Tech Compatible Race Binding by Trab — And My Musings about Tech Fittings in Ski Boots

Post by blogger | August 5, 2010      

The number of tech compatible bindings out in the wild is beginning to remind me of the telemark boom days, when every guy with a pair of pliers and some spare time made tele bindings in their garage.

Trab tech compatible race binding.

Trab tech compatible race binding ends up touring locked after you step in, no reaching down and pulling up the lever, which is similar to many other if not most of the tech race bindings breeding in Europe like bunny rabbits.

Pictured above, Trab’s race binding is a bit beyond the garage stage, and while beautifully made is somewhat of a yawner considering Trab is still planning on releasing their full-on tech compatible touring binding that has release value settings in the toe, and is configured with the toe wings flipped 180 degrees from those of normal tech bindings, (said to make the binding a true step-in).

Rumor says what’s holding Trab up with their touring binding is the difficult decision of what type of heel unit to use. Apparently, part of the dilemma is whether to go with the existing tech style boot insert, or develop a new one and thus have to find a boot maker who will install it in a boot model. I’ve also heard they are indeed working on a binding heel system that does NOT require a boot heel fitting. That would be cool, as the tyranny of tech bindings needing boots with tech fittings is a necessary evil many in the industry wouldn’t mind seeing cleansed from the planet.

Sources tell me the Trab touring binding will go well past RV 11 (yes Nigel), all the way to 14, and weighs 2.2 lbs for a pair.

Which brings us to tech fittings.

As we’ve covered in many previous blog posts, tech boot fittings are ever problematic. For starters, with no type of international industry standard for the fittings, any company can take a bar of steel, machine holes in each end, mold it into a boot and call it “tech compatible.”

Hence, if you plan on backcountry skiing using tech bindings such as G3 or Dynafit, it is super important for your own personal safety to buy tech compatible boots from companies who are known to make good fittings (or who purchase them from Dynafit), and who install them well.

Black Diamond, Garmont, Scarpa and of course Dynafit all have our stamp of approval for their tech fittings. We’re not so sure about other companies and have expressed our concerns for a while here on WildSnow. Of course, as many of you know our fears came true this spring when Salomon released a boot with substandard tech fittings.

One of my missions here at Outdoor Retailer is to get beyond gaga gear reviews and dig for some meat. To that end I met with Black Diamond VP of product Dave Mellon yesterday for a chat about boot standards, binding release standards and other such trivia that our lives and ligaments depend on.

When Black Diamond was developing their boot line, they made an agreement with Dynafit to have TUV (the product testing outfit in Europe), test a variety of boots and tech fittings. What they documented is that the boot fittings are indeed super important to the tech system and variations in the fittings do produce testable differences in release values. You can know this kind of thing in your gut, as most of us do, but it’s nice to see it prove out on paper.

Most importantly in terms of Black Diamond making their own fittings, TUV documented that the BD fittings work well in comparison to the crop of tested fittings, (or, yes Virginia, I probably wouldn’t be looking at the TUV reports unless I was dressed all in black and was doing it with a flashlight at 2:00 in the morning).

We already knew that BD tech fittings work fine, based on empirical impressions. But the scientific side is always good to add as support for real life. Or is it the other way around?

Interestingly, Dave pointed out that even the shape of the plastic that holds the toe fittings can change the release value curve. For example, if the binding toe pins drag or catch on plastic during a release, that will cause an uptick in release value. What’s more, he showed me how even the lasting of the boot and such things causes differences in values depending on if you’re releasing to the right or left! (Again, it would be nice if someday we could move to tech binding system 2.0)?

From what I saw on the TUV reports, so long as you stick with tech fittings from reliable brands, your release values will be near enough to the value printed on the binding for you to start on the low end of your DIN chart recommendations, then gradually dial up the settings until you get your desired compromise between total retention and possible pre-release.

Bear in mind that accurately tested binding release values will nearly always vary somewhat from what’s printed on the binding (they do with alpine bindings as well, and a certain amount of slop in the readings is even part of the DIN/ISO safety binding standard).

(Also know that a tiny manufacturing defect in your tech fittings, or a piece of dirt, could throw everything off.)

Dave pointed out some things to me that I might get more into here after spending time with the TUV data, but again, an important take-away is that what you see printed on a tech compatible binding, or any alpine or randonnee type ski binding for that matter, is a guideline not some sort of micrometer accurate number.

Indeed, as ski industry lawyer James Moss pointed out to me yesterday in a meeting, in a perfect world every, and I emphasize the word EVERY, ski binding really should be individually tested for release values after being mounted and configured for real-world use. That might be impractical in the reality of mail-order gear and last minute everything, but his point certainly is something to ponder.


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10 Responses to “Tech Compatible Race Binding by Trab — And My Musings about Tech Fittings in Ski Boots”

  1. Tom August 5th, 2010 1:13 pm

    I have a pair of the trab race bindings on order already. They look great! Thanks for adding to the winter stoke…

    About release values with race bindings–for all intents and purposes I don’t think that they are supposed to release. They do not have an adjustable DIN and the toe locks when stepped into (you don’t physically have to pull up the lever)

    I’d be surprised if any type of normal fall in a race would cause the binding to release, but maybe I’m wrong. I don’t imagine any skiers will take the time during their transition to push the lever down to where the binding could release in a fall so they really are being skied in non-release mode.

  2. Jonathan Shefftz August 5th, 2010 2:18 pm

    Two Trab-related q’s:
    1. I know that the race binding box has some rather prominent disclaimers concerning safety release, or rather, lack thereof. But even though the toe lever first goes by default into tour mode, it does have a separate ski mode, correct? And did you get a chance to torque test this setup? The heel is capable of releasing forward at *some* value, and ditto for the lateral release, correct?
    2. For the touring binding, if Trab chooses a proprietary interface, seems like one option is to sell after-market heel pads for the BD, Dynafit, and Salomon boots that have swappable pads. (Well, Salomon only if they redesign their “Tech” toe pad…)

  3. Mark W August 5th, 2010 8:06 pm

    Binding looks really nice. How much?

  4. Christian August 6th, 2010 12:28 am

    I like that Trab is looking into making a heel system that does not require yet another insert. Am I correct in assuming that it is only the heel they are working on, and that the toe would still require insert – so you would still need a boot with tech inserts….?

  5. Jonathan Shefftz August 6th, 2010 5:35 am

    TR Race binding:
    “Binding looks really nice. How much?”
    — The price list I saw said $599.

    TR2 touring binding:
    “toe would still require insert – so you would still need a boot with tech inserts….?”
    — Correct: a bunch of pictures and videos (and patent application) are floating around the internet showing the toe, which uses the current “Tech” interface and retains the same resistance-free and zero-lifted-weight touring mode with no moving parts. However, the toe unit (instead of the heel) provides the adjustable lateral release mechanism — super innovative!

  6. Eric August 6th, 2010 11:20 pm

    Lou, did you talk to the tech who botched the first mount?

  7. Lou August 7th, 2010 12:58 am


  8. Jon Rhoderick August 8th, 2010 7:51 pm

    After the Salomon tech insert faliure, has your view on modifying non tech boots to work with dynafit bindings changed? I’m referring specifically to the Buck Corrigan article published a couple years ago. With wire toe bail bindings disappearing from the market, this sort of thing is looking more and more appealing to me for approach ski use for climbing, maybe never even locking the heel.

  9. Lou August 8th, 2010 8:05 pm

    Jon, I know as much as anyone about tech fittings, and from what I know I totally advise against attempting to retrofit them in a boot. It is just incredibly tough to make them strong enough, and if they fail, the consequences can be dire.

    I’ll look back at that old article and make sure it doesn’t imply that we condone such a thing.

    On a historical note, the first Dynafit compatible boots were indeed retrofitted with tech fittings. The toe was done by boring a transverse (left/right) hole in the boot toe and installing a cylindrical steel bar that had the sockets in each end. According to Dynafit binding inventor Fritz Barthel, doing so was labor intensive and difficult to make strong enough, which is one reason Fritz approached the Dynafit boot company and convinced them to mold the fittings in to a boot at the factory. And the rest is history.

  10. scree February 16th, 2011 10:53 am

    This is an interesting read; scroll down to the 2/15/11 dated entry about a broken Trab Race toe pin.

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