Broken Promises and Frankenstein Bindings — KingViper!

Post by blogger | February 17, 2016      
Kingviper. Promise, I skied on them.

Kingviper. Promise, I skied on them.

Yes Virginia, I promised I wouldn’t do it. But temptation is a devious mistress. She snuggles into a tiny corner of your mind. Next thing you know you are doing it, enthusiastically. Mouth breathing gear blogger, pant pant. So, I mounted a Vipec toe with a Kingpin heel, fooled around with it, went skiing. Now it’s done. The itch has been scratched.

In the shop, I began hard breathing. This was gear blogging!

In the shop, I began hard breathing. This was gear blogging!

First conclusion: This is not a viable setup. There is no clear advantage I can see and the downsides are many. For example, no way to know how this pairing would behave under extreme forces, in terms of shock absorption and possible accidental release. Want to sacrifice your body to test some weird binding combo? No? I didn’t think so. More, negative ramp angle is extreme and would require a shim under the binding heel for all but the green groomers I was testing on.

Second conclusion: Yes, judging from bench tests this setup does release to the side at the toe as the Vipec is designed to do. Yes, it does provide the vertical elasticity of the Kingpin heel (Vipec vertical elasticity is limited by classic tech binding attachment at heel.)

Most important thing I noticed is that apparently the Vipec toe pins work in such a way as to not allow the boot toe tech fittings to rotate off the pins in the normal fashion of a tech binding. The Kingpin heel depends on this action to allow full lateral (side) release at the heel. Thus, the KingViper binding has no side release at the heel. That was a hoped for “benefit” that in theory would have provided protection from knee injury.

Third conclusion: Check out that negative ramp angle! I had fun skiing the Blizzard Zero G these frankenbindings were attached to, the ramp angle made for a very relaxed stance. Works for 25 degree green groomers anyhow.

Final conclusion: I thanked Virginia for the time, and told her it would be nice if Fritschi could come up with a Vipec that had better vertical heel elasticity (rumor holds we may see this next season), and that Marker is going to have to be careful because their binding depends entirely on the tech binding boot toe fittings sliding off the toe pins in a reliable and smooth fashion — as do most other tech bindings.

Another view of the ski touring hybrid weird binding that should never see the light of day.

Another view of the ski touring hybrid weird binding that should never see the light of day.

Note the neutral to negative ramp angle, actually quite enjoyable on groomers.

Note the neutral to negative ramp angle, actually quite enjoyable on groomers.


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33 Responses to “Broken Promises and Frankenstein Bindings — KingViper!”

  1. PureGravity February 17th, 2016 8:57 am

    What if they built a turntable into the Vipec toe? Then best all all worlds?

    Perhaps a ski with a super reinforced toe binding mat and sub-surface turntable for the Vipec toe piece to be mounted to?

    Someone has to do it!

  2. Andy_L February 17th, 2016 8:59 am

    I am guessing these were not your favorite pair of skis? 🙂

  3. Lou Dawson 2 February 17th, 2016 9:08 am

    Actually, I really like the skis but they have some funky binding mount holes so a few re-drills are a good use. We do that quite often with demo skis, since testing is what we do here… Lou

  4. Lou Dawson 2 February 17th, 2016 9:10 am

    Pure, yeah, if the Vipec to rotated it would allow side release at the heel using the Kingpin. I think what this post probably illustrates more than anything is where Fritschi might be going with all this, since Vipec clearly needs a more “alpine like” vertical travel/elasticity in the heel unit, if they want to really offer what it appears they want to offer.

  5. Rudi February 17th, 2016 9:45 am

    I’ve always been confused as to why dynafits and other tech bindings have so much ramp angle. I dont doubt that the frankenbinding above skis nicely I tend to think thats the proper position for skiing. Ski racers have been for years (forever?) placing shims under toe piece to get forward more easily and alpine bindings are nearly neutral. So why do tech bindings have so much ramp?

  6. Jeremy C February 17th, 2016 10:00 am

    Is there a review pending of the 2017 Scarpa Freedom SL being tested? I was looking to buy the original boot when it first came out, but in Europe at least the first release was recalled.

  7. Lou Dawson 2 February 17th, 2016 10:08 am

    Jeremy, sure, I’m reviewing eventually but no big hurry. I’d be tripple 9 confident that any defects are corrected. Shure skis downhill nice. A bit heavy on the uphill for my style. Lou

  8. Charlie Hagedorn February 17th, 2016 10:09 am

    Rudi: I’m no expert, but I think the tech-binding ramp occurred simply because of the minimalist design; it’s easy to get the toe close to the ski. The heelpiece needs some height to function correctly, and voila, ramp. It’s easy enough to correct it with a toe plate, but it adds mass and bulk.

    Why Dynafit decided to increase the ramp further beginning with the Comfort series, I still don’t understand.

  9. Lou Dawson 2 February 17th, 2016 10:11 am

    Rudi, one reason is simply the design/engineering parameters of the binding, as it takes less material to make the toe lower, but the heel needs to be a certain height for the guts. On the other hand, the ramp actually can work in your favor, especially for old-school style skiing, as you can use a touring boot with less cuff forward lean, better for climbing without skis etc, then when you snap into the binding it tilts you forward and compensates for lack of lean. In the past, anyhow. Me, I compromise and set all my daily driver bindings to have same ramp as original TLT. Lou

  10. Charlie Hagedorn February 17th, 2016 1:04 pm

    Interesting — thanks, Lou!

    Why would the limited lean have mattered in older boots? The TLT4 had plenty of travel (though far less than the present generation) It’s just a different location of the boot-lock pin.

    Does the ramp angle hearken way back to the days before purpose-built touring boots?

  11. Adam February 17th, 2016 6:57 pm

    Hmm, I don’t know about the rest of the setup but that ramp angle has me drooling. I can’t stand the Dynafit Vertical FT12 ramp angle (I think you noticed my shims under the toes during Norway traversing) and even the Beast 14 is far too ramp-y for me. I am either going to add a shim under those toes too or most likely…. anyone want a pair of Beast 14 with about 10 runs on them?

    Perhaps it’s my years of being a flat-ramped free heeler?

  12. Jasper February 17th, 2016 10:36 pm

    How do THEY know what will happen under extreme forces? What about the plum guide dyanifit speed combo?

  13. See February 18th, 2016 12:39 am

    As I understand it, the Vipec doesn’t release at the toe until the boot toe has moved some distance off center. I assume this is why the Vipec toe/Kingpin heel doesn’t allow lateral release at the heel– if the boot toe isn’t displaced to the side, the toe piece arms can’t spread. If the arms can’t spread, the pins can’t cam out of the sockets. So even if the heel piece can rotate, the Vipec toe doesn’t allow the sort of knee friendly performance that is the goal of combining these parts in the first place

  14. See February 18th, 2016 12:39 am

    As I understand it, the Vipec doesn’t release at the toe until the boot toe has moved some distance off center. I assume this is why the Vipec toe/Kingpin heel doesn’t allow lateral release at the heel– if the boot toe isn’t displaced to the side, the toe piece arms can’t spread. If the arms can’t spread, the pins can’t cam out of the sockets. So even if the heel piece can rotate, the Vipec toe doesn’t allow the sort of knee friendly performance that is the goal of combining these parts in the first place

  15. Wookie February 18th, 2016 3:43 am

    Oh Lou. What have you done?


  16. Harry February 18th, 2016 5:39 am

    Question #1

    On the bench, how to the vipec toe respond to forward pressure adjustment from the heel on the kingpin, ie. did increasing forward pressure a few clicks cause it to hang more, less, or no apparent change? Same for decreased forward pressure.

    I honestly thing that “tech 2.0” is already here with the Kingpin, insofar as the elimination of the heel pins is the ideal solution to creating a versatile jack of all trade binding without sacrificing high energy performance.

    It is funny, I have been thinking of a few franken bindings this season but this wasn’t one of them.

    Radical 2.0 toe + Kingpin heel = best of both worlds? That was # 1 on the list.

    Vipec toe + Look Pivot heel. This I still plan on bench testing before the season is over. Like a Vipec or Radical heel, the Pivot isn’t a true “forward pressure” design, but more accurately a “camber change compensating” design because of the different preload.

    That combo would not allow for touring, nor would it be lightweight, but I think it would be a good proof of concept regarding a direction Fritschi could go for their freeride binding. The benefit I would be looking for is downhill “feel” achieved in a different way.

    I see a split in tech bindings coming, although not a real “format war”

    Bindings like the TLT expedition through TLT superlite and Speed Radical on one end of the spectrum, and then new term I am trying out “crossover pinless” heel designs starting around the 600g mark ( what I think can be achieved with the basic marker design in a generation or two if that is a direction they want to go in, based of the usual weight saving design concepts) that doesn’t account for the possibility of some entirely new way to make a pinless heel mechanism that could be better.

    I think it is more likely we will see a higher DIN (it feels so good to not say “RV”) Marker binding with a Dukish looking heel for increased visual confidence appeal, and then a second toe with a “horizontal torsion bar” which causes me to shudder as I type.

  17. Lou Dawson 2 February 18th, 2016 8:33 am

    See, exactly, the toe wings can’t spread to allow “classic” tech binding release action at the toe fittings, thus the heel of the boot can’t rotate out. The Vipec does appear to release fine to the side at the toe.

    I hope this is instructive to you guys, in showing how complex this can get.


  18. Lou Dawson 2 February 18th, 2016 8:43 am

    Harry, the problem with things like Vipec toe + Look Pivot heel is at least twofold. First, the system needs some way of compensating for the ski bending, otherwise the pressure of the bending ski will pop your boot toe out of the toe fittings or otherwise damage things or? Second, if the binding heel actually has a pre-load in terms of “forward pressure” then that’s putting something into the equation that the Vipec toe is clearly not designed for. None of these tech binding toes, Marker or Vipec or whatever, are designed for a forward pressure pre-load. That’s why this term “forward pressure” is something we should stop using. There is no pressure when the bindings are at rest. Lou

  19. Dane February 18th, 2016 9:54 am

    How come nobody has mentioned the TR2 yet?

  20. Ian February 18th, 2016 11:25 am

    Not to hi-jack this thread to another quick question. Love seeing this missmash and the candid call on marriage outside of the family. I haven’t worked with Plum for a few years, but I still have guys calling me for parts or used or new heels for their Dynafit toes. Now these guys are more backcountry skiers and ski mountaineers who ski pretty solid lines, and with solid skill. I keep asking them why they are looking for this setup and they say it works.

    Love to see a test with a newer PLUM heel and a newer Dynafit toe. I’m not sure if Plum has any distribution here now, but I do see it at Skimodotcom so it’s in this market even if in a small way.

    Hope you guys are good, and enjoying the wind today.

  21. Zorba February 18th, 2016 12:52 pm

    Very interested to see how the Vipec & Kingpin evolve in the next few years. They could learn a lot from each other. It is indeed complex.

  22. john February 19th, 2016 12:08 pm

    thanks for spending time eliminating this “option” I never would have thought of it. Good job LOU

  23. Lou Dawson 2 February 19th, 2016 12:33 pm

    Radical FT toe is a solid piece of hardware, but the Plum toes are now strong enough or so I gather… True the Plum toe arms/wings did snap at one time, but those days are over. In terms of “newer” Dynafit, the sweet item is the Radical 2.0 heel, it is beautiful. If I was going to do any kind of viable hybrid pairing I’d probably stick it with a Radical 1.0 toe, though the release value numbers would have no meaning and you’d have to adjust by “ear.” Lou

  24. chrisL February 19th, 2016 6:25 pm

    I’ve been enjoying a Radical toe with a Plum Race 165 heel for most of the winter. Had to add a shim to the heel to get a bit more ramp angle. It was totally flat without a shim and I have it at a 5mm difference now. I’m 200#, ski with a heavy pack, and have skied them aggressively in a variety of conditions with no issues. The weight savings is 10oz/pair over a speed radical heel!

  25. Lou Dawson 2 February 25th, 2016 1:23 pm

    Hey everyone, I should have noted a long time ago that the Trab TR2 does allow the boot heel to “swivel” as well as the toe releasing straight to the side. In other words, it would “work” as the toe paired with a Kingpin, and allow the Kingpin to side release at the heel. In THEORY. I do have the parts here, he he he. Lou

  26. Chris March 2nd, 2016 5:37 pm

    ooohhh- what about a Vipec toe/Silvretta SL heel combo? Then you could finally get some use out of those things (the SL’s, that is) 😉

  27. Mike March 15th, 2016 1:00 pm

    I’ve been running a G3 Ion toe and kingpin heel for a few few weeks now. Not sure I’ll keep it but its fun to try the mixed up bindings. Lots of negative delta is the downside but it keeps my toes out of the front of my boots while skinning.

  28. Raz September 12th, 2017 12:58 pm

    I wonder if anyone considered a Beast 16 toe piece with a Kingpin 13 heel?
    Any thoughts?


  29. Lou Dawson 2 September 12th, 2017 1:37 pm

    Would probably work, but what would be the improvement? Both Kingpin and Beast toes are mechanically pretty similar in terms of how they release, only the 16 rotates as well, which would whack out the lateral release values of the Kingpin heel.

    What makes sense is something like the frankenbinding in this post. Which is what the Fritschi Tecton accomplishes, near as we can tell.

  30. Raz September 12th, 2017 7:22 pm

    Thanks Lou – it totally make sense. I was not up to date with the Fritschi Tecton.
    It seems to be the solution I was looking for.

  31. Raz September 16th, 2017 9:43 pm

    I am about to install the Tecton on a pair of Blizzard Zero G 108 – 185 cm.
    I just wonder if the skis are not too ‘big’ for a relatively small binding. I was surprised on just how small they look.
    Did you guys have a chance to try the Vipec or similar on a 108 ski? How did they feel downhill in the back country or on the ski hill?

    A note for installation, the Vipec 12 jig can be used for installation, as the hole pattern is identical.


  32. Lou Dawson 2 September 17th, 2017 7:54 am

    Raz, with all due respect, it’s ridiculous to evaluate a ski binding by its overall size, in terms of what width ski it would be appropriate for. For example, many alpine bindings bulk up simply by using extra cosmetic plastic, and so on. Even the width of the binding base plate and screw pattern is somewhat mythological in terms of it being wider and somehow better, though it does help skiers who tend to rip bindings out of skis, I do that dozens of times a winter (kidding). Other than it not being consumer vetted, Vipec IMHO is strong and solid, when skied it felt as solid as anything, on the bench it is easily as resistant to rolling deflection as any good quality alpine binding. Lou

  33. Raz September 17th, 2017 8:35 am

    Thanks for your answer. I am doing the first major gear upgrade in many years, coming from one of the earlier models of Fritschi Freeride Pro and relatively narrow skis – hence my concerns and lack of knowledge / hands on experience.
    I’m getting there 🙂 sorry if I’m asking trivial questions in the process.

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