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 Post subject: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:03 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:18 am
Posts: 7
Location: Alaska
A little background info: I live in southcentral Alaska and have 55ish(?) days in so far this season, riding Hatcher Pass, Turnagain Pass, the Summit Lake area, and around Seward. I was also in the Whitefish, Montana area for the month of January. I picked up the AfterBurners this fall. Conditions this season have been highly variable, and I've often found myself sidehilling on steep, icy ridges to gain access to my lines. Unfortunately, the quality and dependability of the AfterBurners has also been highly variable.

January 15, 2014 (~20 days on bindings): The first thing to break was one of the pin nubs that hold the binding onto the ski in tour mode. I was on a tour outside of Whitefish and we had to endure sidehilling on a super burly rain crust to get up to our zone. I hadn't yet purchased the SaberTooths, so I was relying on my ability to kick hard into the slope to climb. After about an hour, I noticed that one of the nubs on my left binding was wiggling around. Fearing that it might fall out completely, we bailed on the day. The picture doesn't show the problem very well, unfortunately:

Image

Feb. 23, 2014 (~35 days): While sliding my right binding on to my pucks, I felt an unusual amount of resistance. Upon inspection I saw that the baseplate frame had cracked where the shorter heel lift comes in to the baseplate. This created abnormal stress on the baseplate in tour mode and resulted in a larger subsequent crack:

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baseplate fracture on the left side of my right binding

March 28, 2014 (~50 days): By this point in the season I had grown accustomed to checking my bindings after every tour for any hardware failure. I noticed that the metal heel piece that the highback angle adjuster comes to rest on had a small vertical crack in it. I had also been having problems with my SaberTooth crampons, feeling like the one on my left ski wasn't digging in so well. I saw that one of the slots that the crampon slides through to connect to my ski had sheared, resulting in the crampon shifting around vertically when in use.

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fracture on the metal heel piece

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sheared crampon slot

And this brings us to now. While on a tour a few days ago, I again felt resistance while attempting to slide my right binding on to the pucks. When I got back to the cabin, I checked and, sure enough, the frame had cracked again. This time both sides (left and right) of the binding had fractured where the smaller heel riser connects to the baseplate (the first two pictures). I checked my left binding to make sure it wasn't suffering from the same manufacturing defect and, alas, I noticed a small crack in the same spot (third photo). The crack on my left binding has not yet grown to the massive fracture that you see in the other photos.

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baseplate fracture on the right side of my right binding

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baseplate fracture on the left side of my right binding

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baseplate fracture starting on the left side of my left binding

To Spark's credit, their customer service has been stellar, sending out replacement parts within a few days of my submission of the warranty form. However, this cannot possibly make up for the frustrations I've experienced and concerns I've had when out in the mountains. I love the concepts behind this redesigned binding, but I am highly disappointed by its performance. I cannot recommend this binding to anyone until these issues are fixed. I will be returning (or at least attempting to return to Mountain Gear) these bindings when my spring/summer touring season finishes, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what Spark has done to address these issues with the release of the 14/15 bindings.

If anyone is interested in my thoughts on what might be causing these repetitive failures, let's use this thread to divulge into that


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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:14 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 6:48 pm
Posts: 673
Location: Kodiak, AK
That's an impressive list of issues. I would hope Spark has someone like you out on the prototypes to find the problems before the product ships.

What were your bindings prior to the new Teslas, and how did they fare?

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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:32 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:18 am
Posts: 7
Location: Alaska
Last year I had the Spark Blazes, and they were great. Had no problems until near the end of my season, when I noticed that the baseplate frame had cracked (more in the center of the binding, not where my AfterBurners keep breaking). I had way more days on those last year than I'll get on my AfterBurners this season (unless winter part 4 really produces).

I suspect the issues I've been having with cracked baseplates is related to the integration of the heel lifts onto the actual binding baseplate, as I never had problems like this when I used prior Spark bindings with the Voile heel lifts. I think having the heel lift connected to the binding puts some weird torque on the binding, particularly when I'm sidehilling, even when using the SaberTooths to reduce unnecessary torque.

I'm certainly open to testing prototypes for Spark, if they happen to be looking to expand that list of privileged individuals...


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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:56 pm 
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Joined: Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:48 am
Posts: 220
Location: Sydney
Looking at the pics of the heel risers I would say the problem with the design is that the load is supported by less area than it was with the old design.
Same load, less area = problems.

The more failures I see and experience myself the more I believe that aluminium just isnt the best material for bindings. Who will be the first to release some nylon/glass splitboard bindings?


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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 10:21 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:41 am
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Location: Altadena SoCal
Yea. Methinks it either a material problem or they simply drilled too many holes in the effort to reduce weight.


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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 11:16 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:26 pm
Posts: 17
Location: moose pass AK
Whatever the issue is I hope they do a bit more R&D on the next latest and greatest thing. Looks to me that you would be a prime candidate for a product tester.

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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:55 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:59 am
Posts: 270
Location: Amsterdam
Some people have a natural ability to break stuff. I have this with cars for instance.

I'm not sure there is another binding option that would be much better, I haven't heard of many people breaking Afterburners. It seems to me you would twist or crack the plastic puck before you would break the binding.

I'm just thinking out loud, but looking at that damage it could actually be a problem with the puck. Does it normally slide on very easy or hard?

I'm saying this because the crack starts in the middle (last pic) and if it broke from twisting it with large force the crack should start at the back. Also i've never heard of this issue besides in this case, not saying it's your fault, but if the puck would be a little too thick right where the crack occurs it could be forcing the binding apart causing the crack.

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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 9:29 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2007 9:45 pm
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Location: hopefully not at work
A couple of questions for context. Are you a larger rider? Are you typically 'harder' on gear than your contemporaries?

TIA

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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 11:27 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:18 am
Posts: 7
Location: Alaska
My bindings typically slide on with very little resistance. I take the time to ensure this is the case before I transition atop my line. I wouldn't think I'm overly hard on my gear, but I suppose I wouldn't really know how to measure that. This season has found me side-kicking into icy ridges more often than past years, and using my gear in more icy/windboard/firm conditions. So perhaps I have applied more torque to the bindings than others.

I'm about 6' and weigh 175 lbs. I generally carry a pack weighing ~15lbs (camera gear isn't light). I would say most people would laugh if asked to describe me as a "larger" rider.

Based on how the bindings feel underfoot when the failures begin to occur, I personally believe the cause can be attributed to the addition of the heel riser to the actual binding itself. When I've got my risers up and I'm on a steeper, icy switchback, I can feel my heel sliding around a bit when I step down. All of that sideways torque is transferred to the delicate metal that holds the risers on to the baseplate.


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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 8:48 pm 
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Joined: Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:48 am
Posts: 220
Location: Sydney
Heel sliding around sounds like pins moving


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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 12:36 am 
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Posts: 14
I ride occasionally with Alpine Hobit and am a friend. I can tell you that he is an aggressive rider but does seem to be naturally hard on his gear. I am a less aggressive rider but tend to be harder on gear. I have never seen him blatantly abuse any gear, though I have seen him ride with much gusto and ride awesome lines. He does ride more than most, if the rest of us rode as much we would be in much better shape. This is an unsolicited comment. Cheers


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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:29 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:18 am
Posts: 7
Location: Alaska
I'm curious to hear from other folks riding the AfterBurners - has anyone else run into similar problems? How many days do you put on your bindings? What kind of conditions have you been riding? I haven't really seen anyone talking about their impressions of these bindings, so I'm curious if folks just held off for the first year of their manufacture, or if the people who ride them just haven't really said much?


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 Post subject: Re: My 13/14 AfterBurner Review
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 9:54 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:18 pm
Posts: 591
Location: reno
I have to say that my Afterburners aren't stock to begin with. I incorporated flow highbacks with the addition of my custom sidewalls. Also added some toe ramps and removed the short climbing wires. These additions certainly have changed where the forces are concentrated so take it for what it's worth.

Heels sliding around point to the pins or the touring brackets. Not much else that could be no matter what you are doing. Of course kicking in those icy traverses won't help that situation either. Something I do which I think helps the pivoting motion is to use white lithium grease on the pins and bushings. I also put some on the sabertooth interface, but haven't used them yet.

Is the baseplate bent up or the rail broken and bent down? If the baseplate is straight then that tells me that the rear of your bindings are taking some hard upward forces kind of like yanking up on the heelcups while in ride mode. Maybe too much heel overhang and boots are catching in the snow/ice etc lifting up the bindings. Could also be from using the heelcups to dig the board into the snow as an anchor while booting up a couloir. I used to do this with my solid and sometimes my split when a little bit of up climbing is required due to bad line choices (ie the chute didn't actually go :banghead: ). Seems like your heelcups are set back pretty far and that creates lots of leverage. Perhaps the next size up would be more fitting and less stress over the binding. Not sure how the baseplates differ between sizes so that may not help either.

Anyways...Lots of possibilities. Hope you get it figured out.

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