Finding a new pair of bindings for your board is like setting two friends up on a blind date — you need to make sure they’ll get along. Your bindings are part of an integrated system that is designed to give you the sickest ride for the terrain that best suits your style. Below are a few things to look for when sparking that love affair between your board and bindings:
Size: There are three sizes of bindings: Small, medium and large. Always make sure your boots and bindings fit well together. In most cases, small bindings fit boots sizes 5-7, medium ranges from 7-10 and large is size 10 and up. When ratcheting your binding ladder (the strap piece that looks like a ladder) into the buckle, make sure there isn’t too much extra ladder hanging off and that the buckle is latched into a “rung” on the ladder.
Bolt patterns: Now that you know your bindings and boots mingle well, it’s time to see how well your bindings and board get along. Most bolt patterns are either 2×4 or 4×4. This refers to the centimeters between bolt holes on your board. A 2×4 bolt pattern is more adjustable along the tip and tail because the holes are 2cm apart, whereas a 4×4 pattern has 4cm of spacing. Burton has their own spacings they call “3D” or “channel” spacing meaning you’ll need Burton bindings to ride those boards. For the rest, always make sure your bindings come with a baseplate that fits your board or can adapt to both patterns.
Parts of a Binding
Highback: The highback is the contoured, vertical plate that extends along your heel and up to your mid-calf. This is where power is transferred from your leg to your heel edge and is a big contributor to heel edge control. If you’re chasing steep, fast lines you’ll want a tall, stiff highback for responsiveness and control. Riders who spend their time in the park or are just starting out may find that the flexibility and forgiveness of a shorter, softer highback is more their style.
Straps: There are now many strap and ratchet systems to choose from:
- 2-strap system: If you’re looking for ease of use, simplicity, lowest cost and easiest to repair, stick with the standard two-strap system. They offer all the adjustability you’ll need and if you bust a strap on the mountain, a replacement will be easy to find. Some companies offer a toe-cap strap with this system that curls around your toe and offers greater security, improved edge control and locks your heel into the heel cup of the binding.
- Rear-Entry system: Companies like Flow are making a rear entry system where the hinged-highback drops out of place and the rider slides their foot into one, big strap. This nuanced system offers strong edge response, quick and effortless entry with no compromise to adjustability. Some riders find these bindings difficult to use in powder because of the highback system — a problem that is easily fixed by simply using ratchets on the large strap just as one would a two-strap system. These bindings are largely a matter of preference. Ride both and determine which you like more.
- Baseplate: The baseplate is like a washer between your bindings and board and essentially, connects the binding to the board. They’re made out of a variety of materials like plastics, carbon, and even anodized aluminum. On top of the baseplate is padding to absorb shock from jumps and general riding. Baseplates from different manufacturers offer different benefits when it comes to edge response, power transition, board flex durability and vibration dampening. More expensive bindings will have fancier baseplates but the key here is to just make sure the base plate fits your board and just get out there and ride. You’ll acquire your taste as you progress.
Flex: Your riding style will ultimately determine how overall stiff or soft you want your bindings to be. Manufacturers rate the stiffness of their bindings on a scale from soft, medium to stiff or one to ten, and though there are variances generally 1-3 is soft, 3-5 is medium and 5-10 as stiff.
Soft Flex: A binding with soft flex is well suited to a rider who likes to throw big spins and hit features in the park. The softer flex pairs well with their lighter, poppier boards for a maneuverable set-up that is forgiving and responsive.
Medium Flex: All mountain riders (resort riding) might prefer a binding with medium flex that can adapt to powder riding and offer all day comfort.
Stiff Flex: Freeride or big mountain riders (backcountry, sidecountry, and the like) look for bindings that have stiff flex and are able to power through carves at the highest speeds.