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 Post subject: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:59 am 
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Hey, Guys.

So, I think we all sorta thought Burton was out of the splitmaking business. But, a while back, they contacted me about a prototype board. I was really skeptical at first… they were very hush-hush about the board’s development and essentially told me, “guard this thing with your life.” The board didn’t have any logos on it (it was a true prototype), and I immediately covered it with stickers and, as instructed, decided to be vague about its origins. I had been loving my Prior boards (both the solid and the multiple splits that I’d had the chance to mutilate at inopportune moments), and had just gotten back from the Mt. Baker Splitfest, where I’d had a moment to play with the Jones still-to-be-named Solution (thanks to the logistical and coordinational magic of the man we know as Mr.SketchyT). Last I’d heard, Burton had decided to forget about the splitboarding community and make a run for the woods. So, when I heard from them, needless to say, I was skeptical.

But, what’s a dirtbag splitter to do, right? A lot of you guys on this forum know me well enough personally to know that, for the most part, when someone gives me a piece of gear to take a look at, I do. Innovation that’s supposed to benefit the splitboarding community is always a good thing, I feel. And, every once in a while, I really like something and I’ll write about it on my website, in order to appear at least a little bit professional about this whole “professional splitboarding,” also known as, “live as cheaply as possible and work for two months during the summer,” thing. Ha.

And, as a true dirtbag, I’m a firm believer in the rider being above the equiptment. I never buy or ask for anything I don’t desperately need. I don’t need 8 boards or 10 outerwear iterations to make it through the season, and really, I’m not much of a gear whore. There are certain exceptions of course—bindings have come a long way recently, as an example. For me, in you-fall-you-die situations, I’ve felt a lot safer on my sparks than the old slider plates; there’s a reason Voilie has moved toward a spark-like design for their current binding offerings. But, for the most part, the physical fitness, mental fortitude, and, especially, experience level of the splitter tend to surpass the perfect sidecut or camber measurements of a board any day. I’d rather tour with a guy that knows the snow and how to slide on it, than the dude with the latest-and-greatest thing, and I’m sure many of you all feel the same way.

With all this skepticism in mind, I decided to give the Burton (FreeBird) prototype board a shot. My thought was that if Burton had taken the time to contact me for feedback about a splitboard design, maybe we’d all get lucky, and they’d listen to what I have to say. With nearly the entire bulk of the touring season ahead of me with the resort closing, it was perfect timing. And, I must say, I was really pleasantly surprised. So pleasantly surprised, in fact, that Ale Capone can tell you, he’s been borrowing my recently replaced Prior board for more than a little while.

Anyway, I’m really stoked on this board, and it’s been really hard for me to keep quiet about it. I hated keeping my mouth shut here on splitboard.com with all the speculation that’s been going on, and with Backcountry choosing it as a top splitboard of the year, I really thought this was the place for my review (as opposed to my website, which is where I usually post reviews.) Anyway, Burton pretty much just now said it was okay for me to post a review, so I'm getting this up as soon as I can. Please feel free to ask questions, as I guess the cat is officially out of the bag. No board is great for everyone, but as someone who’s been on nearly every board with an award in that mag, I can say that, in my humble, dirbag opinion, it really does outperform the competition.

Conditions Reviewed

I tried the board out in numerous conditions, always with my Spark Fuses and BD Ascentionist (also known as Voilie Tractor) Skins. When I say numerous conditions, I truly mean that I rode it on pretty much everything the mountain can throw at you--rain on ice, suncups, refrozen suncups, corn, mank, dust on crust, windboard, etc, etc-- pretty much everything, except for deep, dry powder and newly laid corduroy. If you’ve followed my season at all, then you know that I’m not exaggerating in this department. The funny thing is, it’s actually designed to perform best in deep powder, so I’m really incredibly stoked to try it out after a big dump this next season. The other thing I haven’t done all that much is rip the groomers in it. As you can imagine, I personally don’t feel like that’s too much of a problem. Given the performance everywhere else, I think we can pretty much go out on a limb and extrapolate that the board should do well on groomers. Not that the performance on groomers should matter, but in the interest of full disclosure, know that's somewhere I haven't taken it... please don’t get one for the groomers…

Initial Impressions

Before I even got it on snow, I took a look at the Freebird’s profile: it’s clear that the FreeBird is equal parts playful and bomber when carving at speed. It’s built to be surfy but precise, and has a directional emphasis, but could still be ridden switch. With just enough camber underfoot, you can still springload your turns, and with a rockered tip that’s still stiff enough to take a carve at speed on pure ice, the board should be pretty versatile.
Also, just hefting it, I realized it was astonishingly light, which made me worry at first that it might break easily. However, the beating I’d put this board through would soon suggest otherwise.

How It Felt Skinning

Generally, a well-made splitboard is a well-made splitboard when it comes to skinning. To some extent, they’re all the same. But one thing that’s nice about camber is that it sort of makes the board spring back up off the snow as soon as you decide to lift your foot at all. Consequently, I found that spring-loaded feel to be a bit fun on the way up as well as on the way down. Also, it was insanely light.

Ascending in General

It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a really light board. The extra freedom you feel with a lighter board is AWESOME. It sounds corny, but your feet feel just so… free. Having a lighter piece of equipment on the way uphill is great because you’re just that much less tired when you switch over to ride down. Maybe I’m getting lazy in my old age, but fewer ounces really are greater freedom. It just makes me realize how much more work we have to do than skiers on dynafits and carbonfiber skinny skis (not that I would EVER switch to carbonfiber skinny skis, don’t get me wrong). Also, if you think having a lighter weight board on your feet is nice, try putting it on your pack. On some of the longer traverses I’ve done lately, especially those involving a little more mud and bushwhackery than I would have liked, having a lighter board on your pack is a difference you’ll definitely feel.

A Trustworthy Ride

I still remember when I took my first turns on this board. On that particular trip, things were getting wetslidey really fast and there was some pretty descent exposure, so the combination of avalanche danger, no-fall zone, and a lightweight board I’d never ridden before had me actually pretty worried. But, my first few turns completely put my fears to rest. The board held an edge really well on windboard, and also floated above what could have been supergrabby mank lower down. After taking a few turns to get out of harm’s way and setting off a slow moving slide, I pointed it straight and hoped it would stay stable. I was rewarded with a stiff, damp, stable ride, and quickly realized that this board had gained my trust.

Testing Precision in the Steeps

After my confidence in the board improved, I figured I’d take it on some slightly steeper stuff. A trip to seven-fingered jack, with its exposure and steep choke of a couloir was perfect ground for testing out hop turns, straightlining, and performance on firmer snow and ice. I found that the FreeBird excelled at precise turns and was capable of stability at speed. Lower down, near the exit apron, it had softened up, so I got a chance to ride it in corn. Corn is awesome, and with this board, I was in heaven.

Perfect blend of Precision and “Pfloatiness”

Additionally, as the season progressed, I had the opportunity to further test the board’s stability on refrozen suncups, while taking moderate hucks, and at greater speeds. Again, my expectations were surpassed as the FreeBird performed magnificently. I got absolutely no chatter at speed, and when asked, the board hooked up on edge, engaging the rockered tip. The fine line between a floppy, flappy, and noodly rocker that floats above powder and mank, and one that is still stiff enough to engage during large GS-style hardpack turns, is difficult one to walk; I think Burton has done a very good job of finding the perfect compromise with this board. It’s also definitely a more stable board (for a splitboard) between the legs, and feels stable on landings.

Playful, Poppy, and Fun

A final shot of goodness in the FreeBird’s perfect potent cocktail of rocker and camber is the poppy, surfy, fun feel that the board has. I know this is in part because of the added stability of the Spark R&D bindings, but I really get the urge to session on this board. Obstacles become features, crevasses step-overs, etc.

Durability

I am usually pretty hard on gear. But I will say, I’ve been really pleasantly surprised with this board. Especially, the base! On the Alpine Lakes traverse, I dropped in a blind to a certain chute that I had gotten beta that it still went all the way to the apron. Trouble was, with about 800 vert to go, I found myself suddenly careening down the rest of the chute on just rock and vegetation. With all the scraping, tumbling, and crunching that was going on, I was sure core damage, and eventually, a new board were in order. But, the FreeBird took it like a champ. I can’t even tell you how stoked I was that both myself and the board, came out in one piece!

The Whole Package- Better Graphics Needed

One little thing Burton could stand to do is improve this board’s graphics, in my opinion. Maybe it’s the mountaineer in me, but I really loved my prior board’s topo map, an iteration of which seems to have appeared on Mr. Jones’s new line for good reason—topo maps are cool! Next time, Burton, give us some sweet mountain graphics!

Excellent MSRP

Rumor has it that this gorgeous piece of engineering will be priced at less than the competition. Dirtbags rejoice!

General Conclusions

While I knew I’d like the featherweightness of this board on the uphill, I was also pleasantly surprised that Burton had somehow engineered something stable and trustworthy that could withstand a beating, provide a stable landing, and give the feel of a bomber, sturdy piece of gear. I will say this: yeah, I think Burton’s been a little bit slow getting their shit together regarding more recent marketing in the splitboarding community, and they could stand to show us some love. But the one board they’re producing is definitely top notch and it does deserve the awards it gets.



Now if only it would snow!!!

One of the only decent pictures of me riding it that hasn't been purchased by a magazine (go to my site to see it in action more... the trip reports that go back to spring have me on it):
Image

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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:51 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 14, 2010 1:28 pm
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Location: Cottonwood, UT
Great review. It sounds like a fun ride. I'm interested to take a look at it now.

It may be premature to ask this since it seems like you have only had the board for half a year, but how do you think it will hold up season after season? I've been really disenchanted with Burton's manufacturing quality as they've become the Wal-mart of the snowboard industry. From what I've seen from my boards, my friends', and reviews I've seen on the interweb, delaminations are becoming somewhat of a plague for Burton now. Unless something has changed in the last 2 seasons.


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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 5:31 pm 
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Thanks for sharing your experiences with the board. But I'm left curious about the actual physical characteristics of this FreeBird of which you speak. I'm not clear if the board you describe was that swallowtailed Burton one that's been posted about recently in these forums. Might you be able to share:

Weight? Shape? Swallowtailed? Twin tip? Length? Photo? Insert locations? How far stance set back? Was yr board a prototype that won't ever be released, or an actual production model? Rocker/camber/rocker, or just rocker/camber? If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me? <lights and raises lighter>

Or would Burton shoot you with their satellite-mounted death ray laser if you told?


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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 8:09 pm 
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I don't think I'll be buying a burton anytime soon, but they definitely moved up a couple notches in my book by the fact they called you and threw you a board looking for your feedback. That's cool! But yeah we need better pics the only thing that stands out in that pic is your bright blue pants. Thanks for the post and maybe I hope companies will start moving more in this direction. Great write up a lot of right on things.


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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 9:19 pm 
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Sorry Bucky no swally split from Walmart and no swally from Walmart in the US period (The Stellar is WM's swally and its Japan only).
Here's the Freebird Utah. Yawn.... :sleepy:
Image
http://www.backcountrymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=503&Itemid=1

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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 6:52 am 
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Burton have totally lost me over the years, but I gotta admit, I'm impressed they stuck with it and got out a well-thought through board...tapered(?), light and versatile. It seems this thing was a long time coming. I'm curious as hell to ride it.


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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 7:49 am 
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Great review Kyle and I really like all the details you provided. Way more than the few sentences you get from the new Backcountry Magazine gear review for 2011 that just came out. I am curious if you sized up or down any for the Burton with tip rocker from a regular cambered split...


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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 12:27 pm 
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AWESOME review, Kyle! Makes me insanely stoked that Craig Kelly's legacy continues inside Burton.

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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:30 am 
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Kyle, Do you know how they cut the weight? I assume someone explained the board construction to you when they asked you to demo it and I;m curious how they did it. Very little in the catalog!

That alone seems to me to be the most exciting thing about this deck.


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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:06 pm 
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Yeah, I'd be interested in hearing about how they cut the weight too.....and what the ACTUAL weight is?

I just want light, strong, AND cheap. I don't wanna pick 2! :-)

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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:22 pm 
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Hey anyone know when it will hit the market I looked on burton website and didn't have it under there products


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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:00 am 
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November-ish


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 Post subject: Re: Review-- The Burton FreeBird: Setting the Info Free!
PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:06 pm 
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PhishermanPhil wrote:
It may be premature to ask this since it seems like you have only had the board for half a year, but how do you think it will hold up season after season? I've been really disenchanted with Burton's manufacturing quality. From what I've seen from my boards, my friends', and reviews I've seen on the interweb, delaminations are becoming somewhat of a plague for Burton now. Unless something has changed in the last 2 seasons.
I will be really interested to see how it holds up, too, but so far it's doing really well. I was surprised. I would go so far as to speculate that this is gonna be a pretty durable board. Like I said before, I was REALLY impressed with the base, which, amazingly, still looks next to brand new. I think Delam is more the type of thing that another 100 days or so will tell. No problems yet, but I've only had it for half a touring season...maybe 50 days of skinning & riding, which is nothing. On the one hand, I don't like to speculate, but on the other, I'm damn impressed with at least the base. Both prior splits I've had have begun to show major signs of wear and tear in half that time. All the chatter I've gotten from my contact is of the, we know we screwed up with the split market, we are mending our ways, sort of tune...so I hope they are making the sincere effort that they've conveyed....

singlewhitecaveman wrote:
I'm impressed they stuck with it and got out a well-thought through board...tapered(?), light and versatile. It seems this thing was a long time coming. I'm curious as hell to ride it.
yep, it's tapered by 7mm. that's about the only spec I know for sure.

jcmarechal wrote:
Great review Kyle and I really like all the details you provided. Way more than the few sentences you get from the new Backcountry Magazine gear review for 2011 that just came out. I am curious if you sized up or down any for the Burton with tip rocker from a regular cambered split...
hmm, you might want to size up a little bit, but the board is still only moderately rockered in the tip, so not too much. I'd say the 162 rides like a full cambered 158-160? Here's what the board profile, Burton calls it "S Rocker" looks like, according to their graphics team:
Image

singlewhitecaveman wrote:
Kyle, Do you know how they cut the weight?
That alone seems to me to be the most exciting thing about this deck.
AGREED! Light, cheap, and strong is hard to come by, as jbay and Backcountry Mag both pointed out. The core is made using what Burton calls "Super Fly II™ Core with Dualzone™ EGD™ and Negative Profile" translation: a whole bunch of lightweight proprietary engineered wood product...If you read about each of those features on the burton site, they sort of explain what they are doing:

Quote:
Super Fly II™ Core
Stronger and lighter woods target specific areas of the core to provide pop, strength, and reduced weight. Further optimized for float in our freeride focused boards, and strength in our park-focused boards.

Dualzone™ EGD™
The wood grain is positioned along the toe and heel edges, perpendicular to the rest of the wood core, for superior edge hold and added strength.

Negative Core Profile
The team favorite! Thinner sections of core between the bindings soften flex and torsion for a more playful feel and added foot control that’s perfect for everything from park to pow.

From comparing the marketing stuff they sent me to the boards they have listed on their site it looks like the solid board that it's most like is the Malolo, but there are some less than subtle differences, so I doubt it's the same mold (for example, the Malolo is tapered by 20 mm).

Unfortunately, aside from using my not so scientific bathroom scale, I don't know what the ACTUAL weight is :(

Someone from Burton is supposed to get back to me with more specific specs.

If worse comes to worse and there is interest, I can always take pictures with a tape measure on my kitchen floor or something...mwahahaha...

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