2020-2021 Majesty R12 / ATK Raider 12
Test Locations: Crested Butte & Mt Sneffels, Colorado
Days Tested (so far): 11
Release Value Range: 5-12
Available Brake Widths: 75, 86, 91, 97, 102, 108, 120 mm
Available Crampon Widths: 75, 86, 91, 97, 102, 108, 120, 135 mm
Climbing Aids: 0, 27.5, 30, 44, 49 mm
Forward Elastic Travel: 12 mm
Heel Mounting Gap: 4 mm
BSL Adjustment: 25 mm
Stated Weight per Binding: 330 grams
Blister’s Measured Weight:
- Toe Pieces: 124 & 124 grams
- Heel Pieces: 182 & 182 grams
- Brake Units (97 mm): 46 & 46 grams
- Total Weight per Binding: 352 & 352 grams
MSRP: $649 USD
Ski Used: Majesty Superwolf
A couple years ago in our Lightweight Touring Binding Shootout, the ATK Raider 2.0 12 was one of the standouts. It was quite light yet also quite burly (with an almost entirely metal construction), featured a heel unit more similar to heavier bindings, offered the best heel risers we’ve used, and skied very well for its weight.
For the 2020-2021 season, ATK is tweaking their lineup, including the introduction of a few new bindings in their “freeride” collection. One of those is the new “R12” or “Raider 12” binding (we know it’s confusing, we’ll help clarify below), which is positioned as the next step in ATK’s quest to create a very lightweight, pin-style touring binding that can handle more aggressive skiing in the backcountry.
We tested the Majesty-branded version of the R12 binding this past spring and throughout the summer in Crested Butte, so now it’s time to go over the design of the new binding, how it compares to the rest of the market, and discuss our initial on-snow impressions.
Different Versions, Names, & Branding
ATK is the Italian company that actually makes the bindings, but if you live outside of Europe, getting one of their bindings with “ATK” on it is tricky. Instead, ATK works with a few different distributors in North America that sell some of their bindings under different names — and often in different colors — but with the same exact construction.
One of ATK’s newest distributors is Majesty Skis, and we’re reviewing their branded version of the R12 binding (mounted to their excellent Superwolf ski).
Hagan also sells the same binding as the “Core 12 Pro.” Black Diamond is also selling BD-branded versions of ATK bindings, and the new Black Diamond “Helio 350” binding seems similar to the R12, though it looks like it uses a totally different toe piece.
As for ATK itself, they are reportedly just calling the binding the Raider 12.
The previous Raider 2.0 12 that we reviewed is still basically in their line for 20/21, but it’ll now be called the “Front 12” and features some subtle design changes.
If all of that wasn’t confusing enough, ATK is also making a version of the Raider 12 / R12 with a higher release value at the heel, dubbed the “Freeraider 14.” Apart from having higher release values at the heel, the Freeraider 14 also comes standard with ATK’s new “Freeride Spacer.” The Raider 12 / R12 requires a separate purchase for that accessory, which is designed to create an even more solid boot / binding / ski connection.
Oh, and ATK is making a “C-Raider 12” that uses a slightly different toe piece with a carbon-composite base plate that reportedly shaves off 30 grams per bindings vs. the regular Raider 12 / R12. And we’ve just been discussing their “freeride” collection of bindings — they make tons of others that are lighter and more minimal.
(I need a drink. Or a dozen.)
So with all that said, for this review, we’re just going to be referring to the binding as the R12.
But rest assured that it’s the same construction as the 20/21 Majesty R12, 20/21 ATK Raider 12, and 20/21 Hagan Core 12 Pro.
Design — Toe Piece
Alright, onto the actual design of this new binding. It isn’t 100% different than the Raider 2.0 12, but there are some notable changes, including an entirely new toe piece design.
The most obvious change is that the R12 features a more traditional brake position in front of the binding’s heel piece, whereas the Raider 2.0 (and now, “Front 12”) featured a brake that was positioned in front of the toe piece. We’ll go into the brake below, but there are more changes to the R12’s toe piece.
One of the unique updates is that the R12 allows you to reportedly change the release characteristics of the toe piece when it is in “walk mode” (i.e., when it’s locked for the uphill). ATK calls this the Up-Hill Hardness Variator, or U.H.V., and they say it “allows you to change the up-hill locking hardness of the toe part. It compensates the boot toe insert wear and tear during the years, provides a proper locking strength for each user and reduces the pressures on the locking mechanism.” This does not play any role in the retention characteristics when the toe is not locked out (i.e., when it’s in downhill mode).
With the R12, you can choose from “soft,” “mid,” and “hard” settings, and those settings reportedly only change the minimum distance between the toe pins when the toe is locked out, in order to compensate for different widths required by different boots and those boots’ particular toe inserts.
Personally, I’ve just kept the R12’s toe piece in the “hard” U.H.V. setting since I’ve mostly been using it on super firm skin tracks where I really don’t want the bindings to release. But as we’re able to experiment with more boots and in more conditions, I’ll update this if I notice anything noteworthy regarding the adjustable U.H.V.
Another update is the addition of some “guides” on the toe piece’s lever that were absent on the Raider 2.0. This isn’t a massive change, but the toe stops on the lever do make the R12 easier to step into than the Raider 2.0.
ATK also claims that the new toe piece design is less prone to ice buildup. We didn’t have any major issues with that with the Raider 2.0, and I haven’t had any icing issues with the new R12, so I can’t yet say how much of a difference that made.
Design — Heel Piece
The heel piece of the R12 also features some minor changes vs. the Raider 2.0.
The R12 still features ATK’s excellent 5-position “Magneto” heel risers, though the heights have changed a bit. The R12’s risers are just slightly lower across the board (this may just be due to the R12’s new heel baseplate, rather than the risers themselves).
Fortunately, I have never found myself complaining about the R12’s highest riser being too short, unlike some other bindings in this class, like the Marker Alpinist and Dynafit TLT Speed. Like the Raider 2.0, the R12’s heel risers have magnets embedded in them that let them stick to each other, and there are also some small detents in the risers that let you stick the riser into the heel piece’s pins to keep them from flapping around (something I admittedly did not realize during my first few tours…). Just like the Raider 2.0, the R12 features my favorite heel risers of any binding.
The R12 reportedly offers 12 mm of horizontal elasticity at the heel, vs. the Raider 2.0’s stated ~5 mm (though the 20/21 Front 12 binding has the same stated 12 mm of elasticity as the R12). In short, this fore / aft movement of the heel piece is designed to offer more reliable retention / prevent pre-releases.
When a ski is significantly flexed, the horizontal distance between the heel and toe piece of a fixed binding with no fore / aft elastic travel would consequently be shortened. Since your boot isn’t getting any shorter in that scenario, that can lead to a pre-release due to the increased pressure your boot is putting on the rigid bindings (or a full-on binding explosion, the case of some older tech bindings).
This feature isn’t specific to the R12, and the R12 binding still requires a 4 mm gap between the heel piece and heel of the boot, but it’s a feature that plays a role in making bindings like the R12 more reliable during aggressive skiing, vs. ultralight bindings with rigid heels.
Like the Raider 2.0, the R12 does not use a U-spring for the heel piece, but instead uses two independent pins. You should listen to our conversation with G3 for more info on U-spring bindings, but there are two primary downsides to them. First, they don’t allow fine-tuning of the vertical release characteristics (you typically just get to pick from 1-3 springs that are stiffer / softer). Second, U-springs have also been shown to prematurely wear down the heel inserts on touring boots, since they require a lot of force to bend and get around the boot inserts when stepping into / releasing out of the binding.
Bindings like the R12 feature independent pins at the heel that (1) allow you to independently and precisely change both the lateral and vertical release values of the heel piece and (2) “roll” around the inserts on your boots when getting in / out of the binding to decrease wear on those inserts.
Another bonus of the non-U-spring design is that the R12 is very easy to step into. Every time I step into a U-spring binding I cringe a bit, due to how hard I have to stomp, but that’s not the case with the R12.
Finally, the R12 still features a generous (by this category’s standards) amount of adjustment for different boot sole lengths (“BSL”). The R12 offers a stated 25 mm of BSL adjustment, whereas the Raider 2.0 offered 30 mm, but this is still better than most of the truly ultralight bindings, many of which offer no BSL adjustment.
While the updates to the actual heel piece of the R12 are arguably minor, the big change is in its brake:
Design — Brake
The Raider 2.0 was unique in that it had its brake situated in front of the toe piece, whereas the vast majority of bindings use a brake in front of the binding’s heel piece. The R12 switches to a more traditional setup, but it’s still different vs. most brakes.
While the R12’s brake is situated in a more traditional spot (in front of the binding’s heel piece), the way it’s locked / released is different. To lock the R12’s brake, you push in a small button on the side of the brake and then press down the brake pad to lock it. To unlock the brake, you simply push that same button back in, and the brakes pop loose.
The R12’s brake arms are still very minimal compared to alpine bindings, and I wouldn’t expect them to stop a runaway ski on a steep, firm slope. We also ended up getting used to the Raider 2.0’s toe-mounted brakes, but I do think the R12’s heel-mounted brakes will be more intuitive for most people.
Apart from a potentially more intuitive interface, the main upside with the R12’s new brake design seems to be weight savings; while the toe piece of the R12 is a bit heavier than the Raider 2.0’s, the R12 is overall lighter by almost 25 g per binding. I also think I’m a tiny bit faster while transitioning with the R12 vs. the Raider 2.0, which I’d attribute to the brakes.
When looking at the whole AT binding market, the R12 is quite light. And especially if you’ve been checking out the very-downhill-oriented bindings like the CAST system, Marker Duke PT, and Salomon Shift, the difference is extreme.
As we just mentioned, the R12 is also a bit lighter than the Raider 2.0 (~23 g per binding for our pairs), though there are some slightly lighter options in roughly the same class, particularly if you want to go without brakes. In this review, when I mention “bindings in its class” while referring to the R12, I’m mostly referring to the Salomon MTN / Atomic Backland Tour, Dynafit TLT Speed, Marker Alpinist, G3 ZED, and old ATK Raider 2.0.
For reference, here are our averaged measured weights (per binding) for a number of touring bindings we’ve tested, ranging from the R12’s lightweight category to the very downhill-oriented category.
298 g Salomon MTN / Atomic Backland Tour (no brake, no leash)
306 g Dynafit TLT Speed (no brake, no leash)
320 g Fritschi Xenic 10 (no brake, no leash)
352 g Majesty R12 / ATK Raider 12 (97 mm brake)
376 g ATK Raider 2.0 12 (105 mm brake)
383 g Marker Alpinist (105 mm brake; long heel track)
463 g G3 ZED 12 (100 mm brake)
595 g Fritschi Vipec Evo 12 (110 mm brake)
626 g Dynafit ST Rotation 10 (105 mm brake)
638 g G3 ION 12 (105 mm brake)
682 g Fritschi Tecton 12 (120 mm brake)
775 g Marker Kingpin 13 (75-100 mm brake)
886 g Salomon S/Lab Shift MNC 13 (110 mm brake)
997 g CAST Freetour (weight on ski while touring; 110 mm brake)
1074 g Marker Duke PT 16 (uphill mode w/ alpine toe removed; 125 mm brake)
1383 g Marker Duke PT 16 (downhill mode; 125 mm brake)
1530 g CAST Freetour (all parts included; 110 mm brake)
And not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but I think ATK warrants a shoutout for the consistency in the weights of their toe and heel pieces, which weighed exactly the same within the pair we have.
In short, the R12 has been fantastic on the uphill.
First, you have to step into it, and I’ve found that pretty easy. I think the G3 ZED is still the easiest binding in this class in terms of easy step-in, but it didn’t take many tours for me to consistently step into the R12 on the first or second try.
Then there are the R12’s awesome heel risers. While technically having 5 riser options is cool, I typically just flip the R12’s heel piece 180° while touring and use the two heel riser options and the flat mode (if you keep its pins facing forward to use the other two riser options, you don’t have a flat mode). But more importantly, I just like that (1) its risers are easy to use with a ski pole, (2) they offer a low and high setting that are very useful for the tours I do, and (3) there’s a flat setting.
From flat approaches to the steepest skin tracks I think I could physically skin up, the R12’s heel risers have worked just as well as I would like. Despite its highest riser being a bit lower than the Raider 2.0’s, I never found myself complaining that the R12’s highest riser wasn’t high enough, which is something I am pretty sensitive to (e.g., Marker Alpinist, Dynafit TLT Speed, Salomon Shift).
It’s light, its risers are super easy to use (even with just a ski pole), and it’s just a no-fuss binding — I like skinning in the R12.
Again, things have been very straightforward. Transitions with the R12 have been very minimal in terms of drama, even when transitioning on icy, 49° couloirs (though I wouldn’t say that whole situation was “drama free” …).
At the heel, all you need to do is hit the brake button, flip the heel tower around, and step in (which, again, is quite easy). Like the Raider 2.0, the R12’s heel piece doesn’t turn as easily as, say, the G3 ZED, but as long as you don’t need to be able to turn your binding heel pieces with your ski poles (rather than your hands), this won’t be a significant problem.
At the toe, there’s no brake to mess with and, again, it’s pretty easy to step into. The R12’s toe lever was initially difficult to pull into the locked, uphill position, but after 1 or 2 days touring with it, that issue went away.
For me, this is the important part. And for me, the R12 has skied exceptionally well for how light it is.
The R12 feels very similar to the Raider 2.0 in terms of overall downhill performance. Both bindings offer excellent power transfer for this class, with very little of the “vague” feeling at the heel that’s a problem with many bindings with pin-style heels. With the R12, the boot / binding / ski interface feels quite solid (again, compared to similarly light bindings).
Like the Raider 2.0, the R12 isn’t best in class when it comes to how “harsh” or “jarring” it feels on rough, firm snow. Compared to the class-leading Marker Alpinist, the R12 does feel like it transmits more of the vibrations from the snow / ski to my boots / legs. This difference is quite subtle when comparing it to similarly light bindings, but if you compare the R12 (or any binding this light) to something like the Salomon Shift or even the Fritschi Tecton, this difference is much more noticeable.
With that said, I do think the R12 feels a bit less harsh than the Raider 2.0 and I didn’t find myself really cringing while skiing it on some fully refrozen, sandpaper-like “snow.” I figure this could be due to the supposed increase in heel elasticity, and / or the brake pad that now sits under the boot heel, which looks like it may touch / support the boot heel when the ski is flexed. At least with the Atomic Hawx Prime XTD 130 boots I’ve been using with the R12, the boot’s heel does appear to still sit slightly off the brake pad when the ski is not flexed.
We’re hoping to test the R12 with the Freeride Spacer to see if it could help it even further close the gap between it and 600+ g bindings. But even without that, the R12 quickly become one of my favorites in this weight class. For reference, I’ve been running both the lateral and vertical release values at 10 on the R12, same as the DIN settings I run on alpine bindings, and I have not had any pre-releases so far.
Who’s It For?
First, if you’re already interested in this lighter, roughly 280–350 g binding class, the R12 is a very appealing option. It’s competitive in terms of weight; offers independently adjustable and fine-tunable release at the heel; doesn’t use a U-spring; offers arguably the best heel risers in this class (and maybe the entire market?); is very burly; and it skis really well for how light it is.
The main downside I see with the R12 vs. the other bindings in its class is price — at $649, it’s more expensive than many of the alternatives, though that price does include a brake, which some other bindings don’t include (on the flip side, you also can’t purchase the R12 without a brake, as far as we know). Whether the R12 is worth it will come down to your priorities, but it definitely offers a lot to like.
Now, if you have not tried or really looked into this lightweight category of bindings, the R12 might still be a good option, but there are several important things to consider.
While I keep saying the R12 skis really well for its weight, that caveat of “for its weight” is important. If you want an AT binding that feels just like your alpine bindings, the R12 is not for you. (But fortunately, you have several good options that do live up to that requirement.) This difference in on-snow performance vs. alpine bindings mostly comes in the form of how jarring the R12 feels on firm snow; the fact that it’s not certified to the same alpine-binding release characteristics; and its poorer power transfer.
We went into more detail about this debate between the lighter and heavier binding categories in our AT Binding Deep Dive comparisons, but here’s the short story: heavier touring bindings with alpine-like heels (Marker Kingpin and Fritschi Tecton) offer significantly better power transfer and a less harsh feel. And then fully alpine-certified bindings like the CAST system, Marker Duke PT, and Salomon Shift offer an even smoother ride and arguably safer release characteristics, with overall downhill performance that’s basically identical to alpine bindings.
Of course, those bindings are all 300-1000+ grams heavier than the R12, and that heavier weight may be worth it for some people. But if you don’t ski super aggressively in the backcountry, you mostly ski soft snow (where the R12’s jarring feeling is a non-factor), or you don’t personally worry as much about needing alpine-certified release in the backcountry, the R12 would be a great way to save a significant amount of weight in your setup.
Pretty much all of the downsides of the R12 are not limited to it in particular — they’re just tradeoffs you make when going to a binding this light. And when compared to its apples-to-apples competition, the R12 is very impressive.
Year after year, we’re seeing significant improvements in touring gear. The ATK Raider 2.0 12 was already a very impressive piece of equipment, but we think the new R12 / Raider 12 is even better.
The R12 skis really well for its weight, it’s super easy to use on the uphill, its nearly all-metal construction seems very burly and like it could last a long time, and it does all of this while being very competitive in terms of weight vs. other bindings in its class.
We’ll also be using the R12 more in the future, and will update this review if / when we notice anything new or are able to compare it to more bindings.