By: randosteve|Posted on: December 21, 2011|Posted in: Gear, Gear Reviews | 47 comments

In the world of AT tech bindings, not only are there new “players” entering into the market every year (mainly copying many of Dynafit’s expired patents), companies like Dynafit are continually pushing binding designs and innovation to make the bindings we use…better. While companies attempt to test their products to the full extent prior to launch, occasionally, a bad batch of raw materials sometimes sneaks through the cracks, and/or when products are released to the mass market, to a full range of abilities, body types and experience levels, sometimes issues that weren’t noticed during testing, may become more visible once more people start using a product.

Currently, it appears as though both Plum and Dynafit are both having some issues with their recent binding releases. With Plum, it seems as though there may be some durability issues with their Guide binding, while at the same time, Dynafit is reporting a technical upgrade soon to be available for their new Radical series of bindings, which seems to be having a little issue with the counter-clockwise-only rotation mechanism in the heel-piece.

While I’m not currently in contact with Plum (if you are…please feel free to chime in), the maker of the Plum Guide binding, as well as other tech binding options, I’ve been following this thread on Teton Gravity Research’s Tech Talk forum.   In the 13-pages, there is talk of a few heel pin failures, where a heel pin has broken right at the interface with the housing on the heel-piece.

Plum Guide binding pin failure.
Photo by NHBrooks, courtesy Teton Gravity Research.

While it is important to not get too worked up about a handful of binding breakages, especially with the abuse that us free-skiing Americans put on the these lightweight bindings by mounting them on big, stiff skis and driving them with big, heavy boots, the broken heel pins are worth noting since the Guide is relatively new and the number of units out in the field, is most likely rather limited.  I haven’t heard of or seen an official response from Plum regarding these broken heel-pins, which leads me to believe they think the breakages aren’t relevant and are only isolated instances, it would still be nice to hear that straight from the horse’s mouth…instead of just assuming it to be the case.

The other tech binding tweak/issue is related to the new Dynafit Radical bindings.  Dynafit has been pro-active in getting word out about what they are calling a  “quite specific and unlikely circumstance” that can lead to damage to the heel-piece.  Word from the head-honchos is that after extensive testing, under certain angles and forces put on the heel-piece while in “tour” mode, and basically when/if the heel-piece is forced hard in the counter-clockwise direction, the spring-loaded retaining pin located in the locking mechanism, can cause damage to the housing of the heel-piece.  Dynafit states that the damage incurred in no way presents a safety risk and the binding will continue to function normally.

In light of this however, Dynafit does claim to have a fix for this and is offering a pin-replacement, which can be handled through the retailer/store where you bought your Radical bindings, or directly between Dynafit NA and the consumer/user.  The replacement-pin will be available soon and Dynafit states they will resume shipping their current inventory of Radical bindings again around January 9th.  So, if you’ve been waiting for your Radicals to arrive, that pin is the reason delivery is delayed.

Dynafit Speed Radical heel post and housing.

I took apart some Speed Radical heel-pieces last night, to see what was going on, and you can see how a strong force in the counter-clockwise direction could cause the small pin to jam into the locking slot and cause some damage.  I guess the question is…how much force does it take to cause any damage?  The biggest force I can see where this happens is when you are in tour-mode, with your lifters up or down, and your right ski tags the back or your left boot, binding, or ski as you move it forward.  This used to be one of the causes of the auto-rotate problem that the Radical binding is trying to alleviate, but it appears as though the same force may still be a problem.

Hopefully this “pin-replacement” will be the correct fix for this Dynafit Radical binding issue.  I will replace the pins on the Speed Radicals that I own (or I may just remove the pin all together, as I think the Radicals will perform much like any non-Radical binding when doing so) and continue to use them…or at least start to use them, as they are mounted on skis that I don’t really want to use until it snows again.

(See below for official Dynafit statement.)

Dear Dynafit Community,

We are writing to inform you about an issue related to our new Radical bindings. We have discovered a quite specific and unlikely circumstance that can lead to the heel unit being damaged. Since identifying this issue, our international team has been working hard on understanding the issue and finding a solution.

After intensive testing, we are confident this identified damage DOES NOT present a safety risk. But at the same time, we aim to take a proactive leadership approach and as a result are communicating a “required technical upgrade of the Radical series”. This includes all bindings in the RADICAL series, including RADICAL ST, RADICAL FT, and SPEED RADICAL.

Details on the issue and the solution:

1. Issue: The damage can happen when the heel unit is subjected to forces in a particular way. This particular arrangement of forces is pretty rare. In the ascent mode (when the heel unit is in “lock” or “tour” position) the housing may be damaged if the unit is strongly impacted in a counter-clockwise direction (back towards “ski mode”) causing the internal PIN to strongly impact against the internal housing wall. Damage can only occur in ascent mode, not in the descent (or “ski” mode).

Even if the housing is damaged, the binding should still release perfectly in any mode, and there is little danger of the heel unit detaching. Therefore this does not constitute an acute danger or risk for the skier. Essentially after the damage, the binding functions similar to a TLT Vertical binding which doesn’t have a PIN in the back unit (this “lock position” was introduced to prevent the inconvenient – and fairly rare – rotation of the heel unit back into ski mode, while touring).

2. Solution: The good news is we can eliminate the risk of damage. This is achieved by a quick and easy exchange of the small PIN which is within the heel housing. For bindings in the market, this exchange can be completed without having to return the bindings. Please see the attached visual and written description of the solution.

Details on next steps:

1. Dynafit inventory – We will hold additional sales of Radical bindings until our existing inventory has received this technical upgrade. We expect this will be complete by the second week of January (week of January 9). In the meantime, we have availability in Vertical ST and Vertical FT bindings.

2. Dealer inventory – We are requesting dealers also hold sales of current Radical bindings until they have completed the required technical upgrade. This upgrade
can be completed after we ship the replacement PINS to dealers, with a target ship date of the second week of January (week of January 9).
In the meantime, dealers have the ability to sell the Vertical series of bindings. In addition to any dealer inventory, we have Vertical FT’s and ST’s in stock, as well as Speed Superlights.

3. Consumers – We are also requesting consumers with Radical bindings to undertake the required technical upgrade. This can happen in one of three ways:
a. We can send PINS to the consumer to replace themselves.
b. The consumer can bring the bindings to a retailer for the upgrade.
c. The consumer can call us for a return authorization, and then return the binding directly to Dynafit in Boulder, Colorado for the upgrade.
4. In the meantime and into the future of course, we will continue to honor any valid warranty claims for bindings that incur damage to the heel unit.

THANK YOU for your understanding and your partnership in working through this matter together. We appreciate your support, and we are at your service.

– Your team at Dynafit North America