Union Atlas Bindings Review

Union is a company that came up on my radar as a brand to check out this season.  As I started doing my homework I learned a few interesting things about Union.  1. They have a RABID fan base.  People who ride Union swear by them. 2. They only make bindings, and while many of them look fairly simple on the outside they tend to be thoughtfully designed, with a focus on board flex and binding strength.
This pairing of minimalist and technical design elements jumped out at me with the introduction of the new Atlas model for 2012.  Union is calling it “the evolution of the Force.”  On paper it looked perfect to me, a little more torsional flex than the Force while still offering strong heelside response. A little lighter, a cushier ankle strap, and in my opinion beautiful styling.  Checking them out in the shop sealed the deal.
After a few days on them here is my review:
Set up time: To be honest, it took me longer than I expected to get these set up to fit my boots.  The main culprit was figuring out the heelcup adjustment.   Once I figured out settings for the first binding the second one was easy. Hardware feels bomb-proof. Why there’s no quick adjustment screw on the toe-strap is beyond me.
Straps: Union’s new asymmetric ankle strap is ridiculous. Its cushy, locks your foot into place, and I found I cranked down on it a lot less than I normally do.  I had no instep pain and can say its easily the most comfortable ankle strap I’ve used. The toe strap was trouble-free but nothing special.  What I can say about it is that in six days of riding it never slipped up on me.
Highback: Just right.  Lots of torsional flex, but very responsive when you lean back into it for a heelside turn. While the highback looks tall I never felt any calf-bite and there is no forced forward lean.
Ratchets: Solid, no slipping or sticking.
Response: Medium. Responsive edge to edge for carving etc, but mellow fore-aft for butters/presses etc.  Honestly I didn’t notice the bindings much when I was riding…in a good way. The board always did exactly what I wanted whether it was a press, a butter, a carve, or skidding turns through the bumps. Substantial cushioning underfoot does a nice job dampening out chatter.
Recommended For: I’d recommend this binding to a wide range of riders, beginner through expert.  Its definitely a very capable all-mountain freestyle binding, mellow enough to jib with, but responsive enough for most applications. For those riders looking for stiffer, very responsive bindings, I would suggest they look elsewhere.
Issues: The “Union” logo on the back of my highback peeled off within 3 days. Its a tiny detail, but feels cheap when everything else on the binding is so well built.  Update: After about  20 days of riding the “Union” logo (which is just a sticker) peeled off both highbacks.  Of slightly more concern is that there is some light fraying of the fabric on my ankle straps.  I will be watching this closely to see if it deteriorates any further.
Conclusion:The Atlas lives up to the hype.  It is definitely a well balanced piece of equipment.  Every individual part on the binding feels well made and built tough, but the binding feels really light overall.  I love the amount of cushioning underfoot and the straps lock your foot comfortably into place without having to be cranked on.  The Atlas paired up nicely with both the Proto CT and Evo as go-anywhere do-anything setups.  While the bindings took me some time to set up, I was rewarded in the form of a perfect boot/binding interface.  Overall response feels just right for my style of riding, which involves a little bit of everything.  I would highly recommend the Atlas, and I’m planning on running these as my primary binding for the 2011-2012 season.
Thank You: to Travis at Infinite Boardshop in Waitsfield, VT for answering a lot of  our questions about Union.  Infinite stocks lots of Union. Hit them up!
Tester Specs: Hanna Haidar
Stats: 5’10” 155lbs, boots 7.5.  Stance 23.5” 15, -15.
I would describe my riding style as relaxed.  I enjoy riding steep and deep woods, mid sized park features, and of course roosting through pow.  I have fun monkeying with butters when nothing else is going on.  At 155 lbs I’m not a super powerful rider so I typically enjoy riding medium to medium-soft snowboards.
About our reviews.  Equipment reviews are by nature subjective….meaning what might suit my riding style might be miserable for you, and vice versa.  Weight plays a huge role in how equipment performs as well.  So take these reviews for what they are, our take on the gear we’re trying out.  Hopefully we can provide some good insights on how this stuff performs in the real world.  Check out our rider profiles to get a better idea of what is influencing our thoughts on the gear.
One Response to “Union Atlas Bindings Review”
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  1. […] Check out what the Geeks had to say: “Union is a company that came up on my radar as a brand to check out this season. As I started doing my homework I learned a few interesting things about Union. 1. They have a RABID fan base. People who ride Union swear by them. 2. They only make bindings, and while many of …Read more“ […]

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