20061005
Snowboard tech: The Relay Binding
It seems as though we are in a time of accelerated innovation in the binding sector of the snowboard industry. Two years ago (as far as I know), we were introduced to Technine's Baltimore Toe Strap / Burton's Capstrap. Following that, the other manufacturers jumped on board, releasing their own versions like Ride's convertible strap (enough of a departure to avoid lawsuits by Burton the patent holder). Prior to that, Flow released their reclining bindings which K2 has copied though experienced riders in general frown upon them. I've only been into riding for the last two years but it seems like we are either making constant 'big' improvements or it's been like this all along. I guess the sport is still somewhat young enough for such big innovations to take place, because everytime something comes out, we think why hasn't anyone thought of it before.

For this season's round of innovations we have quite a few actually though none seemingly as evolutionary as Salomon's Relay Binding which replaces the rigid highbacks with a soft harness that conforms to your boot. The soft harness is somewhat a retro idea considering the first bindings were flexible foot straps. Though the traditional highback rigidness aids a rider when making heelside turns, its a bit of a nuisance in every other aspect of riding. So now with Salomon's Relay Bindings, the Z axis pressure still exists, but the bindings are flexible, allowing it to conform to the riders feet and legs for every other movement. More responsiveness? It's to be debated, in my mind it can go either way.

Excited to see it in person, The Sports Authority is supposed to carry them, though I'm pretty sure I'm going to avoid them (given that it's the inaugural year), it's a nifty idea that holds a lot of weight. I'm a bigger fan of the Ride bindings which have been on a mission to reduce weight since the introduction of the 'Flight' line. This year, they decided to actually cut away portions of the baseplate to reduce weight. In previous years, the high back was the target of weight cutting. I fooled around with a pair of the Beta MVMTs and they were ridiculously light. I can't fathom lighter bindings. So the question here is whether or not the soft harness on the Relay bindings reduce weight in addition to providing a tighter and more flexible fit.