20/21 Majesty / ATK R12

Luke Koppa & Jonathan Ellsworth review the Majesty / ATK R12 alpine touring binding for Blister in Crested Butte, Colorado
Majesty / ATK R12 Binding

5.15.20

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.

Luke Koppa & Jonathan Ellsworth review the Majesty / ATK R12 alpine touring binding for Blister in Crested Butte, Colorado
Luke Koppa hauling up the Majesty / ATK R12 binding & Superwolf, Crested Butte, Colorado.

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.

Luke Koppa & Jonathan Ellsworth review the Majesty / ATK R12 alpine touring binding for Blister in Crested Butte, Colorado
Luke Koppa on the Majesty / ATK R12 binding & Superwolf, Crested Butte, Colorado.

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.

Luke Koppa reviews the Majesty Superwolf for Blister
Luke Koppa on the Majesty Superwolf & Majesty / ATK R12, Crested Butte, Colorado.

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.

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16 comments on “20/21 Majesty / ATK R12”

  1. Do you know if even with the brake you end up floating on the heel pins (gap between the sole of your boot and the ski) in downhill mode.

    That definitely will affect the amount of jarring and vibration transfer you have.

    I recently added ATK’s Freeride space to my Ion LT and when I eliminated gap honestly it felt like I was on an entirely different binding

    • There is a bit of a gap between the boot sole and brake pad, though it’s smaller than with the Raider since the brake on the R12 takes up some vertical space between the boot sole and ski and I wouldn’t be surprised if my boot sole has been resting on the brake pad when I’m really flexing the ski.

      ATK is making a freeride spacer for the R12 binding, which we won’t be able to review this season but should be able to next season.

      • Luke, looking forward to that eventual review.

        Working on a lightweight setup currently, and the only thing left to decide is if I want to mount a Raider 12 or Zed.

        It is good to know Majesty is a distributor as well.

      • The ATK heel tower is *stiff*. When I’ve bench tested this (geek alert!) the ski “flexes away” from the boot about as fast as the heel tower allows the boot to sag towards it. If there’s a gap at zero load then there will still be a gap when flexed, unless you’re standing on a bump such that the ski under your foot isn’t flexed into reverse camber.

        DrewSarge, when you brought this up in the previous Raider 2.0 review I didn’t catch on that you were running an *ATK* spacer with an Ion. That does sound like a nice combo (though I’d thoroughly bench test the release characteristics, for obvious reasons). Sorry about not recognizing that before.

        • Yeah no worries. And yes I did ample bench testing of release and spacing prior to hitting the hill with it.

          I’m a big fan. I lose a bit of flat mode (which always seemed like a negative angle to me with the Ion Lt) but it is very very minimal and doesn’t really impact my stride.

          Plus the gains made in the downhill are well worth the trade off.

          Like I said it feels like an entirely different binding. More solid, responsive, powerful, and hugely increased vibration damping, the ride is much less jarring, and as a result less fatiguing on the legs.

          I wish I could post the photos.

  2. When you’re skinning in flat mode, are you clicking the non-magnetized riser into the pins? It took me a few accidental flips before I realized that both risers weren’t magnetized.

    • hmm, not exactly sure what you mean by this. For the flat mode, I’ve had the heel piece turned 180° so the pins are facing backwards, and that’s when the risers have accidentally flipped forward (and to clarify, when they accidentally flip forward, it’s been both risers magnetically stuck together, rather than just one). But I’m gonna be playing around more with the bindings indoors before my next tour so I’ll see (admittedly, I just went and skied them as soon as they were mounted and adjusted, without checking them out super closely beforehand).

      • Yup, I did that too. When the pins are facing tail, the highest riser has detentes that will ‘click’ in between the pins and be held mechanically. The low riser will be held by the magnet and shouldn’t flip. I was confused because in ski mode the risers don’t flop because they are held magnetically.

  3. I have 2 pairs of the previous Raider 12 (mine are Hagans in the blue colorway), and this review jives with my experiences. I use the heel AFDs and they definitely improve power transmission at the end of the turn (which might help in Luke’s “backseat” scenario), but even so there just isn’t much suspension or elasticity there.

    Jonathan is right that ultra-low weight isn’t the end-all, though I think that it’s worth noting that lighter bindings allow heavier skis and/or boots within an given “on-foot weight” (sort of like “unsprung weight”?). For the backcountry conditions that I encounter I think that the bindings end up being a good place to take savings, but YMMV. As I said in another comment, given 2150 grams per foot to “spend” I’d rather have a Raven with R12 than, say, a Zero-G 95 with Kingpin.

    • I should have added: The original Blister review was a huge influence on my decision to go with the ATK/Hagans, and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you!

  4. atk is since let´s 2-3 years the hottest shit in europe. “everyone” needs a his atk cnc made super hot looking and light binding. can´t complain as a shop guy BUT, as you guys mentioned a lot in a number of your last podcasts about equipment, “we” need more product and use education! A PIN binding is a PIN binding and is actually made to go someting that is called skitouring. equipment evolved, skiers evolved, the demand eveolved so nower days backcountry setups are used for a variety of different things. we got touring, free touring and so on.

    the r12 is THE one top selling touring binding in europe/our shop right now, even if sometimes other options would not have been a bad choice or maybe better, but we can only assist and advice… if you are light enough and want to use I mean abuse it a bit more, add the freeride spacer offered by atk and you will get a pretty solid heel feel that gives you a secured feedback when making turns in those rougher firmer parts. For all the big guys, there is a FR14, but keep in mind, even if FR stands for freeride, it´s still a pin binding. We see a lot issues here and try to remind the customer always what to expect, but expecations these days seem to be different sometimes.
    One thing to the heel/hike riser with the magnet. You saw that when you rotate it that you can/should press the first riser between the heel pins, then it is kind of locked and is not flipping, we get these call quite often at the shop.
    atk bindings are really durable, we do not see many issues. Not significant more than with others, I would say even less!
    One thing to complain, the heel risers like to eat the Dynafit POMOCA soles of the TLT8 and HOJI boot.
    Great binding, I would always add the freeride spacer.
    Cheers from the blacksheep crew

    • Thanks for the feedback, Sebastian! Totally agree regarding informing customers and having a realistic idea of what bindings are capable of. I’ve been really impressed by the R12 so far *for a lightweight, full-pin binding*, but it’s still not a Tecton or a Kingpin or a Shift or a Duke PT or a CAST Freetour. Always compromises and tradeoffs to be made.

      And I really appreciate everyone letting us know about the heel riser fix — after fiddling with them I had an immediate face-palm moment. Those little detents do a very good job of securing the riser down in flat mode and I anticipate we will no longer have any issues. Added a note to reflect that.

      • I facepalmed when I figured out the heel-riser thing. Then I smiled in appreciation of whatever clever engineer figured out they could use the lateral retention springs like that, and also in appreciation of the machining required to make it work (the lateral spring tension is high, such that that aluminum riser has to be machined to a very tight tolerance to pop in “just right” like it does. That’s probably why we haven’t seen it done more often).

        • Correction: Those are actually the vertical retention springs. They act in a lateral plane, but they control the boot’s vertical movement.

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