Snazzy websites drop like silver rain in web designer heaven. Polished anodized aluminum and masculine black carbon plastic beg the shopper fondle. Ski touring binding prices seem to have stabilized and in our opinion offer good values. Time for the tech binding war of winter 2015-16.
After a frustrating series of binding defects these past seasons, we’re thinking most major ski touring “frameless*” binding models won’t be presenting annoying glitches or downright self destructing this year. Perhaps we won’t even see a product recall (informal or official). Miracles do happen. Thus, all players are fully weaponized and ready to rock.
Will it indeed be the “winter of the backcountry bindings?” We think yes. Prepare to be amused, even delighted — and end up with some truly nice clamps if you’re shopping. (Also, the market is obviously over-saturated, bindings such as G3 Onyx and Dynafit Radical are already discounted and we expect to see many more such deals after Q4 sifts out the casualties from the winners.)
Here is the rundown of what machinery we feel are the major tech* binding players, in alpha order by brand. These are “ski touring” bindings. To simplify we’ve left out most free touring and skimo outliers such as Dynafit Beast and ATK Revolution.
ATK Race Is always an interesting visit at ISPO. Though these virtual jewel pieces have gained a reputation of functional durability, ATK has not penetrated the North American market to any significant degree. Nonetheless, we’re global here at WildSnow so we include. At the trade mega-fair every year in Munich, what’s interesting at ATK is Giovanni bringing out his platter of Italian antipasti along with compatible libations. One does wonder how the guy survives ISPO after nipping all day, every day. But Italians do have a way of getting it done. Lesson learned.
In terms of ATK bobbles that are WildSnow dot com compatible, don’t count on the ATK website. As an in-your-face affront to every known principle of internet marketing, Giovanni (good for him) shut down his website with only a splash page until later this month, when he announces all the new stuff for 2016. Meanwhile, however, for mounting race bindings on touring skis we’re still fans of the ATK SL World Cup. At 114 grams with years of refinement, this is a popular binding for doing the “small binding on big ski” style getup we’ve observed worldwide.
Caveats, as with any tech binding configured with aluminum toe wings/arms, later model is best as such parts were sometimes under-engineered back in the day. In other words, I’d not advise buying used aluminum “race” bindings any more than I’d advise buying used tires for European autobahn driving. Bear in mind that the ATK World Cup offerings do not have adjustable release values. The regular (men’s) version is said to be very stiff, perhaps even to the point of having no really functional safety release for normal sized to smaller skiers. The women’s version is said to offer “50% softer” release and in my opinion might actually be much safer for smaller skiers of either gender.
The standard ATK ski touring binding is their RT model. We tend to skip that guy and jump to their free touring options in Raider 12 and 14. Those have optional brakes, three-position heel lifts (RT has an add-on heel lift) and other features that compete in the main ski-touring category. In other words, don’t let the “Free” nomer fool you, these bindings do it all. The 14 offers an extra wide base and screw pattern (60 mm compared to classic <>30 mm pattern). At 330 and 350 grams respectfully, good in the mass department.
Shopping for ATK can be a challenge. Perhaps the easiest way to acquire in North America (provided you want the low mass ATK version) is go for the rebranded Hagan ZR, which is an ATK SL World Cup. Check both Skimo and Cripple Creek for availability.
Are we Dynafit biased, or is Dynafit biased to WildSnow.com? Face it, Dynafit is still the only 100% vertical ski touring brand out there. In other words, they sell their own designed and branded boots, bindings, skis and everything in between–even your summer shorts. The only important items they don’t sell are food, beacons and avalanche airbag packs. I’ve heard they’re working on all three.
So, Dynafit is WildSnow.com biased (yes Virginia, we end up blogging about them fairly often, any other questions?). Highpoints of Dynafit bindings this year: The now classic Radical series bindings receive a price drop, but more importantly we’re fairly sure they’ll receive stronger screws holding the top-plate on the heel (breakage in this area is a known issue, though as far as I can tell has not reached recall levels and we’re still not sure if stronger screws will be “officially” offered in an upgrade kit.) Radical 2.0 will no doubt be pushed, and the Superlight 2.0 is so cool that here in Colorado we’d smoke it.
We like the beefed 2.0 Radical heel unit but we still wonder if the rotating toe piece is truly necessary for most ski touring. Time will tell. We’ve had both bindings in play now for some time with zero issues.
Personally, I prefer the non-rotating toe of most tech bindings simply because it has slightly less fiddle factor and with a light touch you may be able to tour in avalanche terrain with the toe unlatched. With a rotating toe, latching/locking is mandatory in tour mode. Yet the rotating toe does make for a smoother and more consistent lateral release, especially since boot toe fittings can never be perfectly identical. With a non-rotating tech binding toe, the interface of binding pins and boot fittings controls smoothness and consistency of lateral release. We’ve seen many situations where the boot fittings were so out of spec the binding had virtually no safety release — rotating toe prevents that problem. Single Radical with 100mm brake: original ST is 566 grams; 2.0 is 642 grams.
So dear readers, where is the WildSnow sweet spot in the extensive Dynafit ski touring binding lineup? We’ll go retro with Radical ST 1.0, Speed Radical (assuming all Radicals are upgraded with stronger rear plate screws) or the smokable (will I eat my words?) Superlight 2.0. Yet don’t ignore Radical 2.0.
Fritschi Vipec will continue offering side release at the toe and a solid heel hold you can feel while skiing. Fritschi’s trial with Vipec was their clever but problematic adjustable toe pin depth. That got taken care of last season by a physical locking system that 100% locks out any possibility of loosening. If you’re a trad alpiner and have to have side release at the toe, these are your grabbers.
Only issue with Vipec we deem important is they’re still tricky to clip into, so while being alpine-like in release they are very un-alpine-like in terms of quickly snapping on your feet and following your friends to the ski lift after you’ve had lunch. This is another binding we feel comes close to being both a frontcountry and backcountry “do it all” grabber. Diamir Vipec weight is a WildSnow verified 616 grams, single 2015-2016 binding with screws and 100mm brake.
Update: As of August 24, 2015 we have heard nothing about whether Fritschi will distribute their improved “black” version Vipec in North America. But it will be available in Europe. We will cover here as information rolls in. Comments appreciated.
Shop for Fritschi Diamir Vipec.
G3 ION has not been immune to issues that cause us to wonder if all tech bindings have been hexed by a coven of scraggly telemarkers dancing around a bonfire at the mouth of the their straw lined snowcave (who needs a sleeping bag!?). At first, the coven loved G3 because G3 was all tele, all the time. Then G3 went AT in 2009, beginning their ski touring tech binding epic with an effort known as the Onyx. That’s when the telestic telemarkers directed their vibes at the threat that tech bindings made to their way of life. Perhaps Onyx was their victim.
Well, the telecoven disbanded when G3 engineers burned the correct incense (the fluoro version is particularly effective) and chanted a few mantras, which revealed to them all bugs in the Onyx, which were subsequently fixed (though in our opinion it’s still one of the more difficult tech bindings for novices to clip into). With their newfound clarity of mind and spirit, G3 then turned to making an improved version of the classic frameless tech binding, which came to be called ION and is indeed one of our favorites.
ION comes in three versions this winter: ION 10 is the sweet spot as a ski touring binding; ION 12 gives you release value that goes past eleven so you too can have a binding that exceeds the strength of your knee ligaments and leg bones, and the brake-less LT 12 kinda’ mixes both worlds and is our favorite of the line for a full-on ski touring rig, as we tend to go without ski brakes.
Downsides? Up to now we’re still hearing occasional reports of ION brakes not staying latched down in touring mode. We’re certain this will eventually become a non-issue with small in-line improvements as well as user education. But we had to mention as we’ve had this happen with retail version test bindings. Main upsides? These guys are durable, and have possibly best-in-class toe retention that allows average weight light-touch skiers to tour without latching the toes (useful in avalanche terrain). The flipping heel lifts are just plain flippin’ great.
ION LT12 single binding 476 grams (16.9 ounces), ION 10/12 with brake 585 grams. Shop for G3 ION, in stock soon.
Perhaps Marker Kingpin also received astral waves from the Targhee coven, as somehow their first retail bindings had an assembly problem that resulted in the toe pins loosening. To Marker’s credit, they fixed the problem about as fast as humanly possible and the Kingpin is ready for war.
Kingpin challenges our definition of a “tech” binding as the heel unit does not require an embedded boot fitting. Conversely, if your boot does _not_ have an industry standard shaped heel area (e.g. “short” boots such as Atomic Backland) you have to install a heel adapter. In my view that’s not an issue, as it’s silly to pair light touring shoes with what is essentially a freeride binding. Still, you might end up needing to use lighter boots with Kingpin (I raise my hand), so it is thoughtful on the part of Marker to supply an adapter.
Downsides of Kingpin is they’re heavy for the ski touring category (730 grams, one binding with brake), and the folding heel lifters are fiddly (I found them difficult to flip with a soft pole basket, and hate having to flip my pole upside down to operate bindings). Upside is these boys yield a SOLID feel in downhill mode that’s no different than you get from an alpine binding.
Kingpan has what appear to be strong toe springs; the “Six Pack” of six instead of four springs inspires confidence. Several engineers told me the same thing could have been accomplished with 4 stronger springs, at less weight. I have faith in Marker and figure they had good reason to go with six, beyond cosmetics. Nonetheless, we’ve tested tech binding toe springs and the strength of the Kingpin toe is only average. It’s thus somewhat of a mystery why they would add weight without adding more spring “pressure.” Perhaps that’s too much information…beyond bench testing, does it ski? Quite a few excellent skiers have pushed the binding, and the answer seems to be yes. Put succinctly, Kingpin is easily the binding that defies categorization. It’s a touring binding. It slices. It’s a freeride binding. It dices! It’s a sidecountry binding. It rocks!
Shopper’s note: The Kingpin 10 toe springs are now apparently grey colored, while the model 13 springs are black (though we’ve seen some model 10s out there with the black springs). According to our tests the black springs are indeed stronger. If you’re choosing between two “DIN” versions of the same binding, it’s wise to purchase the version with stronger toe springs even if you don’t need the higher release value settings. In other words, when shopping for Kingpin you may only need release value 8, but you ski aggressively so get added confidence from using the model 13 stronger toe springs.
Marker Kingpin Ski Touring Binding available here..
Plum ski touring target binding is still the Guide with nice combo of durability and mono-machine appearance. Downsides: Finicky boot length adjustment track, prone to damage while loosening and tightening. At ISPO we saw better Plum brakes that have made it to retail distribution. One version of the brake is integrated with the bindings, and they’re making another version that operates independent of the binding and could possibly be a nice aftermarket stopper for other bindings. According to our scale, Plum Guide is 358 grams per binding, without screws or brake. Plum also sells numerous “Yak” models, virtually the same thing as a Guide only with wider footprint, significantly stronger toe springs and a few accessories.
Shop for Plum ski bindings at Backcountry.com. or at our partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.
*We define “tech” “frameless” bindings as those that at least use the de facto industry standard toe fittings invented by Fritz Barthel and promulgated by Dynafit. An example of a “frameless” binding we would not call a tech binding would be the Trab TR2. These are not “official” definitions, just our working verbiage here at WildSnow.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.
Will you be doing a comparison/review of climbing skins? I’ve been looking for Contour Hybrid Free split skins without success so far. Haven’t seen much news re. the rumored thinner/lighter offerings you keep hinting about.
RE. the tech bindings- think I’m leaning toward the Kingpins. Any inkling of a lighter version in the works?
Are you going to put up a mounting template for the Kingpins?
Going to use Binding Freedom inserts and mount them slightly duck stance (toes out) due to an old ankle injury. Any advice appreciated.
Hi Tom, if Marker does a lighter version it probably won’t be in retail until fall 2016, a year from now. I expect to see the thinner skins go public at trade shows this winter, with possibly limited retail this winter. I wouldn’t hold my breath as they’ll definitely be something only risk prone early adopters and mouth breathing gear bloggers will want to be testing. P.S., before the Marker fans come down on me, just kidding around in writing, double grin. Lou
Nice write-up, Lou. I wouldn’t say ATK has failed to penetrate the NA market vs specifically disclaimed it.
Finally did the release testing on the Vipec, very different than the others (chart is online).
One unadvertised feature of the Kingpin: the heel is so heavy you never need to do kick turns!
Is Trab TR2 the only proprietary frameless touring binding? I was surprised to see it excluded, given the headline.
Thanks for chiming in JBO! You’re an expert on ATK, can you describe exactly what the deal is between them and North American retailers? Thanks, Lou
Hi Tom, nice to hear about your search for contour skins… Wait a few more weeks, the first substantial order is on the way to C.A.M.P USA http://www.camp-usa.com/products/contour-skins/ This includes contour hybrid free skins….
ZB, one has to have a lens, that’s the lens I chose. TR2 requires boots with special toe and heel fittings. Nothing detrimental implied by leaving it out. In fact, perhaps it’ll end up with extra attention as a result! Lou
JBO – could you give a link to the release testing the Vipec? Thak you!
Rod, here is a start. JBO?
Go to CAMP’s sale on skins now.
No mention of the Salomon offerings?
Steve, nope, not the kind of worldwide distribution I’d like to see, please correct me if I’m wrong… Lou
“The standard ATK ski touring binding is their RT model. We tend to skip that guy and jump to their free touring options in Raider 12 and 14.”
As a 155 lb moderately aggressive PNW skier, let me offer my 2 cents:
Don’t discount the RT! At 224 grams per ski (with all screws, the heel adjuster plate, and the nubbin for the heel unit that allows 2 levels of heel lift while skinning), I would challenge anyone to show me a better all-around binding in the 180-250 gram range (i.e. between a full-on race binding and a more “traditional tech binding.” The latter category is STILL being effortlessly ruled by the Plum Guide with a shimmed toe, IMO, in spite of that binding remaining virtually unchanged over the past 5+ years. Not sure why the major players in the game are still not able to top the Guide, but that’s another story …). With the RT, you have a solid, locking toe piece (with adjustability, for what it’s worth), a heel that adjusts fore-aft by about 35 mm, fully adjustable heel release values from 5-10, a flat-on-ski skin mode with 2 heights of heel rise, and a 7 mm difference in the height of the toe pins vs. heel pins (not sure exactly what ramp angle that translates to, but it’s MUCH flatter than most other non-race bindings). You can knock it for the fact that you have to reach down to spin the heel, but an optional metal flip-tab is available to negate this downside and allow it to essentially function like a race binding. Price is another downside, but it really isn’t that much more than other binders and, as they say, you get what you pay for. There has been plenty of discussion regarding brakes vs. leashes in the backcountry, but the preponderance of evidence seems to support leashes in the backcountry and brakes at the resort, so I’m more than happy to use a leash on the RT (although I haven’t figured out a way to attach one to the toe yet that makes me feel 100% satisfied). And if you must, ATK makes a good-looking but slightly expensive brake. Of course I wouldn’t huck cliffs or do laps at the resort on these, that’s what alpine bindings/skis are for (although I bet they could take the abuse anyways), or get some beefier bindings (kingpin, etc.) for the skis you intend to ski this way. For most people out there in most skiing conditions, I bet this binding would work absolutely fine. Too bad it doesn’t get the attention that it deserves.
PS The speed super light 2.0 has no heel release adjust (short of swapping out the pins), no heel position adjustment (looks like the screw pattern would make an adjustment plate impossible), no flat-on-ski mode, and weighs about the same as the RT. Remind me why I would buy the 2.0 instead of the RT? For the times when I want an easily removable brake on my minimalist touring bindings? Maybe that’s something they’re crying for in Europe, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. People seem to be losing their minds over the SL 2.0, and I simply don’t understand why. For now, I’ll keep giving my money to the little guys in France and Italy who, years ago, developed products that STILL outshine the rest. Dynafit, G3, Marker, Trab, etc. – up your game!
The Plum Guides don’t lead any category for the simple reason that the aluminum toe wings fatigue and break far more frequently that steel Dynafit toes. No thanks.
Any changes to the 2016 Speed Radical compared to 2015? Sorry if this has already been discussed.
I called Dynafit a month ago with that specific question and they told me no changes to the Speed Radical.
Good to see some views on the Marker Kingpin but no mention of The Dynafit Beast. Where has the bias gone?
If mounting a pair of Lotus 138s, Praxis Powderboards or the like and looking for a binding that provides great power transfer in deep powder at the cost of comfort on the up are these new tech/alpine bindings worth it?
Lou – There’s not much to say about the relationship between ATK and N/A retailers except that there is none. They simply state they aren’t interested in the market.
Rodney – I threw a graph on our product listing and hopefully can add a supplemental write-up here. In short, it tests more like alpine bindings than tech bindings. Worth consideration if you plan on falling.
SL1234 – You will probably like the new Plum WEPA. Or Kreuzspitze GT with an adjustment plate.
Ben W – Plum says they haven’t seen a wing break since they made a change in March 2013.
Would the new “black” 15/16 Vipec be considered as safe as a frame binding such as Salomon Guardian, Marker Baron, etc., for both in-bounds/out-of-bounds use?
Word is they didn’t want to distribute Black Fritschi Vipec in North America. I’ll have to hear some pretty good reasons for that as it sounds ridiculous. Should know more today now that we’ve all stirred the pot, which is part of the point of blogging about this before September shopping season commences.
Dynafit Speed Radical competes with Plum in that it has the nice flipping heel lifts instead of the old fashioned type rotation to change lifts, but I’m still waiting to find out if Speed has stronger top-plate screws.In my opinion Plum main weakness is in the boot length adjustment, in all my use and testing I was never happy with that. I’d prefer the Plum toe wings were steel, but alu can be as strong as steel if it’s engineered. Sounds like Plum used the usual tech binding trial and error and consumer testing to figure out their aluminum engineering, but what’s done is done and the toe wings are now strong enough.
A couple of engineers have told me that it’s so much more logical and easy to make the toe wings from steel, due to the necessity of mounting the steel toe pins on the wings. Yet Marker-Plum-G3 all show that using alu can be done (albeit not without problems such as Marker’s last year.)
Both Plum and Dynafit have had their share of durability problems, and as I alluded to in blog post above, if those problems are taken care of then let the games begin. Otherwise, my editorial mission this winter is to take a much stronger stance when it comes to binding durability problems. Basically, I’m fed up.
Plum is slightly lighter, but mod the Speed with Maruelli rear base-spindle and it’s lighter with perfect ramp angle.
I should probably update the comparo, which would be the third version. Shows you how this stuff is evolving.
Neon, without scientific testing, just impressions, I’d say Black Vipec is “as safe” as most frame touring bindings provided the settings are carefully adjusted and it’s used correctly.
Caveat: Just because a frame binding looks like an alpine binding, doesn’t mean it is. What is more, there is an argument that bindings with side release at the heel (classic tech binding configuration) do a better job of protecting your knee ligaments.
Fritschi’s main marketing push with Vipec is that it offers “safety.” I’ve said before that If that claim is going to be made it might be nice to back it up with TUV certification as well as full independent comparative testing with other bindings. I do like the engineering of the Vipec release mechanism, but the changes in the Black version do demonstrate that all is perhaps not as rosy as the advertising copy would have one believe — and that applies to any ski binding.
Adam, sorry, I’ll work on having more Dynafit bias. After all, I hate to fall short of everyone’s expectations (grin)!
For you North Americans out there: WildSnow is indeed a global website. Sometimes we have more traffic from Europe than NA, but we’re still loyal to our roots. With that in mind, the comments are a good place to point out that the G3 ION is our own North American developed tech binding, and one of the better ones IMHO. Kudos to G3. Lou
JBO- good to hear about the toe wings. It’s the black ones that haven’t been breaking? What about customer service? I know a few folks who had a tough time getting Plum to respond to complaints (in the USA) But that was a couple years ago. Dynafit, on the other hand, has always been great. Has there ben a change on that front as well?
Anything about the new Ski Trab TR Gara wich didn’t use actual springs on the toe piece?
Seems a very clean and simply system.
Pablo, I checked it out at ISPO, definitely interesting. Trab tends to carefully release things rather than rushing. We like that. Lou
Dynafit Superlight 2.0 is terrific, along with new G3 Ion LT. Had to pick a couple, but really they’re all amazing.
Ben W – Some of the black wings were made before the fix so it’s a bit hard to tell. I’ve done a few warranties for folks without a problem, though France may be selective about responding directly (especially during the brief time they had a N/A distributor). Boulder warranty is definitely a comparative strength for Dynafit.
Pablo – Trab is switching their whole line to the new Titan toe piece. Even for the new “release” bindings, adjustable via spring swap.
For those of you in North America wondering about the Vipec Black, it’s indeed what I’d call a major improvement but… here is official Black Diamond word. The binding will be released in Europe this fall, but not in North America. I can’t tell you guys how strange this seems, even though Fritschi assures me they have very good reasons for the situation. I trust Fritschi, but still, it seems like there must be more to the story… I’m working on it. As WildSnow is most certainly a global website (we’ve had many days with more traffic from Europe than NA), I’m feeling something like what we might call the “mushroom effect.”
Ryan Guess, Black Diamond Ski Category Director, sent as an email blast to retailers. I received an email copy from a retailer who’s a WildSnow reader:
So there you have the official word. One wonders if the combined screams of North American retailers might cause change. Indeed, I heard from an inside source that discount plans are already being worked on for the Vipec white version. We shall see.
Gee, remember the good old days, when Paul Ramer shaved a few grams of his R model binding?
Re: Vipec, why would any informed consumer buy this years Vipec, when an improved version is already being manufactured and sold? BD might want to rethink this….
Tim, mine and about 200,000 other people’s exact thought. I’m only the messenger…
But from what I’ve heard, it’s not a BD decision. Something to do with numbers, distribution, etc. — perhaps in my opinion even using North America to blow out the white bindings. That’s valid, since they do work and at a deep enough discount could be a good value. But tech bindings are in a phase of intense development and improvement. Having the LATEST is a valid desire… Lou
Lou, what is your take on long-term durability of the plastic Vipec? There are an awful lot of older metal Dynafit bindings still in use…
Tlm, well engineered and manufactured plastic or metal work fine in ski bindings. Thinking back on the virtual plethora of ski touring binding defects and problems over the last 20 years, I can think of many being plastic, and many others being metal. I would not base any decisions on if a binding has more or less metal or plastic. I’d base it on reputation of the product. Lou
I am glad Fritschi are working on fixing the many problems with their binding. When actually in the binding and assuming the binding had closed properly they skiied well. However, I experienced most of the problems the Black version is trying to fix and in total these were too much for me. The idea if having a better release is appealing and the reason I had considered them in the first place.
I will wait for others to do the testing before believing it though!
Rodney, the binding development scene has been a jungle for years, with early adopters sometimes paying a heavy price. In my opinion, this winter is a sea change in that situation, though it’ll never be 100% mitigated. Look at the automobile industry. They still sell millions of cars that end up being defective…. It’s just that technology has become complex, and you can have a perfectly tested and terrific thing end up being messed in the manufacturing process, as happened to Marker with Kingpin. You are wise to leave others to do the testing…
In addition, it’s extremely hard to replicate the sheer quantity of testing that end-users do.
Suppose you have a dedicated corps of ten testers who each put in 100 hard days on a new product. That’s 1000 user days. Sell 500 pair of bindings, and after two days of use, suddenly consumers are pioneering new ways that your product can break. After 20 days, the consumers have had 10 times more time on the product than you could do with in-house testing.
Outdoor-gear users aren’t willing to pay for the level of testing that would guarantee the absence of bugs on first-generation hardware.
Excellent point Charlie…
I remember sitting in the lodge in Chile last summer, talking to Stian and the other Marker guys about how much the test-demo Kingpins had been used by then. It ended up being a lot of user days (dealers, journalists, etc.), I recall it was more than a thousand user days, but it was still nothing like the amount of use once the product was in retail. And the use was spread over a fleet of bindings, not just hammering on one or two for that many days. They had what they thought was a pretty much flawless product, then it got messed up in manufacturing the big first batch for retail. Lou
Since the world has become a very small place why couldn’t I just buy the new black from TP or sport conrad or anywhere in the EU?
“more importantly we’re fairly sure they’ll receive stronger screws holding the top-plate on the heel (breakage in this area is a known issue,”
I and some very skinny locals have peeled the top off of Radicals and were fixed up VERY promptly by Dynafit but whats going on IMO is the Volcano of the Vert heel piece is the hypotenuse of a triangle, in the rad design dynafit takes that hypotenuse (support) away which is why the screws break… no support.
The 2.0 heel piece top plate now has claws, as the top plate slides backwards these claws engage locating slots on the heel piece housing SO all the screws do now is locate the top plate
Xer, you are exactly right, the problem with Radical 1 heel flipper-lifter is that the “line of force” when your heel is resting on it takes a turn that weakens things and the weakest link gives. The flip lifters are easy to operate, but were poorly designed in my opinion. Kind of odd, really, given that the flaw is pretty obvious to a trained eye.
The Vertical and Comfort heel units (and all the earlier Dynafit bindings) had a more direct line of force through the heel lift, from the boot heel down through the binding.
The Radical 2.0 we have here has same heel lift geometry of the Radical 1.0, but is indeed noticeably beefed up and the top plate does have small wings that engage a slot in the heel housing, presumably to make the top plate more stable and to prevent it from just pulling up off the binding housing. ION has same turn in the force line, but is super beefy in that area and I’ve heard of no problems.
As for the world being a small place, exactly. That’s why in my opinion I found it incredibly strange they’d try to sell an improved and well known ski binding in Europe and not make it available in the U.S., when you can just order from Conrad or Pyrenees, or just have your friend pick up a pair and mail them over. It was a shock, actually. I never could imagine this would happen in 2015-2016 given how competitive the binding “war” is going to be. Took me by surprise that’s for sure. Lou
Really hope Fritschi and U.S. distributor Black Diamond are reading all this discontent over the black Vipec not being available in North America. Seems like just a huge blunder from a marketing point of view. I’ll bet this course gets redirected rather quickly.
As to the heel lifts on Radical 1 heel lifts, I have seen some pretty bad breakage, and now that I own some, I hope they hold. No problems as of yet, but I don’t like to wonder about such things as I am out in the mountains touring.
The ION does have the same force lines as the Rad but G3 uses 4 (or maybe 6 ?) machine screws coming up thru the heelpiece body into threads in the Ion top plate which should be bomber enough to handle the flippy heel lifts.
Consider the verts were bomber enough with wood screws into delrin but the rad design just put too much strain on the design, I’m not an engineer but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why the Rad heel piece gets broken by some skinny guys who ski a lot.
so i think the rad 2 design adresses the exploding heel piece but that still leaves any current Dynafit design that doesn’t use the rad 2 heelpiece and all the Rad bindings that are already out there.
Dynafit was really fast with a new part no questions asked so I think anybody who peels the top off a Rad should contact a dynafit dealer for warranty no matter where they bought their Rads or how old it is
In the mean time IME carry a couple of those really long ski straps which got me out of the BC after a tree spooning experiance, also check (but don’t strip) yer top plates screws to see if any have pulled out and if yer really out there on a multi day I would carry a spare heelpiece
My last binding purchase I chose verts over rads and I have swapped my rad heel piece to a different ski which minimizes its use
SL1234 wrote: “Don’t discount the RT! At 224 grams per ski (with all screws, the heel adjuster plate, and the nubbin for the heel unit that allows 2 levels of heel lift while skinning), I would challenge anyone to show me a better all-around binding in the 180-250 gram range. With the RT, you have a solid, locking toe piece (with adjustability, for what it’s worth), a heel that adjusts fore-aft by about 35 mm, fully adjustable heel release values from 5-10, a flat-on-ski skin mode with 2 heights of heel rise, and a 7 mm difference in the height of the toe pins vs. heel pins (not sure exactly what ramp angle that translates to, but it’s MUCH flatter than most other non-race bindings). ”
My experience and that of AndyB with the RT was loosening toe pins after 20 days use. Has that problem been resolved with newer versions? Ours were the rebranded Sportiva model.
Silas, word on the street is RT has bugs worked out. Hard to know for sure. Lou
Is the heel riser/heel top plate failure on the Radical 1.0 a common failure? Is it something to expect after a lot of days on the binding? Any beta on preventing/avoiding it?
Seems like lots of Radical Speeds/STs/FTs are out there, so I’m hoping it’s a rare event. They share the same heel top plate if I’m not mistaken.
I’m asking after picking up a couple of pairs of discounted Speed Radicals this summer. The weight alone is the biggest draw.
Plum heels are an option I guess but I agree that the Plum BSL adjustment sucks. Just one more tool to carry as well.
My buddy is 140lb , I’m 160 other buddy is 170, all experianced tech users whom are older than dirt and we all broke rad heel plates in < 1 year of use
I found THE last set of verts on close out real cheap, if I was looking now i would go for the TLT speed turns
Michael, I have no numbers but I can say in my opinion the failure is not uncommon. I’ve been trying to figure out how to mitigate but have come up with nothing (other than being a lighter skier who tends to not use the higher heel lift). In Europe I saw an upgrade kit with top plate and stronger screws, but no word so far if this will be available in North America, and I was also told the kit had no separate SKU number, so it’s not the easiest thing out there to acquire. Using the binding with lower or no heel lift would tend to mitigate the problem as it’s probably caused as alluded to above by the force exerted on the heel by the line of force coming from the heel lifter. I did not experience this failure myself, but I did eventually see a few in person and have received emails with photos. Took a while to figure out if it was an outlier or not, at this point I’d say in my opinion it is not and outlier and as I mentioned in the blog post, it’s a concern. Took me this long to come to that conclusion. Lou
I’m hearing the prob is well known to the guides up here and dyna might lose some business to G3 if they haven’t already
Xer, yeah, I got a lot on hearsay but had to wait till I’d seen more in person and heard from more people. Good to air it out now to help folks with shopping decisions. Lou
And I’m just airing not knocking you on your reporting cuz YES for sure you have to be responsible in your reporting and while it isn’t happening to everyone it is happening to some skiers who never had troubles with the verts
From my dealings I suspect as opposed to a total recall dyna will just fix as necessary which is why I say try for warranty no matter where/when you bought the binding
Just clarifying things Xer. I’m publishing more about this soon. Thanks for being here. Lou
too bad the G3 Ion LT is a fair amount heavier (at least in weight weenie terms) than the Speed Radicals. Looks like an otherwise great alternative
Still skiing on two sets of tlt tourlite tech binders from circa 2000ish. They are worn to dust but the only breakage i’ve experienced is the heel post alu heel adjustment plate cracked in two…so i j.b. welded it and filled the hollow space in the adjustment cavity with ptex to eliminate any slop and play. Good for another ten years. 😉
Was intrigued by the radical heel flipper system heel risers but after borrowing g.f.’s skis for touring in coastal conditions, found that what was simple in dry snow/less ski pen became complicated when the flippers got caked in compacted moist/wet coastal snow. Found it was still ‘easier’ to adjust heel rise with the old school ski pole stab and twist . Best compromise binding in the dynafit line is my vertical ST’s. Got about 400 days on a pair and they are exhibiting almost no wear at all. Easier to adjust heel riser than speed turn, imo.
Seems like a good time to point out that you can still make a Comfort/Vertical-style Dynafit binding with aftermarket roofs and volcanoes from B&D. They are still the easiest to operate with a pole.
Still using Comforts with a B&D volcano, zero issues through all these years…..
“” you can still make a Comfort/Vertical-style Dynafit binding with aftermarket roofs and volcanoes from B&D. “”
You can add B & D parts to customize your vert/comfort but adding those parts to a Rad will not make it into a vert/comfort cuz if you compare the posts a rad has 2 flats while a comfort has 3 flats for the different detents of a rad vs comfort … if that is what you are thinking??
when a TLT/comfort climbing post breaks I am pretty sure you can still ski but when my RAD came apart I lost top plate/pins/inards/everything into a meter of blower pow, strapped the heel to the ski and limped out
XXX_er – Correct, you can’t change a Radical into a (fully-functional) Vertical but you can make one with a Speed Turn.
I heard you may not be able to change the brakes on the Radical 2.0. Any truth to this? I was planning to buy these but may only own the skis their going on for another year and would likely by wider skis.
A whole blog entry on BC bindings and no mention of free heel bindings?! Apart from the telemark bogey man.
Duno, you may have to change a whole assembly which you did anyway on rad 1.0? I found a link to swap salomon guardian brake arms into a Vert which i did,
looks like it would also work for a Rad …might work on a 2.0?
I predict this year its going to be cool to be so over making telemark jokes
Xer, indeed, I’ve been trying to avoid it. But I did get a chuckle over that “I don’t care if you tele” sticker I saw on a construction truck at Lowes the other day. Next to it was an “I don’t care if you love Willie” sticker. Lou
And we’re ready for the skimo and ski touring jokes.
Greetings from the southern hemisphere,
IMO, making telemark jokes is perfectly okay when it is good-hearted. I made one two days ago when I dubbed a new telemark skiing friend named Mark “Tele-Mark”.
I got a full day of laughs over that, but I suppose I have a somewhat simplistic sense of humor.
It becomes tiresome (again IMO) when people find humor in disparaging tele skiing because they aren’t able to do it. That’s a simple case of dragging someone else down so as to gain a feeling of superiority.
There are many ways to get down a snow covered hill, and each is a valid way of having fun for the person who is having fun doing it.
Aha, snowsports relativism. I choose to drive down the snow covered hill in my Komatsu D575A, fun! (big grin and so much for your ski tracks, grin)
Still have a couple of setups, I could Tele if I wanted but besides being so over telemark jokes I am also so over telemarking … like the next level of ex telemarker
People conflate tele with all free heel bindings. Plenty of ski tourers use 75mm for kick and glide and don’t identify as telemarkers, plus there’s NNN BC which is an ideal light touring binding. And there’s new developments in the form of TTS and Meidjo.
Down Under AT has been in the minority.
NNN BC is a light touring binding? I skied Torrey’s North Couloir on those. At the time I thought it was a telemark binding. I skied a lot of other mountains with NNN BC too. Eventually, I came to my senses regarding tele gear, but it took me nearly another twenty years to metamorphose into an AT skier. This involved an exorcism and some rites better not described on a family-friendly blog like Wild Snow. Children under fifty could be permanently damaged.
Having the gear doesn’t mean you are able to do it.
Being able to “do it” isn’t the same as being proficient at it.
Being proficient at it isn’t the same as being really good at it.
Having once been able to do it isn’t the same as being able to do it now.
Also, “I could tele if I wanted to” sounds a lot like “I could quit smoking if I wanted to”.
That said, it makes me sad when I see truly excellent tele skiers turn to AT (I’m looking at you Ellen H!). I do understand, though, the appeal of shiny new, lightweight boots and bindings, and would be happy to see some development in tele gear. I bet it would even result in a few more people being attracted or returning to it.
It reminds me of something I read about languages that are dying out because only a handful (or fewer) of people can still speak it. It boils down to a loss of cultural diversity. And make no mistake, there is a culture around skiing, and a loss in diversity is a loss to all of us.
Bigger isn’t always better. I had more fun with my first Linux box (386 CPU with 4 megabytes of ram and scavenged components) than I had with my (at the time) Windows 95 machine with a Pentium II processor. There is a certain satisfaction in doing “more with less”.
Lots of people would rather drive an old Alpha Romeo than a new Corvette.
Some people would rather slash a slope with three turns on monster skis while others try to squeeze as many turns as possible into the same vertical utilizing a smaller pair of planks.
Matter of preference; no accounting for it. The good thing is that if you don’t like the way someone else does it, no one says you have to watch.
If you are saying that AT is to tele as that monster of a truck is to a pickup, and that you will destroy a tele-skier the way that monster crushed the pickup, well that is nothing short of violent imagery (in the video they use the word “kill”). Do you really feel that strongly against telemark skiers? If so, I apologize on behalf of any telemark skier that behaved in a way to foster that feeling in you.
Alpine touring and tele skiing are so similar and have so much in common in so many ways that it’s almost silly to draw a dichotomy. We carry mostly all the same gear, made by the same manufacturers (a.k.a. website sponsors). The only difference is in the boot and binding, though some boots can be used for either. Some tele bindings now even use a dynafit-style toe piece. Furthermore, most of the time spent ski touring is on the “touring” part and relatively little on the “skiing” part, where the real difference lays.
Well, I’m off to wash my merino and polypro and wax my skis for the adventure called “tomorrow”.
@Jim. Yeah, light in the sense that you wouldn’t put fat powder boards underneath them. Yes, I too learned to tour and to tele with them and will prob go back to them when my knees need more gentle handling. They were never described as telemark bindings here Down Under; neither were skis with sidecut. XCD was the preferred term and you could stem christie, parallel, telemark or snow plough turn to your hearts content with them.
Not sure that AT in the average is lighter.
On a local forum folk posted the weights of their 75mm kit or AT. I think the ATers got a surprise.
To add my two cents:
*I’ve skied on the basic TLT Speeds since 2009 (have 2 pair) => basic, reliable, perform well up and down, lightweight, and (knock on wood) have had no issues whatsoever.
*Skied the Vipec last winter, while I noticed the increased weight in the bindings, they performed superbly on the descent => the difference with the TLT heel piece was more than noticeable. While I would not switch to the Vipec on a truly lightweight ski (<1200 grams per ski), when / if I purchase a more powder-oriented ski, this will likely be my binding of choice.
I’m too cool to comment ziggy
Gawd..that was a stooopid video, and i no that theyz a lodda stooopid gunge on the net, but.. my five-year-old might like it?
Gawd..that was a stooopid video, and i no dat deyz a lodda stooopid gunge on the net, but.. my five-year-old might like it?
Sorry about the double comment, but it just goes to prove.. i wasn’t in any particularly brilliant intellectual mode or anything, i got the antispam question wrong..and when i tried again, it detected “duplicate comment” or some such so i made some subtle changes..
Anyway my kid thought it was cool enough..without being overly impressed though.
Zippy, maybe a tad oversensitive in your interpretation of Lou’s possible allegorical intentions..don’t think he meant anything so..heavy
Could the Kingpin really handle occasionall resort use (10 -15 times/year) by an aggressive big skier (6’2″, 220 lbs)? Or would I be better off getting a frame AT binding? (Marker tour 12′ Barron, etc.) I have Dynafits on my long range tour setup and like the tech front for climbing above anything else. Like being low on the ski but not really enthalled with anything else about Dynafits. Just looking for a solid alpine feel that can still tour. My boots are Dynafit Titans and TLT6s. Mostly I will use the skies to hike (boot) Mt Glory and Mt. Taylor but also some days at the resorts. Skis are Dynastar Cham 107. (Don’t like the feel of really fat skis)
Also, how does the Beast compare to the Kingpin?
Any chance of a Kreuzspitze binding review? I’m really curious about the SCTT binding. Race heel that turns like a regular touring heel and has a bolt-on higher lifter. Cant find much info on it tho.
Walt, from what I have seen and experienced Kingpin will be fine for resort use. Be sure to do some release checks since side release is depedent on quality and condition of boot fittings. Lou
@cookiecrisp, last year I ordered a pair of Kreuzspitze bindings. Here are some observations. The finish work and construction are amazing. They are high quality. The toe did not work with my boots. I tried my old Scarpa boots and new Dynafit boots. Both boots were too wide in the toe–the plastic edge of the shell just behind the pin holes scraped against the metal wings of the binding. Lots of friction in touring mode, and compromised release in downhill mode. This is probably because my feet/boots are so big, about size 31. Smaller boots might work fine, and you could also modify your boots to remove material in that area. I returned the toes, and used Dynafit toes, which work fine with my boots. The heel units are really nice. They do just what they look like they will do, with no surprises. They have four ninety degree stops, very positive feedback, and rotate in both directions. I really like that. I wish more bindings were so simply designed. The binding is very low to the ski, so when locked in downhill mode the boot sole is basically flat. Any inclination of your foot will be produced by the interior dimensions of the boot. In fact, the position of the pins with the Kreuzspitze heels and Dynafit toes may even be too flat; in downhill mode the boot rocker brings the sole of the boot a little too close to the metal crampon tabs on the toe piece. With a straight lateral or slightly down-and-lateral release movement, it’s possible that the sole of the boot would get snagged on the crampon attachment, perhaps compromising release. Also, in touring mode, the heel drops a few millimeters onto the ski top, and the foot position almost becomes less than horizontal, depending on how your foot sits in your boot. The solution might be a small riser of a few millimeters under the heel, such as one of the drilled adjustment plates offered by Kreuzspitze, or their plate with the threaded length adjustment. I tried the threaded adjustment plate; unfortunately, unlike the bindings, I did not like the way it was manufactured. It seemed weak, and had too much play, With the extra mounting screws and the weight of the plate, I decided it defeated the purpose of the simple binding. Another option, at least for the touring mode, might be the very simple boot stop that bolts onto the heel piece offered by Kreuzspitze. This would prevent the boot from touching the ski top in touring mode, and probably provide a solid base for hard skiing in downhill mode, although I have not tried it, so I don’t know exactly how it works/fits. I did not try the ski crampons, although I hear they are small works of art.
More generally, I like this binding because it is so simple, clean, light, and functional (I hesitate to say durable; it certainly appears durable, and I have not had any problems, but I have not used it very much either). I also like that it offers four positive 90 degree stops, can be rotated in both directions, is nearly flat in downhill mode, and has a true flat on ski touring mode. There are two things I would love to see improved. First, my understanding is that the factory spring setting is rather high, perhaps equivalent to a DIN of about 9 or higher, as much as DIN settings can be compared between touring and alpine bindings. I wish I could get lighter springs to reduce the DIN setting. I don’t need an adjustable DIN, just the option of some lighter springs. I’m afraid of injuring my knees. Second, I wish the binding was sold in a version with an integrated length adjustment, not too much, perhaps 20 or 30 millimeters, to accommodate different boots. Bolting the binding to an aftermarket adjustment plate is an unsatisfactory compromise; the weight, redundancy, and possibility of failure with all the screws and interfaces makes it too complicated for me. if they made this binding in a version with an integrated length adjustment it would be nearly perfect for me.
That brings me to my last point. From what I can tell, there is not really a binding out there that satisfies all these criteria: 1) simple, durable, and relatively light, 2) flat or nearly flat downhill mode, 3) flat or nearly flat touring mode, 3) ability to change springs to reduce DIN or adjust DIN to lower settings, 4) some length adjustment.
I have high hopes for the Atomic/Salomon binding:
Edit: added WildSnow link to binding
Apparently it has all the features above. Has anybody played with these bindings?
Any other ideas?
Another thought about bindings: I have used lifter plates under the toe of my Dynafit bindings to lift the front pins and achieve a flatter position, but this comes with problems of it’s own. First, there is the whole issue of sliding plates, longer screws, strength, and so on, which I have seen discussed here, but I think that all those problems can be solved. More troublesome for me is the fact that, when you lift the Dynafit toe with a plate, using crampons becomes more awkward, at least for me. The crampons angle downward from the binding to the ski, and they do not engage as well with the boot and the snow. At least that’s what I found with rather limited experience/skills. It’s not a big deal, but it’s just another small thing that makes me reluctant to add lifter plates to get the binding I’m looking for. It’s crazy that with all the bindings out there I can not seem to find the “perfect binding.” I think the problem lies more with me than with a lack of options on the market. I am reminded of the story of the Princess and the Pea….
Bruno – Due to lack of standards in wing geometry and boot soles, it’s not uncommon to have to modify boots to get them to seat cleanly in toe pieces. This is true even within brands. Wings hitting the plastic is rare though, usually it’s just a lug in the way. Kreuzspitze tuned the SCTT for Alien boots, though I think they fit Sportivas better (at least shorter sizes, no size 31 race boots out there yet).
As far as release, I have a similar setup (with Rad toes) that tests around 7.5 laterally and a couple points higher vertically on the Dynafit scale. Some heels have seemed stiffer out of the box, but can loosen a bit after some use. Nothing unusual compared to similar designs. With all of them, there is a somewhat of an inverse correlation between lateral release value and frequency of accidental rotation into flat mode while side-hilling with a riser. So, be careful what you ask for 🙂
Thanks jbo. Follow up question: do the heel pins play any role in release values, or just the internal spring in the heel housing? Or, specifically, if I switched to the titanium heel springs, would I reduce the release value somewhat? Thanks again, Bruno.
Bruno – Yes, the U-springs (aka forks, pins) are the major determinant of forward release value. A direct swap to titanium would normally reduce the forward RV since steel is stiffer, but Kreuzspitze shortens the “U” in order to make them roughly the same. The forks have a minor (inverse) effect on lateral release but that is primarily determined by the internals. The only way I know to lower the forward RV is to shave some material off the back of the forks, which raises the lateral RV slightly. It’s likely that also slightly increases the elasticity but it’s hard to measure the degrees.
I’ve started using Quiver Killers on some of my binding mounts. They feel solid. They allow some flexibility on skis, savings on bindings, and allow for easier expedition repairs. Seems like a winner all around. Your take?
Hi Lou; not a comment related to this thread but thought I’d post it anyway…
I busted a Dynafit Vertical St toepiece plastic locking lever and cracked the other one after many seasons of use. I’ve been getting by stuffing a voile ski strap d-ring piece as a make shit lock which has worked surprisingly well but….I’d like to replace the units. Called Salewa/Dynafit warranty with no luck, no stock of old parts…. I tried to manufacture a home built unit out of plastic then alu stock with no luck, don’t have the right tools.
so, the question is…not having any newer model bindings around to compare and contrast…do you know if a guy could retrofit the rad/speed turn plastic lever onto the vertical st toe? Even if it just fits onto protruding metal peice, i’m sure the rest could be adjusted ‘just so’ for spacing by adding layers of j.b. weld onto the base plate, etc….
whoops, meant to say…. ***make shift***
Swissiphic, those parts should be readily available from Dynafit, and even if you have to use a newer plastic locking toe lever like the Radical they fit the same as Vertical toe levers in the binding and should interchange easily.
Swiss, send me an email via our contact option, I might be able to help.
You can indeed use the entire Radical toe unit with a Vertical heel, ramp angle will be different but easily tuned with shims. Am not certain the plastic toe lever will swap but if Mark says it does then worth a try?
I might have some salvage parts for you. Contact me via contact option in nav menu.
Hi Lou and Mark: Thanks for the info. After many phone calls, managed to find a positive lead for replacement Vertical ST plastic levers in a local (only 240 kms away. 😉 If it doesn’t pan out, sounds like a few shops regionally have replacement Radical series parts so I should be covered…in the mean time…put the brain in gear and managed to ghettoworks an interim replacement lever fabricated out of U shaped aluminum from the hardware store…6 bucks for a good length of it…photos of temp mod. sent you, Lou.
re: Vipec Black bindings… are there any issues with ordering a pair from the UK or Europe and having them shipped to the US? Will Black Diamond USA not honor warranty issues?
Hi Chris, I’m not sure about warranty though I don’t see how a company could sell a product such as a ski binding and not honor warranty, international. I know for a fact that people in North America are buying Black Vipec from Europe. We have one guy who’s working on a guest blog about doing exactly that. He’s already gotten the bindings. Lou
Lou and everyone else,
Here is a video I found from a shop in Europe doing a comparison of the 2014/5 (and 15/16 in US) with the Vipec “Black” 15/16 being distributed in the EU.
I went for a pair from telemark-pyrenees.com, the euro is cheap right now 🙂
I can’t believe US retailers are selling an unrevised version at full price and in most cases way more than in the EU.
I will let everyone know how they handle the Teton backcountry.
Did a bit of editing, due to new information about things like toe spring strength, Plum brakes, etc.
After hours and hours of research I’m having a nervous breakdown in trying to make a call on bindings.
I’ve 30 years of resort and off pist skiing in the French alps and started touring when I moved to Norway 4 years ago.
I started with a pair of carbon black diamond skis, Scott orbit 2 boots and radical st 1 bindings.
It wasn’t horrible but I had a bit of a self confidence crisis… Taking the back seat like never before, couldn’t go hard and fast as I used to, …
I switched all of it a year ago for the new MTN boots, a pair of wide black crows and king pin bindings. What a change, I had some of the best skiing of my life.
My issue now is that my setup is essentially 7.5kgs, which is fine for a 1000m afternoon tour but clearly a killer for long days when spring time comes…
I’m trying to get myself another pair of skis and bindings that would be a bit more manageable. I found some decent BC skis at around 3kgs and I was planning to buy some plum Wepa bindings and then I started reading your articles about ramp angle. They don’t look too bad comparing to the kingpins but then again I have no idea what I’m talking about.
I’m looking for a good trade off where I can still enjoy aggressive skiing without having to rest for a week after one trip 😉
Thanks in advance and sorry for the rather noob question
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