Snowboard, Wakeboard & Longboard Package Specialists

Monthly Archives: July 2011

  • Snowboard Width - Huh?

    Posted on July 30, 2011 by wiredsport

    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insert is a much better way to compare boards for shoe size compatibility, but for some odd reason, manufacturers do not publish this info.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.

    PS:

    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.

    PPS:

    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.

    Now go ride!


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  • Our Angle on Snowboard Stance

    Posted on July 20, 2011 by wiredsport

    If you live long enough, you get to hear some mighty strange things. If you live long enough where it snows, you get to hear some mighty strange things about snowboard stance. Does it seem like no one agrees with each other? Sure it does. So...there is always some hesitation to write down anything about stance, because whatever you say will certainly not please everyone. With that in mind, let's do it anyways. Let's talk about the elements of stance, what the options are and what you gain and lose from each.

    Starting right in at the most basic question for new riders, "how do I know if I am regular (left foot forward) or goofy (right foot forward)"? There are about 30 different ways of trying to establish this, and everyone thinks their method is best. Close your eyes and get pushed forward, Pushing a refrigerator, running race start, etc. etc. So how do you tell? The sure money way only applies if you have experience in another side-ride sport like surfing, skateboarding or wakeboarding. If you do, simply choose the stance that you ride for that sport. In other words, if you skate right foot forward, you are going to snowboard right foot forward. OK, OK, we hear you. You have never done any of those sports, what now? Our favorite test is the run and slide. If you run and slide on ice, or in socks on a Lenoleum floor, which foot goes out in front? Whichever foot it is will be your front foot when snowboarding.

    Relatively painless so far, but things are about to get ugly. "So, how do I choose the correct stance width"? "My park buddy told me that that I need a 23 inch stance but my other friend says I should use the closest together inserts". The fact is that every rider has a different body type and riding style. Leg length, flexibilty, and hip structure all effect what is going to feel comfortable for you. The best piece of advice we can give is do not be talked into a riding stance that feels uncomfortable, no matter how KOOL it is. You will always ride better with a stance that feels good on the body. With all of that said, here are the argued benefits of wide and narrow stances:

    Wider stance proponents will tell you that a big spread will increase your control over the nose and tail of the board. For freestyle riding this can add up to better presses, more stability on the rail, and a wider sweet spot between your bindings for grinding...anything. Some will say it also allows more immediate pop and boost for forced airs and is more stable for big landings. Narrow stance advocates will claim better edge control, easier rail to rail transitions and an ability to maintain speed better in harsh conditions.

    Fine, but how about for a new rider who doesn't have a preference or a riding style yet? There we can help you, because there is (a little) more agreement on that issue. Start at shoulder width. Set your bindings (or have them set) so that your feet fall so that the outside of each foot is directly under the outside of that shoulder. This is a great starting point and although it is not right for everyone, it is typically a good middle ground in the stance war and a comfortable first position for most riders. Also, a recent poll of all snowboarders that have been riding for 3 years or more showed that the majority (56%) ride at, or within 1 inch of, shoulder width.

    Now on to angle. Are you protected? Do you have on some armor or at least a football helmet? Things might get thrown here so you may want to hide behind your desk when we talk about this one. Disagreeing with someone's stance angle preference is kind of like insulting their Mom. You gotta watch what you say. Even so, maybe we can relate what the common wisdom is for each school and then make some beginner suggestions. You have 3 basic options (with many variations of each) in setting stance angle: Forward angles, Straight On (zero degree), or Duck Foot (forward facing front foot, back facing rear foot). The arguments:

    Forward angles allow a more natural body position. They make it easier to keep your upper body facing downhill. Try this test: Stand with your feet facing straight out in front of you. Now twist at the waist so that your upper body faces off to the side that would be downhill for you (for example, if you are regular, this will be twisting to the left). Feel how "locked up" you are at the waist? Now angle both feet slightly toward that downhill side. Does some of that "locked up" feeling get relieved? This the reasoning used by those who promote forward angles. This less stressed body position allows better edge control, more precise transitions and better flow at speed.

    Wait a minute though, the Duck Stance guys are about to pound you. They may even use that "locked up" stuff against you. What about riding switch. Get back into that forward stance position but now try to rotate your upper body the opposite way. Now you are doubly locked up. So when it comes to freestyle, park, pipe, etc. the case could be made that Duck Stance is way better.

    How about straight stance? Oh, C'mon, get off the fence and take a side already! Just kidding. Straight stance is comfortable for some riders, and if so, that is fine, but it does come at the expense of additional board width. Riding a straight stance means that you will need the widest board that would be in your size range, and maximum width brings with it some negative characteristics, so unless necessarry, choose another stance.

    For new riders we suggest starting with a moderate forward stance, with the back foot at 8 to 12 degrees and the front foot at 10-18 degrees. It will be easy to change to duck if / when you start riding switch. It should also be noted that most experienced riders (63%) ride with both feet forward.

    What about tip to tail centering though? My board came with a bunch of insert options. Which ones should I use? Should I be centered or backstanced? This depends largely on the design of the board. Having your bindings mounted so that your stance is centered on the board is excellent for stability and is equally good for riding in either direction. Centered is the preferred stance of many park and pipe riders as well as all mountain freestylers. Backstance (or offset back) positions the stance further towards the tail of the board than the nose. The idea is that this results in better tracking, better control at speed, and a board that "rides up" in powder or crud.

    It is very important, however, that you not forget the design of the board when making this centering/backstance decision. Many freeride boards come with the inserts already backstanced, so that if you choose the center option on each of the two insert clusters, you will already be backstanced. On pure twin boards, the inserts are always centered. Remember that the manufacturer chose to place the insert clusters where they did in relation to the sidecut of the board and its flex zones. Moving your stance too far from the boards design can result in really bad performance. A common example is when riders try to get a centered stance on a board that was designed to be ridden backstanced.

    As a general rule for new riders. Try to stay as centered as possible on the insert cluster. If perfectly centered on the cluster is not an option, always opt for slightly backstanced over forestanced.

    One thing almost everyone agrees on (whew! finally) is heel to toe centering. You will want to be as perfectly centered as possible, with an equal amount of toe and heel overhang. It is important to note that just because your bindings are centered on the board, does not mean that your boots will be centered. Getting this just right may take some trial and error in setup and some fine tuning after the first few rides. This can make or break your riding experience and we highly suggest that you take the time to get this perfect.

    Of course, these are all generalizations, and many riders are not either / or on any of these factors. For instance, the same rider's park board may be set up at a centered 22 inches, duck at +8 degrees and -8 degrees while their freeride board may be setup at backstanced 1.5 inches, 21 inches for width, +15 and +8 for angles.

    Well, now you are part of the debate. Get out there, experiment with all of this, and then come back and tell us how wrong we were :)


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  • Snowboard Binding Adjustment - Get Your Tweak On

    Posted on July 11, 2011 by wiredsport

    Anyone ever tell you that your snowboard bindings are as important as your board when it comes to performance? Uhh huh, uhh huh, thought so. Pretty good info actually. Bindings are your link to the board and if they're not working for you, that new Shawn Kass pro model won't make a bit of difference. That said, bindings have come a long way in the last 5 years, and these days even many basic binding models have great adjustability and the potential for a highly customized fit. But are you using the adjustability that is available, and if so, are you using it correctly? Dialing in your bindings with that extra little bit of tweaking can entirely change your riding experience and can unlock a level of comfort and performance that you may have been missing before.

    Let's start at the most heelward (is that a word? It is now) adjustment. What is the correct setting for the highback's forward lean slider? This is going to depend both on your boots and your riding style. Without changing the factory setting for lean, place your tightly laced boot into the binding and fully tighten both straps. Now have a look at the profile of the boot and binding. Is the top of the highback in full contact with the back of the boot? Is the angle of the highback forcing the top of the boot forward or crushing the back of the boot inward towards the tongue? If the angle of the boot nicely nests into the angle of the highback, that is a great place to start. If not, you will want to adjust the highback so that it rests with light pressure against the back of the boot. Consider that your starting point before style of riding is even considered. OK, but I'm a freestyler and I like that full motion feel, what do I do? Some freestylers will back off the highback a few degrees from the point of light contact. That may allow a bit more range of motion. We suggest backing this off very gradually (if at all) because heelside edge control can be lost quickly and because some degree of leg and ankle support is always sacrificed. It is also important to remember that the highback itself will flex some (depending on design) and that flex may be more than enough without "boot-negative" angle. Yeah, but what about freeriders and carvers? Starting from the nesting point, gradually adjust forward in small increments. This will allow a more "instant" feeling heelside edge, but can also result in overlean and calf pain, so use it sparingly. Most riders will simply want to adjust to the nesting point and will happily leave this setting right there.

    Heelcup adjustment is a little more complicated in that the term is often used to describe two separate and very different settings. The first should really be called highback rotation (and often is) even though this adjustment is made at the heelcup. The idea here is that when an angled stance is chosen, the highback becomes out of parallel with the board's edge. The rotation adjustment allows for the highback to be brought back in sync with the edge. The million dollar question is, should this be done? Does it help to have the back of the boot angled in one direction and the highback in another? There is no simple answer here. Highbacks are not always symmetrical, and boots come in a variety of sizes and shapes. That does not even begin to cover all of the different leg types that will enter the equation. The very best thing to do is to experiment. Strap into your gear on a carpeted floor at the factory settings and feel how the highback meets your contact points. You will get a surprisingly accurate feel for this even with no snow involved. Now rotate the highback to parallel with the edges and retest. We have done this thousands of times for riders, and most have a strong and immediate preference to this test. Many times an "in-between" option will be made and that is just fine. There are no hard and fast rules to this, so let comfort guide you and don't hesitate to fine tune after a few snow sessions.

    The second heelcup adjustment only applies to some bindings. These models have a heelcup which is free from the rest of the base. This allows the heel of the boot to be moved further out over the heelside edge. This is a centering feature which should be used to attain the same amount of overhang for both the toe and heel of the boot. It also allows for different sized boots to match up better with the contours of the bindings (for example where the arch curve lies). If this adjustment is not available on your bindings, no need to worry, centering can be achieved by use of the disk slider and contour can be matched by a more specific binding fit.

    The adjustable disk is the source of great confusion as it potentially controls 3 separate realms of adjustment: stance angle, tip to tail position, and toeside to heelside position. We have recently covered stance angle in another post, so let's begin with the other two. It is important to note that most binding disks will allow for either tip to tail adjustment or toeside to heelside adjustment but will not allow for both. Of the two, toeside to heelside adjustment (centering) is far more important than fine tuning stance width (micro adjustments between the available insert positions on the board). If the disk is the only available means of adjusting toe to heel centering, and if your boots do not happen to be perfectly centered without adjustment, then choose to position the disk so that adjustment is allowed toeside to heelside. You will then want to adjust so that you have an equal amount of overhang for both toe and heel (at the stance angles that you have selected). It is important to note that the goal is to center the boots, not the bindings. A centered binding does not mean a centered boot. This is the single most important binding setting and will have a huge impact on your riding, so we would suggest spending the time in adjusting and readjusting to get this perfect.

    How about an easy one? Some bindings have adjustable ramps (gas pedals). This is strictly a matter of aligning the ramps so that they fall comfortably under the contours of your particular boots and so that pressure can naturally be applied. This is typically adjusted by a slide screw that is found on the base of the bindings. When you have your boots on and you are strapped in to your bindings the correct position will very intuitive once found. We suggest leaving the set screw loose and sliding the ramps into various positions until the ahh-hah moment occurs. Then tighten them down and you are done.

    What about straps? There are so many settings on them and I have no idea what to do. First off, it is important that the straps be adjusted so that they are easily inserted into the ratchets, and so that the contoured pads be aligned well with your boots (and feet). The first is fairly easy. With your boots tightly laced onto your foot, try to strap in. Does the ladder strap easily reach and enter the ratchet or is it a struggle to get even the first few teeth in? When fully tightened are you able to get a nice snug fit or do you hit the far end of the ladder strap and it is still not completely tight on your boots? You will need to adjust the straps to allow for easy access and firm tightening. If these two things cannot be achieved and still allow for a comfortable pad position, then you have the wrong size bindings. Many bindings allow for the pad position to be adjusted independently of the strap size. Others also allow for the straps to be moved forward or backward on the base. It is a common misconception that the pad should always be perfectly centered. That is not the case. Many bindings use asymmetrical pads that are designed to ride more over the inside of the foot. The bottom line on straps is comfort. A small adjustment in position can make a huge difference, so again, tweak and retweak. Your feet will thank you!


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  • Prepping your new stick

    Posted on July 1, 2011 by wiredsport

    Finally!  The season is almost here, and your brand new board is sitting by idly, not-so-patiently waiting for the resorts to get a little more of that sacred white stuff, and open up at least a few early season runs.   But...Is your board ready?  Sure, it looks nice, and it has all of the latest and greatest technology, but what's the real story?  Do factories send out their boards ready to ride or do they still need a little luv'n before they are really prepped for the hill?

    The answer will depend on the type of riding you intend to do, your ability level, and the type of snow you will be riding on.  These days, all high quality board factories own some of the best finishing machinery that the snowsports industry has ever seen.  That is to say that your board's base will come perfectly ground, flat, true, and with an exceptional all purpose base and finish wax job.  Additionally, the edges will be sharpened to perfection, and pre beveled to the specs of the designers (we will go over edge bevel in detail in a future post, but the short story is that bevel refers to the angle of the edge in relation to the flat base).  So, in short, your board will never be more perfectly tuned than when it arrives.

    Sounds pretty great, right?  Well in many cases, it is great, and nothing more needs to be done.  BUT...don't stop reading quite yet, cuz that may not be the whole story for you.

    Snowboard factories do not know the conditions that you will be riding in when they manufacture their boards.  The same model may sell to a lucky rider who is getting Valdez face-shot powder days and to a Big Bear rider who may be dealing with warm weather slush and crud.  Why is this important?  The  wax they put on your board will be all temperature wax.  "All Temperature" is actually a bad name for it, because what it really means is middle temperature.  This wax has no greater temperature range than warm or cold wax, it is simply more neutral.  Soooo, if you are going to be riding in very warm or very cold weather, you will benefit from getting a temperature specific wax job.

    Additionally, not all riders are going to want perfectly sharpened edges all the way 'round their new board.  Along with the comments we made above on beveling, some riders will find that the ultra sharp edges that come on their new board are just too much.  Who does this apply to, and why?  Edges are there to help us carve on snow.  This is especially important when the snow is hardpack or worse even, snow's ugly cousin, ice.  In those instances, sharp edges help us bite into the slippery-slick-stuff and maintain control.  But, sharp edges can tend to grab unexpectedly (especially for newer riders) and can be the source of some frustration.  Furthermore, some freestylers who are focused on riding rails, trees, boxes etc. choose to "detune" their rails on a portion of (or all of) their board.  This very specific  type of riding can make for some spectacular wipeouts when, for instance, a heelside rail, catches on a kinked railing and sends the unsuspecting rider for the slam of his life. For this reason, some riders will take a file to their edges and round them off.  This will help with one very specific problem, but it should be noted that it will hurt in all other areas of performance and most importantly, it cannot be reversed.

    So what is the bottom line suggestion?  Go ride!  Unless you have a specific reason to do something special to your new board, don't do a thing.  Get the bindings mounted up and adjusted for your boots...and hit the snow!

    Happy Riding!


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