Snowboard Binding Types & Setups
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Snowboard bindings are what connect your boots to the snowboards. It can seem complicated to choose the best one, as there are some variations involved. It mostly depends on your skill level, compatibility, and style.
Bindings typically consist of a base plate (which is comparable to a sole), a buckled strap to keep the boot in place, a heel cup (which is basically where the heel should be), a high back to support the ankle, and a binding disc that attaches to the snowboard.
Below you’ll find a breakdown of the different types of snowboard bindings, how to choose the one best for you, and how to set it up.
Types of Bindings
The most common types of bindings are strap-in and rear-entry.
Burton step-on is another, less common type of bindings which first came out in 2017. They’re the successor of the Step-in bindings from the 90s and are meant to provide quick entry and exit.
There are other types that suit the needs of particular riders, such as split board bindings, but they aren’t nearly as common.
Strap-in bindings are the most common type. They have two straps, one for the ankle and another for the toes. This is great when you need to adjust the pressure on each one separately.
This type of bindings has a fixed highback, so it can’t be sled up or down to open, but the angle can be adjusted for more comfort.
Getting in and out of strap-in bindings is rather slow, and you’ll usually have to sit down. You have to undo the two straps and redo them each time. Some people can get in and out of a strap-in binding while standing up, but this takes practice.
If you’re a free rider, it can be really tricky to enter and exit the bindings while standing up on a slope, so a strap-in binding is better here.
Additionally, if you’re particular about how much pressure is applied to the toes and ankles, strap-in bindings may be best.
Rear-entry (or speed entry) bindings are less common than strap-in, but they’re still a popular option. They have one strap that’s divided across the ankle and the toes, so there’s less room to adjust the pressure on each one separately. Some rear-entry bindings have two independent straps to fix this problem, but they aren’t the standard.
Unlike strap-in bindings, rear-entry bindings have unlockable highbacks that let your feet slide through. This allows for easy entry and exiting while standing up, and you wouldn’t need to adjust the strap more than once.
Of course, the angle of the highback can also be adjusted for comfort, just like strap-in types.
Speed entry bindings are easy to use, and therefore great for beginners. They’re also quicker to get in and out of while standing up, which is good for freestylers.
Size and Compatibility
It goes without saying that whichever bindings you buy, they have to fit the snowboards and snowboard boots. Never buy any snowboarding equipment unless you make sure they’re compatible.
This includes the size, flex, and mounting patterns.
Snowboard bindings come in generic sizes (Small, medium, large, etc.) and may be gendered (male, female). Unfortunately, these sizes aren’t standard, so you may want to check the manufacturer’s size guide.
The binding size has to fit the boot, which in turn has to fit the snowboard width. It’s best to buy the boots in the correct size first to make sure everything else fits around that. The video below should help with that.
Flex (or response) is basically how soft or stiff the binding feels, which has to match the flex of your boots. A soft flex (low response) means that the binding has a short, flexible highback. A stiff flex (high response) stands for a longer, more fixed highback.
The most common flex rating is a ten-point scale, with 10 being the most stiff. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standardized way to measure this, so it’s likely to differ between manufacturers.
Soft flexes (1-2) are very forgiving. They’re also the best for freestyle riders to perform different grabs and have easier landings. The softest flexes may feel a bit uncontrollable for beginners.
All-mountain riders need gear that’s flexible enough for any terrain. For that, a medium (5) or a medium-to-stiff (5-8) flex would be the most appropriate.
Freeriders that love steep slopes will need a stiffer flex for maximum responsiveness. 8-10 is generally a good number to aim for.
The best flex for beginners is a soft-to-medium flex (about 3 out of ten). You want all the forgiveness of a soft flex, but you also need easier responsiveness which requires a little bit of stiffness.
Another thing to keep in mind is physical strength. Stiffer flexes are more physically demanding, so a stronger rider may want to go one or two points higher on the scale, regardless of their style and ability level.
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Snowboard Mounting Patterns
The discs on snowboard bindings have bolts that attach to the snowboards. These bolts come in different patterns, the most common being 4×2 and 4×4. These numbers refer to the length and width between each bolt in centimeters.
There are two more types of mounting patterns from Burton. The first one is a diamond-shaped pattern called “3D”, which is designed to have multiple fits with the least number of bolts. The second one is called the “EST channel system”, which is a sliding system that’s compatible with multiple brands.
Recently, brands started making universal discs that fit several patterns. Alternatively, you may find that your bindings come with several discs. These handy additions allow you to use multiple snowboards with different patterns, all with the same bindings.
Setting Up Bindings
Attaching snowboard bindings isn’t as hard as it seems. Understanding how to set it up will help you recognize the different parts of your bindings and how they work. It’ll also make you less dependant on a shop.
Once you get the correct mounting pattern and size for your snowboard, there are some minor adjustments you can make to help the bindings fit better. With a wrench, you can replace the bolts, or make them tighter or looser.
There are two types of stances, “regular” and “goofy”. To determine which one is yours, ask a friend to surprise you with a gentle push from behind. The foot you put forward to regain your balance is the one that should be at the front of the snowboard.
Nevermind the name, a “regular” stance means that your left foot should be at the front. A “goofy” stance means that your right foot is at the front.
There are various other tests you can use to determine your stance. Once you figure it out, place the bindings on your snowboard accordingly.
It’s easy to tell which binding is left and which is right, as they follow the inner-leaning curvature of the foot (just like shoes). The buckles should be on the outside part of your foot.
Snowboards have markers that let you know the average stance width. It’s recommended to use that first, then adjust as needed. You can try different variations until you find whichever width is most comfortable.
A good rule to follow is to measure the shinbone, which is the distance between the ankle and just below the knee, and this will be your width. Aside from that, the width should be a little bit wider than your shoulders. You can also measure 29% of your height (for men), or 27% of your height (for women).
The style of riding can also affect the width. Freestyle riders prefer a wider stance to help them get the board off the ground, while free riders prefer a narrower width for tighter turns and more precise control.
Once you’ve determined the width, you still need to think about how far back to place the bindings.
Freestylers prefer to position them in the middle, which allows for switching (riding backward) and some mid-air spinning action. Freeriders may wish to offset the bindings a bit to the back, to gain more control.
All-mountain types could opt for the middle ground. A little bit to the back, but not by much.
In all cases, the snowboard should never have more space at the back than at the front (the offset should never be to the front).
Next, you need to determine the angle of the foot. When the bolts on the mounting disc are loose, they can be turned in 3° intervals.
When the foot is flat across the board, that’s a 0° angle. A positive angle means the foot is rotated towards the front of the board, while a negative angle means the opposite.
Snowboard binding angles are written in a format similar to this (+18°/+3°).
In this example, the front foot is rotated 18° towards the front of the snowboard, while the back foot is rotated 3° in the same direction.
This applies whether the front foot is a left or a right (regular or goofy stance). The front foot should have an equal or a bigger angle compared to the back foot.
A forward-facing stance is comfortable, and it gives you the best angle to see where you’ll be heading. It’s recommended for beginners and freeriders.
In this stance, the foot placed forward would be between +30° and +12° degrees, while the back foot would be between +12° and +0°. Try different setups to see which is most comfortable.
The problem with a forward stance is when you want to ride switch (backward). This will place a lot of stress on your ankles and you’ll be in an uncomfortable position.
A duck stance is when the feet are placed in a V shape; the front foot is facing forward while the back foot is facing backward.
A duck stance can be mirrored, or “Full duck”, which means that both feet have equal, opposing angles (e.g. +12°/-12°). When the back isn’t fully angled (e.g. +12°/-9°), it’s called a “slight duck”.
As you may have guessed, the duck stance is perfect for freestylers. It allows for a full range of motion, spinning, switching, and so on.
The duck stance isn’t exclusive to freestylers, though. Many beginners and even freeriders may prefer it. It really depends on what you’re most comfortable with.
A flat stance is one in which both feet are flat across the board (0°/0°). This is a general-purpose angle that’s good for performing tricks, moving forward and backward, and all kinds of uses. Some people find it more natural than a duck stance.
For first-timers, a forward stance of (+21°/+6°) is recommended. Once you get a feel for the sport, you can begin to adjust according to your style.
As mentioned earlier, the highback angle is adjustable to fit your ankle. The highback angle affects the responsiveness of your snowboard when leaning backward. To have more responsiveness, lean the highback forward (towards the foot).
A forward-leaning highback is good for your stance, as it’ll encourage you to bend your knees and even out the weight on them, which can help you keep riding for longer without tiring.
There really is no reason to bend the highback backward. Just bend them forward as much as the space allows.
It may seem like there are endless variations for bindings, but don’t fret! Once you have a pair of snowboarding boots that fit well, choose the size of your bindings according to the manufacturer’s chart.
The rest of the variations are largely determined by your ability level, riding style, and the terrain you wish to traverse.
A freestyler should opt for rear-entry bindings, soft flex, mid-offset, and a wide duck or flat stance. A free rider may prefer strap-in bindings, a stiff flex, a slight offset, and a forward or flat stance. An all-mountain rider should choose a mix of medium values for everything.
For beginners, we recommend a rear-entry binding, soft-to-medium flex, a middle offset, the default stance width, and a forward-facing stance of (+21°/+6°).