Luke Koppa (5’8”, 155 lbs): I’ve now put 3 days on the new R12 binding, which is made by ATK but the version we’re using is sold and branded by Majesty (and mounted to the 178 cm Majesty Superwolf). Majesty is a distributor of ATK both in the U.S. & Europe, which is great news for folks in North America in particular as ATK bindings have previously been pretty hard to get here.
We’ll be posting more info on the bindings design & specs, but in the meantime, Jonathan and I wanted to add some of our initial thoughts on its on-snow performance so far.
Seeing as the R12 is basically the replacement for the ATK Raider 2.0 12 that Sam Shaheen and I previously reviewed, I’ve mostly been thinking about that comparison while using the R12. And so far, the two feel (and actually are) very similar.
Aside from the brakes, the heel pieces of the two bindings are nearly identical, and the R12 feels very similar to the Raider 2.0 12 in terms of power transfer (i.e., how much of my physical input is being transmitted directly to the ski). Like the Raider, it’s really good for a binding that weighs a bit over 300 grams. The only times so far that I’ve noticed a lack of power transfer was in really rough snow or when I was resorting to some poor, backseat technique. The R12 is definitely not as good in this regard as the alpine-like-heel bindings out there (Fritschi Tecton, Marker Kingpin, Shift, Marker Duke PT), but I also wouldn’t say it’s notably worse than the Dynafit Radical 2.0 / Rotation, which I’ve recently been skiing. And given that the Radical / Rotation is almost twice as heavy as the R12, that’s impressive.
The R12 shares the same heel risers as the Raider 2.0 and I’m still a pretty big fan of them. They’re very easy to actuate with a ski pole, and they technically give you 5 different climbing levels. I’ve just been using three of them, by turning the heel piece 180° from the ski position so I have a flat, medium, and high option, which is perfect for me.
[Editor’s Note: after some great advice from our readers and closer inspection, there is an easy way to prevent the heel risers from accidentally flipping while in flat mode. So feel free to disregard our notes about that, unless you’ve had similar issues, in which case, try pushing down the riser into the heel pins of the binding to get the risers to stay down. It works very well.]
My one complaint with the heel risers is on really bumpy, firm skin tracks. I’m basically just talking about undulating, suncupped or runnelled snow that you typically see in late-spring and summer. The issue is that there have been a few times on each of my tours with the bindings where the heel risers accidentally flip forward after I knock the ski / binding around while skiing on the rough snow. This hasn’t been an issue on any “normal,” smoother skin tracks I’ve been on, but it has been a slight annoyance in nasty summer “snow.” I think this mostly comes down to just how easy / low-resistance the risers are in terms of flipping them up and down.
One of the main things I’ve noticed with the R12 vs. the Raider 2.0 is that the R12 is slightly easier to step into. The Raider 2.0 didn’t have any sort of “toe stop” that would keep you from moving your boot too far forward and thus missing the pins, so you had to be a bit more precise when stepping into it. The R12 does have a toe stop, and I’d say it’s one of the easier tech bindings I’ve used in terms of stepping in.
The other big difference with the R12 is that its brake is in a more normal spot — in front of the heel piece. I.e., like virtually every other alpine binding or touring binding on the market, instead of the Raider’s toe-mounted brake. The Raider 2.0’s toe-mounted brake is fine, but I think I like the R12’s brake a little more.
Unlike many tech bindings, the R12’s brake functions independently of the heel piece. Rather than turning the heel to lock-up the brake, you just push a little button on the side of the brake. This has been very drama-free so far, and I’ve been able to unlock the brake with my ski pole when transitioning to downhill mode, which is nice when it comes to efficiency. It’s also easy to just lean down and hit the button with my finger.
The R12 has a unique feature in that you can change the “Up-Hill Hardness Factor” of the toe. What that means is that you can supposedly change how easy it is for the toe piece to release when it’s locked out in uphill mode. I’ve just been using it in the “hard” setting cause I’ve mostly been skinning on really firm, rough skin tracks, but I’ll try it with the “medium” and “soft” setting as well. The toe lever was very difficult to pull up the first time I used it, but it’s since become much easier and not been an issue.
In terms of how “harsh” the R12 binding feels while skiing, I think it feels very similar to the Raider 2.0. In other words, it transmits much more snow feedback to my feet and legs than a binding with elastic travel (e.g., Tecton, Kingpin, Shift, Duke PT), but so far it doesn’t seem above or below average in this regard for a full-pin binding. When I timed things right and skied soft corn, I didn’t really notice this harshness / lack of suspension and just found myself skiing very comfortably and confidently. But when I had to make my way down some still-refrozen snow, I think I felt just every single bump in the snow, as I think I would’ve on most other full-pin touring bindings.
Overall, I’ve really liked the R12. While we obviously can’t yet speak to its long-term durability, I’m very optimistic based on its nearly all-metal construction and our experience with the Raider 2.0. I think I’d be very happy with it on my lightweight spring-touring setups, as well as my pow-touring skis.
Jonathan Ellsworth (5’10”, ~175 lbs):
Well as most of you know, I am constantly on the lookout for the absolute lightest ski equipment on the market. Because if you are carrying even a few extra grams of unnecessary weight uphill, you can’t possibly be having a good time out in the mountains.
Just kidding. I like heavier stuff because it performs and feels much, much better than lighter stuff when it’s time to head downhill.
That said (and as we have now said a million times over the years), it’s all about the right tool for the job, and figuring out how heavy or light you personally want your setup to be.
Again, I tend to skew a bit toward the “heavy” end of the spectrum, and so given that, I was very interested to see what I thought of this binding — which is the lightest binding I’ve ever used.
Short answer: after two tours … I definitely do not hate this binding. And while I want to get more days on it, I could very much imagine giving it a place in my touring-setup quiver: using this binding for long or fast days, and then having a rig with a SHIFT binding that I would probably use for my typical days.
And since this is a Flash Review and Luke already wrote way more than a Flash … let me just quickly go over a few points.
1) It’s nice going uphill on a lightweight setup. You’re welcome for this insight.
2) As for ease of use / functionality, I quite like this binding. And I agree with Luke, it’s pretty wild just how easy it is to flip the risers forward … so much so that (like Luke) there have been one or two times where one of the risers flipped over when I was skinning up in flat mode.
Now, to be very clear, neither Luke nor I have ever complained about a riser being too easy to flip forward — literally with every other AT binding I’ve ever used, my complaint is the opposite: that the risers are too hard to flip. (And if you care, in terms of hitting the sweet spot for me & risers, I’d say that the G3 ION 12 and the Dynafit Radical 2.0 / Rotation are probably the best.)
So we will fiddle with these risers and see if there is a way to increase the resistance just a touch. And if there isn’t, we’re in agreement that this is still a non-issue, and we’ll just be more aware that sloppy footwork or really rough snow might cause a riser to flip forward when skinning.
3) Here’s the thing I’ll leave you with for now: while this R12 does not have the same terrific feeling of a good alpine binding or the SHIFT binding, I personally much prefer the feel of this binding to the Dynafit Rotation / Radical 2.0. The Rotation / Radical 2.0 just feels like it saps all power transfer, and it feels … gross to me. You go to set a solid edge and make a hard carve … and the binding just feels mushy (to use a technical term). I can’t stand it.
(And if you can stand it, then awesome! Enjoy! I don’t care what bindings you like or use, I just hope you have one you like.)
Anyway, the R12 doesn’t have the problem of feeling “mushy” at all. The issue with a lot of bindings like this is that they will tend to feel “jarring,” as Luke has said.
Funny thing, I kind of feel like, so far, I might be higher on this binding than Luke is with respect to the harsh / jarring thing. My last tour was on some pretty rough snow, and so while I intentionally wasn’t trying to make big, laid over GS turns down bad snow, I shortened things up a bit, and really didn’t have a problem. And mostly, I was grateful not to be on the Radical 2.0 that I had skied the day before. (Again, great binding for the uphill, but on the downhill, it’s not my jam. Because it feels to me like I’m trying to carve in jam.)
Anyway, that’s it for now. But yes, if I was going to only have 1 AT binding for everything, I would either go with a SHIFT binding or something between a SHIFT and the R12. But if you gave me a SHIFT — or a Marker Duke PT — and an R12, at the moment, I think I’d be pretty psyched.