Together with your snowboard and your snowboard boots, this is another essential piece of your snowboarding equipment: Snowboard bindings connect your boots and obviously your body to the snowboard and are thus an essential part of snowboarding. Boots and bindings form a combination where not all kinds of bindings are suited for each type of boot. It is often best to buy them together and you will definitely need to know what your intended riding style is before you buy a combination of boots and bindings.
The choice of what Type of Snowboard Bindings to use usually comes down to personal preference and finding the right boot first.
Most Snowboard Bindings fall into two categories: strap or step-ins, with or without highbacks. The most popular being strap bindings, which use a baseplate and ratchet-based buckles to tighten your foot. There are actually five types of snowboard bindings available:
The Strap Bindings is the original and still the most popular binding system in snowboarding. This is because strap bindings are not only adjustable and very secure, they are also comfortable. Moreover, this type of binding is nowadays designed to be lighter and stronger.
Strap bindings consists of a contoured baseplate where a rider can place his soft boots upon. At the back of the baseplate is a vertical plate (the highback) that rises behind your ankles and lower calves. The highbacks on snowboard bindings secure the heel of your feet and the backside of your lower legs. It also helps you to force the heel side edge of the board into the snow and brings the toe side of the board up. At the front of the binding are two or three adjustable straps which can be used to secure the front side of your feet and ankles to the snowboard. Initially you may have to sit down to strap in, but with a bit of practice it'll be easier to strap in while standing.
Strap bindings can differ in the number of straps and the shape of the base and highback plate. Alpine who need to perform high speed turns will prefer taller and stiffer highbacks for greater control and improved edge control. On the other hand, freestylers will want a shorter backplate for more flexibility and torsional movement. Most people go for these kinds of bindings as they are more common, offer excellent control, and offer more options when it comes to boots-bindings combinations.
The combination of the highback plate and the front side straps gives great control. This type of bindings is used in combination with soft boots. As the binding gives all the support needed, the snowboard boots can remain soft and comfortable. Keep in mind that the best strap bindings have ample amounts of wide padding at the toe and ankle straps.
It is quite hard to get into strap bindings since you need to loosen and tighten the straps every time you get into and out of your bindings. This is why step-in bindings were developed. This type of snowboard bindings allow you to simply step down and click into it, thus making it easier for you to get on and off your snowboard.
With this feature, step-in binding systems have become quite popular with rental shops because they often give the beginners fewer snowboard equipment to fuss with. Still, while step-in bindings give you additional speed and can save you from a load of hassle, you pay for these conveniences when it comes to snowboard control. Step-in bindings don't have any straps to give additional support, making the boot less flexible, and thus, harder to do tricks. So make sure you get a good fit if you're planning to buy this.
Step-in bindings usually work in combination with soft boots which are somewhat stiffer than those used with highback bindings. When you opt for step-in bindings, you narrow your selection in choosing boots and bindings since they both have to be "step-ins". There are however, some higher and more advanced step-in bindings out on the market that provide the best of both worlds.
Step-ins can be used for either freeride or freestyle riders. Cross-over Skiers will often feel comfortable with Step-in Bindings and Boots since they are used to stepping in and to harder boots and just turning a switch or a latch whenever they want to get out.
Flow-In Bindings are quite new and a hybrid of the step-in and strap systems. This type of snowboard binding tries to combine the control of strap bindings with the ease of step-in bindings. Flow-In bindings look rather similar to strap bindings and also allow you to use soft boots. The notable difference is that, unlike the two or three straps that cover the top of your feet in strap bindings, the Flow-in bindings have only one large tongue that covers a large part of the top of your boots. Getting into and out of your Bindings is a matter of flipping the highback backwards and entering or exiting your boot.
Flow-in Bindings are becoming more popular as the choices and techniques of snowboarding improve. People love the flow-in System as it combines all the advantages of the strap bindings with the ease of Step-ins. One disadvantage however is that Flow-in Bindings are more difficult to adjust than strap-ins.
Plate Bindings, also known as Hard-Boot Bindings, consist of a hard baseplate, steel bails, and a heel or toe lever. This Type of Bindings is used in combination with hard boots that can be inserted into the bails. By flipping the lever, the boots are strapped firmly into the Bindings. The features of the Plate Bindings are the closest to a traditional ski bindings and their rigid responsiveness provides maximum leverage and power for high-speed carving and riding on hard snow. Plate Bindings and hard boots are mostly preferred by Alpine Racers who need the extra edge control that they get from this combination.
This Type of Bindings was introduced in the mid 1990's by several companies. In Baseless Bindings, the sole of the rider's boot is placed in direct contact with the snowboard deck by removing the Binding's baseplate. With this, the sole height is lowered by up to 1/8 of an inch. Theoretically, using the Baseless Bindings enhances the "feel" of your snowboard's flex. However, this Type of Snowboard Bindings aggravates "toe drag" problems for people with large feet. Also, most Baseless Bindings are far more difficult to adjust (stance angle/width) than traditional "4x4" designs. Still, some halfpipe and park riders prefer Baseless Bindings because it provides them with a quicker edge response
With or Without Highbacks?
The large curved piece of plastic screwed to the base of the binding is the Highback. Its main function is to give riders some control over their heel edge. These can be found on all Bindings or are built into the boot with some Step-in Systems. Alpine riders who need to perform high speed turns will prefer taller and stiffer Highbacks for greater control and improved edge control. On the other hand, freestylers will want a shorter backplate for more flexibility and turning power.
How do I set up my stance and angle bindings?
This is what Neil McNab from McNab Mountain Sports has to say on the matter...
This is probably one of the most important things to get right on your board. If you get your stance wrong it will be forever holding you back, restricting your natural movements and holding you in the wrong posture.
Not a lot of people seem to know how to set up their stance properly, I even read in a recent UK magazine that there is no set way of doing it, just set up your board and get used to it which is the best advice! In fact there is a logical solution and it follows the simple bio-mechanics of the body. We look at how you bend and flex, how your joints are meant to bend and flex and the simple movements that you need to make when riding your board. It's pretty easy really so read on and get it right.
Your stance and the way you set up your bindings is the key to riding with a relaxed and correct posture that allows great technique. It's pretty easy to get it right, so don't fear the change. First start with the width, begin without your board and stand relaxed, with all your joints comfortably flexed. Feel how you body is free from tension. Now widen your feet slowly, one foot at a time and feel for when the width feels just right. At a certain point your stance will feel to wide and too narrow.
When you have the correct width you will be able to easily stand with your weight on one foot or the other without having to move very much at all. If your feet are to wide apart you won't be able to do this very easily, too narrow and your hips will move past the foot you are trying to stand on making it difficult to get back to the other foot. Once you have the correct width, flex your knees and notice how they naturally spread apart as you bend. Line your feet up with your knees so that all your leg joints are flexing in a straight line from your hips to your toes.
Your knees on both feet should now be in line with your feet, kind of John Wayne style. This is how your body naturally flexes with a stance of this width, if you go wider your feet will point out more, any narrower and they will diverge less. Always look to keep your knees, both legs, over your toes.
Remember how this stance feels and feel for the angles between your feet. There will normally be around 25/30° difference between your feet.
The next step is to grab your board and get the width right. Use the recommended stance on the board as a guide and go in or out same amount with both feet from the recommended setting, this will keep your stance centered on the board. Note where your bindings are going to go!.
For the angles, put your rear foot on at as close to zero as you can without having toe over hang. Your rear foot just goes from edge to edge, toe to heel as you ride so your toes and heel want to be pretty much straight across. Now you need to put the same angle as before back into your stance. Your front foot takes the angle and so will be pointing forwards at around 25/30°. When you flex, your knees should comfortably flex over your feet. Remember to keep your upper body relaxed and in line.
Whatever angles you put on your board you always need to have the angle that you found was right for you when you flexed without your board between your feet. For example if you felt like you had around 30° difference between your feet then what ever angles you have on your board you should always have thirty degrees difference between your feet, for example -5/+25, 0/30 or +5/35)
Many top riders for example ride with very side on stances with even minus angle on their rear binding. This gives them more control for steering with the rear foot, especially useful when riding backwards. It is important to note that, what ever angles you choose to ride your knees must always flex comfortably over your toes and you body must remain relaxed above, only you head turns to look in the direction that you are going.
The last thing to check is your straps and high backs. The straps are easy just adjust them so that you can crank them tight and get rid of any heel lift. The toe strap doesn't always need to be as tight as the heel strap when you ride! The high back needs to be supportive and strong. It needs to be angled forwards so that you can feel it behind your calve and easily push your board onto the heel edge without having to pull up on your toes to much or straighten your legs. If you find your it hard work to ride on your heel side edge then try putting more forward lean on your high back. If your high backs are old and bend as you lean on them, chuck em away!
That's it, now get out and ride using the natural movements of the body as your key to great technique.