G3 Onyx Binding
Doing a successful product launch in today’s world isn’t nuclear physics. But close. Consider the new Onyx backcountry skiing binding from G3. Not only do these guys have to take a complex meld of machinery from fantasy to reality, but they’ve got things like user manuals to produce, not to mention putting together an effective story for their marketing, as well as educating their retailers and sales reps on mounting, maintenance and use the thing. Oh, and how about minor details such as customer service, spare parts inventory/supply, and having an army of lawyers on tap just-in-case. Must be an interesting life. For now, I think I’ll stick with blogging (and backcountry skiing). So let’s get on with mounting those Onyx.
Packaging is indeed part of a product launch. Onyx ski binding comes in a solid feeling cardboard box, cozily bedded with the obligatory use and mounting instructions. To G3's credit, they built Onyx with the same mounting screw pattern as Dynafit. Along with that, since you can position Onyx a few centimeters for/aft on the ski after it's mounted, with a modicum of care you can swap from Dynafit bindings and still end up with your boot in the same position on the ski. As for a new mount, I set things up with my Dynafit jig as if I was mounting some ST or FT Dynafits, and with the Onyx screwed to the ski my boots ended up where I wanted them. Simple and nice. My only gripe was needing two different screw driver bits for the mount. Modern life. Too complicated. (Can't we just go back to dressing in bark and eating pine cones?)
Underside of heel unit. Both toe and heel are attached to plates which in turn are mounted to the ski. For/aft adjustment of the heel unit works in similar fashion to many alpine bindings, in that the unit moves along a track as you turn a corkscrew mechanism controlled by a screw head accessed at the rear of the heel unit.
Did I say mounting these things was simple? When I saw this pile of screws the word 'simple' flew from my vocabulary like 2% coldsmoke powder flying over Chris Davenport's head in a Matchstick video. Thankfully, that feeling was only temporary (the fastener overdose, not the coldsmoke). It's actually pretty obvious where everything goes. Main reason for so many screws is you're mounting the plates on the ski, then the actual binding on to the plates, with the latter taking a few extra fasteners.
Once holes in ski are drilled and tapped, it's tempting to just slam the mount plates on like a Houston framing contractor installing window headers just after his meth break. Problem is, even a mechanical jig doesn't give you perfect bores in the ski, so you've got to eyeball things as they progress and make sure the plates are aligned. Funny how seat-of-pants craftsmanship enters in. Stranger still, notice how the T-word is buried by the rando binding? Perhaps this is some ski mechanic version of reading tea leaves and seeing the future?
Our only big disappointment with Onyx was no ski brakes. Instead, you install this cover which doubles as your heel-on-ski foot rest when you're not using any climbing heel lift. In lieu of brakes, G3 provides a set of their tow-truck ready safety leashes (shown in first photo of this post). Let me mildly state that I hate those things. Such leashes seem like a good way to get injured, if not because of a trapped ski, then your worst nightmare in an avalanche. G3 told me the brakes are coming. I believe them. But does anyone know to what god we must sacrifice a fatted lamb to speed up the process?
Attaching the heel rest takes a couple of fasteners out of the screw pile. You can feel a noticeable amount of play between the heel unit and track/plate, but once these screws are placed the movement is minimal and easily falls within the realm of any alpine binding's parameters.
Moving along, now we get to the toe unit. Track/plate (on right in photo) is quickly screwed to the ski. You then slide the toe unit on, pick which of three hole sets you want for the for/aft position, and drop in a couple of machine screws to hold it all together. Slick.
In similar fashion to Dynafit bindings, Onyx is adjusted for a specific 6 mm gap at your boot heel. DIN setting is intuitive: find the screw, turn it, watch the indicator move. That said, the small black indicator line visible in the window is not blatantly obvious. Let's make it red and a bit thicker boys, eh? As with most ski bindings, you'll have to remember you've got two different DIN adjustments for Onyx, one for upward release, one for the side. Obvious to most of us, but we do get an occasional email from folks who think Dynafit or Fritschi bindings only have one DIN adjustment screw and consequently wonder why they eject from their bindings every time they try actually skiing on them, so clarifying this stuff is worth the wear on my keyboard.
After the mount was complete I compared boot position between Onyx and Dynafit ST/FT. In touring mode, both bindings allow plenty of forward boot movement range, with an edge to Dynafit as shown in photo. Stack height and ramp angles are interesting, with Onyx height at heel being 30 mm, toe 26 mm, giving Onyx virtually the SAME RAMP as Fritschi. In comparison Dyanfit ST/FT is 30 mm heel stack and 20 mm at the toe, which as many of you know is more ramp than just about any binding, and is well liked by some though a bit much for others.
I’ll do my own Onyx use review once I’ve been on the freshman grabber enough to do more than baby talk about it. Till then, Lee did a good job of getting past the babble stage for us, so don’t forget to check out his G3 Onyx review. What is more, we’ve actually got quite a bit of Onyx content here already. Find it all with this link.