“Without doubt, this is the most anticipated binding release of the last decade. The internet has been awash with opinion since Burton announced they were revisiting the concept of the step-in – a bold move, given the obvious flaws in every previous incarnation.
As a double-decade veteran of regular straps, I could understand the scepticism. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – right? Nonetheless, I was determined to try these with an open mind. In short? WOW! For the long version, read on…
“I was determined to try these with an open mind. In short? WOW!”
First up, the mechanics. Getting in and out of the Step Ons takes a little practice. The mantra is “Heel, toe, go!” Sounds simple enough (and it is) but it’s definitely a little counter-intuitive (with a regular binding, you tend to put your toe down first). Before long, however, I had it dialled, and by the end of the day I was riding off the chair and clipping straight in without stopping. Hallelujah!
Getting out is a piece of piss. Just flip a lever, lift your heel and twist your toe (very like exiting an SPD bike pedal). The lever re-sets automatically so you’re ready to jump straight back in, which is a nice touch.
Once on the move, it’s a bit strange to look down and see nothing ‘holding you in’’ – it took me a few runs to really trust the system. But the strangest thing by far is just how normal they felt to ride – it is no exaggeration to say that most people wouldn’t even feel a difference between these and a regular binding, which is about as big a compliment as you can pay. If anything, I found it liberating – without the pressure of a clamp over your foot, you feel more ON the board, rather than IN it. In this respect, the riding experience is a little more like surfing or skateboarding – a little more… soulful, and that can only be a good thing.
Foot pain? I had none. Next.
Everyone rightly wonders how the Step On bindings will handle powder – the Achilles heel of previous step-in systems, which tended to get clogged. While we weren’t blessed with waist-deep freshies for the test, there was some overnight powder to the sides of the piste, and the Step On binders did just fine. Sure, you need to clear the footbed before engaging, but that’s just the same as a regular binding (no one likes snow under their feet).
“So many brands try to sell us on their incremental improvements… these, though, are a genuine revolution”
The only difference was that I had to wedge the board down a couple of times to create a firm enough platform to engage the mechanism. In seriously deep and soft snow, that might be more of an issue (likewise, I couldn’t test how easy it is to release your feet if you were stuck upside down in a tree-well situation) but for average sidecountry missions they seemed to pass the test.
So, are there any obvious downsides? The trouser clip on the back of the boot is a bit kooky, and a little flimsy. Clipping in on steep slopes is also tricky, since you need to push your toe down – making you feel like you’ll catch an edge. That said, you can always sit down like the good old days!
On the whole, however, the Step Ons were fantastic. So many brands try to sell us on their incremental improvements to the basic strap-in design; these, though, are a genuine revolution. Early adopters will enjoy a different experience to anything out there, while pro riders could even use them to push one/no-footed trick progression.
Above all, the convenience of the system promises to make snowboarding appeal to more new entrants – and keep them riding long after they’re too old to be sitting down at the top of every chair. For that ambition alone, Burton’s new Step Ons are a worthy addition to the Whitelines 100.”