One of the big decisions riders need to make when choosing their gear is between rear-entry and strap-in snowboard bindings. On the surface the promise of fast and easy entry and exit with rear-entry snowboard bindings seems irresistible. Is that promise too good to be true? To help you decide for yourself I’ll share my experiences with both styles and summarize rear-entry snowboard bindings pros and cons. Then I’ll tell you why I switched back to strap-in snowboard bindings.
When I started buying my own snowboarding gear I first bought Burton Cartel EST strap-in bindings which I rode for a few years. Then I rode two different models of Flow bindings over 5 years. I went with the Flow Alpha initially then upgraded to Flow NX2-AT. I’m now back to traditional strap-in bindings (Union Atlas) so I’ve definitely got some experience with both designs.
To get the discussion started I’ll summarize the rear-entry snowboard bindings pros and cons in the tables below.
Rear-Entry Snowboard Bindings Pros and Cons
- Can be put on in almost any position
- Can be just as fast as Rear Entry
- Easy to get consistent tightness
- Plus CircleFewer components
- Plus CircleLower folded transport height
- Ladders must be fed into ratchets
- Straps can flop around while skating unless they are fastened
- No ongoing adjustments (if worn loosely)
- Slightly faster to put on (if worn loosely)
- Must stand to put on (or while kneeling)
- Ongoing adjustment required to achieve consistent tightness
- More parts that could fail
- Minus CircleInitial set-up can be more difficult
- Minus CircleHigher folded transport height
Now that you’ve seen an overview of rear-entry snowboard bindings pros and cons let’s discuss some of my personal experiences with both styles of bindings so you can get a better idea of what to expect.
Ok with standing up to put your bindings on?
One of the big things to consider is if you like to sit down on your butt to put your bindings on then you will likely find rear entry bindings to be a pain in the…ummmm butt. Ok that’s a weird sentence but basically the problem is if you’re sitting down then the highback will not have enough room for you to get your boot in easily.
If you have the balance to stand up while you put your rear foot into the bindings then you should be fine. If you are interested in rear-entry bindings you should be prepared to learn to put the bindings on while standing. Alternatively, they do go on fairly easy when kneeling. You can fully lower the highback and slip your foot in and raise the highback. But putting them on while sitting is a big challenge.
Versatility in how the bindings are put on is another promise some rear-entry binding manufacturers such as Flow brand bindings will make. With Flow bindings you can fully loosen the ratchets and un-strap them without lowering the highback like with traditional strap-in bindings.
I have found this is actually a must have in certain situations. For example, when strapping in on an icy peak. In these high stakes situations, it is more reassuring to sit on your butt and get your bindings on through the top of the bindings and strap-in in a traditional manner. So while Flow bindings do offer this versatility, it is kind of a clunky process and for me defeats the whole purpose of rear-entry bindings.
No adjustments (set it and forget it)?
Part of the rear entry promise is no adjustment is necessary (after initial set-up). If you are not picky about the consistency of the tightness of your bindings or like to wear them a little looser then this promise may come true for you. On the other hand, if you’re like me then you need your bindings perfectly adjusted to the same tightness every time.
With rear entry bindings, my typical process is at the end of a run I lower the highback and step out of the rear of the binding then raise the highback. Next, I slightly loosen the ankle and toe ratchets. This is in preparation for getting back into the bindings after getting off the lift.
I do this because it makes it a lot easier to get my foot in far enough before raising the highback. To prepare for rear entry I first find a nice place to balance. Then while standing I lower the highback and slip my foot in and raise the highback. Next I need to tighten the ankle and toe ratchets similar to what I would do with traditional strap in bindings. The main difference is that I don’t need to feed the ladders into the ratchets like with strap-in bindings.
The point I’m trying to get across is if you are particular about how tight your bindings are then the dream of just stepping in and raising the highback and your off is just a dream. There are a few extra steps as I’ve described.
If I don’t follow this process, then I often find I can’t get my foot in far enough into the binding. This means my foot is toward the rear of the binding which means when I try to raise the highback it needs to push my foot forward in order to close. But if my foot doesn’t slip in because the straps are not loose enough or I have some extra snow on the bottom of my boot or on the footbed of the binding then the strap is too tight. So I need to loosen the buckles and then retighten.
Are rear-entry really faster?
Considering all the extra adjustments I just described before and after each run with rear-entry snowboard bindings are they really faster?
My conclusion is they can be slightly faster. If you are not picky about the consistency of the tightness of your bindings and you’re ok with wearing them a little looser.
My feeling is all that extra adjustment before and after a run cancels out a lot of the perceived time savings. My experience with well-designed ratchets on traditional strap-in bindings is they come off pretty quick. And the ladders can be fed into the ratchets easily so you just need to do a few pulls of the ratchets and you are off and running.
Why is fit consistency and tightness important?
Ricky Bobby said, “I wanna go fast!” which he took from his father whose sage advice was, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
So…I like to go fast. I like to ride in a lot of different styles. But I also like to go fast and make high speed carving turns. I need the confidence which comes from consistent fit and tightness which gives the responsiveness to alternate between fast toe and heelside turns. I was able to achieve this with rear-entry bindings but it was not without careful adjustment before each run.
Folded Transport Height
Since Flow’s strap design has the toe and ankle straps connected into a mono-strap (or a Powerstrap as Flow calls it), when you open up the straps and fold the highback down into the footbed and re-strap you still end up with a pretty high profile.
Figure 1: Flow Bindings are considerably higher than traditional bindings when folded down for transport
The top of the strap is quite a bit higher from the top of the board surface compared to traditional strap-in bindings. Due to the mono-strap design the top straps cannot be moved forward to reduce the height. This means that if you pack your gear in a board bag you will probably need to take your bindings off for sure or at least totally remove the strap. Which means a little extra work when you get where you’re going and when you leave.
If you remove the bindings this also puts more wear and tear on the screws that attach the bindings to your board.
The other consideration is if you throw your board into a roof carrier on your car with several other boards it reduces the available space in there. And if you put them in a roof rack you will likely need them facing up if you want to avoid them touching the roof of your car. This can be a problem when transporting several boards at the same time.
Why I Switched Back to Strap-In Snowboard Bindings
Now that I’ve come full circle, the rear-entry snowboard bindings pros and cons seem much more clear to me. I’m glad I tried both so I can share my experiences with you.
But why did i switch back?
Overall, I switched back to traditional strap-in bindings because I am very particular about the tightness of my bindings. With rear-entry bindings I needed to compensate for the shortcomings of the design by using extra procedures and fiddling to adjust them each run which killed most if any time savings. I also like the low profile of the binding when the highbacks are folded down for transport.
I think the bottom line is you need to consider how picky you are about consistent fit and how tight you like to wear your bindings.
Hopefully this gives you something to think about and helps you decide when considering which is the best binding entry design for you.
Whatever your preference, if you’re ready to start shopping then you should check out our top picks for snowboard bindings including choices equipped with rear-entry and traditional strap-in designs.