Binding Info
Step-in vs Regular
Step-in Details
Soft Bindings
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Some of the fundamental details of all hard plate bindings are covered here.

Binding Info

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.

The essentials:

One handy on-slope tool is the midget ratchet wrench, metric version (model 2307, with hex bits), made by Chapman Mfg, and sold on 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

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


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:

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 Details

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).
It's a really good idea to put vibra-tite on the screw threads - see the parts list for vibra-tite part numbers.

Soft Bindings

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):

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:

Bindings for softboot carving:

Nidecker Carbon 860 bindings, from '02.

Three bindings systems stand out for carving in softies:

In addition, several binding systems are good for carving in soft boots:

There are two things you can do to get more toe side carving performance out of soft boots:

Tweaking Softboot bindings:

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