Rotating / Tracking Toe Piece
Stated Weight: 935 grams per pair
BLISTER’s Measured Weight: 957 grams
I now have a good amount of time on the Dynafit Beast 16, and can expand upon my initial look at the binding.
I’ve been able to directly compare the Beast 16 on snow to both tech and alpine bindings—all mounted on the same ski (DPS Wailer 112RPC), with the same tune (2 side edge angle, 1.5 base edge angle), and skied with the same boots (Tecnica Cochise Pro).
I have also tested these bindings extensively on the workbench, looking at how the bindings actually function. The idea was to locate each system’s shortcomings, examine their respective compromises, and determining how that translates to their on-snow performance.
Ultimately, conclusions about the performance bandwidth of the Beast 16 really depend on (a) your points of comparison and (b) what snow conditions we’re talking about.
In short: in terms of ski performance, the Beast 16 offers dramatically more control and better snow “feel” over a ski than a traditional tech binding, but at a small weight penalty. Compared to alpine race-heritage bindings, the Beast is not quite equivalent on hardpack, but it is indistinguishable in soft, consistent snow.
Before I go into detail about the Beast 16, we should discuss how tech bindings and alpine bindings work to provide context about the Beast, and then compare it to the functionality of the existing benchmarks.
A Little Background on Elastic Travel and Release Value
The elastic travel of a binding is the single most important aspect of a ski binding’s ability to retain or release a skier from the ski.
Elastic travel is the amount of distance a binding can move before the boot clears (i.e., “releases from”) a binding. So, for example, if a binding has a 38mm elastic travel value, it can move 37mm and still retain the boot. In a 20mm travel binding, you can only move 19mm before your boot will release from the binding.
The weight of the binding spring will control how much work it takes to displace the binding a given distance. For example, if you have a 200 pounds-per-inch spring, it would require 200 pounds of force to compress the spring 1 inch, or 25.4mm.
You can then further tune the binding’s functionality by adjusting the “Release Value” of the binding—i.e., adjusting your binding up from a setting of, say, 8 to 10.
(Note: “Release value” is often mistakenly conflated with “DIN setting.” A DIN setting of “8” is a release value, but not all bindings are DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung) certified. We’ll say more about release values and various certifications in an upcoming GEAR 101 piece.)
The release value of a binding is a measurement of the amount of “spring preload”—the amount of force required to move the binding initially.
Adjusting the spring preload does not affect how firm a spring is through its travel. The spring constant (lets say 200 pounds per inch) is exactly that—a constant for a spring.
So adding preload—e.g., cranking your bindings up from 8 to 12—simply means that the spring requires a higher force to initially compress it. It does not mean that the spring itself just got 25% stiffer.
In a binding with low elasticity, one must run a higher release value to compensate for the short release action of the binding to prevent unwanted release. By running a high release value on a low-elasticity binding, you are simply preventing the binding from entering its motion as naturally.
Doing this will certainly help to keep you in the binding, but it also introduces a higher likelihood of injury. In other words, cranking up the release value on a low-elasticity binding is a pretty sketchy fix.
A highly elastic binding allows a skier to use the binding at a lower release value, since they are relying on the travel (i.e., elasticity) in the binding to prevent unwanted release.
There is then less need to jack up the preload tension, because more elastic travel can occur, increasing the skier’s ability to recover from an awkward situation before (pre-)releasing. This promotes controlled support for recovery through the range of motion of the binding’s elastic travel, but also promotes a smooth release that is unimpeded by an overly firm initial resistance.
The Ideal Binding Trifecta
In a perfect world, then, one would ski a relatively heavily sprung binding with a minimal release value setting, with maximum elastic travel. This enhances the binding’s ability not only to release the skier from its hold, but also to retain a skier if recovery is possible.