Understanding Snowboard Bindings
Bindings do a lot more than just keep your feet strapped in. Learn all about them here.
The bindings are what keep you attached to your snowboard. While not as crucial as getting in the right snowboard boots, it is still important to find the right bindings for your style of riding. The vast majority of bindings are now either strap or rear entry bindings. Step ins were a phenomenon that lasted for a few years in the 90s and early 2000s with limited success. The best response and fit come from standard strap bindings are always your best bet. Let’s learn all about them.
This is often reffered as the flex or stiffness of the binding. The best way to see which you prefer is always to get out to a demo and give a few different styles a try. Here are a few characteristics of high or low response rated bindings:
- High Response Rating: These bindings are on the stiffer side of the scale. They give more precise control and transfer energy quickly. When you put pressure on these you are turning. Often preferred by freeriders and all mountain high-speed shredders.
- Low Response Rating: These bindings will be softer or have more flex. These are going to be more forgiving and not transfer energy as quickly as a stiffer binding. They offer a greater margin of error for riders. Park riders often like the lower flex because of the maneuverability they offer.
There are two main mount types for snowboards, disc and EST. Disc bindings work with the following hole patterns:
- 4×4: These holes are spaced 4 cm apart both vertically and horizontally. This is one of the orginals that was standard for years. This uses a 4 hole disc binding.
- 2×4: In this pattern there are more vertical holes spaced 2 cm apart. This allows for more stance options and a wider stance. This has become the most popular option on boards. This also uses a 4 hole disc binding.
- 3D: This is proprietary to Burton snowboards. The theory is it will provide you with the most stance options possible. This requires a three hole disc binding. Many companies will provide both a 3 and 4 hole disc with the bindings.
Another mount type that is proprietary to Burton is EST. It stands for extra sensory technology. The idea is to reduce weight by removing plastic from the bottom of the binding and adding cushion. It gives you a lower center of gravity and more stance options.
- EST Channel: Two bolts are dropped in the channel and then you can slide your bindings to any width or angle you prefer. Burton EST bindings are design to work best with this system. You can use old Burton bindings and some other regular disc bindings by utilizing an adapter disc.
Keep in mind that most disc bindings can work with Burton Channel boards but EST bindings can ONLY work with Burton Channel boards. You will need an adapter disc to make non-EST bindings work with the channel. You can usually get these at your local shop. Brands like Union Binding Company make their own adapter discs to make their bindings compatible.
The high back is a vertical plate that rises from the back of the binding up to your lower calf. This is what gives you control and power when riding your heel edge. The highbacks can be made of different materials including plastic and carbon fiber. The materials will affect the weight and response of the binding with carbon fiber bindings offering the least weight and most stiffness. Here are some key factors to think of for highbacks:
- Forward Lean: This refers to the angle of the highback. Most bindings now have a forward lean adjustment. The more they lean forward the more responsive they will be. Some bindings also have a zero forward lean options with means the highback will be completely vertical.
- Height: Certain bindings will have high backs of different heights. The more responsive you want your highback to be the taller it should be. This means as soon as you lean it is responding. Other rides want a more forgiving or laid back feel. For this style look for a shorter highback.
- Asymmetrical Highbacks: This is just a fancy phrase to say the bindings are shaped to work best with the general ‘ducked’ snowboard stance where your feet are slightly pointed toward the nose and tail. This makes them more comfortable and responsive.
- Winged Highbacks: These have made a come back after falling off for a few years. A winged highback will have a piece of the highback that wraps around the outside of your boot at the top of the highback. This will give you more lateral control of the board. This gives more leverage for spinning, pressing and buttering.
EST bindings more or less remove the baseplate and replace it with cushioning. Other bindings the baseplate is an important component. Many brands such as Burton and Union provide a lifetime warranty on their baseplates. Here are some key features you may find on different baseplates:
- Materials: High end bindings will be made of carbon fiber. This makes for an extremely strong and light binding. As you work your way down you will see a mix of fiberglass and nylon. The different materials will also affect the stiffness and feel of a binding.
- Cushioning: Brands offer different types of cushioning built into the baseplate. This is often a gel type material to help with shock absorption.
- Removable Footbeds: The footbed is what sits over the baseplate. Some brands put a full cushioned footbed over the baseplate of the binding for comfort while riding. Certain brands also have interchangeable footbeds. Thinner, canted more extra cushion are a few of the options.
straps and buckles
Have to stayed strapped in some how. While these may seem like not a huge deal, bad straps and buckles can make for a very frustrating day on the mountain. The straps are key to the comfort and response of your binding while the buckles need to work well even in the harshest of conditions. Here are some strap features you will find on bindings:
- 3D Curved: This means that the strap is pre-curved when molded to wrap nicely around your boot.
- Cap Strap: Most brands have changed over to straps that wrap around the front of the toe rather than over the top of the boot. This gives a more responsive ride while reducing pressure points.
- Asymmetrical: This means the ankle strap is wider on one side and narrower on the allow. This allows you to either choose mobility or power and control depending on how you setup the strap.
- Cushioning: Brands will use different materials but often offer different levels of cushioning in their ankle straps. This helps reduce pressure points and creates a more comfortable ride.
- Aluminum Buckles: Not only do they look but they are strong. Give good consistent ratcheting year after year.
- Magnesium Buckles: Often called one of the lightest useful metals. These buckles are usually found on high end bindings.
This is the part of the binding that loops around the back of your boot. Often these will be made from the same material that the baseplate is made from. Some brands such as Union will use aluminum heelcups. This will make for a very strong and durable heelcup. To reduce weight you will also see brands with machine cored heelcups which is a process that removes material to make the binding even lighter.
Bindings come in different sizes so be sure to check when buying your bindings. This allows them to work well with the size boot you ride with. If they are too small they won’t fit your boot and too large and your boot will have too much room to slide around. If you are near the end of a size range it is always best to go in a store with your boots to see what works best. Different brands size their bindings slightly different so be sure to check the size chart on the binding page your looking at to make sure you get into the right fit.