Union Bindings 3 Ways!
Testers: Hanna Haidar, Carlos Romero and guest tester Steve Maxwell.
Its no secret that we have developed an affinity for Union bindings here at Geeks of Shred. Last year we tested and reviewed the Atlas and Force bindings and liked them both enough to switch to them as our daily drivers. We’ve been getting a lot of “which is the best for me?” questions so we decided to do a comparison test of 3 of Union’s best sellers. The 3 of us rode the Atlas, the Force and the Contact Pros on the same day, in the same conditions at Killington Resort. To keep things fair we each used 1 board for all 3 bindings to eliminate variables.
While we get to ride a lot of different equipment throughout the season, none of us had run this type of back to back bindings-only comparison. We found it very eye opening to see just how much a binding change can effect your riding. We hope this gives you a little more clarity when you’re trying to decide which binding is right for you. The good thing is there isn’t a bad binding in the bunch but we did have our favorites.
p.s. Full disclosure: we bought these binders w/our own hard earned dollars.
About our guest tester Steven Maxwell:
Union is very much a materials focused company and since we wanted a 3rd opinion we brought in our friend Steve Maxwell, another experienced instructor who also happens to be a composites specialist. He owns CCE Composites, a business that fabricates race car parts out of ﬁberglass and carbon, so he knows a little bit about ﬂex patterns.
For a ﬁnal opinion we stopped at Killington’s Darkside Snowboards: a legendary core shop that’s been at Killington for 23 years. We grilled shop guy and local shred Tyler Mills for his opinion on the 3 bindings and who he would match them up with.
Hanna: “Who do you match the Union Force up to, what rider?”
Tyler on the Force: “Park rat. It’s indestructable, basic and has a mellow flex. Its just awesome…the medium soft flex of it. Definitely a park rat.”
Tyler on Contact Pro: Little bit more aggressive park rat. Bigger jumps. Its lighter.
Carlos: “Are there any other places where you would take the Contact Pro?”
Tyler: “Everywhere. From the top of the hill to the bottom..and if there’s park or pipe involved, they’re on it.”
Tyler on the Atlas: “The Atlas is your more freeride and bigger mountain freestyle. Its definitely stiffer.”
Carlos: “Tell me about the highbacks.”
Tyler on the Force: “Basic and if you adjust it right it stays out of your way laterally, but toe to heel it has the rigidity to be responsive. The fact that it doesn’t really wrap around your boot is nice.
Tyler on the Contact Pro: “Its a little bit more ergonomic. Definitely fits to the back of your boot where you get the lateral support as well.”
Tyler on the Atlas: “Similar to the contact pro but definitely stiffer. Its got that one rod that comes up the back and its got different flexes on either side.”
After each test we recorded our thoughts on a voice recorder before moving on to the next binding. We thought it would be interesting to share a few of the words and phrases that came up for each binding…these stream of conscious thoughts might give you some insight into our on the spot impressions of each binding.
- Union Force: #non-intrusive #responsive #out of the way #park #fun #jib kid #great price point #indestructible #simple #not as damp
- Union Atlas: #precise #stiffer #more on-edge riding #extremely responsive #wants to carve
- Union Contact Pro: #so fun #park to everywhere #balanced #all mountain freestyle #dampening #stores and releases energy #big spins #pop #Gigi Rüf
End Result: As we explored how each of these binding worked for us we developed some strong feelings about them. This ended up with the very unexpected result of Steve Maxwell buying Hanna’s Atlas bindings. Hanna then replaced his Atlas with a pair of Contact Pros, and Carlos switched from the Force to the Contact Pro as daily drivers. The only negative we could find with any of the bindings was minor flaking of the paint on some of the anodized metal parts of the bindings which all of us agreed was fairly inconsequential, especially for the price point.
Following Up: After two days on the Contact Pros I went to change my binding angles and was shocked to find that 6 of the 8 binding mounting washers were cracked in half! I’ve never seen anything like that in my life (and no I didn’t use power tools to mount the bindings). Either I have developed super powers or got a bad batch of hardware. I emailed a photo to Union and they responded quickly with a detailed explanation of what when wrong with the batch of washers I received and offered to get new hardware to me ASAP. I appreciated the quick response and that they owned up to the problem. It doesn’t change my opinion of the bindings (still love them) but I would recommend checking on your hardware after mounting to make sure everything’s cool.
Big Thank You to:
Steve Maxwell for bringing his “A game” and giving us some schooling on how composites are built on a molecular level and how that translates to performance and durability.
Killington Resort for being outstanding hosts to our test. Killington does a great job with early season conditions. We were all impressed with the conditions considering this test went down before Thanksgiving!
The crew at Darkside Snowboards especially Jimbo and Tyler for lending their insight and their helpful disposition. They are a super knowledgable and welcoming crew…go check those guys out!