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Softboot Bindings for Carving/Freeriding

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I am still searching for the ultimate carve/freeride soft boot binding, and since I have ridden hard boots, a ton of soft boot bindings, both Catek FR1 and FR2's ( the weight plus too many pieces of hardware always coming loose led me to part ways with them), as well as the new diodes (which flex too much when the re-flex bases are put at angles over 20 degrees), now drive's , and am currently on Union T.Rice's and was not happy with the straps, so I took the plunge and purchased the Flow NX2 GT's and a pair of Now O-drive's in my search for the best soft boot setup for carving/freeriding.

I am a bigger guy at roughly 220-225 lbs, size 28-29 MP boots (depending on brand) and pretty much only ride boards that are 182-205cm with Tankers and my custom Tinkler being my main rides.

I love the Power Plates as my hardbooting days have taught me the value of cant and lift (but wish that someone would make a carbon plate vice the milled aluminum as this would save a ton of weight without loosing performance). Not sure if any of these bindings alone will convert me to getting rid of my Power Plates, but we will see as I want to do a comparison of direct mount and power plates once I get some more time on snow.

My initial impression of the NX2's while floor surfing and adjusting bindings was great. Bindings look bomber and feel great with my feet strapped in. I do not have an accurate scale available, but they are only slightly heavier than the T.Rice's.

The Union T.Rice is a good binding, but the straps on the L/XL are pretty short and will not accommodate a large volume boot over size MP28 (Union will send you an adapter if requested). Since I had an extra set of older Diode ankle straps lying around, I put these on the bindings and they have been much more responsive as a freeride binding with the upgrade.

Of the three bindings I know have, the O-Drive appears to be the lightest, but is also the only one that does not have canted foot beds. Mounting the bindings and floor surfing felt pretty good and the O-Drives are significantly stiffer than the Now Drives and the T.Rice's. Interestingly enough, floor surfing response between the O-Drive and NX2 seems similar with the hard durometer bushings on the O-Drives.

Based solely on the carpet surfing, both the O-Drive's and the NX2 look and feel like they have a lot of promise, and appear to be a cut above the T.Rice's, but we will see as the only true test is how they perform on snow which I will provide feedback on next month when I get all three on snow at Mt Baker.

I hope that one of these three will be my go to soft boot carve/freeride solution.
 
cheers,
sandy

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Edited by svr
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Would you take Flow over Diodes or Unions? I'm deciding between those three.

I have not ridden the Flow's yet, but between the diode and T.Rice I would go for the Unions as the diodes flexed too much for my liking. I do like the straps on the diode, but the amount of flex in the baseplate was just too much for me.

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The baseplate-to-baseplate picture comparing the Flows to the Nows just convinced me to give the Flows a shot. That reduced heel loop is too hard to resist, especially as it's the only complaint I really have with the Cateks and El Hefes. Thanks!

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Have you thought of adding a 3rd strap? For me that made a huge difference in softboot carving. And its pretty easy. I used rivets but it could be bolted on too. My boots are old and floppy but it doesn't matter because of that strap. Just an idea

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Those Flows look quite exquisite compared to most of the bindings I see. Very minimalist/efficient use of metal.

Is the red stuff some kind of damping?

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Those Flows look quite exquisite compared to most of the bindings I see. Very minimalist/efficient use of metal.

Is the red stuff some kind of damping?

Yes, they call it EC Kush or something like that, but it is a dampening material that covers the entire base.

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I rode Ride's El Hefe's for years thinking I needed them for my 222lbs of fur ball mass. (Down to 204 now) I switched last year to Salomon's Defenders and could not be happier. I have more control with more freedom of movement, it feels like the bottom of my boots are glued to the board. I get absolutely no discomfort like I have with other bindings and less fatigue. Think outside of the box and check out the reviews at thegoodride.com. I like to think I carve as well as anyone here and I almost have as much fun carving my softboot set-up as I do my Coiler Monster. I've been riding a Rossignol XV (Xavier De La Rue's signature board) with the Defenders and I'm working on putting a set on all my boards. Kipp

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I agree that the Ride El Jeffe or Capo are very good bindings as well, but it just seemed to be too similar in feel to the T.Rice for me as it seemed only a little stiffer and a little heavier, but definitely more adjustable.

On the subject of boot out and overhang, here is my 03-04 Crown with the O-drives and my MP 29.0 (size 11) DC Travis Rice boots.

Keep in mind that this board has a 24.5 cm waist and is narrower than all of the rockered Tankers.

Cheers,

Sandy

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Oooh, the Crown. I shiver with admiration! I'll be interested to hear your feedback on that setup. I had a pair of those DCs that I quite liked before moving on to the Malamutes.

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Just got an evaluation pair of Ride El Hefes in the shop. They look fantastic. Best part, besides the full carbon fiber highback and aluminum chassis? They come with 3 different canting options. I hope to get out on them this weekend. Will report back.

 

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Edited by Apex Insider

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Just got an evaluation pair of Ride El Hefes in the shop. They look fantastic. Best part, besides the full carbon fiber highback and aluminum chassis? They come with 3 different canting options. I hope to get out on them this weekend. Will report back.

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Look forward to hearing about your report. I am going to demo a pair of the gecko stealth and free for my trip to Washington and will be using the with the Flow's and a pair of Flux DM's, so will post my feedback as well.

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Just got an evaluation pair of Ride El Hefes in the shop. They look fantastic. Best part, besides the full carbon fiber highback and aluminum chassis? They come with 3 different canting options. I hope to get out on them this weekend. Will report back.

 

And you can pull the parts tray out and then use the case as a boot box.

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I am going to demo a pair of the gecko stealth and free for my trip to Washington and will be using the with the Flow's and a pair of Flux DM's, so will post my feedback as well.

 

I sprang for the NX2 GT Hybrids and gave them a thorough workout yesterday on a Prior Spearhead with Power Plates in the trees, on heavy slough, windscrape and softer groom. This is my first time on Flows. The fit and finish are nice and a significant improvement over the last pair of NX2 GTs I looked at - and passed on - two years ago. The set up was easy and felt precise. There are a ton of micro-adjustments to play with, but I left things pretty standard. The "Carbon Support Panels" on the highbacks are some serious clown s*** though, especially compared to the substantive and functional carbon in the El Hefe highback. I know they serve different purposes, but the carbon rice paper highback filler in the Flows comes across as a ploy to trumpet, "hey, we got carbon in these things!"

 

The other noticeable thing is that the footprint of the XLs is gargantuan. I'm not talking about front to back but side to side. Boris Karloff's Frankenstein boots would have felt right at home. Neil Armstrong could have come in from a spacewalk and strapped on a pair, no problem. Huge. During the day, my feel migrated to the outside edge of the baseplate, leaving about an inch of space to the inside.

 

The one thing that hooked me was the amount of clearance gained by integrating the heel loop into the highback. With my feet (current boots are 11.5, but I had 13s last year), this was a selling point. The Flows did not disappoint. Centering my boots on the board gave me at least 5 degrees of additional lean before boot-out over the El Hefes. Not that I came close to employing all that lean, but it was nice to know I could if I was not lame.

 

Flow makes a big deal about the easy, fast entry with the collapsible highback. In theory (and on carpet), it's amazing! On slippery surfaces like, say, snow, it's a bit more complicated. I suspect this is all user error, but my ego would rather heap the blame on Flow. Getting into the bindings while standing led to some pretty comical, near-slapstick moments, as I drove my rear foot into the binding to get clearance for actuating the highback, which started me slowly sliding down the hill, generally backward. This "rear entry" feature may be more useful with a duck stance, where you can use your foot angles against each other. Having both feet angled forward leads to an awkward, scarecrow type movement to get the rear foot into the binding. The hinged highback doesn't work so hot when sitting down because you can't get the proper leverage to push your toe into the binding without contorting yourself. At least on day one, the Flows weren't any easier on and off than the standard soft bindings. But potentially much more humorous for onlookers.

 

Performance-wise, the NX2 GTs compared favorably to the Ride El Hefes and Catek FR2s. The ride was pretty plush and very responsive. Maybe not a responsive as the FR2s, but damper for sure. Even though there was quite a bit of deck space on the aircraft carrier, there didn't seem to be any noticeable slop which I was riding. The edges held well and I felt confident tracking over wind-carved frozen waves on the way to find softer snow. From a pure "how do they ride" standpoint, they seem on par with the Rides and Cateks.

 

During the course of the day, my rear heel started to get a bit sensitive, probably because it was levered under that magical heel loop. The front foot was fine. Maybe backing off the forward lean might solve this little problem. Also, as I've read in other reviews, a couple of times, the "locking" LSR buckles mysteriously released. I never noticed this heading downhill, but only when I was torquing myself to get into the bindings (seriously, I must be a total idiot). But I just released all the buckles and strapped in like traditional bindings.

 

All in all, I'll keep them. I need a few more days to determine if they'll supplant the El Hefes or FR2s but at first blush, they do exactly what they're intended to do. And the reduced north-south footprint is divine. If I can get smarter about getting my foot far enough in to engage the highback without sending myself down the hill, or find flatter ground at the top of the run, we may be onto something!

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Lordmetroland,

 

Glad to hear the feedback on the NX2's.

 

I am looking forward to giving mine a go here soon and will give my impressions as well.

 

I have also been told by some good friends of mine that getting the bindings setup may take a little bit to work out the exact setup, but once dialed in, they are great.

 

I am using the Fusion's, so we will see if I experience any of the same things that you noted.

 

cheers,

sandy

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I am using the Fusion's, so we will see if I experience any of the same things that you noted.

 

You know, the Hybrid strap may be the fly in the ointment here. The rigid toe cap (which I like the feel of, by the way, when I'm locked in) may offer too much positive, forward resistance to actuate the highback as intended. I can see the fusion strap being a better design...

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Hello

 

Flow makes a big deal about the easy, fast entry with the collapsible highback. In theory (and on carpet), it's amazing! On slippery surfaces like, say, snow, it's a bit more complicated. I suspect this is all user error, but my ego would rather heap the blame on Flow. Getting into the bindings while standing led to some pretty comical, near-slapstick moments, as I drove my rear foot into the binding to get clearance for actuating the highback, which started me slowly sliding down the hill, generally backward.

 

 

 

 

I bought and still own a new pair of the Flow NXGT bindings with the original straps.  The design and materials really are top quality.  The shorter overall foot print and the easy-quick in and out is what pushed me past the tipping point and had me pulling my credit card out.  

 

I read, researched and really wanted to like the Flow bindings ... but ended up not liking them.  The main reason for this is they were a real pain getting in and out of!  If I adjusted the straps moderately tight, the quick rear entry worked as advertised.  When riding, with the straps moderately tight so I could get them on and off, they didn't feel tight enough for me and the heel lifted in the binding.  When I cranked the straps tighter, they rode very nice, but I couldn't get the damn things on or off!

 

I PM one Bomber member who uses Flow a lot and ask what I was doing wrong.  He explained that you need to loosen the top strap ratchet off, like a traditional soft boot binding, each time you enter and exit the Flow bindings.  This did work, but seemed to defeat one of the main features that Flow claims; easy and quick in and out!

 

My son now uses these top end Flow bindings and has no problem getting in and out of the bindings as he doesn't strap them as tight as I do.  

 

The Ride El Hefes are my next purchase, hoping the adjustable heel cup, the positive reviews of the high back and cant options out weigh the large heel cup over hang; maybe a guy just has to buy a wider board?

 

Cheers

Rob

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Edited by RCrobar

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I have been on flow for 20 years and can attest to the great years and the poor ones. Flows latest iteration of the NX2GT is nothing less than amazing. I have the privilege of owning a pair of next years bindings. (Thanks Lucien) the straps are twice as plush and beefy from previous years. I have been able to break the strap on several of my other NX2's and Fliw is more than willing to send replacements. Usually a phone call and photograph via email is all that is necessary. Thunder is a great guy running warranty and is extremely responsive. Just don't expect white straps to arrive for your white bindings... Agreed that the carbon in the highback is a joke but being able to reposition the upper wing of the highback is great. I always swap and rotate/lift these from right to left so I get more engagement on the highback on heelside. Heel cup drag just doesn't happen with these. Paired with bomber power plates, it just doesn't get better... As for the easy in/out.... I too experience the lack of ease and usually have to loosen and relighted the ratchets on my back foot often. Lucien and I spoke at length and in 2017/18 the Eva footbed will no longer restrict that entry. All in, I'm flow for life. They offer the most rigid connection to the board without being in hardboots and the lack of a heel cup keeps my heelside carves nice and deep without boot out... Thanks again FLOW!

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....being able to reposition the upper wing of the highback is great. I always swap and rotate/lift these from right to left so I get more engagement on the highback on heelside.

 

For the daft, maybe you can provide a bit more detail?  I see there's an option to adjust the upper wing up or down with a couple of screws, but I'm not sure I understand what you suggest above? Again, picture your audience staring, open-mouthed with maybe a little drool at the corner...

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If you haven't tried this yet when getting in your Flows, instead of planting your heel edge into the snow plant your toe edge into the snow. That way you can kick your foot into binding with more force. I just get into or out of my Flows while moving.

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This is the new binding, you can see the upper portion of the highback has been removed from the right binding and placed on the left

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