Most of the snowboarding world uses strap bindings, which use thin pieces of plastic (ladders) to secure one strap over the toes and another, wider strap over the instep. The piece that goes on the back side of your foot, the highback, stays rigid. To get the binding ready to ride, you thread the ladders through some buckles, and to leave the binding, you undo the buckles.
Various companies — specifically, Flow and K2 — have offered alternative systems for years, and Burton introduced its own variant, which it calls “Step-Ons,” for the 2017-18 season. The highbacks on both the Flow and K2 Cinch models recline backward, which is something the highbacks on strap bindings don’t do. The advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to touch the buckles, either for starting your trip down the hill or once you’re done. Instead, you work a lever on the outside of the highback: Pull it up to get your binding secure, and pull it down to open it op.
Why would anyone prefer these kinds of bindings?
Here’s what another adult rider had to say: “Until I got a pair of Flow bindings, I hated the threading and ratcheting straps, and pressure points over my instep. Flow’s bindings are more comfortable. They’re also so much easier to use, so I don’t waste my limited energy fighting with equipment.”
It’s common for snowboarders with strap bindings to sit down to thread the strap through the buckle. Not only can that lead to “wet butt syndrome,” it also means that when you’re done threading the strap, you have to stand up, from a sitting position, with both feet attached to the snowboard. Some people, especially older adults and those new to the sport, find that an unattractive idea. A second way of feeding the strap of a strap binding through the buckle is to stand up and bend over in a maneuver that resembles trying clumsily to tie your shoelaces.
Ask “are Flow bindings any good?,” and you will get a range of answers.
Simple to Use
Some people switch to Flows or Cinch bindings because they find that straps are too complicated. If you’re interested in enjoying time on the hill rather than fiddling with your gear, then perhaps Flow or Cinch bindings are for you. They can be especially helpful when you’re starting to learn how to ride: There’s no need to fiddle with strap bindings in cold weather or step on the straps while you’re skating around.
Like a Pair of Loafers
What do so many Grays on Trays fans like Flow or Cinch bindings? There’s No need to ratchet down after every run. Getting into the binding is quick: Slide in your foot, move the lever from its open position to a closed one, and go. It’s like putting on a pair of loafers compared with lacing up tennis shoes. You may find that this system allows you to start each run down the hill quicker.
Minimal Bending Over
A bonus is that you don’t have as much bending or crouching — good for the aging body. After you’ve been snowboarding for a while, you may find that you’ve gotten yourself into better shape. If that’s the case, the fact that you can save energy by using Flow bindings isn’t as significant. Then again, why make extra work for yourself?
And did we say that you won’t get a wet butt from sitting on the ground?
Enough Control? Yes!
There are several raps against quick-entry bindings. Some of it is style prejudice–the “you’re not a REAL snowboarder unless you do this” nonsense. You may also hear that they are somehow less secure than straps. If you believe that, just remember that some professional riders do use these bindings, and they win medals. So no, you don’t have to use strap bindings to be a high-level rider.
The most legitimate knock on these bindings used to be that they tend to be heavier than strap bindings. But quick-entry bindings have made a lot of progress and are now lighter than they used to be. So now the question of which binding style is mostly a matter of preference.