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.

UNION3WAYS_INFOGRAPHIC_TEST

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.”

Final Words:

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!

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Comments
10 Responses to “Union Bindings 3 Ways!”
  1. Travioli says:

    I really just want to point out from my personal experience the similarities of the Contact Pro and the Atlas. They have the same straps – cushy, amazing, best straps on the market in my opinion. You get the Magnesium buckles, but the Atlas baseplate is MUCH stiffer than the Contact Pro. That paired with the higher / stiffer higback is what’s gonna give you that sick edge to edge response when you’re really ripping. The Contact Pro’s quad density foam baseplate gives you the flexibility and forgiveness that park riders’ dream of, and the dampness and comfort that all-mountain riders’ always had to sacrifice before with a stiff binding. Pairing that with the cored out highback, and the fact that it is the only Union you can grab by the heelcup with the highback folded down (A Gigi Must). The Contact pro is truly the perfect balance of All-Mountain Freestyle. I think the Geeks hit this one right on the head – Comfort, Dampness, Response, Lightweight – it’s got it all at a great price.

    • Hanna says:

      Travioli, thanks for chiming in. If you couldn’t tell…Travis is a shop guy who definitely knows his tech. He called me out in the shop today (deservedly) for rating the ankle straps on the contact pro higher than that on the atlas, when they both use the same strap. The only answer we could come up with was that the contact pros were brand new and the atlas straps had a season of use on them. Mea culpa!
      On another note, a couple of people have questioned some of the logic behind the suggestions that the Force is a park rat or jib kid binding. I’d like to clarify and say that its plenty responsive for all mountain riding (when pulled straight back the highback is rock solid). I’d personally recommend it for the park and/or all mountain freestyle rider who is either on a budget, wants a simple and bulletproof binding, or both.

      • Jenn says:

        Hey Hanna, any reason why you ride and man’s binding and not a women’s? I’ve been looking into Unions for myself, but mainly focusing on the trilogy because lots of ladies who ride out here love them. Any experience with these? Or would you recommend a small in the men’s to fit a smaller foot?

      • Hey Jenn…I ride a man’s binding because I’m a man! My name throws people off sometimes. That said the trilogy is a great binding. My girlfriend has a pair and they’re awesome.

  2. Dalton 180 says:

    What bindinf would you recomend for all mountain, contact pro or the new ipo binding?

    • Hanna says:

      Thats a really good question Dalton, thanks for posting. I’ve ridden both, and I like them both a LOT. I hate to do this but I’m going to call it a tie. You can’t go wrong with either. I love the cushioning/dampening of the ipo, and the contact pro has been a great all mountain freestyle binding so far this season. Best recommendation, if you have the chance to visit a shop see how your boot fits each and what feels best? Hope that helps a bit.

  3. Morten Menzel says:

    I knwo this thread is some years old now but I still find it kinda relevant actually.
    I’ve been into Union bindings for a while now and I’ve made the choice and I’m going to try a pair.

    I’m a progressing beginner as some would say and I’m an allrounder, park and slopes the most. My board of choice this year is Nitros T1 (Zero camber and mid flex board).

    Which binding would you recommend in the Union line? Forces, Contact Pros or Atlases? All 2014 models of course!

    And thank you for a really great review here!

    • Hi Morten,
      Thanks for joining the convo. Full disclosure I ride hybrid camber (camber underfoot, reverse in between) and I like to feel the board underneath me in the park or out exploring the mountain. Contact Pro transfers energy best for me. For 2014 Contact Pros have the new mini-disc which places less of the binding onto the board. Union claims it “flexes and performs more naturally”. I have not tried them yet but will soon and promise an update. My vote is Contact Pros all the way and if the budget is tight Forces will not disappoint.Hit us up with any updates and have a great winter!
      Carlos

  4. Dale says:

    Hi there,

    I’m also looking at a set of union bindings to go with my 2013 Lib Tech Attack Banana EC2 BTX. I was thinking between Atlas, Contact Pro, or Factory. I ride a bit of everything so I want something that’s forgiving in the park but stiff enough to give me the response I need when carving down the mountain.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    • I haven’t ridden the Factory, but that would be the stiffest of the three. I think you’d be hard pressed to go wrong with either the contact pro or the atlas. they’re both pretty awesome. -hanna

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