2019-2020 Fritschi Tecton 12
DIN Release Value: 5-12
Available Brake Widths: 90, 100, 110, 120 mm
Climbing Aids: 2°, 9°, and 13°
Lateral Elasticity (Toe): 13 mm
Vertical Elasticity (Heel): 9 mm
Forward Elasticity: Yes
Stated Weight: 550 grams (without brakes)
Blister’s Measured Weight:
- Toe pieces: 280 & 280 grams (with screws)
- Heel pieces: 330 & 328 grams (with brake mounting pieces)
- Brakes: 73 & 73 grams (120 mm)
- Total Weight per Binding (with 120 mm brakes): 683 & 681 grams
MSRP: $649.99 USD
Test Locations: Canterbury, New Zealand; Arapahoe Basin & Colorado backcountry
Days Tested (so far): ~16
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 17/18 Tecton 12, which was not changed for 18/19 or 19/20.]
Intro (by Sam Shaheen and Brian Lindahl)
When you are standing on top of line and stepping into your skis, it is pretty confidence-inspiring to feel the CLUNK of the heel piece of an alpine binding snapping into place. Until this season, if you wanted that feeling while ski touring, you either had to settle for heavy and cumbersome frame bindings, opt for something like the CAST system, or you could go with the Marker Kingpin, which has been our favorite touring binding when it comes to combining uphill efficiency and downhill performance.
But this season, Fritschi has released the Tecton 12, which competes directly with the Kingpin. The Tecton is getting a lot of buzz because of its feature list that — currently — no other binding can match. The Tecton 12 has:
- an alpine-style heel
- a weight that’s lighter than the Kingpin 13 by nearly 100 g per binding
- elastic travel in both the heel and toe (the Kingpin only has elastic travel in / at the heel)
We want to get more time on the Tecton 12 before offering our full review and comparisons, but we have had the Tecton 12 on snow, so we’ll offer our initial thoughts, impressions, and questions here.
The Tecton 12 uses the same toe piece as the new Vipec Evo (review coming soon), which features 13 mm of lateral elastic travel and adjustable toe pins for different boot widths.
This Evo toe piece has been updated from last year’s Vipec TUV (“Vipec “Black”) so that stepping in is easier, and Fritschi has added a small bumper that releases the toe in the event of an ‘over-the-handlebars’ fall. The lateral release in the toe already sets the Tecton apart from most other tech bindings, and we talk more about its potential safety benefits in the next section.
But then there’s also the Tecton’s heel…
The Tecton 12 heel piece shares many similarities with the Kingpin. It moves forward and back on the ski to switch from walk mode to ski mode; it has two climbing risers mounted to the front of the heel lever; and it has a plastic, alpine-style step-in mechanism (rather than metal pins).
Like the Kingpin, the Tecton heel piece holds the boot directly to a platform on the base of the binding, which means that there is a direct connection between the boot and ski rather than a floating pin interface, and the Tecton’s heel offers 9 mm of vertical elasticity.
The Tecton 12 also features what Fritschi is calling “Power Rails”. These are basically protrusions of plastic that fit into the pin channels cut in the heels of tech boots, and they fill the space normally occupied by typical tech binding heel pins.
In theory, these Power Rails should increase lateral responsiveness and eliminate any play between the heel of the boot and the heel piece of the binding.
Lateral Release at the Toe
In our review of the 16/17 Vipec, I spent quite a bit of time talking about lateral release at the toe and why it matters. So I’m not going to rehash everything here, but there are certain circumstances in which the Tecton, Vipec and alpine bindings will release, but traditional tech bindings (which release at the heel) will not. I illustrated these differences in a video in the Vipec review, so if you’re concerned about safety, I suggest you follow the link to read our coverage of this concern. The main takeaway is that I consider the Tecton and the Vipec, both with lateral release at the toe, to be safer than the other tech bindings on the market (Note: I’m ignoring the Trab TR2 binding which doesn’t have wide appeal, due to a lack of boot compatibility). We’re currently working on a deeper exploration of the release characteristics of touring bindings, so also stay tuned for that.
Measured Weight + Comparisons
For reference, here are some of our Blister Measured Weights of AT bindings:
- Fritschi Tecton 12: 683 & 681 g (120 mm brakes)
- Marker Kingpin 13: 774 & 775 g (75-100 mm brakes)
- Fritschi Vipec Evo 12: 595 & 595 g (110 mm brakes)
- Fritschi Vipec TUV 12: 589 & 591 g (95 mm brakes)
- G3 Ion 12: 636 & 641 g (105 mm brakes)
- Dynafit Radical 2.0 FT: 652 & 653 g (105 mm brakes)
- Dynafit Beast 14: 831 & 833 grams (105 mm brakes)
- Dynafit Beast 16: 957 grams (120 mm brakes)
In summary, the Tecton 12 comes in almost 100 grams lighter than the Kingpin 13, and nearly 100 grams heavier than the Vipec Evo. So if you thought the Kingpin 13 was just a bit too heavy, take note.
Mount Pattern & Crampon Compatibility
For those that have used the old Vipec TUV or Vipec Evo and are interested in the Tecton 12, you’re in luck. Fritschi uses the same mount pattern for all three bindings. This is a nice touch, and something we’d like to see across other brand product lines to avoid having to drill new holes for every new binding. Both the Vipec and Tecton are also compatible with the same ski crampons.
Setup and Boot Compatibility
Setting up the Tecton is a bit trickier than more traditional tech bindings. So if you are mounting these yourself:
- It’s important to follow Fritschi’s instructions for adjusting the pin width to match your boot toe sockets.
- You should check for proper forward release when in ski mode — the boot toe needs to make solid contact with the release trigger at the base of the toe lever in order for release to occur. (Note: Fritschi says that the toe piece for the Tecton and Vipec Evo will not work with Dynafit’s “shark nose” boots like the TLT7, the regular Scarpa Alien, and the Scarpa Tronic F1. It will work with the Scarpa Alien RS and standard F1).
- It can be a bit tricky to attach the brakes to the heel unit — it requires a bit of force, so take your time.
- Finally, once the toe unit is properly configured and tested, and the heel unit and brakes are installed, set the length adjustment such that there is a paper-thin gap between the edge of the binding heel lip and the heel of the boot.
Initial On-Snow Impressions
We still want to get more time in the Tecton 12 to put together our in-depth comparisons and conclusions, but after some initial testing, we’ve been impressed.
Like every tech binding we’ve used, the Tecton 12 goes uphill nicely, and the Tecton’s new Evo toe is easier to step into than the toes on previous iterations of the Vipec. The heel risers have been fairly easy to actuate with a ski pole so far, and switching the heel between ski and walk modes has felt smooth and solid.
In terms of downhill performance, we are currently willing to say that the Tecton 12 is at least in the same ballpark as the Kingpin 13. This is where we’ll need the most time to offer direct comparisons to other bindings, but the power transmission of the alpine-style heel of the Tecton 12 is impressive, and when combined with the added lateral release in the toe, it makes the Tecton 12 a compelling option for those looking for increased downhill performance over traditional tech bindings.
Our good friend Ally Kerr (owner of Gnomes Alpine Sports in Christchurch, New Zealand), has actually put more time on snow in the Tecton than we have so far (he’s got about 10 days), so we thought it would be worth sharing his initial impressions that he shared with us. (Ally is 6’0” / 183 cm tall, weighs 180 lbs / 82 kg, and the Kingpin has been his go-to touring binding, for the past several years. He’s got the Tecton mounted to the 188 cm Rustler 10, and most of his days have been in the Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 boot.)
“The updates on the toe unit over the Vipec Black makes it even easier to line the boot up, add a slight pressure downwards at the toe and the wings/pins snap into place…
The new auto height toe bumper means less work to do in the initial setup or if you change boots. Changing from walk mode to ski mode has been seamless, with a solid lever that gets cocked into position. Climbing aids are easily accessible and flicked up or down without issue. Skiing in bounds I have hit some extremely variable snow and have had no issues with pre-release, I have felt some lateral toe movement (elastic travel) where in other pin bindings I may have released in unwanted circumstances.”
A week or two later he then added:
“I have had a few more days on the Tecton, two of them skiing inbounds, and I’m charging around with full confidence now.”
We’ve spent a lot of time skiing with Ally and comparing impressions about gear with him, so we trust him. Now we’ll just see the extent to which we agree with him….
But we feel comfortable saying this: if you want to know whether we think the Tecton 12 looks like a legit competitor to the Kingpin, our early impressions and experiences with the Tecton 12 indicate that it is.
For now, then, we’ll leave off with some of the questions we’re still most interested in answering:
(1) The Tecton 12 is composed of a lot of plastic, which is likely why it’s coming in almost 100 grams lighter than the Kingpin 13. Will this have an impact on the Tecton’s long-term durability?
(2) How does the Tecton 12 compare when skied back-to-back against the Kingpin 13? Does the Kingpin 13 still feel like it has the best-in-class power transfer that we love so much about it? Or is the Tecton 12’s just as good? Or even better?
(3) How does the downhill performance of the new Vipec Evo compare to the Tecton 12? Is it similar enough to make the weight savings of the Evo (~88 g per binding) interesting?
(4) Do the Tecton’s “Power Rails” really make a noticeable difference on snow?
(5) With elasticity in both the heel and toe, how different does the Tecton feel compared to a traditional alpine binding? Will the Tecton solve the pre-releasing issue that some other tech bindings have faced in the past?
(6) How effective is the Tecton 12 as a 50/50 binding, and how comfortable would we feel using it inbounds — and how comfortable will we feel recommending it as a 50/50 binding?
Bottom Line (For Now)
The new Fritschi Tecton 12 is definitely an intriguing product, and the Marker Kingpin now has a direct competitor in the “tech bindings with an alpine-style heel” category. The Tecton’s design incorporates our favorite aspects of the Fritschi Vipec, and adds better power transfer in the heel. Again, we’ll continue to get more time in the Tecton 12 to compile our full review, and we’ll update along the way. But so far, we’ve been impressed, and you can now check out on the next page our findings after A/B-ing the Tecton 12 and Kingpin 13.
NEXT: Update with A/B Comparisons to the Marker Kingpin 13