EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Snowboarding Discussions, Gear and Instruction › Great Debate#2 - Are snowboard bindings not perfect?
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Great Debate#2 - Are snowboard bindings not perfect?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Another debateable item from Cindy Kleh's "Snowboarding Skills" book...
(did I mention that I really like this book)

The proposal is that snowboard bindings are not perfect because the screws, nuts and bolts that hold the high stress areas together tend to loosen up with every day use. The implication is that sometime in the future we will have snowboard bindings that don't need to be tightened on a regular basis.

I'm not a real engineer, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express once. It seems to me that if we wanted to have bindings that would not loosen we could build them today. But we would lose the ability to easily change binding settings like stance widths, angles, tightness, etc. I suspect that riders would not buy a binding that was marketed as "never gets loose" once they discover the trade offs that have to be made. But maybe at some point we could build a board screw that locked to the board when an electrical current was applied and could unlock with an opposite current?

What's your opinion? Anyone have any hands on experience designing snowboard bindings?
post #2 of 18
Snowboard bindings are far from perfect. Then again one can argue that ski bindings are not perfect either. A little loctite on the screws seems to keep the loosening problems down to a minimum for me. I am a 220lb rider and I have been doing this for over 18 years.
My biggest thing about snowboard bindings is the innovation that has been going on. For better or worse the industry has gone with strap bindings. I thought the step ins were coming along, but due to the shortcomings at the time they lost popularity. With the loss of popularity there was the loss of $$$ so the industry chose to pretty much leave them alone. That was too bad. I thought the switch and clicker systems were going somewhere. There was some durability issues and boot design issues with each system, but overall they were pretty nice. Straps are tried and true and are way easier to implement a fix on the hill with should they break. Probably the main reason they have stayed the standard after so many years.
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks killcimbz,

My strap riding friends tell me my riding is limited because of my step ins and that all of the manufacturers are pulling the plug on step ins. I thought the main reason for straps was higher performance over step ins.
post #4 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
Thanks killcimbz,

My strap riding friends tell me my riding is limited because of my step ins and that all of the manufacturers are pulling the plug on step ins. I thought the main reason for straps was higher performance over step ins.
Too many of the pros won plenty of contests for that to truly be the issue. For me it was durability. I liked my switch bindings fine, but I kept ripping the bails out of my boots. That is a pain to replace. Same problems with the clickers.
A lot of backcountry addicts try to get the clicker system. Especially splitboarders, it makes the transition a little quicker and you can rig a quick release in case of an avalanche incident. Guys like BCRider use this system. If you've seen him ride, I doubt anyone would think he's been limited.
In reality I don't think performance was the true problem of step ins.
post #5 of 18
The best rider, AASI examiner, that I have spent time with rides step ins. I wish my riding was as limited.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
I have both Burton and Rossi step in bindings and can make fair turns on either. The folks that say I can't ride because of my bindings usually say it before they see me ride. They also say that my step ins must be "loose", but I don't feel any looseness (delay going edge to edge or a tap as the toe heel moves through a gap between boot and the binding/board). Although I can feel the four points of contact in the Burton step ins vs the two points in the Rossis, I don't feel any difference in the responsiveness of the bindings. I've also ridden the Rossi rental step ins (no highbacks) with my regular boots (the rental boots have plastic highbacks built into the boot). The Rossi demo guys told me I could not ride that way (i.e. essentially riding with no highback). They took it back when I was able to hang with them on the Mach 3 free run we took at the end of the training session. Both the Burtons and the Rossis SIS have been bulletproof with respect to durability. The Rossis can be easily rigged for quick release by hooking a strap leash to the release handle.

I think much of the bias against step ins was a result of the early models which definitely were a level below straps in terms of performance (based on my limited experience).
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
It seems to me that if we wanted to have bindings that would not loosen we could build them today. But we would lose the ability to easily change binding settings like stance widths, angles, tightness, etc...
Hi Rusty -

Like you, I simply can't believe this is a real problem (for boards). There are zillions of engineering applications where a fastener is subjected to huge amounts of vibration, must not come loose on it's own, but must be able to occasionally loosened / tightened manually. Killclimbz nailed it with his comment on Locktite.

Lockwashers ( http://www.mcmaster.com/param/dsc/ds...h+Lock+Washers ) and/or Locktite 242 ( http://www.adhesivecentral.com/liter...eadlocking.pdf ) are the standard solutions for situations like this. If you need to experiment with the angles, first use only the lockwashers (no Locktite) until you get it adjusted to your preferences, then pull the screws one by one, apply the Locktite, re-tighten, and move on to the next screw.

If you don't need to initially experiment with the angles, go right to the locktite step, but give the board about 30-60 min at room temperature before subjecting it to snow temperatures.

Is there some reason board techs don't do this as SOP???

Tom / PM
post #8 of 18
I have the idea for the perfect snowboard binding.
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhysicsMan
Like you, I simply can't believe this is a real problem (for boards). ...
Is there some reason board techs don't do this as SOP???
Unlike you, I do ride boards. I KNOW this is a real problem. I have to tighten the screws on my teaching board every day. If I tighten them too much, the screws bulge the base out. If I was to lock them in place, then I would not be able to dismantle my board for air transport. As an instructor, I also get the luxury of changing stance widths and angles just for experimentation. Although I rarely get the opportunity, it's also recommended to shift your bindings back slightly for riding in powder. I do see the locktite[tm] notices of "can be separated with hand tools" - but that does not give me a warm fuzzy. My bindings do use lock washers but they still come loose. Could my binding manufacturer have chosen a more effective type of washer? Maybe so. My recollection is that the washers for the Rossi bindings are pretty lame.

Although this is a problem, I hesitate to call the bindings imperfect. I'd like to hear from the (cough) real engineers (I went to an engineering school but skipped the hard core engineering classes) on this one.
post #10 of 18

Binders

I rode step ins (Emery, and Burton) for several years. The Burton binders were definitely better in the performance category, but they were also a lot more adjustable as far as avoiding any gap between the boot and highback, etc. I gave up alot with the emery system, but still made it work. I am definitely happy with what I have use now (Burton Cartel and C60). I think any binder system will work crappy if it's not dialed in correctly. I will not go back to step in though, because I like the feeling of having my heel totally plastered into the binding and I can't get that with the step in's.

I do a regular check, about once a week, on the screws. Usually they're ok, but every once in a while one has loosened up and needs some twisting. I check my race and bdx boards alot more, like before every use. They haven't needed extra care so far, but I figure those set ups are being abused a heck of alot more, or at least being subjected to a different level of forces. Since I tune those boards more often, I'm already used inspecting them closely anyway. This year I rode a lot less (50 days) than normal (150 days) and I don't think I had sloppy bolts or did any twisting other than when making angle changes. I used to use lock tight, but haven't in a long time. I used to keep a tube in the locker.
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
... I KNOW this is a real problem. I have to tighten the screws on my teaching board every day. If I tighten them too much, the screws bulge the base out...
Hi Rusty –

Sorry – poor choice of words on my part. I wasn’t at all doubting the existence of the problem you described. Rather, I was trying to say that I was in complete agreement with your earlier statement doubting that the problem was insurmountable. My sentence should have read, ” Like you, I simply can't believe this is an insurmountable problem … .

Locktite

To address your hesitation about un-doing screws set with Locktite, it is not a problem if it is applied correctly. I’ve personally used Locktite since the 1980’s and/or directed its use by engineers, technicians or machinists working for me on various experiments. As you start to apply torque, the screw or nut won’t move at all. Then, as you increase the amount of torque you are applying with the wrench or screwdriver, the thin plastic film that the Locktite forms on the threads will suddenly break loose and the screw / nut will turn easily.

However, using Locktite properly is not totally trivial either. The biggest problems I’ve encountered in using Locktite are:

(a) Using the wrong variety: Notice that in the link I provided, there are separate varieties for different size screws, different viscosities, permanent vs. temporary locking, etc. Technician-level folks never seem to pay attention to this. If they see a little red squeeze bottle on the shelf, they put a few drops on the screw, no matter what it says on the label.

(b) Dirt / oil on the screw: This can cause poor adhesion. Obviously, the screw should not be intentionally lubricated. You wouldn’t believe how many folks with machinist backgrounds do this as a knee-jerk reflex to prevent seizing. If you intend to re-use the fastener with Locktite, it should be cleaned with (clean) solvent.

(c) A primer may be needed for the particular metals involved: Even many real engineering techs (ie, not just poorly trained seasonal ski techs) don’t even know about this issue. For example, someone may switch from a standard steel machine screw to a stainless one (thinking it has to be better), not realize that the latter needs a quick coating of primer (whereas the former didn't), and then blame the Locktite when it doesn't work.

(d) Locktite works better if old coatings of it are removed: Either a new fastener should be used, or the old one cleaned. Running a clean, new, tight-fitting nut up and down a machine screw that previously had Locktite on it is a good first step.

(e) Problems with blind holes: The air trapped at the bottom of a blind hole can push the locktite back out of the threads before it polymerizes. The tech has to apply the Locktite to both the male (exterior) and female (interior) threads in such a case to prevent this.

Lockwashers

With respect to your negative experience with the lockwashers on your board, your problem could easily be in the basic design. To inexperienced or non-professional designers / mechanical engineers, lockwashers look like incredibly simple devices, so they don’t give them much thought.

However, for lockwashers to work, certain fundamental conditions must be met. One important condition is that many lockwashers must bite into the materials on either side of it, or conversely, the surrounding materials must “bite into” the lockwasher. If the materials in contact have the wrong hardness (either too hard OR too soft), the serrations not sharp enough, etc., the user will be tempted to overtighten the screw. This can cause many problems, eg, deformation of the surrounding materials (as you observed), stripped threads, etc.. Obviously, this issue is closely coupled with the detailed design of the area, eg, number and type of threads on the fastener, length of the fastener, stiffness of the supporting structures, etc.

The problem you are encountering could also be caused by attempting to re-use lockwashers that are not designed for re-use. For example, the prongs on a toothed lockwasher are designed to partially flatten & irreversibly deform on each use. After a few normal tightenings or one good overtightening, the teeth will be pressed totally flat, and the “lockwasher” will no longer lock anything. It will act more like a regular non-locking washer. At this point, the user is tempted to tighten it even further. At the other extreme, Belleville lockwashers are basically springs which flatten reversibly on use, and can tolerate many more re-uses.

Now that I think more about the question I asked earlier about whether or not board techs use Locktite / lockwashers, the real question probably should be, "Do they use them correctly?"

Anyway, just some thoughts for a hot, wet day.

Cheers,

Tom / PM
post #12 of 18

Step in vs straps

Here's my take on why a lot of people like straps better:

With strap bindings, the binding straps act to tighten the boot. You could leave the boot very loose on your foot, but ratchet the binding way down, and your foot will be held in place. But with step-ins, you have to crank the boot down very tightly on your foot. And considering a lot of boots still use laces on an inner liner and the outer boot, this is really difficult. We have the Rossi step-ins in our rental fleet, and I've seen many renters with boots that are way too loose. There is no way they can get up on a toe edge that way.

Plus, when you take the board off your foot, or just take your back foot out to get on the lift, a looser boot is much more comfortable than one that is as tight as it needs to be for riding with a step-in binding.

What needs to happen is more advancement in boot design to use ratchets and other types of buckles and materials that make it easy to get the boot tight enough for riding, yet easy to walk in and be comfortable in.

I use the Rossi (old O-Sin) step in, and I never had any issue with how well the boot was held to the board, or entry or release.

As for the screws, theRusty, you might also want to consider grinding a half thread off your screws if you are tightening them so much that they bulge the base. But PMs post on Loctite and lock washers is also very important. I've never had a screw come loose on my free ride board (not that I use it much any more - but even when I used it a lot, I never had any issues). I did, however, have my front binding on my alpine board come comletely off the board while in the middle of a high speed carve once. Not something I'd care to repeat. But then again, I didn't have locktite on my screws. Since then, with the addition of Loctite, I have not had any issues.

I have heard some debate that Loctite will somehow breakdown the glues used to build the board, but I find that to be ludicris, since the screw is screwed into a metal insert, so the loctite doesn't come in contact with the core materials. And even if it did, I doubt Loctite would harm them.
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhysicsMan
Hi Rusty –

Sorry – poor choice of words on my part.
Tom,

NP - I was just funnin ya and forgot the smilie. You do provide great set up lines (see below).

I think you've answered your own question as to why. The locktite solution is much more complicated than simply retightening on a regular basis. Some might say too complicated for mere snowboarders. I don't relish the thought of carrying solvent with me in addition to my snowboard tool, not to mention actually using it on snow. How often do us instructors have to change a student's set up on snow?

As I skipped lockwasher class in school, I've got no way of knowing if the binding engineer made the right choice of lockwasher. Does the binding engineer have a guarantee of what material the binding will mate up against (i.e. fiberglass top layer?, metal inserts around the screw holes). Would a toothed lockwasher grind off the top layer of the board if the board was fiberglass? Would it be best to ship with two different kinds of washers?

Hmm - Maybe after rereading a few PhysicMan's Epic Washer Postings I can become a certified Snowboard Washer person? But seriously - thanks - I guess I've got the task of playing around with this stuff next season.
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnH
What needs to happen is more advancement in boot design to use ratchets and other types of buckles and materials that make it easy to get the boot tight enough for riding, yet easy to walk in and be comfortable in.

As for the screws, theRusty, you might also want to consider grinding a half thread off your screws if you are tightening them so much that they bulge the base.
Thanks John,

I knew I could get some useful stuff from starting these threads....

I have seen quite a few boots with ratchet buckle straps. Some even came with bubble gum to assist walking (you know the walk and chew gum thing).

The standard instructions I've seen are to screw the threads as tight as you can get them, then back off a quarter turn. If you don't back off, then you get the bulges on the bottom of the board. Besides, at my age, I'm not taking anything off my screws.
post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
...The locktite solution is much more complicated than simply retightening on a regular basis. Some might say too complicated for mere snowboarders. I don't relish the thought of carrying solvent with me in addition to my snowboard tool, not to mention actually using it on snow...
Yeah, locktite definitely shouldn't be used for day-to-day (or more frequent) adjustments, especially, on-the-snow. For one thing, it takes much longer to set up when cold. This is why you need a good lockwasher design. I would only use the locktite for my own bindings when I had them dialed in to my preferences and might only need to loosen them a few times per season (eg, for travel).

Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
...As I skipped lockwasher class in school, I've got no way of knowing if the binding engineer made the right choice of lockwasher. Does the binding engineer have a guarantee of what material the binding will mate up against (i.e. fiberglass top layer?, metal inserts around the screw holes). Would a toothed lockwasher grind off the top layer of the board if the board was fiberglass? Would it be best to ship with two different kinds of washers? ...
The order of components as you go towards the board should be: screw head, lockwasher, binding, then board. Thus, the lockwasher would only bite into the screw and the binding, i.e., materials that are under the control (more or less) of the binding designer. If the mfgr calls for a washer between the binding and the board, my guess is that it is only to act as a spacer, not a lockwasher. Am I missing something here?

Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
...Hmm - Maybe after rereading a few PhysicMan's Epic Washer Postings I can become a certified Snowboard Washer person? But seriously - thanks - I guess I've got the task of playing around with this stuff next season.
I dunno... the charge per credit hour is pretty steep ... however, if you keep giving my kid the occasional board lession, I'm sure we would work something out.

Cheers,

Tom / PM
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhysicsMan
The order of components as you go towards the board should be: screw head, lockwasher, binding, then board.
Oops - duh!

Heck - I don't think I even saw you or your kid once last season.
post #17 of 18
Personally prefer lithium grease over loctite for ease of adjustability, though you do need to check screws each morning. I am not an engineer, and am too dumb to figure out how to re-apply loctite properly in on-hill conditions. Don't view checking the screws as a drawback to the system.
post #18 of 18
Well I think JohnH pretty much nailed it down why step-ins became unpopular. Some more reasons: Early designs of step-ins would badly freeze. My Marker step-ins were gruelsome. They would always clock up so badly that I needed ski sticks to clear them. (between +2 and -7 Celsius). As well step-ins are not really designed like straps. For the same movement range you would need fixations at the back and front in the middle of the sole. Not on the outside. Just like with hardboot non step-ins. Why do extreme freeriders normally use step-ins (mostly Dee Luxe) --> because getting trapped in an avalanche you will just tear on your trousers and your board falls off. No way to get off your straps in an avalanche. Already reaching down to your pants is hard enough being caught. Regarding screws --> the design fault mostly lies in the plates, not in the inserts or screws. The harder the plate in which holds back the screws, the worse the loosening problem in general. Screws which have a very rough surface and grip into the plastic of the plate on the other hand never get loose. I have some binders I need to retighten every 2 days, others that I wouldn't need to touch for month. However I change the position of my binders constantly according to snow conditions (on my raceboard I don't change as much) so its not a prob for me. As well if the insert doesn't break out you normally feel that the binding gets loose before it comes off. If not check if your screws are really long enough. Oh my worst memorys about step ins are the first Raichle / Dee Luxe hard boot step-ins. Once I fell out of both binders at the same time. Some other times only with one leg. After the 4th time I got rid of the step in system. At least I didn't need new boots.
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