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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tech Bindings? AKA "Dynafit bindings?"



This blog post should really be called, "tech bindings for dummies".  Much of what is quoted below is info I have filtered from Wildsnow, Teton Gravity and the posters there.  I have also read and reread the Dynafit manuals on the various versions of their bindings that I own and use on a regular basis.

But it has been only recently that I ever took the Dynafit style bindings seriously for anything but touring.  Now they are the only style of binding I am using skiing.  Differing models to match my perceived needs and gear.   I could be wrong on some of the details and others might well have a different experience or opinion.  Please let me know if you see something wrong ( which is why I have been looking for info) or want to add to the info.  Ski stuff is mind boggling these days.  This is written simply as part of the process to educate me.  If it helps other climber/skiers to figure out a new winter boot/binding combo even better.

Brian's blog is a great look at some of the tech bindings available currently.  Well worth the read.

http://www.getstrongergolonger.com/journal/2011/1/20/light-and-fast-bindings.html


I'll focus on bindings I actually use on my small quiver of skis.  Weight listed is ONE binding, not a pair.

Dynafit TLT Speed  335 grams



Dynafit TLT Speed w/ B&D top plates   269 grams





Dynafit  TLT VERTICAL ST  402grams  (no brake)



Dynafit Low Tech Race 124g with no screws (factory says 117 g)



La Sportiva RT 175 grams



So what does all those grams mean?  On my Hi5 skis the difference between the La Sportiva RT binding and the Dynafit TLT Vertical?  it is a SEVEN OZ. per foot!  The choice of the heavier TLT Vertical *might* be OK on a 188cm fat ski like the Hi5 that will see limited time with me pushing them up hill, (much as I love them going down) but it would not be a good choice imo on a shorter, lighter mountaineering ski used on technical ground going up and down..



So not all bindings are created equal.

The RT retails for: $749.95
*5-10 RV not DIN range 175 grams (no brake weight)

The TLT Vertical retails for:  $478.95 (price includes a ski brake)
*5-10 RV not DIN range 402grams (no brake weight)

Dynafit TLT Speed is the "original".  Now a classic, time tested and still as good as any of them imo.   At 335 grams each, still a light weight compared to traditional down hill bindings.  But heavy compared to a 135 gram race binding.  But what binding isn't?    The Speed also has all the *release options* that many prefer.

Say what?  Release options?  Like,  some have a release option and some don't?  Well, yes, now that you ask.  Some have a release option very similar to a typical downhill DIN rated ski binding and  SOME DON'T!

That doesn't sound good does it?!

Some where on the Vallee Blanche or at Grand Montets last winter after a second pre-lease from having snow and ice on my boot soles, my partner that day said, "you need to lock your bindings."   "Just pull up the toe piece lever."

It would have been better to just stop and clean off my boot in retrospect, which I did do.  But even better would to actually know how Dynafit style bindings should work!   

Hint..??!!   Locking the toes gives you something like a number of 17 DIN on the toe release of the tech style bindings.

This is an important tech tip for all these bindings, by Mtn. Guide Mike Bromberg, from his web site:

"I regularly will lock my toe pieces a few clicks to insure that the pins are properly seated in the tech fittings. Once I’m confident that they are properly engaged/ice free, I push the lever back down to ski mode. I’m confident that nearly 100% of pre-release issues involving tech bindings are related to inattention during this step, and this is a simple way to verify proper attachment. This process has been much easier with the PLUM guide’s and I’m finding that I rarely have to bend down to help facilitate this process."

More of Mike's Plum Guide binding review and a link to his website at teh bottom of this blog post.


There is an option to shed some of the weight from the Dynafit Speed by pulling off the original climbing plate and adding a pair of B&D Ski Gear top plates.  Elevators are 86g per pair (3oz), plates 20g (.7oz)pair.
That will drop around 66 grams per pair or 2.3 ounces.  It all adds up when you start counting ounces.  But it will also eliminate your high touring position.  Make sure your boots are up to the task before you make that change.

The real light weight in the bunch of bindings that I own is the Dynafit is the Low Tech Race Auto. This binding is self locking,,,so you get something clsoe to a 7 DIN in the heel release and a 17 DIN in the toe.  But I also  keep them on short skis.  I use them on two skis, a pair of 162cm and 167 cm skis.  Skis that I always ski in control and in places I'd rather not drop a ski for any reason.   At 124 grams per binding or right at 8.75 oz. per pair (screws not included).  Both sets of my mountaineering ski with the Low Tech Race bindings come in under 6 lb total.   Worth the trade off for me so  far.  No brakes of course.  But I do use leashes if I am not running brakes.

"■ Lou December 16th, 2009 9:21 pm
"a ton of people in EU tour on this stuff. It’s very popular, especially in social groups where racing and super fitness are practiced. I’ve tried touring on some lightweight rigs and really don’t like the lack of ski brakes, but it seems a lot of people don’t care one way or the other about brakes. Most of those folks are such good skiers they rarely fall and hardly ever release from a ski. Lot’s of them ski with the toes locked. It’s actually gotten pretty crazy. Reminds me of telemarking at its peak in North America, e.g., all sorts of innovation, and who cares about safety release or ski brakes? Yeah, safety lateral release is over rated.
BTW, remember that with a locked “tech” type binding you can still release vertically at the heel, so perhaps that mitigates some of the risk of skiing with the toe locked"

http://www.wildsnow.com/2275/dynafit-tech-bindings-review/
 
"■Euro Rob December 17th, 2009 4:15 am
"Apart from what Lou said about the race-style touring that’s increasingly common over here in Yurp (good skiers, lightweight gear and humans) it probably also makes a difference that virtually everyone with race bindings is on 150-164cm skis. They don’t get tangled as easily as longer ones when falling, so the risk of injuries is lower. Also people don’t go hucking cliffs with those sticks."

Here is another  comment on the short ski issue more to the point:
http://www.vermontskisafety.com/vsropski2.php
 
"Opinion: Skiier/Rider Issues
Subject: Skiboards and other skis without release bindings.
Any ski, short or long, without a release system is potentially dangerous.

A current practice with the potential to dramatically increase the incidence of lower leg injuries is the proliferation of short skis with non-releasable bindings. A study we presented earlier this year demonstrated that lower leg injuries were four times more likely when using such products, than with conventional rental equipment incorporating releasable bindings. Since short skis are also available in combination with releasable bindings, there seems to be no reason to sell or rent such a product. Any ski, short or long, without a release system should be considered potentially dangerous and should not be sold or rented without both parties recognizing the increased risk of lower leg injury associated with its use."

*Carl Ettlinger - Adjunct Asst. Professor, College of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, and President, Vermont Safety Research, Underhill Ctr., VT 05490
**Dr. Jasper Shealy - Professor, Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY 14623

And is my own experience?
I have pre-leased from the Speeds set on really light weight settings.  Not paying attention to my boots soles was the issues.  Both easily solved.  No need to lock the toes if the binding is correctly adjusted and your boot soles and binding boot holes clean.

Now that I am paying attention to both settings and boot soles I have NOT had a pre-lease in the TLT, Speed, Race or the RT.  But I can also count on one hand the number of falls I took in 2011.  Not that I am such a good skier but that I make every effort to ski in control.

The current Low Tech Race?  I have been able to ski my steepest lines to date and had the most fun skiing and touring, ever, on the low tech bindings.  I have also been doing some limited side hill and lift skiing on the Low Tech Race binding as well as touring.   But that isn't a recommended use of that binding .   And no question a titanium heel piece, bolt/springs, have no business being used there.  It is simply a waste of good technology/titanium.  Better used on JUST race day imo.  At least till I get the steel replacement springs.  But then how do you know if  your bindings are reliable.  Catch 22 for me.  Steel is a better option there on my ski.   I am no fly weight at 200# fully kitted out in ski gear.   No pre-leases from any of these bindings,  But all four styles of the bindings have come off when required.  Even the Low Tech Race.  Admittedly the Race release was a little on the "nervous side".  Nervous because I was glad they DID release!

A interesting observation for me about using race gear.  If you are to take advantage of race technology you have to mimic much of the current race mind set.  The LowTech race has no "flat" setting on the heel.  You are either locked in for skiing or you have a mid height elevator lifting your heel.  Nothing in-between.   Seems like a engineering/design mistake to me not to have both a flat and a bump above for steeper skinning. Plum race binding heels are the same or a very similar set up BTW.   So everyone but me  seems to have the magic numbers on this.  A little research shows World Cup racers skating the flats....so it begins to make sense.  Once I started skating and herringboning mild inclines I didn't notice the need for a "flat boot" as much.  But with no down side or added weight involved to make a flat boot possible on the Low Tech Race I still call that one a design flaw.   Boot/foot angle not with standing.   I'm likely to use the same gear on Denali (Low tech race binding, TLT5 and a 167cm Hidden Peak ski) and I can't easily envision skating any where between the air strip and  11,000 feet.  So I would really like a flat boot some times.  But the point is, if you want to use the lightest and generally  most efficient gear, be it clothing, ski, bindings or poles be prepared to make adjustments in your technique and maybe learn new skills as well.   Fair trade...most of the time..... I think.

One thing that might make a difference that is not likely a race technique from what I have seen on videos.  With a low tech you'll want to stay in control and NOT fall.  Easier said than done. But if you choose a binding without full release values something to put in the back of your mind before it bites you,  hard.

Now that I know what a "locked toe" means I admit to being a little nervous myself.   But it is a road you'll likely not turn around on once you have carried and skied on a low tech binding.  The weight saving and simplicity are addictive.

Luckily there are several new bindings, the RT and Plum's offerings, that will give you full release values and a light weight binding as well.  So you can choose what is important to you.  I admit to finally balking at the prices.  The lightest low tech bindings did end up on some of my own gear.   But they are quiver skis.  The quiver allows me to choose what I ski and what binding I spend the most time going up hill on.  Low techs work there.  But hard for me not to I prefer a full lease binding now that the weights are coming down to rival the low techs.  Plum in particular seems to have done the tech bindings at a new level of quality that hadn't been seen.  More on the Plum bindings in the links below.


Three of the quiver with bindings that I think match my use of the ski.


I can't think of a sport where you pay this kind of $/per oz. ratio.  Even pro level road bike parts don't compare.  Race car parts and custom firearms aren't even in that kind of  price range.

But if the TLT5 Performance boot is any example the  race technology will eventually filter down to everyone and the consumer prices will drop as they do.

Although I have not skied on this binding yet, they are well worth a critical look if you are in the market.

Plum, the company, the bindings and order info here:

http://www.fixation-plum.com/catalogue-fixations.php?lang=en


More on the Plum Race bindings here:
http://skitheory.blogspot.com/2010/12/plum-race-135-145-185-bindings.html



More on the Plum Guide by Guide Mike Broomberg here:
http://www.mikebromberg.com/plum-guide-binding-review/



Here is a guy known for cranking his bindings to "full lock mode* and always being  in control  :)
DIN of 12 ya think?

                      "GLEN PLAKE skiis the PLUM "Guide"!


              Photo courtesy of Glenn Plank and the Plum web site.


22 comments:

Ivan said...

Dane

Good info on the "Tech" style bindings. I have been mounting and servicing them since the first generation Dynafits (early 90's). One thing I recommend for mounting and set up is to check both boots for being the same length. For this reason when I install them I request both boots. I have seen 1 and 2mm variations in sole length which can adversely affect release and retention when the spec is 4-6mm. If I encounter soles with a slight difference in length I mark and set up a left and right ski.

Ivan

Dane said...

Great info Ivan, thanks. Locally (Seattle Area) the Low Tech Race bindings are new to both Dyafit shops I have had mount mine. Ski techs weren't pleased with the three hole back and the "one chance" to get it all right.

My TLT 5s are fine ( I measured them just now). But the techs who mounted them for me only asked for one boot :) But I can see where there could be some real problems..thanks for pointing it out!!

Anonymous said...

Nice writeup. Timely, too. I'll be in the market this winter for a new ski/boot/binding setup once I finish school and move into a paying job. TLT 5 is a given and I saw you have the identical ski setup I've been considering in the BD Aspect with Speed binding. How has that worked for you? For a one ski, do it all from long tours to ski mountaineering to a few resort days, whats your opinion?

Dane said...

Anon? Aspect as the one do it all machine? Funny that is the one ski I bought as a ONE ski quiver. Now I have 5 new pairs of ski.

The plus side? Colin Haley, who BD sponsors, took Aspects and TLT Ps to Denali this year. And I know he skis the Aspect every where in Cham. Seems to work for him.Take a look at all the stuff Colin is doing in his. His blog is great.

The Aspect would not have been the ski I would take to Denali.

I am on 178 Aspects. And hey are as light as anything in their class. That is mid length (an mid width) in my new skis. Shortest thing is a 162, longest a 188. I first tried the Aspects with 404s so I could also use my Spantiks and Primes with them in the Alps. Bad idea. That combo, Spantik and Aspect sent me looking for the TLT 5s. Skis had already proven themselves with decent ski boots.

As an all around ski I really like the Aspects. But I take BDs logo to heart, "it is all about the down". When it comes to serious touring (read mostly uphill) I want something lighter and skinnier. Aspect is 130/90/117which is mid or getting "fat" these days. 90 at the waste isn't any thing BIG. My Hi5 is just getting BIG at 105 at the waste. I do like the amount of side cut on the Aspect along with it's width. Which is why I decided on it as my "one" ski. With DB top plates on the Speeds in a 178cm they weigh 8# even. Both pair of of my shorter skinnier touring/mountaineering skis weigh 6# even.

Great ski, just don't expect too much from it and you'll be happy. As I said I wanted just one ski and over time I thought the Aspect needed some help.

I'll likely take either two or three pairs of ski back to Chamonix this winter. I'll take shorter mtneering skis for sure @6#and I'll take the 188cm Hi5s. The Aspects is the one pair I am debating. The Aspects easily beat out my Stokes on that decision though.

Although I don't mention any details on how the Aspect skis some good numbers to make a comparisons in the Hi5 review.

Bottom line? I ask myself that question again on a regular basis. Yes, of the multiple choices available, the Aspect would still be the one ski I would buy to do everything.

Dane said...

And this I did forget...with all the mind bending I was doing answering your comment. How does the Aspect ski? They REALLY DO RIP on the down :)

Mike Bromberg said...

Nice post Dane. It looks like the PLUM guide has been updated to a new toe lever.

That is going to be a huge improvement...

Dane said...

Thanks Mike. Good to get your feed back. Your article on the Plum Guide binding is a definative article I think on the use of *all the tech style bindings*. Your tech tip of locking the binding to clear the pin holes and then unlocking them to ski was exactly the kind of info most of us need. I didn't find that bit repeated anywhere else and I was looking.

Jonathan Shefftz said...

“There is an option to shed some of the weight from the Dynafit Speed by pulling off the original climbing plate and adding a pair of B&D Ski Gear top plates. That will drop around 130 grams per pair or 4.5 ounces.”
– I’ve measured it at less than an ounce per binding, so you’re off by a factor of over 2x.

“The LowTech race has no "flat" setting on the heel.”
– So exactly what happens when you rotate the heel unit 90 degrees? With my Plum race bindings, that provides for a flat setting (actually, slightly negative), which is useful for extended stretches of nearly horizontal terrain.

Dane said...

Thanks Jonathon. That is why I asked.:) I just weighed the B&D plates and elevators again on the Speeds. Elevators are 86g per pair (3oz), plates 20g (.7oz)pair. Weight savings is 2.3 oz.

It wasn't doubled so no clue how I came up with that number.

I will edit that one. Much appreciated.

On the Low Tech Race? If you rotate 90 degrees you can ride a flat (or slightly negative) ski.

But there is no detent at 90 degrees on these so the binding will quickly move to the detented 45 position and snag the boot. I was convined the shop mismounted them the first time out. But John Milne verified the setting as correct. Rather disappointing as you might suspect.

Kirk Turner said...

Just as an FYI I essentially made B & D plates out of 1/16in polycarbonate sheets that weigh in at 4g each. After a season of full use they are sill going strong with no problems or cracking. I can post photos if anyone is interested.

Dane said...

Hey Kirk, great blog and awesome line you guys just got in. Well done! Send me the pics and I'll add them and a link to your blog.

best, Dane

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that write up on the Aspects, Dane. 8lbs a pair sounds great to me! My current 3rd hand setup is 8 per ski and don't even ask about the boots...

Anonymous said...

Great overview of the tech system. I also think the idea and hopefully a trend of using ski boots for climbing (or tech fittings on climbing boots!) has great promise. I recently bought some Silvrettas for approach, but now with the TLT5 and being able to take skis for decent while still being light and flexible on the up opens up so many more possibilites for speed and safety and fun.

The one issue I see with using dynafits for climbing is possible damaga from rock. Have you ever heard of this? Any ideas on protecting the fittings? I I've also run into the problem of mud building up in the front and rear fittings during an approach, which then freezes after getting on the snow. During transition it takes 10 minuts to clear out the fittings - especially the rears - with an ice tool in order to get the skis on. Any ideas for preventing this as well?

mtnsaremyhome said...

http://mtnsaremyhome.blogspot.com/2009/12/new-race-skis.html

I also have these plates on a set of Broad Peaks I have too many pairs of skis....

Yeah the picket trip was amazing in so many ways!

Nice blog to you too, I'm kind of a gear nut/industrial design student and I try to say up on happening things.
Cheers!
Kirk

Jonathan S. Shefftz said...

Dane, regarding:
"And no question a titanium heel piece, bolt/springs, have no business being used there."
-- Is that in the heel unit or the toe unit of the race binding?

Dane said...

Jonathan,

I was talking about the titanium U shaped heel spring. They just wear too fast fro my own use. But the up side to that is Dynafit will have steel springs available shortly.

Steve Sellers said...

Nice info. I would add the Haero Montura bindings as well. I have those on my race skis. On the Haeros (as I suspect on the other race tech bindings) with the binding at 90Degrees I am able to ski a flat ski. However, the tolerance is quite narrow. I actually filed just a tiny wee bit off one side to allow me to do this. Harrowing with a 500$+ binding

Anonymous said...

Dane, do you know if there are any tech bindings made here in the USA? All seem Europe or Canada.

thanks.

Dane said...

All Euro products afaik.

Jonathan S. Shefftz said...

Dane, was the wear in the form of grooves/notches on the heel pin/fork/U-shape-thingie (where the boot's heel interface rests when skiing)? And did it eventually get so rattly that you replaced it with a steel version, or...?

Dane said...

Hi Jonathan,

"was the wear in the form of grooves/notches on the heel pin/fork/U-shape-thingie"

yes ;-)

"And did it eventually get so rattly that you replaced it with a steel version, or...?"

It hasn't gotten that bad yet. Still annoying. I was never able to get the steel replacement springs from John M. but he did send me spare Titanium ones. John, you listening ?!!?? Just haven't gotten to a place where I think they need replacing yet. But it will be this season for sure. Love the bindings but would rather have a steel spring for the difference in grams.

Jonathan S. Shefftz said...

Dane, thanks for the update. I’ve had a pair of those bindings sitting here since the spring for my next rando race setup, but I had totally forgotten about your experience, especially since until I finally noticed the grooves/notches in my two pairs of titanium Plum 135 heels this summer, I hadn’t quite understood your problem.
According to Plum, titanium is so much stronger than steel that breakage is not a concern, or rather, essentially the rattling/looseness of the heel pins will compel swapping them out for a new fork long before they would ever break. (Placing one boot in a Plum 135 and another in an ATK/Sportiva RT, I can definitely notice that difference when rocking them back and forth by hand, although they still skied fine this past season.)
Seems like the Dynafit Low Tech Radical uses a steel fork in its race heel (which is combined with a standard Speed Radical toe), so Dynafit definitely has a compatible steel fork (somewhere...).