OK. A lot of you guys won't agree with me right now but I bet if you stick with this sport long enough a bunch of you will convert.
Strap style bindings are out. I know there are a lot of valid points about how the connection to the board is the best with strap bindings but the other factors overweigh that. I like how strap bindings feel but the bulk, weight and transition time make them obsolete for me. The best thing to come along for strap bindings have been the Spark and Voile models with the base plate incorporated into the binding but they still fall short for me.
For me, I really liked the old Clickers. OK, I admit that I had to modify my pair of boots and did the same thing for my chick's boots but man, you can't beat the minimalist binding and there's nothing quicker to get in and out of. Below is the binding my gal is still running. I know a few other dudes who've done the same thing. FREAKING MINIMALIST!!
Downfalls of the Clickers were: 1 They were discontinued! 2 No solid vibram sole (I scared the shit out of myself a couple of times helicopter guiding in AK on these banana skins!!) 3 They didn't have the longest life span 4 Many people didn't like the feel of them
So, after my Clickers wore out I had to do something. I liked the idea of hard boots for their plate binding and crampon compatibility. I also liked the hard vibram sole. But I hated how restrictive they felt. I like the feel of the loosest boot I can get. So I built a hybrid which I'm still running today. It's an old Scarpa that I chopped off and stitched on a leather upper with laces to snug it up. I also added an instep strap and chucked in a thermofit liner. I designed the Voile plate binding to work with the slider track and I was in there. This combo is very light and holds my foot securely to the plate while allowing the flexibility of my ankle that I like. It's not quite as quick in and out as the Clicker but it's WAY faster than strap bindings not to mention WAY less weight and bulk.
So, as it sits right now in my mind, there's no ultimate splitboard boot/binding combo that's available to the masses right now. I think a boot similar to what I built for myself except with the addition of an adjustable high back (low back?) on the boot would be a great boot/binding set up for many splitboarders.
Just curious if there's any interest? I don't know if building a splitboard specific boot is even feasible when you weigh the cost of tooling up to build them versus how many you'd end up selling. Also, I got something else with a totally different approach that I hope to be testing soon.
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:30 am Posts: 219 Location: Lost Angeles
I wasn't a fan on the clickers AT ALL, but that hasn't stopped me from spending hours of daydreaming trying to figure out how to frankenstein them into a "proper" backcountry solution. I agree that a system like yours may only CURRENTLY appeal to a specific breed but if you build it, they should come, along with technical refinement from the industry. The dynafit system for skiers is just far too lightweight and slick to be overlooked also. Straps make me feel like we're riding (soon to be) 'old timer' technology.
A 'hike mode/ride mode' high back incorporated into the boot would no doubt be a necessity.
Nice work and keep those guys for an 'evolution of splitboarding' museum one day!
Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2008 11:55 am Posts: 976 Location: Wasatch
cool post Brett. My dream is something like what you have, but with tech fittings on the boots so I can still use the dynafit toe piece. also if we are dreaming, a binding that is releasable would be pretty rad.
A split specific boot/binding combo probably isn’t economically feasible, but why limit the market to backcountry only? A good system could easily mount on the 4 hole pattern and take a large segment of the total snowboard market. If Spark boots added a Dynafit toe interface or custom touring adapter, it would be a huge step in the right direction. Strap binding in the pack on the up to save skinning weight, but with existing strap performance on the down.
Here’s the design I dream about when skinning, free for any manufacturer to build. Crampon compatible Vibram sole with Dynafit, NNN, slider pin, or other touring mode interface. Stiff leather or plastic/carbon uppers for both the freeride and snowboard mountaineering crowds. Drop the entire exoskeleton binding and slider track ideas, and put it all inside the boot. Integrated highback with walk/ride modes and adjustable forward lean (AT boots already do this). Integrated ankle strap (I imagine a boa-type system could wrap your entire foot from in between the liner and shell like Flows, but a regular external strap would work.) Bindings would be small metal interfaces that lock the toes and heels to each board half independently with no slider track. Think mini clickers for both the toe and heel side. Vibram sole has direct contact with the topsheet. I imagine a system that’s so solid you could ride just the toe or heel half of the board down an icy halfpipe like surfing a big barrel. The boot would need a serious shank to provide stiffness to the board, probably along with a center clip or a long pin that goes through both touring mode brackets.
This system would be incredibly light for touring with more mountaineering capability than soft boots, lighter than strap bindings for riding, quick easy step in for resort riding, base plate free for snow feel and energy transfer, boot flex could range from floppy for freestyle to stiff like a race boot, and it would work for split or solid boards. All the design elements exist in the market today between skiing, step ins, strap bindings, bike pedals, etc. So its just a matter of putting it all together.
I think the design problem you run into in trying to do away with the slider track system there AK is that the sole of the boot will have to have two real strong connection points on the front half of the boot and two real strong connection points on the back half of the boot. This gets pretty overly mechanical for something people would use on one piece boards as well. I don't think there is enough room on the sole like clickers/Accublade to have 4 connection points on one sole. Maybe 4 sets of dynafit tech type inserts per foot, but more like pegs than cones so they don't release. Maybe you make a little clamshell that snaps onto the sides of the boot sole. Given how hard a decent product like the clicker was lambasted, I don't think you could mass market (to all snowboarders) such a technical and spendy device to get over the cost of making it happen Then how do you make these attachments so they are easy to do with your boots still on in an alpine environment. How do you do it on the small size boots. Even the latest iteration of the Accublade has a certain weight to the boot and they have less sole structure than the k2 clickers do. I don't mean to shoot holes but came to this stopping point regarding a sliding track connection between the split halves.
You could have a slider track upside down and mounted on the board, cut in half. Then the boot sole could be the puck part with a little lip to slide into the c channel of the slider tack, but it sounds like a pain to do even in the living room. And I don't think those boots would be made for walkin.
In defense of ankle straps, it seems like even with a plate binding or clickers/accublade it is still very nice to have an ankle strap so you can cinch up a bit, maybe the unnecesary redundancy in a split designed boot is in the rear plate bail, not the ankle strap.
As the split systems evolve to become on par with solid boards (maybe their there already ) I think that a boot that functions to join the board halves may emerge. I see lots of AT guys riding their tour set-ups at the resort and ducking out to get some slackcountry. A system that we all dream about would give boards this same access (though this might be a little scary).
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:03 pm Posts: 221 Location: British Columbia
I definitely do not like the idea of anything that involves carrying something in your pack for the down. Just one more step. I want to see it all integrated if possible. I have Sparks now, but I do like how you can click in to tour mode after riding with Karakorams, leaving the binding on your feet.
Scooby, those are all great and valid questions that would need to be addressed for a new interface and I don’t have the answers. Old AT bindings all had a hinged plate until Dynafit figured it out. Look at what that system does with such minimal material, and it releases with a reliable DIN setting. Splitboards don't even need to release, although a rip cord would be a nice feature.
My idea is fuzzy on the bindings, and I only referenced Clicker as a general example. 4 contact points per boot would be too much, I envision more like a clipless bike pedal with two opposing rectangles or ovals that twist lock on the toes (non-mechanical), and maybe a clamshell or even pins on the heels.
Until then I'll keep dreaming and rigging ideas up in the garage. I find the ingenuity and DIYness on this site inspiring and proof that the existing systems leave a lot of room for improvement.
Maybe you could have a rotate-in piece as you described on the ball of the boot foot or front half. The the two boards could have interlocking pieces that kept both halves in the same plane. then you would only need to attach the heel in one place with something like an intec system, tech inserts, or a lock in plate like the dynafit heel, that did not provide a release like the ski version.
I would have thought that someone would have mounted their dynafit compatible boots through the tech inserts and replaced the heel with a simple rigid set of pegs in to a custom rear plate that would not allow release (pegs would be on a bracket for heelside clearance. It would take an extra long touring plate and pucks for most boot sizes to support the connections, plus squared off pegs on the binding and flat bottomed holes on the boot. Rughty could probably make those, burton does. I'm thinking you would put your heel into the pins, then step into or lever into the front boot pegs in something like the bracket offered by the french rando bootmaker. maybe out of stiffer springy steel with a long lever so you do not release without trying. Could be real light, low and easy to use. I can only make stuff out of wood, resin and composite, never machined anything metal really.
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 11:49 pm Posts: 26 Location: South Shore
Yes, it is about time that we come up with something better. And thanks, Cowboy, for your foresight and innovation! We all look forward to your next design contribution! I have been riding a Switch/Vans/Flexible boot setup for over 15 years, and it works for me. And fortunately, the web has a Switch market. This system has one distinct difference from the clicker, that it is a side to side boot attachment The boot has an integrated highback , with a cable, called the crosslink, attached to the instep strap. You can "lock" the highback, or release the cable for walk mode. While still being able to buckle down and pull your heel back as necessary, to eliminate heel movement while walking. It also has a steel shank in the sole, which eliminates any boot bend or flex. I believe this helps eliminate foot fatigue, and has direct transmission of energy and movements. While the highback system my not be the stiffest, especially for very hard snow, it has a very surfy feel, with any articulation of the ankle transmitted to the board. The binding system is minimalist, like the clicker, at only 550g a pair, The boots are pretty heavy, But with good traction, and with cleats on the sides, they hold well while walking on hard snow and ice. The snow/ ice cleanout is about the same as any strap system, but much better than the clicker. This system is far from ideal, but I believe it is the direction splitboard boot/ binding systems will go. While over the years, I have had many strange looks, laughs etc. I have had some redemption, when a saw a picture of international splitboard guide Scott Newsome rockin an identical setup as mine