Trab TR2 Backcountry Skiing Binding — Stage 2 Evaluation


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 20, 2014      

Sometimes I have too many bindings and too little time. That happened last spring with the new TR2 from Trab. By the time I got my testers, battled my way out of website security administration issues and began fitting the dedicated boots, our snow had gone away as fast as the flock of private jets leaving Aspen two days after Christmas. (TR2 uses a proprietary “tech” like fitting in the boot, so I was limited to only one boot model from Scarpa; two models will be available this coming winter of 2014-15).

So I figured I’d do a mechanical analysis this summer, then get the on-snow testing done with plenty of time on the bindings as is our style — rather than a few hours at a demo or ski test. So stay tuned for that and check out the mech details below. Also be sure to peruse our prelim view of Trab TR2 from ISPO last winter.

Nice to have time for working through a paper template mount.

Nice to have time for working through a paper template mount. In this case the template is well designed, easy to use.

You pick a set of holes based on boot BSL; not sure why there are so many close together as the binding has a few centimeters of boot length adjustment.

You pick a set of holes based on boot BSL; not sure why there are so many close together as the binding has a few centimeters of boot length adjustment. But nice to get it perfect.

Per SOP with a garage mount, everything is dummied up before drilling.

Per SOP with a garage mount, everything is dummied up before drilling.

Final result (in high lift mode).

Mounting complete (in touring mode with highest lift.)

Side view, heel hold-down fork is visible. Small black mark is the approximate position pins would be in on a conventional tech binding.

Side view, heel hold-down fork is visible. Small black mark is the approximate position pins would be in on a conventional tech binding.

The obvious design philosophy of TR2 is to provide a frameless binding that behaves much like an alpine binding. That happens in two ways, with caveats:

1. In lateral (side) safety release the toe wings open to the side. Not only that, but the binding toe wings provide about 12 mm of travel/elasticity as the boot toe moves to the side. While the binding does have a release lockout for touring (or extreme descents) it appears it’ll be 100% safe and functional during normal skiing, without fully locking out release as many people do with various brands and models of tech bindings.

2. Unlike a conventional tech binding, the boot heel is totally locked from any side travel by a steel fork that presses down over the boot heel ledge and a metal fitting that takes the place of the usual tech fitting. The fork presses on the boot heel under spring tension as well as being noticeably rigid to twisting (meaning the boot shoe twisting as viewed from the front or rear. With a normal tech binding, the boot resists twisting mainly by virtue of the rigid toe unit; the heel is only held by the two small pins in a narrow pattern. While tech bindings are incredibly rigid, the boot can still twist. More importantly, with tech bindings that release laterally at the heel you’ll get constant movement in the heel while skiing. TR2 locks your boot in at the heel at least as effectively as an alpine binding, and in my opinion more so. Is that kind of rigidity necessary? Depends on what you’re doing, but a binding that’s “too solid” is always better than a sloppy wriggly throwback to the 1970s, as many frame bindings are.

View of toe from front. During safety release wings open to the side as indicated.

View of toe from front. During safety release wings open to the side as indicated.

Wings in open position after safety release to the right. To reset you have to move the black plastic tab (between arrows) over and snap the wing back into place.

Wings in open position after safety release to the right. To reset you have to move the black plastic tab (between arrows) over and snap the wing back into place–an extra step compared to most other touring bindings but easy and quick once you get the hang of it.

Black lever is pressed down to open the binding, pulled up for touring lock.

Black lever is pressed down to open the binding, pulled up for touring lock.

Heel unit steel 'fork' holds the boot down and centered. Solid.

Heel unit steel ‘fork’ holds the boot down and centered. Solid. Same as toe, heel doesn’t click open or closed; it is constantly under spring load. That’s a simple way to engineer things, but doesn’t lend itself to any possible step-in capability. To get out of the binding you have to press hard with a ski pole on the heel lever, momentarily holding it open while you pull your heel up and out. More, to exit the binding while in downhill mode you actually have to take your heel out first, the press the toe lever down or twist your boot toe out of the toe unit.

Lowest available heel lift, heel sits on top of fork, not a neutral touring position by any means.

Lowest available heel lift, heel sits on top of fork, not a neutral touring position by any means.

Highest heel lift is adequate, not radical.

Highest heel lift is adequate, not radical.

I really like the basic system of locking the brake up in touring mode.

I really like Trab’s basic system of locking the brake up in touring mode. Elegant. Two rods slide forward/backward to hold the brake. Only issue is this is done manually and somewhat of an extra step when switching modes.

Underside of heel unit viewed from front showing how the rods of the brake lock hold the retractor plate until pulled rearward.

Underside of heel unit viewed from front showing how the rods of the brake lock hold the retractor plate until pulled rearward.

Observations:

Getting in and out is somewhat fiddly. Unlike most other tech bindings, with Trab TR2 you have to have your boot heel in touring mode before you can exit the toe. More, the toe doesn’t click open and stay, instead you hold it open by pressing your ski pole down on a spring loaded lever (similar to another brand/model that never caught on). I’ve found this method of entering and exiting a tech type binding to be problematic in many ways. It’s difficult in deep powder, and awkward on steep hard snow.

Toe detail showing optional crampon slot.

Toe detail showing optional crampon slot.

– If you experience a safety release at the toe, the binding has to be re-set. Doing so is easy, but an extra step as well as learned behavior.

Stowing and retracting the brake is somewhat of an extra step compared to the better brake systems on the market.

Lowest heel height in touring mode is significantly jacked up from being flat.

Proprietary fittings. It took thirty years for regular tech fittings to become a virtual standard. Kudos to Trab for having the cajones to start the whole process over again. On the plus side, perhaps they’ll break out of the “tyranny of the fittings” and enjoy the freedom to fix everything problematic about the current tech system.

On the other hand, the economics of standards often reap huge benefit for consumers — even a non-official standard such as tech bindings. To confuse an already small (compared to alpine skiing) market with another dedicated binding/boot system could be hard on everyone involved.

However, on that same note I was delighted to hear at ISPO that Trab had no big agenda to achieve certification to current ski touring binding DIN/ISO standards, since heading down the rabbit trail of making a tech type binding that conforms to archaic frame binding standards may stifle innovation in terms of real-world performance (a widely acknowledged downside of standards in any industry). Truly, there is nothing sadder than a brain trust of engineers ignoring real world problems and instead focusing on how to adhere to a standard. The tire inflation warning systems on later model automobiles are a good example. They conform to a standard and probably took immense amount of human and monetary capital to create, but fail miserably in real life. What a waste.

Conclusion thus far:
The solid feel and excellent elasticity of Trab TR2 could make it a functional freeride binding. In particular, we like the excellent elasticity of the toe unit. While the binding does have a few added fiddle factors, they’re probably something users can adjust to fairly quickly. Too early to tell if it’ll catch on, but will most certainly be interesting to watch.

Factoids
– Wildsnow verified weights:
— Total one binding with screws and 104 mm brake, 22.1 oz, 628 gr.
— Toe with screws and crampon mount, 8.9 oz, 254 gr.
— Heel with screws and 194 mm brake, 13.2 oz, 372 gr.
— Brake (104 mm), 3.6 oz, 102 gr.

– Max release value: Original model goes from RV 5 to 11. Coming this fall, 7/13 model will be available.
– Not tech system compatible, is its own proprietary system that requires dedicated boots.
– Available boot for 2014 was 3-buckle Scarpa Spirit TR2.
– This coming winter of 2014/2015 a stiffer boot will be on tap, 4-buckle Scarpa Spirit RS TR2.
– Delta/ramp is 2 millimeters heel lower than Dynafit TLT, 5 mm lower than Dynafit Radical.
– Boot length adjustment range: 23 mm.
– Brake widths available 88, 104, 115.

Brake is easy to remove, though you'd need to run the binding with the heel block.

Brake is easy to remove, though you’d need to run the binding with the heel block. Note the brake lock rods visible. Unknown if Trab will supply a non-brake heel block. I necessary it’s easy to remove the brake arms and springs from the heel block and re-install.

Comments

18 Responses to “Trab TR2 Backcountry Skiing Binding — Stage 2 Evaluation”

  1. rangerjake August 20th, 2014 1:23 pm

    I got to play with these a bit at SIA. I had been really excited for them, as I think the real missing piece of tech touring is the downward and forward pressure on the heel allowing more control over the ski tail. As well as increased elasticity for smoothing rides.

    I ended up being disappointed with what I saw. The force required to get out of the heel and toe (two separate parts to disengage to remove boot from binding) was a little challenging. I am sure in deep powder or in a dicey spot those moves would be somewhere from a hassle to nauseating.

    All that said, progress is progress. We all still strive for the ultimate binding and I still think the best option out there currently are Vertical series Dynafits, and also the Beast for elasticity and power. I am sure we all know the onslaught of tech bindings that will be coming in the next year/two,…. Solly/Atomic, Marker, mothers and basement engineers everywhere. Away we go….

  2. Jack August 20th, 2014 11:14 pm

    Hurray for innovation! After 30 years, it’s time to develop a new standard and SkiTrab may have it. Sign me up – I would love to give them an Alaska test.

    Thanks for the report, Lou. Looking forward to your report on field test.

  3. Stefano August 24th, 2014 3:04 am

    Skied with a mountain guide in italy, who had a lot good to say about the bindings.
    He’s a alpinist and steep wall skier also.
    I saw him racing down the slopes as hard as one can probably go with no problems on a 105 freeride ski with that trab binding.

  4. Tobias Jakobsson September 2nd, 2014 10:45 am

    Hi Lou,
    Thanks for an interesting article. I am looking for a binding that can be used for resort use (in piste) as well as for the backcountry. So i would be very interested to hear what´s your opinion about this when it comes to the Trab TR2 binding. How does it compare to an alpine binding in terms of control and safety?

    Best regards

    Tobias

  5. ingis October 6th, 2014 5:30 am

    Just got a demonstration of the Trab TR2 this weekend.

    The functionality with pressing the toe lever to attached the boot can actually be an advantage compared to the tech system. In steep terrain with deep snow or hard crust it can be challenging to attach dynafit bindings or alpine touring bindings (e.g. Duke) because it is difficult to achieve correct angel between ski and boot. With the TR2 you can simply lift the entire ski “up to the boot” while pressing the lever in the same one hand grip, and simply attach the ski to the boot toe and then release the lever. With a reasonably light ski, the move is simple and safe. Once the toe is attached, the ski will not run away and the heel can be locked under controlled conditions. A small but at same time BIG difference in exposed steep terrain.

    So I became convinced and selected the TR2 for my new Volare skis for the coming season…..

  6. Lou Dawson 2 October 6th, 2014 7:42 am

    Ingis, good point about issues with binding entry. Nice to hear your evaluated things with care before making a purchase! Let us know how it goes. Lou

  7. Tobias Jakobsson January 12th, 2015 1:22 am

    Follow up on the Tr2 binding.
    I have just returned from 2 weeks skiing in Serre Chevalier where i used the Tr2 binding during more than 7 days of which 2 off piste and backcountry skiing. Since i am a beginner in backcountry skiing i can’t compare the upphill performance with other systems usch as Dynafit etc. However i liked the function that you can change the walking position to downhill position when passing short and difficult positions upphill. In terms of control skiing downhill i could not feel any difference from an alpine binding whether it was in resort use or off piste.
    Best regards
    Tobias

  8. Bernt Brun January 26th, 2015 4:20 am

    I have bought this with Ski trab volare (100mm wide) as a new rando set up. The binding is really solid feeling when skiing hard on piste or hard surfaces. It has removed all of the sloppyness that is normally associated with rando bindings, which is really good. On the negative side I have two points: ONe is already noted; it is kind of cumbersome to put on and off. You need to use your poles, and I am also worried about how this would work in really steep terrain. My second negative is the highest heel-lift, that in my opinion is too low. It is a little steeper/higher than the middle heel lift on dynafits, but a lot flatter than the highest lift. I imagine this will be an issue on steep ascents, especially when you follow the trails of others. I found it to be tiring relative to a higher lift.

  9. Jeremy January 29th, 2015 9:12 am

    Apparently the agreement between SkiTrab and Scarpa for the TR2 will be ending, and the TR2 will now be supported next season by La Sportiva. The new Spitfire 2.0 will be compatible with both Dynafit and TR2 binding standards.

    Making a boot dual standard is pretty sound marketing, as you would not have to fully commit to TR2.

  10. Andrew Wagner March 2nd, 2015 10:00 am

    Has anyone tried to mod other boots to work with this binding?

  11. Lou Dawson 2 March 2nd, 2015 10:21 am

    Andrew, not that I know of, would be pretty tough and for why? Plenty of other freeride tech bindings out there. Trab binding is nice but not essential. If they’d gotten this binding out 4 years ago it would have been a different story. Lou

  12. Andrew Wagner March 2nd, 2015 10:39 am

    I really like the ease of going from ski mode to tour mode and back (using just your pole, not having to remove your boot). Most of the ski touring here in Vermont requires some short flat traverses and bushwhacking where going back and forth between modes quickly would be awesome. (Tele might be most efficient, but i cant bring myself there quite yet) Also the wider platform/better connection to the ski in the heel looks like an improvement on the standard dynafit heel.

  13. Lou Dawson 2 March 2nd, 2015 11:48 am

    Believe me, the Europeans in general do not understand that concept, it’s amazing that they made the Vipec and Trab to have that feature. At any rate, how about trying the Vipec? Works with any tech compatible boot, of which there must be hundreds now. Lou

  14. Kjell G. Klaksvik May 31st, 2015 4:07 am

    I hav got my TLT6 boots mod for the Trab TR2 at the store when I bought my TR2 to replace my Speed Radical FT12 on mu Trab Volare. It works really well.
    I haven’t got around to try my Volare with TR2 more then one skiing trip yet since I did this “upgrade” a couple of weeks ago, and the skiing season is at it’s end here in my parts of Norway.

    My first impression is that my Volares act all diffrent than it did before, almost like riding a diffrent ski tha before. It was bad snow condition on the day I spent on them, but I felt that the contact with the skis was better and it responded more quickly than my Radicals FT.

    I am really looking forward to use this rig next winter.

    Cheers

  15. Kjell G. Klaksvik May 31st, 2015 4:09 am

    By the way, sorry for the bad writing! Touch screen is not the best thing to type on…

    Have a nice sunday.

  16. Lou Dawson 2 May 31st, 2015 10:25 am

    No worries Kjell, we might fix a few typos!

    Different skiers will have different experiences, but it’s true that bindings such as Trab and Kingpin that hold your heel down “hard” most definitely have a different feel than most tech bindings. Me, the difference doesn’t make me ski any better, but I can definitely feel it.

    Lou

  17. Kjell G. Klaksvik June 1st, 2015 2:23 am

    I agree Lou. Only time will tell if the TR2 makes me a better skier, but I find it really interesting to experience how just a change of bindings could make a pair of skis, that I’m really used to og comfortable with, make the same skis feel totally diffrent.

    It’s just my thoughts on the matter, so far I’m really pleased with the TR2 and feel it was worth the effort.

  18. BigCheese January 14th, 2016 11:13 am

    Hey Lou,
    Wondering if you could publish the mounting template to help those of use who’ve lost ours…. Could hack my way through, but would prefer to get it dialed in!

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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