Review: 2013 Raiden Machine Bindings
After being the beneficiary of a lot of review on this site I figured it was time to return to the favour. The boards I ride have been quite well reviewed on this forum and others, but itís the bindings I ride that get less attention. So with that, Iíll do a review of the 2013 Raiden Machine (medium) bindings Iíve been riding for the past year. I should also say that while I see a lot of snow, I'm no expert and I certainly don't try out as many products as the established reviewers/bloggers out there. That being said I have ridden for a lot of years, and try to try out as much of my buddies equipment as possible to get a feel for different tech. So if anything seems amiss, call me out on it, and I'll try to answer any other questions!
First, my stats:
5í10, 210 lbs
Bindings only ridden on 2012 NS Raptor 159, and
2013 Size 9.5 Northwave Decade SL Boots
The Raptor/Machine setup was only used for the freeriding days
Advanced rider who frequents the resorts in the Rockies around Alberta/BC
First impressions after opening the box is that these things felt very sturdy. This fits with the way Raiden seems to market these particular bindings, and with a notable exception (described later) I would agree. Set-up is fairly straight forward, with my only qualm being the pain in the ass mechanism to adjust the highback angle. At first I had also mounted the minidiscs using two screws, but for whatever reason I was getting movements after a few hours of riding, so back to four screws I went. Solved the problem without sacrificing much in terms of toe/heal overhang.
At first I was a bit intimidated by the way these bindings were described on the forum and elsewhere as ďsuper-stiffĒ. In my mind I correlated ďsuper-stiffĒ with rigid and uncomfortable. While they are certainly in small company as some of the stiffest bindings out there, once I strapped in any thoughts of concern were gone. They are super responsive, but damn comfortable. The toe strap is in my mind as good as anything else in the market but seemingly more low profile. For those who havenít handled Raidens itís like a strong piece of fabric with some plastic around the edges and a window cut-out that fits the toe box really snug. Itís tough to imagine it not fitting a different brand boot. The ankle strap is nice and plush, similar to the newer Burton ankle straps. You can crank it down without any pinches or pain.
As for the way these actually ride, I was impressed. The responsiveness perfectly matched a stiff board like a Raptor, and the highback really worked for the harder carves on steeper terrain. While Iím a firm believer in the 90%rider/10% equipment mantra, the stiffness gave me the confidence to really progress on the steeper, more technical terrain. As well, perhaps itís because of my weight, or riding with a less responsive boot, but in no freeriding situation did I feel uncomfortable about the lack of forgiveness that goes along with a stiff binding. I guess what I'm saying is that they felt stiff, but not "super-stiff".
Iíve also got a really shitty knee from an old MCL injury, so the combination of canting and airbag dampening really appealed to me. The combination made a huge difference Ė I still get a touch of pain at the end of the day, but it no longer affects me during riding. Based on subsequent use of other canted bindings I would attribute the majority of this to the canting, with good dampening making a difference, albeit less significant. The airbags are basically a really thick piece of plastic with air in between. Like most plastic, it stiffens up when it gets cold out, so that the airbag wasnít more noticeable to me than good EVA foam dampening (my main comparison was K2 harshmellow). The only time I actually noticed the airbags more than harshmellow was when landing any kind of jump/drop. The plastic would give some on the landings making it a bit less harsh on the knees. (ignore the idiocy on the Good Ride review Ė if they actually rode these bindings theyíd realize that short of taking a sharp object directly to the plastic, they wonít ďpopĒ when riding).
I said Iíd come back to durability, so here it goes. My riding crew had a particularly shitty year with bindings breaking in every which way imaginable. So while they would have to finish days on fucked up straps and highbacks repaired with lift tickets zip ties, I was cruising. In fact, I got a bit smug about it. Then, in April I unloaded the gondola at the base of the resort and the strap attached to the toe ratchet snapped off. Raiden smartly designed ladders with a cable connector molded inside the ladder so that if shit went wrong and the plastic broke, youíd be able to ride out the day. The bad news is that this tech doesnít extend to the ladder that the actual ratchet is attached to. The repair centre didnít have a small enough ladder but luckily I still have enough ladder to be able to get the toe strap across the top of the toes. Crisis averted, I thought. That same day, after a short hike to a particularly gnarly line, I realized the exact same thing happened to the other binding. However this time I had no idea where the other piece with the ratchet attached to it was. I eventually found at the bottom of the chair and was able to also get the strap over my toes, but that was an uneasy run down without a toe strap on the back foot. The actual cause of the break it tough to ascertain. I keep my bindings ratcheted with the highback tucked in when not in use, but it they still may have been bent the wrong way somehow on the ride up. It wasnít close to the coldest day of the year, but maybe they were near a heater in the car so that the temperature change was large? The fact that they both broke on the same day should point to something I did with them that week, but I donít know, and I certainly donít assign blame to Raiden. I was able to easily replace the ladder that week from the local shop they were bought from, but it just blows when it happens mid-day. Throwing the cable connectors on all four ladders would be a huge help in this regard.
Iíll sum it up by saying that these bindings worked perfectly on a freeride setup. They perform well, were super comfy, and the canting/airbags made my knees happy. When the end of season sales came around I was tempted to replace my K2 Company bindings with some Cartels, but decided to stick with Raiden and try the Blackhawks (preferred the flex of the Phantoms but needed the canting).