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Bindings play the important role of connecting a rider’s boots and body to the snowboard in snowboarding. Functionally speaking, their role is to transfer body movement efficiently to the snowboard hence giving a rider optimal stability and control.
That having been established, not all the bindings are the same. Each snowboard binding’s suitability is determined by among other things, an individual’s style and skill level. Although there is no fast rule about the exact type you should go for based on these, you will realize that given more time snowboarding, you will soon craft your own riding style and as well develop a personal preference for bindings.
Bottom-line is, your selected board should offer you maximum comfort and be compatible with your riding style and desired ability level.
Types of Snowboard Bindings
There are three main snowboard bindings types:
- Strap bindings
- Speed-Entry bindings
- Step-in bindings
Although there are many other specialized bindings, the most commonly used are the strap bindings. However, owing to its overly manual strapping, the speed-entry bindings are fast gaining popularity.
Both bindings have three sections; the high-back, straps and the baseplate. The differentiating factor are the straps and to a small extent, the high-back.
This is the most popular binding system and has been designed with light yet strong straps. Quite distinctly, its toe and ankle straps are designed independently allowing you to adjust each of them as you desire and this is perhaps the greatest advantage. The ankle strap runs right across the ankle just as the name indicates while the toe strap passes over the toes on the boots from one end of the little toe to the other with the big toe.
The high-back of the strap binding is fixed although you will still be able to adjust it angle-wise so you can have it upright or in a slightly leaning position.
The downside of this binding system is the fact that strap adjustment, buckling and unbuckling has to be done manually when you are seated, something that people have found overly involving. Secondly, this process tends to be cumbersome in extremely cold condition or if you have your gloves on.
Overall, the strap binding offers the best cushioning and support, particularly to beginners.
Speed Entry Bindings
This binding method is also known as the rear entry binding. It is designed to let you quickly step down and get off your snowboard in an instant. As we mentioned, this binding type is increasingly getting popular thanks to an automation of processes that are manual in the Strap Bindings.
Its toe and ankle straps are joined together and this sets the difference. Therefore, although you can still adjust each of them independently, adjusting the toe strap will definitely have an effect on the ankle strap and vice versa. However, with a good search, you can land some speed entry bindings with totally independent toe and ankle straps as in the strap bindings.
Interestingly, this binding system comes with a high-back that stretches out flat to facilitate ease of entry hence the name speed entry. Still, once buckled, you can adjust the highback to lean at different angles or upright. Finally, with the incorporation of a yoke system, the speed entry binding boasts great stability as it will spread pressure evenly on the forefoot.
One con with this binding system is the fact that they are not as flexible since they do not have that extra support and may not be the most ideal for snowboarding tricks and play. In addition, the fact that they are a bit heavier means that board control will take some effort.
Step-in bindings basically involve folding down the high-back in order to put your foot in the binding. They are good for a quick step-in-and-out of the snowboard. The greatest disadvantage with these bindings is that they will not give you much control thanks to very minimal adjustability options and a high possibility of snow clogging within this system.
Snowboard Binding Selection Process
A number of factors go into selecting the right snowboard binding including flex rating, riding terrain, riding style, and ability level.
Beginners, intermediates, and advanced snowboard riders will opt for different binding systems. Beginners mostly prefer a binding system that will offer maximum cushioning and support as most of them will go for soft flex snowboard boots. On the other hand, because expert rider’s venture involves speed, high speed and a lot of play, they will obviously go for stiff flex boots and these go well with stiffer bindings. In general, a 1/10-4/10 flex rating represents soft, 5/10 and 6/10 represents medium and 7/10-10/10 flex rating represents stiff when it comes to snowboard boots.
In addition, beginners will go for bindings in which they will get in and come out of with a lot of ease as they tend to do this more frequently compared to other riders.
Freestyle riders will generally go for short and flexible high-backs to achieve a soft ride. Again these high-backs are great for turns, maneuvers and play as is typical with freestyle snowboarding. Selected bindings also need to come with good cushioning properties for a protected landing.
The all-mountain rider being the jack-of-all-trade that he is will need bindings that are compatible with stiff flexed boots. This is because he gets involved almost everywhere from the pipes, groomed runs, to powder and park rides. The Freerider too needs stiff binding system thanks to the nature of terrain he rides on which includes the rugged backcountry. He is also fond of speed hence the need for stiff, stable bindings that will give them better control. Depending on their ability levels, they will need medium flexed or stiff flexed boots and compatible bindings. If you intend to ride on powder, stiff bindings are the most ideal as they will give you good control and stability on the long snowboards designed to float on deep powder.
Finally, adjustability is an important factor that cannot be overlooked as this is what gives your boots the support they need for a great response.
Here is a great video which will help you understand snowboard riding styles:
How to Set up Snowboard Bindings
The right snowboard bindings setup will certainly contribute to your riding experience. This involves identifying the right stance, stance width, binding position and angle on the snowboard.
Here is a simple process to guide you when setting up your snowboard and bindings. By now you we will assume that you have already purchased your snowboard, boots and bindings as these are what it takes to have a complete set-up.
1. Figure out your stance
Which foot steps forward first when you stand on your board. In other words do you have a ‘regular’ or ‘goofy’ stance? You have a regular stance if your left foot goes forward and your right foot behind when you stand and a goofy stance if your right foot steps forward and your left foot behind when you stand.
If you are at crossroads, try sliding on your floor with socks on. Which foot naturally goes forward? This way, it is easy to know your stance.
2. Determine your stance width
Your stance width is simply how far apart your legs will be when you stand on the board. A wider stance width has its advantages just the same as a narrow stance width. While the former is great for achieving stability and is the best for beginners, the latter is good for those intending to have a good response during turns.
The best way to measure your width is using your shoulders. Always aim at having a stance width equal to or slightly wider than your shoulder length. Again, keep in mind that you will need to be centered between the nearest set of screw holes to your stance width as most boards will come with already drilled screw holes.
3. Decide your direction
Your stance direction is how far back or forward you will move on your board and is determined by the terrain you will be riding on. For instance, if you are riding on deep ice, a setback stance is advisable as it will enable you to maintain the nose of the board above the snow.
However, as with crafting your riding style, you will also develop your preferred direction with time. It is also important to note that most directional boards come with a predetermined setback distance while twin boards will be designed with a centered stance.
4. Snowboard bindings angles
Snowboard binding angles are very influential to the way you ride and their set up depends on a combination of your riding style and your stance direction preference. It is, therefore, possible to position your snowboard in a way that your feet will have a forward, center or even a backward angle.
Your stance angle refers to the angle created by your feet on the snowboard. If your feet are perpendicular to the board, then you are at a zero degree angle. Again if your toes point towards the nose of your board you create a positive angle. It is recommended that the positive angle of your front binding be 15 degrees maximum especially for beginners learning stability.
You create a negative angle when your toes face the tail of the board for which between 0 and 3 degrees is recommended for the back binding.
Finally, it is important to point out that snowboard binding plates, which attach the Boards and the binding together come with preset angles.
When all this is done it is time to fix your binding to the board. Here a few tips are in order:
- Ensure that you have rightly determined you left and right binding.
- Also, determine the nose and the tail of your board.
When fixing your bindings, set them according to the stance direction you have chosen then using the screws that came with the bindings, align your binding disc to the screw holes on the board. Thereafter, place the screw on the washer and fasten them with a screwdriver onto the snowboard.
For more detail on setting up and adjusting your snowboard bindings, the following video will be quite useful: