Snowboarding is about evolution and progression. Here is my story of progression.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
First Look: Never Summer SL 158 & Rome Targa Bindings
At the end of last season, I set out to find a replacement for my trusty old Burton Custom 158 all-mountain board that I had completely thrashed over the past few season. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy process since so much in board technology has changed in the past few years. These days there are so many different camber & alternative camber base profiles that it can sometimes be difficult to determine which is the best for you without demo’ing each and every one of them.
At the end of last season I bought my first alternative camber board as my big mountain powder board, the Ride Slackcountry. The base profile on the Slackcountry is completely flat through the bindings, with rockered tips on both ends. The rockered tips give a lot more float in powder than a traditional camber board, as well as give the board a more playful, or looser, demeanor when turning. After riding the Slackcountry for a day, I knew that I had to try an alternative camber board for my all-mountain board in the future. The playful turning nature of an alternative camber board perfectly fit my riding style.
After a little research, I narrowed my choices down to the Ride Machete and the Never Summer SL, both with different alternative camber profiles. The Machete incorporats Ride’s Lowrise Rocker (similar to the Slackcountry’s Highrise Rocker, but with less rocker on the tips) which is flat through the bindings, with slightly rockered tips. The SL has Never Summer’s recently patented Rocker/Camber profile, which has reverse camber between the bindings, and a slight camber profile under each foot to the tips of the board. Aside from the different base profiles, the two boards are relatively similar in flex, dampness, and pop.
My decision between the boards came down to drawbacks of most alternative camber boards: lack of stability on landings due to the rockered tail and risk of tail washout on packed and icy snow. For these reasons I ended up choosing the Never Summer SL, which could reduce the risk of these downfalls due to the small amount of camber that was put in underfoot.
Never Summer has always had a very good reputation in the industry when it comes to taking care of their customers. Their 3 year warranty is one of the very best available, and they are one of the very few manufacturers who still make their boards in the United States. When first handling their boards, you can feel the quality of the workmanship. Everything about the board feels solid. The only drawback is the increased weight of the board, although when strapped in on my feet, I couldn’t really tell the difference.
My first few runs with the new board were taken pretty cautiously. The rocker/camber profile made for a very different ride than the traditional camber boards I’ve ridden, and even the rockered Slackcountry. It was definitely a looser ride that would rather be on the edge than pointed going straight. After a few runs I was able to figure out the tendencies of the board and really put it through some solid turns. It really excelled in tighter, more technical runs where quick turns are needed. The looser tail made it really easy to kick the board back and forth through some tighter tree runs, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to buy an alternative camber board for my main stick. On some steeper pow drops I hit, the nose of the board was very easy to keep up out of the powder thanks to the rocker, despite being a slightly smaller board for powder. I noticed that my back leg was definitely less sore than usual as I didn’t have to work as hard to keep the nose up in the pow. My old traditional camber Burton Custom was a pretty tough ride in powder.
On paper the flex of the SL is on par with my Custom, which I liked. On the mountain it felt a little more flexible than the Custom, mostly due to the rockered design of the base making it easier to press and butter. Although I’m not really into jibbing or ground tricks, it’s still fun to play with the flex. It does take away a little fun when really railing a hard turn, as the tail of the board flexes a bit more and takes a bit of leverage away.
I was really impressed with how damp the board was though for the flex rating. It powered through a ton of late day chop with little or no board chatter at all. Not quite on the level of Ride’s Slimewalls from my experiences, but a nice surprise nonetheless.
One drawback for most alternative camber boards is the lack of pop due to the decreased leverage on the back foot, but I was really surprised with the amount of pop the SL had. I didn’t hit a ton of jumps or kickers on my first day due to the fact I was still learning the tendencies of the board, but when I did the thing took off like it was rocketing to the moon! It has waaaaaay more pop than my Custom, and very impressive for an alternative camber board. I almost got myself into some serious trouble on one kicker where I kicked off my back foot with as much force as I usually do with my older board. The extra pop in the SL actually booted me off the kicked with so much more force that I started to rotate over and nose down into the landing. Thankfully I was able to lean back enough on the landing that I didn’t nose right into the snow and really mess myself up. Lesson learned, beware of the extra pop!
My binding selection happened to be even more difficult than picking the snowboard they were going to go on. I knew I wanted something that was stiff enough to handle some hard charging lines, yet flexible enough to have fun with. I also wanted canted (angled) footbeds to help alleviate pressure on my already bad knees. The latter requirement really narrowed my brand choices down to a few companies (Ride, Rome, K2, and Burton). From there, I narrowed it down to a few selections: Rome Targa, Ride Alpha MVMNT, and Ride Delta MVMNT. After a long deliberation I chose the Targas because of their superior adjustability (3 different cant angles and 3 different stiffness settings for the ankle strap).
After the first few runs, I fell in love with these bindings. The highback stiffness was perfect for what I wanted. I could really put good power into a heelside turn by putting my weight against the highbacks. On the medium stiffness ankle strap I able to have enough mobility to move around, yet still gave me the response I wanted. Strap comfort was great, a little better than my worn out Burton Cartels.
My one gripe about the bindigs is the highback lean adjustment. The lock was way too easy to pop open without just reaching down and manually doing it. At some point during the day, one of the locks opened up while I was riding and got some ice packed into the adjustment grooves. It wasn’t easy to clean it all up and get it ready to ride again. It is a minor detail though, and I could probably devise some sort of safety for the lock so it doesn’t happen again.
Overall, the Never Summer SL and Rome Targa combination is a win. It did everything I wanted it to do, and did it all well. It carved well, was very maneuverable for technical runs, dropped steeps, ran powder, and popped like crazy. I’ve got a nice Whistler trip planned in a few weeks that I’ll really be able to put it through a lot more. I’ll give it a couple more days and report back with an updated review.