Inexperienced snowboarders may be forgiven for thinking that there’s not that much to bindings, and that they’re just a means of attaching your feet to your snowboard. However, there’s a lot more to them than you may think, so here’s the lowdown to help you choose the best bindings for you…
First things first. It’s obviously important to get bindings that fit your snowboard boots. This is fairly easy as they are adjustable and tend to just come in Small, Medium or Large. Each brand will be slightly different, so it’s important to check which size your boot fits into. If you’re on the cusp, it’s a good idea to try the binding on with your boot before buying.
As with snowboards, there are bindings which are designed specifically for women, so the sizing on these will obviously be different to men’s bindings. They are also lighter with a relatively softer flex, to better suit female riders.
As well as being designed to fit the boot, certain bindings are also designed to fit specific boards. While most brands of bindings will fit most snowboards, there are exceptions, so be sure to check. The most obvious example is Burton snowboards which have a different system to other boards and are only compatible with Burton bindings. They’re not stupid. Most Burton bindings can be used on other boards, but their EST bindings are designed to be used with boards that feature their ‘ICS channel system’, and won’t fit other boards.
Bindings vary greatly in their level of flex and this affects their suitability for different types of riding, and different levels of rider. Generally speaking, a softer flex makes them more forgiving and easier to ride, making them ideal for beginners, park riders and jibbers. Stiffer bindings are more responsive, which makes them better for freeriders and advanced freestylers, as they offer more control at speed.
You should also choose a binding which offers the same degree of flex as your board. There’s no point pairing a board with a soft flex with a stiff binding, and vice versa.
Other variables/features to consider
These days, most bindings use the two strap entry system, however there are a few exceptions. A notable one is Flow bindings where the highback folds down to allow you to put your boot in from behind. Clicking the highback back up will then hold your boot in place. Certain other brands, such as Apo and SP also use this system.
Fortunately step in bindings (where your boots had studs which clicked into your board, assuming it was snow free!) are now a thing of the past!
A popular feature with two strap bindings is the toe cap strap which fits over the toe of your boot rather than over the top. Some brands, such as Union, have developed toe straps which can function as either a toe cap, fasten over the top, or somewhere in between, depending on your preference.
Toe straps can also vary in their construction. Many toe caps consist of a sturdy cup shape which holds the toe of your boot. However, there are also gel-like straps (common on Ride and K2 bindings) which are designed to fit snugly round the toe regardless of the shape of your boot. While these fit better, they don’t tend to be as durable as traditional straps or toe cups.
Some brands have started using a clever system where both straps are tightened with one ratchet. I tried out the K2 Agogo bindings at the Snowboard Test, which feature this system and was really impressed. It not only saves time, but holds you super secure too.
Highbacks provide support, and the degree of flex a binding has largely depends on the flex of the highback. The flex of a highback is mainly determined by the materials that its made from, but its design can also be instrumental. For example, certain highbacks are designed to flex more in the area where you need it most. Some highbacks also have a web-like design in order to reduce weight, whilst still maintaining strength and support.
Many bindings have a lever which allows you to adjust the angle of your highback to the position that’s most comfortable and best suits your riding style.
Other than differing attachment systems, most base plates are fairly standard and are well cushioned for softer landings.