While the snowboard industry continues to bloat with new boards being introduced seemingly on a daily basis, the soft boot binding world is separated into two simple categories: conventional strap-in and step-in systems. Within that sub-group there appears to be a common question: should I “Switch” or should I “Click”?
I’m a Switch- Autolock rider. I’m not on the company payroll or some sponsored rider trying to suck up for more incentive cash, and I rarely make anyone’s “bro-bra” list for free stuff. I’m just a regular rider who likes performance and quality.
Switch, based in San Francisco, is a company of snowboarders who were trying to build a better mousetrap, in this case a snowboard binding. From the caverns of their mad scientist like chambers came the Switch-Autolock 500 Series.
To be honest, I was skeptical at first. Why mess with something that works just fine. But I was determined to try the step-ins just so I could say, “Been there, done that, no thanks!”
After mounting the Autolock system to my board, (a Morrow Rail 55), and attaching the bails to the bottom of my Switch compatible boots (Vans Axioms), I stepped in and found that they were easy to get into. Getting out was almost as simple.
On the snow, I must admit that it was rather odd not having the pressure of straps across the top of my feet, but I didn’t miss the monotony of the buckling and ratcheting of conventional bindings. For me the argument about not having to sit down to strap in is moot, because anyone who has ridden for more than a year should posses the minimal balance it takes to strap in while standing.
Riding down the mountain is where I noticed the real benefit of the Autolock binding. A friend of my noticed it too. “Once you’re in these things are rock solid.” There is no loose connection with the Switch system, rock solid is a perfect description of the marriage of boot and Switch Autolock binding.
The best part of the Switch Autolock system is that they are easy to operate in ALL conditions. You can see the mechanism from all angles and you know precisely when your boot is completely attached because you can watch the cam close over the bail.
The snow conditions on my demo day were a mixed bag of dry and deep Utah powder, and the remains of old hard crusty snow. The responsive nature of heel to toe weight transfer in the Switch Autolock was similar to what you might find in a hard boot set-up. Carving was made easier on the groomed trails, while the powder riding was, well, it’s kind of hard to screw up powder riding.
I was a little amazed and a bit disappointed, because I knew my conventional bindings would go the way of old T-Rex. After talking with some pro-freestyle rulers, however, the conventional binding still offers something for those looking for a little more tweak-ability in the pipe or off big hits.
After a day of eye opening surprise I came to the conclusion that this was not a case of in with the new and out with the old, but merely a new option for snowboarders who want another way to stay on their boards.
I won’t ever be mistaken for a Rocket Scientist, but there are a few improvements that should be considered. My Vans were very comfortable, but some of the other compatible lines, tend to be a bit on the heavy side. Plus, the bails on the bottom of the boot could be brought in tighter to the sole. I say this because of the scratches I sustained on the deck of my board from the bail on the base of the boot hitting the side of the board when skating through the flats.
My final bit of advice to anyone looking into buying a step in binding is this: try before you buy. Demo other systems and find the one that is right for your riding style. You never know, you may decide to stick with the good old conventional bindings. Whatever enhances your riding and makes your snowboarding more enjoyable is what’s right for you.
I found the Switch-Autolock system to be all that and a bag of chips. I have seen the light, and I’m thoroughly convinced that Switch, while not done yet, has created a better mouse trap.