GEAR REVIEW – 2013/2014 Voile Light Rail Splitboard Bindings
The set-up used for this review:
- Binding Size – Medium (7-10.5 USM)
- Board – 2011/2012 K2 Panoramic Splitboard
So, you want to hit the backcountry for some untracked pow but you’re a ‘snowboarder’? Don’t throw in the towel on your years of snowboarding for a set of skis yet. Try a splitboard. A splitboard is a snowboard that splits into two halves down its latitudinal axis. It is fitted with bindings for downhill, similar in concept to a standard snowboard set-up, in addition to touring brackets and risers which allow you to transition into touring mode when you “split” the board making it look a lot like two skis.
Now that you have your splitboard, at least you’ve mentally purchased one, lets talk bindings. You have two options here: (1) take your freeride bindings off your snowboard to use on your splitboard or (2) purchase splitboard style bindings. I spent two backcountry seasons with option one and finally sprung for option two this season. While the freeride bindings got the job done, there were some sizable drawbacks; they were heavy, raised my feet at least half an inch off the board because they lie on top of the Voile pucks rather than integrating into them, and the high-back stops at zero degrees (as well as having built-in forward lean) which dramatically reduces your stride length while skinning up the mountain. Enter option two, the splitboard specific bindings. They give the rider a more natural feel by allowing the binding to rest directly on the board instead of the half inch rise as encountered with option one, they are significantly lighter and offer the option for negative forward lean in the highback which gives you a little more length in your upward bound stride rekindling friendships with your ski pals.
It was only after my first backcountry outing with binding option one that I realized I needed splitboard specific bindings, it just took me two seasons to swallow the price. At the time, Spark R&D and Karakoram were the key players in the splitboard specific binding market and their prices were hard to swallow and so I made my freeride bindings work for me until I just couldn’t do it for a third season. Countless hours of google prodding led me to research the Voile Light Rail binding and with an MSRP of $249, it was a little easier to consider over the $600+ for its competitor’s asking price.
The transition from touring to riding mode was much more simple than was previously. I noticed little-to-no icing around the attachment points, likely due to the binding resting directly on the board rather than above. The system uses a sliding pin to secure the binding to the Voile pucks, with a clasp that locks over to prevent the pin from sliding out and a cord that connects to the bindings to prevent you from dropping the pin. I do carry a pocket screwdriver in case something were to loosen in the backcountry, but I do this even when freeriding at a resort. The bindings also come with an avalanche rip cord which you may chose to incorporate or not. It attaches to the two quick release buckles on the bindings, allowing you to free your feet from the board at a pull of the cord.
Finally, the ride down. The bindings do the job. It felt more natural with them now resting flush on the board as opposed to the freeride bindings, which as mentioned previously, have a lift of about half an inch. The binding straps lie over the toe, unlike my freeride bindings that had a “toe cap”. It took a little bit to get used to the Voile Light Rail’s over the toe bindings because I had been so accustomed to the sensation that the toe cap causes by pushing my heel into the back of the binding, but two to three turns and I had adjusted to the difference.
The Voile Light Rail Splitboard binding is mostly metal, so it looks like they should withstand a lot of time in the backcountry. I really only foresee the binding straps needing to be replaced in the far away future because they are, of course, non-metal.
Bottom Line - The price is right to stop juggling your freeride bindings between your in-bounds snowboard and your splitboard.
2013/2014 Voile Light Rail Splitboard Bindings, MSRP $249.99
- about half the price of its competitors, with no sacrifice in function and quality
- easy transitions from touring to riding and vice-versa
- great feel while riding downhill, due to binding resting directly on board
- negative forward lean in the highback means a little more length in your upward bound stride
- Would like to see a toe-cap version