| Where your nose is, does not determine what size of snowboard you should ride!
...or your chin, ears, shoulders or any other body part for that matter. These are the silliest rules for sizing boards that could possibly be imagined, and yet they persist. We hear new ones everyday, "my friend told me that a board should come to in between my chin and my nose." Why, are you planning to nibble on it? Buying based on these generalities is good way to end up with a completely inappropriate board. Why do such rules exist? It is due to the fact that finding the right board takes a bit of research and knowledge. The easy way, however incorrect, is much quicker. A snowboard reacts to only two factors, how much pressure is being applied to it (rider weight), and where that pressure is coming from (foot size and position). Boards are designed around riders of a certain weight range. The total weight range for a given board will be around 50 pounds (although manufacturers tend to exaggerate this range to make their products sellable to a wider variety of customers). Two men who stand six feet tall and whose noses are at identical heights, may be separated by 100 pounds of weight. This would change the boards that they should ride by two entire categories of stiffness and running length. You will also want to make sure that the board is appropriate for your foot size. Up to 1 centimeter of barefoot overhang for both the toe and heel sides (yes, overhang) off the edge of your board is ideal (when measured at the stance width and angle that you will ride). We will discuss this more below when we address width in detail.
There is no best level of stiffness for a board!
At least five times a day we hear,"the guy at mountain told me that I want a soft board." This is the part that we were discussing above that relates to weight. Snowboards react to pressure that is applied to that hourglass shape (sidecut) that they have. This shape, when flexed, creates an arc on the snow. You are planning on turning on that arc. If you can't flex the sidecut into the snow (because the board is too stiff for you) you simply can't turn well, or not at all. If the board is too soft for your weight, it will constantly be overflexing, and "twisting off" of the edge that you are relying on to for control in turning. In this scenario you will have a terrible time on hardpack and ice, because the "effective edge" (amount of edge that should be in contact with the snow) will be distorted or twisted out of shape, and not doing it's job.
Trying to get an accurate idea of how a specific board will flex in comparison to others? Watch out! There is more marketing misinformation and straight out nonsense published about flexibility than about most other elements of snowboard fit. Finding the correct flex (stiffness and feel) is crucial, but it won't be found in a single number printed on a fit chart.
Let's clear one thing up straight off. There is no industry standard for flex. That is to say, what one company considers a "4" has no direct relation to another company's "4" or "Medium Soft", or "Less Harsh". That's correct, boards that carry the same number may (and usually do) have an entirely different feel.
OK, so that makes it tricky to compare one brand to another, but what about within a brand? Even here, big problems exist. Most brands are still putting a single flex rating on an entire model. That is to say, this year's Travis White pro model gets a flex rating of "2", but what? It's rated a 2 in both 149 cm and in 163 cm? Hey now, the chart says that those two sizes are rated for riders separated by 70 lbs, how can the flex rating be the same? Wait, you say, they are rating the overall flex of the model so it could be compared to other models of the same brand of a similar size. The problem there is that board designer's change the flex of each model at different size breaks to achieve the feel that they are after for that specific model. In other words, the difference in flex between a 149 and a 154 in one model may be far greater than the flex difference between those same sizes in another model. Additionally, many times a rider will be deciding between two sizes of the same model. Does the 157 really have the same flex as the 159? If so, why are the weight ratings for those sizes so different?
The biggest confusing factor, however, comes from the improvements in flex control technologies that have evolved over the past decade. A board that is designed to have a buttery soft tip and tail with a firm mid section flexes far differently than a constant flex board designed for a similar rider size. It is not that it is necessarily more or less flexible, but that the flex characteristics are entirely different. To get around this issue, certain companies have switched from a flex rating to a feel rating. This is a step from bad to worse. There is simply no way to compare these complex relationships in a single number or term. It would be equal to comparing a tangerine to a pineapple using a fruitiness scale, rated 1 to 10.
What is the answer? The only way to figure out the flex component is to dig deeper. Getting the info on the core weight range that a model and size were developed for and understanding the flex characteristic of that model is the only way to get the correct flex for your needs.
Buying by length is the hardest way to end up with the right board!
"My last board was a 156, and I liked it, so tell me about the 156's that you carry." The trick here, is that two boards of identical length, may be designed for completely different riders and types of riding. For example a 156 may be a "big mountain board" for a small rider, or a "park" board for a big guy, depending on the manufacturer's design plan. Those two boards, however, would never be appropriate for the same rider. Length is often discussed in terms of: longer equals faster, and more stable, while shorter equals more maneuverable. This can also be deceptive. The "running surface" of a board (the base area that contacts the snow) is a useful measurement, because this is the amount of board that you actually are riding upon. The overall length (the measurement usually considered) can be misleading, as it also contains the raised tip and tail, which do not contact the snow, and have only nuance differences in affecting your ride. Your best bet is research. Look into who the board was made for, and for what type of riding. Leave the rules of thumb to the rental guys, who are trying to get through the line of renters as quickly as possible, and get on the slopes (can't blame 'em for that).
Board sizing has always been a little tricky, but in the past, there have been a small group of readily available stats that have been very useful for comparison and selection by knowledgeable riders. One of those has been Running Length (AKA Contact Length).
As we have written many times, overall board length is a commonly considered, but almost useless measurement. Why? Because the shape and dimensions of a board's raised tip and tail can vary greatly and have next to no impact on the way the board will ride. These variations may change the overall board length by as much as 7 cm without having any significant effect on performance. I can feel some readers out there bristling to say, "but length effects spin weight and rotation". Sure, but in reality the difference in weight is negligible, and the difference you feel in spins is minor at best...and, most importantly for this article, tip to tip length will always be provided, so if it is important to you, it will always be available.
Most informed boarders have paid little to no attention to overall (tip to tip) length but have focused on Running Length as a major indicator of a board's true "size". This measurement was highly valued as it gauged the amount of board that would be in firm contact with the snow while riding. The running length was typically taken as a straight line measurement between the two contact points, which on traditional cambered boards pretty well corresponded with the board's wide points at both ends of it's effective edge. So, this really became a wide point to wide point measurement. Some manufacturers would measure this with the camber compressed (weighted) while others would take a non compressed measurement. In either case, the numbers were pretty close. Good retailers kept their own consistent internal measurements.
Enter Rocker. Rocker is an often incorrectly used term that inaccurately groups about twenty different variations on Reverse Camber designs. One confusing factor that stems from the addition of "Rocker" boards is that due to the design of many of theseshapes, the tip and tail, when weighted, are not in contact with the snow. So, how is running length being measured for Rockered boards? Well, that's interesting. For the mostpart, it's no longer being measured at all. Manufacturers that have been providing this measurement for years and in some cases decades, are now excluding the measurement from their literature and websites. Others have simply continued to measure wide point to widepoint, even while this is no longer a true representation of contact length.
Our suggestion: Two separate measurements. The fist being true weighted contact length and the second being the wide spot to wide spot measurement. This will allow the knowledgeable board seeker to get an idea of real running length, plus "available" running length (available by selective pressuring, even if not all at once) and wide spot distance to better gauge where the potential catch spots are in relation to rider stance.
But at least for now, Running Length, R.I.P.
How wide of a snowboard do I need?
How wide of a snowboard do I need? Where is the width of a snowboard measured? What does width mean in terms of my boot size?
Let’s start by talking about measurements, because this is where a lot of the confusion arises. The most common width measurement that is provided by manufacturers is "waist". The waist is measured at the narrowest point near the middle of the board (usually). But like with all things in snowboarding, different brands measure different things. Some measure the midpoint between the tip and tail and call that "waist". Others simply provide a measurement they call, "width", but do not really specify what width they are referring to.
If that has you a bit confused, don't worry, because regardless of where these "waist" measurements are taken, they are not very useful for what they are typically used for. Most people think that this measurement is a good indicator of what foot size a board will handle. It is not, and for a simple reason: you do not stand at the waist, you stand at the inserts. A board's waist measurement is always less than the measurement at the inserts and often the difference is significant. Additionally, two boards with the same waist dimension, may have very different measurements at the inserts, depending on each board's sidecut. Measurement at the center insert is a much better way to compare boards for shoe size compatibility, but for some odd reason, manufacturers do not publish this info.
OK, so now we have told you why we think the commonly provided measurements are pretty silly, but what good does that do you? You still need to know how to figure out the correct width for your new board. Well, here comes. There are two easy steps to getting it right every time.
First, measure your bare foot. It is important that you do not try to use a boot size. It is also important that you measure in centimeters, because the board measurements that you will be comparing to will be in cm. Here is the method that we suggest:
Kick your heel (barefoot please, no socks) back against a wall. Mark the floor exactly at the tip of your toe (the one that sticks out furthest - which toe this is will vary by rider). Measure from the mark on the floor to the wall. That is your foot length and is the only measurement that you will want to use. Measure in centimeters if possible, but if not, take inches and multiply by 2.54 (example: an 11.25 inch foot x 2.54 = 28.57 centimeters).
Second, measure the board you are considering. This measurement is easy. It should be taken at the inserts. Try to measure at the inserts that you will be using to achieve your stance position. If you are unsure about this, simply measure at the center of the insert cluster (that will still be very close). Be sure to measure using the base of the board, not the deck. This is important because the sidewalls on many boards are angled in, and will therefore give you a smaller measurement on the deck than on the base. For our example's sake, let's say the measurement is 27.54 at the center insert.
Still with us? You are almost done. You now have a way to compare foot size to board width where it matters, but how do you interpret this info to get the correct width? Well that depends a little on stance angle. If you ride a 0 degree stance, you will want your foot size to be the same as the width of the board at the inserts or up to 1 cm greater. If you ride at an angled stance, you will want to measure the board across at the angles that you will be riding. Again, you will want your foot to at least match this measurement or exceed it by up to 1 cm. So using our example above, this guy has a foot 28.57 cm that exceeds the board with at the inserts 27.54 cm by 1.03 cm at a zero degree angle. But, when he angles his feet to the 15 degree angles that he rides, voila, he has .10 cm of overhang for a perfect fit.
But wait a second. Are we saying that you should have overhang, even with bare feet? Yes. You will need overhang to be able to apply leverage to your edges and to get the most out of your board. 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch of boot overhang for both toe and heel is ideal, and will not create problematic toe or heel drag. Remember that boots typically add 1/2 at both the toe and heel to your foot measurement from above, due to padding, insulation and the outer boot materials. We do not suggest using the boot length to size boards though, as the extra padding etc, cannot be used well to create leverage, that has to come from your foot itself. We highly recommend that riders do not choose boards where their feet do not come to or exceed the real board width.
OK, that's all well and good, but where can you get the information on board width at the inserts if the manufacturers don't provide it? That's easy. Email the store that carries the board(s) that you are considering. Give them your foot length in cm (and your stance width and angles if you know them). They will be able to provide you with the width at the inserts that you will be using and can factor in your stance angle as well to get you the exact overhang that you will have with bare feet.
Once mounted, the best way to test is to put your (tightly laced) boots into your bindings and strap them in tightly. It is important that you have the heel pulled all the way back into the bindings heel cup or the test won’t help. On a carpeted floor place your board flat on its base. Kneel behind the heelside edge and lift that edge so that it rests on your knees and so that the toeside edge is angled down into the carpet. Now press down with both hands using firm pressure, one hand on each of the boots. This will compress the board's sidecut and simulate a turn on hard snow. You can change the angle of the board on your knees to become progressively steeper and you will be able to see at what angle you will start getting toe drag. You will want to repeat the test for your heelside as well. If you are not getting drag at normal turn and landing angles, then you are good to go.
Also a note about boots: Boot design plays a big role in toe drag as does binding ramping and binding base height. Boots that have a solid bevel at the toe/heel drag less. Many freestyle boots push for more surface contact and reduce bevel. This helps with contact, but if you have a lot of overhang with those boots it hurts in terms of toe drag.