by F2, and widely used on many brands
of boots and bindings. The heel of an Intec-compatible boot is replaced with
a heel that has spring-loaded retractable pins that extend horizontally from
each side of the boot. The pins mate with holes in the binding. The front of the
binding has a wire toe bail. To engage the binding, place your toe into the
front bail, and step down to engage the pins in the heel. The pins can be
retracted by pulling on a wire cable that snakes up the boot between the liner
and the shell. There is a possibility that the cable used with the Intec heels can fray over time and break. If it does, the only way to release from the bindings is to
push the pins in from the side of the binding using screwdrivers or the tips
of ski poles. Each Intec heel comes with a handle, and a little plastic fork that secures the cable to the handle.
|Burton Physics: Used only in the Burton Physics bindings. The heel
of the boot is replaced with a heel containing two spring loaded metal rings
that engage with vertical pins in the binding, using a friction lock system.
The Physics binding comes in two flavors: The Race physics and the Carrier
Physics. In the Race Physics, a metal hook (center) with ledges on each side goes into the toe of the boot. Those ledges mate with speed hooks
at the front of the binding. The Carrier Physics binding has a regular wire
toe bail, and does not require modification to the toe of the boot. To engage
the binding, place your toe into the front bail or speed hooks, and step down
to engage the heel. The rings in the heel can be retracted by pulling on a
wire cable that snakes up the boot between the liner and the shell. Like the Intec heels, there is a small plastic fork to secure the cable to the handle.
F.A.S.T. (also known as f-a-s-t). This system is primarily used in
Snowpro bindings. The heel of the boot is replaced with a heel containing
two holes on either side. The binding contains spring-loaded pins, which mate
with the holes. The advantage of F.A.S.T. is that the mechanism is in the
binding, so you don't need to snake a cable up your boots. In the heel, the holes contain spring-loaded covers to keep the snow out.
Rat trap style: (not to be confused with the Rat Trap brand of bindings,
or the older Burton bindings that really looked like rat traps). Like regular
bindings, these have both heel and toe bails, and work with regular boots,
but they have a mechanism to swivel the bails to lock into position. They
have more slop in the boot/binding interface than other types of step-ins.
There are a few variations:
- The Burton Carrier step-ins. they have toe and heel bails, and a clip
is located on the heel bail, somewhat similar to ski bindings. You place
your toe into the toe bail, and step down on the heel clip to engage, causing
the heel clip to flip up. To release, you press down on a heel clip.
- The Burton Step-in race plates: They have a heel mechanism that latches,
controlled by a lever on one side of the binding. You place your toe in
the toe bail, and step down on the heel to engage. To release, you pull
- Fritschi step-ins: There is a protruding
lever on the toe clip that causes it to close as you step in. To release,
lift the toe clip.
Non-standard: Some binding manufacturers use a proprietary step-in technology, such as the Japanese G-Style bindings. The G-Style step-in system uses fixed pins that protrude from the heel. These pins mate with a latching mechanism in the binding.
There are several benefits of step-in bindings:
- Step-in systems use a toe-hugging bail (or hook), which adds less length
to an engaged binding, and allows for lower binding angles without boot-out, which gives your
setup more versatility. This benefit really comes into play for narrow boards, and may be critical if you have big feet.
- Unlike regular bail bindings, the board does not need to be on level terrain
when you step-in. However, it can be difficult to step in or out of step-in
bindings if you are flexing on toe side.
- Step-in bindings are great when traversing on cat tracks, because you can
easily release, skate, and re-engage without slowing down. It's also more
convenient to step out when waiting for someone, then be able to quickly step
- With step-ins, the convenience-o-meter gets pegged if you ride a mountain with short runs, because you are constantly clipping and unclipping your back binding.
- Regular bindings typically require you to align your heel correctly into
the heel bails, but since you can't see the heel bails as you do this maneuver,
you can wind up failing to get the right alignment even after multiple tries,
and it can be damn frustrating, especially if the board is not level. With
step-ins, you first align your toe into the toe bail, which is easy to see,
then you just put your heel down.
- Step-in bindings with pin engagement have a better failure mode than regular
bindings. If the toe or heel bail of a regular binding fails, your foot will
likely fly out of the binding. But if the toe bail of a step-in binding fails,
the heel pins will likely remain engaged, keeping your foot secure. Step-ins
can really bail you out in this situation. But if the heel pins of a step-in binding
fail, you may go flying.
- You can engage some step-in bindings while on the chair lift, and ride straight
off the chair with both feet in the bindings (but it's not allowed at some
resorts, and you could get yelled at).
- The pin locking system on step-in bindings minimizes the slop between your
boot and binding, allowing you to potentially get the board higher on edge,
allowing you to carve tighter, more controlled turns. On the downside, the
interface may prove too stiff for racing.
- Boots with step-in heels can often still be used with non-step-in regular
bindings, if the ridge on the toe and heel is still in place. However, the
replacement heels can be taller or shorter than the original heels. For instance,
most Intec heels are about 5mm taller than Raichle heels. If you use Intec-enabled
Raichle boots with regular bindings, you may need to add toe lift (especially
on the front foot) to compensate.
- When you replace the heel of your boot with Intec heels, the replacement heels often are
stiffer than the heels that came with the boot, so you get a "race heel"
as part of the deal.
- Because most step-ins do not have a toe clip, you don't have to worry about
the toe clip setscrew grinding an impact crater into your boots, and you don't have to worry about the toe clip flopping forward, banging your topsheet, and catching the toe edge.
- Step-in bindings don't have to be "tight" to be secure. With regular bindings, it may be necessary to "over-tighten" the bindings a little in order to get a secure hold on your boots. This over-tightening can stress the plastic boot sole.
- With step-ins, the heel ledge on the plastic shell of the boot is no longer braced with a bail,
which lowers the chance that the boot shell plastic will crack in that area.
- Since step-in ease-of-use primarily benefits the rear foot, you can use
a regular binding for the front foot, and a step-in binding on the back. You
might want to use this option if you already have a pair of regular bindings - you
can buy a pair of step-ins and then use each step-in binding on the rear foot
of two boards - Just remember to get a pair of heels that are either both
right (regular foot) or both left (goofy). However, you may need extra lift
on the front binding to match the extra lift that step-in bindings usually
- Step-in bindings are often the same price as regular bindings. Plus, they
have high resale value, and can easily be sold to people who bought regular
bindings and then realized they should have bought step-ins.
- If you feel pain from the Intec cable, see the remedies listed in the bootfitting section.
- Riding with step-ins feels different than riding with regular bindings, partially because of the added stiffness, but also because the anchor points on the boot are lower: instead of the boot's shell ledge, the fulcrum is at the point of pin engagement.
If you opt for pin-engagement step-ins, you need to buy replacement heels
for every boot that you want to use.
|Shown here are the insides of left and right Intec heels. For step-in systems, annual maintenance consists of applying a silicon lube
spray to the cable area and the pin retraction mechanism. You can either open
up the heel and add some lube, or squeeze the pins in and out a few times
with a vise while applying lube on the pins. Don't use a petroleum-based lube,
because it can damage the topsheet and binding pads. Closer inspection/fiddling reveals that you can't re-assemble a left footed Intec mechanism to work as a right-footed mechanism, and vice-versa: the parts are different. Notice that for the heel on the right in the photo, some of the plastic protective sheath has worn down and fallen off from scraping against the boot hole. Time to replace that cable (on bomber, it's $10 for a set of two cables/handles/clips).
- With some boots, the Intec cable tends to fray, and you may never notice it. In fact, you might not be able to tell that the cable is fraying unless you remove the heel and inspect it. It's worth replacing the Intec cable once per year, since it's around $10.
- The M5 pozidriv screws that come with the replacement heels are often
prone to stripping - you can replace them with stainless steel, hex socket
cap screws: See the parts list.
In fact, it is a bit of a mystery why step-in heels ship with pozidriv screws in the first place. If you buy Intec heels, ask for hex socket cap screws instead of the pozidriv.
- If you strip the threads on the T-nut inside the heels, you can bang the T-nut out of the boot and replace it. If the T-nut does not come out, you can re-tap it with an M6 tap, in which case you probably have to countersink an indentation for the larger screw head.
An enormous amount of force is applied to your boot heels when using a pin
engagement system. When adding the step-in heels to a boot, make sure that
the heel bolts get threaded into T-nuts. Look inside the boot, under any sole
cover, and make sure you see T-nuts. If not, you need to install them. When
riding, it is especially important to check and then recheck often to make
sure the heels don't come loose.
It's a really good idea to put vibra-tite on the screw threads - see the parts list for vibra-tite part numbers.
- You can usually tell whether a boot can accept replacement heels: If the
boot is a single mold with no visible seam for a separate heel piece, then
the boot is not compatible. Compatible boots have a heel seam that starts
at the back of the boot about one inch from the bottom.
- For F.A.S.T. heels, snow can clog the holes in the heel. For the Intec and
Physics system, snow stuck to the bottom of your heel can prevent the pins
from engaging. Knocking your boot on the "load here" pad before
you get on the chair, and gently against your other boot while on the chair
helps clear the snow.
- Some boots have a tight fit with the Intec bindings at the heel, causing
the Intec heel block to scratch the plastic on the outer side of the boot
- not a big deal.
- There are a few tips for Intec and Physics systems:
- The heels come in a pair: one works only on left boots and one works
only on right boots.
- They engage better if you pull up on the cable a little when you step
into the bindings.
- They release better if you apply some downward pressure on the heel
while you pull up on the cable.
- A cable runs up the boot between the shell and the liner, and sticks
out above the cuff. Some people have created step-in-compatible pants
to better accommodate the cable.
- When installing the heels, the hole for the cable in the boot sole may
be too small, or it may not exist at all: you may have to drill it. In addition, it might be a good idea to drill the hole a bit bigger, and file the edges smooth, to prevent the cable from fraying against the side of the hole.
- You might want to make sure the cable enters the boot shell flush with the side of the boot, to prevent any pain on the lower ankle.
- Intec pins scratch the heel receiver every time you step in, which can
cause deep-looking scrape marks over time. Later models of F2 step-in bindings come with a Teflon coating on the heel receivers to mitigate wear and prevent ice from forming. Bindings with aluminum heel pieces
like Cateks and Bombers scratch more easily. It seems that after some usage, the extent of gouging levels off, as if the metal hardens. It is purely cosmetic, but there are a few ways to mitigate the
- Apply lube to the pins and heel receivers every so often.
- File down any burrs on the Intec pins, and round off the edges.
- You can swap heel receivers between the front and rear binding to even
out the wear.
Soft boots transmit power with toe/heel movements, but unlike hard boots,
they are not good at transmitting lateral pressure well, which is needed for higher
binding angles. For this reason, even the stiffest softboots are not going to be as supportive as softer hard boots. On a soft setup, you can crank up the angles for carving, but you will
start to lose turning leverage beyond about 30º, and beyond 45º,
soft boots won't deliver the lateral torque that you need to carve effectively
at those stance angles. To make better use of the higher (> 30º) binding angles, there are two features that you might look for in a binding (or jury-rig into an existing binding):
- A way to pivot the highbacks so they are facing the heel edge
of the board, rather than facing the direction of the binding. This feature allows you to pressure against the highbacks on heel side turns.
For this type of adjustability, it's best to stick with bindings where the
main instep strap and the highback can be adjusted independently, and where
the highback has a large adjustable pivot range.
- A mechanism that provides more lateral support, like lateral controller wings. It is also possible to add a 3rd strap to some bindings.
If you are looking for some tips on carving in softies and are in the Northeast, then definitely chat with Vin Quenneville at Out of Bounds Snowboard shop at Killington. Vin uses 21º front, 12º rear, with a 21" stance.
Tips for carving in soft bindings:
- If you go with a stiffer soft setup, it's best to keep the entire linkage stiff: the board, boot, and binding. That's because if you go with a stiff binding, you need a stiffer board to make use of the added power transmission, and you also need a stiffer boot to get the full range of control that a stiff binding provides.
- For more carving performance, lean the highback so that it's angled aggressively
forward, perhaps backing off a little on the front binding to allow more torso
twist on heel side.
- Some bindings have a highback that allows the ankle strap to be moved upwards, which allows more leverage on toe side.
- Since you'll be dragging your knees in the snow on toe side carves, it's a good idea to go with bindings that have metal ratchet buckles on the toe strap, since plastic ratchet buckles can break.
- To prevent toe or heel overhang with soft boots on a narrow board, you can
either use lifts like the Volkl V-flex, or use bindings that have built-in
- When you switch over to softies, don't use the same hardboot technique. You can't apply as much lateral pressure, so don't try. You will need to use more of a face-the-bindings style, instead of a face-the-nose style.
- Also bear in mind that you can't achieve the kind of ultra locked-in carving on a soft setup that you get with a hard setup. An über-stiff soft setup will get you 80% of the way there, but that last 20% is going to bring you to a new level of cognitive self-awareness.
- If you have Raichle boots with the 5-position lean adjuster, put them in Powder Mode, which allows you to flex the boots between positions 1 and 3: it gives you a bit of extra softness, but doesn't kill your heel side like walk mode does.
Bindings for softboot carving:
Nidecker Carbon 860 bindings, from '02.
Three bindings systems stand out for carving in softies:
- The Catek Freeride bindings offer independent cant/lift adjustability
as well as high responsiveness. See the section on Catek
Freerides. They give you comfort, adjustability, built-in lift, ruggedness, and carving performance. When carving at higher angles above 30º, the ability to dial in heel cant/lift on the back foot is handy in order to make heel sides easier, for two reasons:
- Rear binding inward cant/heel lift will prevent your rear heel from lifting.
- Without inward cant/heel lift, you are likely to twist the board torsionally, since your rear heel will want to lift. As a result, the nose and tail of the board will want to carve different radius arcs, and you will skid out / chatter on heel side.
- Nidecker sells the Carbon 900 bindings; they have built-in
lift and are rock-solid stiff. The one advantage they have over the Catek Freerides is the LDS (Lateral Dampening System) pads that absorb the shock when landing a jump, which means they are a good choice for BX. Unlike most other soft bindings, the LDS pads are mounted under the base, and provide dampening in the same way as the TD2. Nidecker also sells the Pro 800, a lower-end version of the Carbon 900. Other Nidecker info:
- The LDS pads provide about as much lift as the Catek Freerides, which means you probably don't need a separate lifter to prevent boot-out.
- The older carbon 860s are also great, but
stick to the '02 model year or newer, because the quick-adjust buckle
systems of previous years were prone to breakage.
- The Power Pedal toe ramp is adjustable in height: It consists of 3 layers of gasket, and you can remove some of the layers.
- The ankle strap is thick, which provides added comfort. Older models before '06 used a gel pack in the strap for über comfort.
- The highback on the Carbon 900s is taller than the highback on the Pro 800. With the 900, just make sure the chairlift doesn't come down on the highback and break it.
- The Carbon 900 has an asymmetric highback, the Pro 800 has a symmetric highback.
- The Flow binding system will significantly stiffen any soft boot setup.
However, the flow binding does not always allow as much ankle articulation
or forward lean as a regular binding, and the highbacks don't rotate.
Plus, you need to first make sure that your boots fit well with the Flow
system. The major benefits of the Flow include quick in/out, lateral support, and great toe side carving performance.
In addition, several binding systems are good for carving in soft boots:
- Most Burton soft bindings give you the ability to rotate the highback to a limited extent, so that it can be angled more parallel to the heel edge of the board. With other brands of bindings, rotating the highback causes the half-circular highback brackets (the things that hold the highback to the base) to dig into your boot heel. Also, the Burton highbacks can be rotated independently of the heel cup adjustments.
- For 2006, most Burton bindings have capstraps, which adds more power on heel side. For some people, the straps may add a bit more length to the boot, making boot-out more problematic. Happily, the capstraps on most models are a 2-piece design that can be converted back to normal straps.
- The Salomon SPX series have carbon fiber in the base plate for better
- For '06, the Salomon SPX-55 featured "Controller Wings,"
which are extended, curved sections of the highback that support the sides of your boots, and give you more lateral
support; they are not available after '06.
- The Northwave Concept.
There are two things you can do to get more toe side carving performance
out of soft boots:
- Add another strap at the top of the highback (with careful drilling).
This modification should be done only if you can lock the forward lean
of the highback. It can also provide more power on heel sides if the highback
- Add a toe-ramp, similar to the ramps on the Catek Freerides and the
Nidecker Carbons. Catek offers toe ramps in three sizes.
Tweaking Softboot bindings:
- The KickerFoot is a cant mechanism that mounts on the inside base of a softboot binding, using screws that go into the board inserts. It provides 2º to 6º of cant. The effectiveness of the KickerFoot is probably dependent on the model of binding.
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