When it comes to snowboarding, there are few pieces of gear that are as instrumental to the riding experience and your safety as the bindings. The bindings provide the conduit of communication between you and your board. When the bindings fit both your body and your board properly, you will experience a smooth, responsive ride that will provide the best snowboarding experience. However, poor fitting bindings not only provide a poor conduit for communication, but can also jeopardize your safety. Here are a few things you need to consider when purchasing snowboarding bindings.
One of the most important things to consider when purchasing snowboard bindings is your riding capability and style
How far the bindings allow your foot to travel vertically is known as its flex rating. Most snowboard bindings come with a flex rating preprinted on the packaging. However, there isn't a universal standardization for the ratings used, meaning that the flexibility and feel will vary from binding to binding. In general, know that flex ratings range from 1-10 with 1 being the softest and 10 being the most rigid. The reason that the flex rating for snowboard bindings is important is that it has a direct impact on the way you ride. For example:
Park or Freestyle
If you are a rider who enjoys spending time performing tricks on your board, you are going to want to purchase bindings that offer a softer flex rating. This will allow you a greater latitude for errors as well as softer landings, which your joints will be happy for.
If you are a rider who spends a lot of time running down the mountain, however you enjoy experiencing the ride on multiple surfaces such as powder, groomed runs and more, you will want to stick with the middle of the pack. Medium flexibility will give you the best "all-purpose" ride.
However, if you are a rider who enjoys snowboarding fast on powder across challenging terrain, then you will want the stiffest flex rating you can get. Stiffer flex ratings give you a more responsive ride and can help you go faster down the mountain.
Types of Snowboard Bindings
When it comes to snowboard bindings, there are two main types: strap-in bindings and rear-entry bindings. Here's how each style stacks up:
Strap in bindings are the most commonly purchased type of snowboard bindings. Just as the name implies, there are two straps that attach your boot to the board, one over the toe and one across the ankle. There are plenty of different options that allow you to control the comfort and adjustment of your boot to the board for the best in customization.
However, for strap in bindings require you to spend a little time getting strapped onto your board. When you want to get onto your board quickly and hit the slopes or the park, you might want to consider getting rear entry bindings. These bindings use a hinged high back that allows you to simply step into the binding and lock in. These bindings are less popular with performance riders as they offer a little less security on the slopes under intense riding conditions. However, if you are looking to spend a casual day on the slopes with friends, these bindings can make it happen faster.
Fit and Compatibility with Snowboard Boots
As with most other snowboard accessories, snowboard bindings come in some very general sizes: Small, Medium and Large. Since your binding is pretty much all that is connecting you to your board, it is vital to ensure that the bindings that you choose are the right size for your boot and your board. To get you started, you can check the manufacturer's suggestions for binding sizes. However, it's highly recommended that you try your bindings with your boots to ensure a good fit before heading out onto the slopes.
You can check your bindings' fitment by performing this fit test:
Put your boot on and then place it into the binding as though you were going to strap onto your board. Upon visual inspection, the boot should not overhand the binding excessively. A little overhand is ok, but excessive overhang can cause you to drag when your board is on edge. The straps should also not be excessively tight. You want your binding to fit comfortably snug, not painfully tight. You also don't want to have any slack leftover.
If, when you tighten the binding, you find that the strap ladder doesn't reach the ratchet, you will need to have the bindings adjusted so that it can be centered properly over the toe. Most bindings are adjustable from both sides, which should allow you to tighten or loosen them in such a way that you can bring it into center fairly quickly.
You will also want your heel to fit snugly into the binding. In a perfect fit situation, your foot will be able to flex but your heel shouldn't sway back and forth. This will provide the most stability while still ensuring that you have the ability to move your foot in order to control your board.
Compatibility with Snowboards
Last but not least, you need to ensure that your bindings are compatible with your snowboard. There are a number of different ways that snowboard bindings can attach to snowboards. In addition, each snowboard can have one of many different mounting possibilities as well. Before you purchase your bindings, make sure that they offer the same mounting style as your board or you will have to replace one or the other.
If you do discover that you have purchased both the perfect board and the perfect bindings, however, they don't have the same mounting configuration, there are mounting plates that can be purchased from some manufacturers that allow you to convert the binding mounting holes to the board's mounting system. This is a particularly useful piece of equipment for people who have multiple boards they use for different riding styles and who don't want to purchase different bindings for each one.