Overall: Five Stars for a race binding that is outrageously light and innovative, even among lots of competition from other light and innovative race bindings.
Background on product familiarity: I have 87,000’ on the Low Tech Race, mounted for Dynafit DyNA EVO boots on Hagan X-Race skis. Other race and near-race bindings I have used include various Plum models, Sportiva-branded ATK RT, and the Dynafit Speed Superlite.
First, the first impressions out of the box: If you’ve never seen a rando race binding before, you’re in for a shock. And even if you’ve seen other rando race bindings, then you’re still in for a shock, as the Low Tech Race has stripped away metal that you never imagined could be stripped away.
The toe mounting pattern is identical to regular Dynafit Radical models. The heel pattern has only three screws, very tightly clustered. A removable ski crampon attachment is included in the price.
As with all full-on race bindings, the heel cover offers only a single kind of “half-step” elevator position, which is optimal for optimal skin tracks, but feels a bit too low for too-steep skin tracks. For extended flats, the heel unit will not stay sideways for no elevator at all, but even on race and “near-race” models that rotate for a no-elevator position, I have almost never needed that. Furthermore, the skinning heel > toe differential is about 3mm lower than the Plum 135/145, so optimized a bit more for slightly lower-angle skin tracks. Alternatively, the heel cover has a small hole for adding a spacer for more height.
As is also typical of race bindings, the heel > toe “delta” for skiing is very low (once again about 3mm lower than on the Plum 135/145), which helps with fore-aft balance. (By contrast, more binding “delta” puts almost all skiers more into the backseat – think of where your hips go when hiking down a steep pitch.) The optional fore-aft adjustment plate would increase the heel > toe differentials to somewhere in between the Plum 135/145 and 165.
Second impressions, in use: I have never prereleased, despite plenty of fast skiing in “variable” conditions. The coupling between the boot and the ski feels as tight as with any Dynafit or other “Tech”-style binding. The ski crampon clasp is identical to that on Plum race bindings: very minimalistic, but has worked well for me on those binding for lots of steep tricky skinning. And its minimalistic design allows some subtle bending to accommodate variances among different crampon brands.
Fortunately I have never had the chance to test the release characteristics in a fall, but I have tested the lateral release values with a VSSE Release Calibrater: somewhere in the high single digits, yet noticeably lower than for Plum race bindings. This is a combination of the relatively light heel resistance and the ability to fine tune the toe lever position via a small screw. My bindings are set up so that upon entry the toe lever automatically goes up into a position that is fine for most skinning, although the toe lever can then be pulled up all the way for even more security. The actuation pad also has a small threaded hole so that a screw can be inserted to accommodate boot sole rubber that has worn down too much to trigger the actuation pad.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: Good as new, except for the titanium U-shaped heel spring, which is starting to become notched very slightly. Based on my Plum 135 experience, and depending on your weight, probably somewhere between around 200,000’ and 300,000’ vertical the notching might lead to a noticeably “rattly” feel while skiing, and eventually the notches will cause the pins to become hook-like so as to interfere with lateral release.
Fortunately you don’t have to worry about breakage, since the greater strength of titanium (as opposed to steel) will compensate for the notched metal until you retire the pins for either the rattling or the compromised release. And based on my Plum experience, replacing the U spring (for which Dynafit does supply a steel replacement too) entails only about a minute or so of work: punch out the retainer pin, slide out the old spring, slide in a new spring, and reinsert the retainer pin.
I saw a picture of toe frame breakage, but just one instance. The toe frame on my 2013-14 Speed Superlite is slightly thicker around some of the holes as compared to the otherwise identical frame on my 2012-13 Low Tech Race, so perhaps this has been addressed?
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