Snowboarding > Flow Bindings Vs Strap Bindings

Flow Bindings Vs Strap Bindings

By LEONARD MCGAVIN
Published: March 24, 2008

Flow bindings have come along way in recent years and earned a lot of respect after the Flow Pro Team picked up The Best Team, The Best Overall Rider, and The Best Halfpipe Rider awards at the 2006 Transworld Team Challenge. Long time riders are now considering Flows for the first time as doubt about affected performance due to weight and support are going out the window. So what are the Pros and Cons when choosing between Flows or old school straps?

Looking at the Flows it's pretty obvious they're a lot easier to get onto your foot when getting off a lift. Some people claim that they can put straps on just as fast but there is usually a fair amount of scrambling going on when it's attempted.

When taking your back foot out or taking the board right off it is just as quick between strap or Flow bindings unless of course you are stuck in powder at least a foot deep. When this happens straps are much easier to remove, it can be extremely difficult to push out the high back on a set of Flows when there is snow jammed up against them. This is an issue that is easy to overlook but when it happens you can waste a lot more time than the time you save putting your feet into the Flows in the first place.

Strap bindings can jam fairly easily with snow and ice blocking the ratchet mechanisms. Also, depending on the binding, the plastic teeth on ratchets and ladders can start wearing and need replacing. Some binding manufacturers use harder composites such as metal alloys on the ratchet so that only the ladder wears out and can be cheaply replaced.

Flows aren't well designed to put your back foot in when you are on a slope because the angle of the high back is blocked by the angle of the slope. Conversely, straps don't allow you to put your back foot in when you are facing forward while on your hands and knees. This however seems like less of a problem because more often than not you'll be on your butt.

Having a major spill in a set of Flows can actually rip your board from your feet. This happens when you've done something spectacularly wrong and find yourself sliding down the hill head first on your back. As you slide, your release mechanism will be triggered as it runs over the snow, the board will become free and hell can break loose. Granted you should have a leash for just such an event, though few people wear them.

Flows can take a while to break in and tune correctly but a lot of Flow owners wouldn't go back to straps if you paid them. The distribution of pressure over the whole foot as apposed to two thin straps is another favourite feature amongst Flow riders.

Price is certainly not a factor to disregard. Top of the line Flows can be 50% to 100% more expensive than other top of the line strap bindings. As you venture down the Flow product line into the cheaper regions you'll find the weight starting to go up which can bring back the performance factor.

There are a lot of things to consider when picking up new pair of bindings. When it comes down to it, perhaps the most important factor is simply the way they feel when you are riding. So, if you have the opportunity to test run a pair of new bindings it could be well worth your time.

Comments

1. Dale on November 18, 2008

Flows have more support than most strap bindings because of the way the top strap conforms to the boot. This also eliminates pressure points, so you are a lot less likely to get cramps. You can also keep your boots a little looser since there is much greater response from the binding itself. Once dialed in, you never have to mess with the ratchets again to try to find the perfect fit unlike strap bindings.

When you are on a slope, you just face the hill and toss your back foot in, pretty easy. About the flow's release mechanism, you have to pull up/out then push inwards to get it to release from the ladder strap. If you were sliding the way you said, it would actually make the ratchets lock down on the ladder.

2. Dan O on January 1, 2009

Flows

3. Andy on November 8, 2009

I rode '98 Burton Freestyles from 1999 to 2007 and they were a great binding and a great value. I love snowboarding but do not claim to be an athlete. I had difficulty latching my straps without sitting on my ass. Big belly and no flexibility. I got '08 Flow "The Five" bindings last season. They are incredibly fast to get into in most situations. Its easy to get in standing up. However, if your buddies are still riding conventional bindings, you have to wait for them to get in anyway... They've been very comfortable and resposive.

The previous commenter must have misread the article. The author was not referring to the straps coming loose in a backwards downhill accident, he was referring to the main lever on the back of the binding. I've ridden the Flows for about 30 trips and I've never had this happen. And I wreck constantly... Also, pulling your pant leg over the lever would help avoid the problem.

My only concern with the Flow binding is that I've already blown through three ladder straps. Sure they'll send you a replacement for free, but that doesn't help you snowboard the rest of the day. I don't know if I'm going through straps excessively because I'm going bigger or if it is a design flaw. But the problem starts as a crack and ends as a limp run to the lodge to pay the wax guy $10 for a $3 strap.

4. Grover on July 22, 2010

Andy brings up a good point. If you're a fat guy like I am, sitting on your butt and pulling your knees up (especially in bulky snow clothes) to strap up is difficult/impossible. I bought Flows before I got fat, but I'm glad I did because I wouldn't be able to use a regular binding these days.

5. paul on December 5, 2010

i thought about trying some flows because i had a pair of 2008 burton freestyle bindings and i absolutely hated them the ratchets on the straps would constantly get jammed when i was trying to take them off and they didnt tighten up very well so i looked at some flows but did like how heavy they were and have herd stories of them breaking i ended up getting some union flights this year mainly because they are very affordable only 150 and really light the ratchets tighten up really easy i can get them on standing up no problem and taking them off is no problem either the base plate and heel cup have a lifetime warranty and everything else has a one year warranty i dont think i will ever buy any other brand of binding after riding these

6. Adam on September 29, 2011

So I rode a pair of flow NXT-ATs for a whole season, all day, every day (pretty much). I fell in love with them. Really responsive even when loose(ish), these were, and are, the most comfortable bindings I've ever used.

Once you've got them set up right (takes a day or two), then every single time you put your board on, you know you've got exactly the right tightness, and you're not going to get cramp - unlike with traditional bindings, where every time you tighten them, it'll be slightly different.

Unfortunately I cracked the topsheet of my Custom X, Burton replaced it, and gave me the new 09 model - but it was ICS - in other words, I could only use burton bindings. Well, I was pissed, but it was a new 09 custom X, and my old one had been through the wars, so I couldn't complain. I got some Burton Cartel ESTs. Going back to regular bindings was a bit strange, and felt like a step backwards in a way. The ESTs were less comfortable, for sure. They have higher high backs, and less control over the forward lean. Were they more responsive? I'm not convinced. They fel more agressive, cos of the forced forward lean and higher high backs, but the constant mid calf pressure lead to being uncomfortable.

For me, there is very little difference in terms of responsiveness between top of the range flow and traditional bindings. But flows are definitely more comfortable. And when you're on the hill, having cramp, or niggling pains is much more likely to make you fall than anything else - and also not enjoy yourself, which is, after all, why we snowboard at all...

in short, flows provide you with a really consistent, comfortable ride, that's plenty responsive for even the most agressive riders (I'm mainly into agressive freeride myself), but also give you the flexibility to play in the park.

7. Caleb on November 2, 2011

Alright I'm convinced with the questioning and answering, I wanna buy myself some new Flows, but I have one more question, whats the weight difference between the two? Who's got the upper hand and by how much?

8. JC on January 27, 2012

I had a hard time with flows. There is very little forward flex available on the boot because the binding presses on the instep so even with a soft boot they feel like wearing a super-stiff race boot. I had very little control with the back foot since it was over-stiff.

9. Alex on February 11, 2012

get Flux, i had 2 pairs of Flows, and they both didn't give me the right feel.

10. Carter on February 29, 2012

I bought a pair of flows. I am abigger guy 6'7" and around 300lbs. I find it impossible to just kick my foot in and put the back up. I actually just get on all fours and put my foot in and just jump up and down on the toe edge till it is in enought to bring up the high back. This is actually a plus for me since I have to flip on my stomach to get up. Sometimes it takes a min to get my size 15 boot in far enough to pull the highback up. but overall they are real easy to get into.

The only problem I really see if that if I have to travel home and put the highback town under the strap for room reasons it messes up the setting i had, then the next trip i spend half the day getting it right again... all in all they are awesome!

11. B Pliska on December 23, 2012

The downfall of taking them off in powder is definitely the biggest and worst part of the rear entry design. HOWEVER, I highly prefer these to straps regardless simply because sure you save time, but foot fatigue, especially with "The One" boots, is basically nil. Straps don't distribute the pressure properly, the Flows certainly do. If you are a park rate or stick to groomers Flows are a no brainer. If you love the outback and need to get in and out easily, straps are probably better for you. Just like with any gear, it's applications are circumstantial. For me, I'm a big mountain rider and I generally don't need to pop out of my bindings that often, but when I do I need to dig areas around my board just to pull the backs down, but that's only about 5% of the time for me, so I'll stick with flows for the 95% of the time they kick complete ass.

12. Beowulf on January 24, 2013

I'm not sure I understand the comment that Flows are more difficult to release out of in powder. I find them easier to since one only has to deal with one lever as opposed to two straps which are usually caked with snow after a bad fall. In addition they are way easier to get in and out of in powder if one gets stuck on a traverse in the backcountry. The ONLY time I ever missed strap bindings was when on my heel edge I had to release my rear foot when stuck on an extreme and sketchy pitch in Alaska. Since the back of the binding had to fold back against the slope to release the boot I was forced to angle the edge of the board away from the pitch. Bad idea. However this is not an issue with the toe side edge against the pitch. For the record I find Flows to be the most comfortable and supportive bindings out there. And as for them being stiff, that's not necessarily a bad thing since that only serves to give you better edge control. However Flow makes bindings with different stiffness levels so there should be a model for just about every type of rider out there. Cheers.

13. austin on February 1, 2013

Honestly I have a pair of older flows( idk how old because.I bought them used) and they are really nice. Unfortunately the older flows didn't have a lock in high back lever and so when kicking around by the lift they tend to fall open and trip me. Also I cannot seem to get them as tight as I want and still be able to kick into them because older flows didn't have ratchets at all like the new ones do. I'm trying to make a choice between the flow flight 2 and the union flute due to my interest in freestyle and also hill bombing. I haven't ever had good ratchet bindings so I am still confused as to which ones to get. May I please get some help?

14. K on May 15, 2013

For the person with the custom X, I just bored out the outer middle holes of the baseplate on some NXT-ATs with a drill. Gotta be careful because it doesn't take much, but you can get that beautiful Flow ride with the ICS system.

15. no... on September 27, 2013

i have flow bindings and they dont work, they suck! I broke my ass in them!Dont buy them, they dont work half the time so i stopped using them. The flow bindings also slip out all the time and fell off while i was on the lift three times, the last two i had a leash though because the first time i got yelled at. dont buy it!!!!!!!!

16. Mondis on October 14, 2013

For those that are riding the Flows in deep powder, do you realize that you can just unbuckle the top strap? Same as you would with a regular two strap system. Yes it messes with your setting but it's not really that hard if you only undo one side. That's what I do and have no problem with that at all. I like to reset mine before each day I ride anyway so I guess it's not really a big issue for me. I think about them stretching over time so I prefer to make sure I got them right. Some of those posts are probably older but I figured I would throw this out there. Some times the easiest solutions are the hardest to see! Happy boarding everyone!

17. Jack on February 3, 2014

I used flows and honestly i cant really choose between the 2. they both have a lot of pros and cons but if i were to choose my over all favorite over just a random choice it would be flows because the real only problem i had with them was that they were hard to tighten and my boot would slide up the heel side of the binding when i would make a toe side turn which gave me blisters but overall i love flows and i am probably going to stick with them

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