Top photo: John Scarth
Despite what the industry might have you believe, snowboard gear has barely changed in the last twenty years. Boards are made in the exact same presses they always were, boots are, well, boots and on the bindings front no amount of colorful plastic will mask the fact that the engineering hasn't changed a bit. Some say that this is the exact reason that our industry is tanking right now. Personally, I don't know enough about economics and engineering to have a valid opinion on that front, but I do know that in the absence of progression, all things eventually just wither away and die.
JF at the work bench. Chomlack Photo
Enter NOW bindings. Coming straight out of the brain of JF Pelchat, one of Canada's biggest professional snowboarders during the 90s and 2000s, the NOW IPO, released last season, introduced a whole new concept in binding engineering which completely changes the way your foot interacts with the board and transfers your precious energy. By using a kingpin, hanger and bushing system similar to how skateboard trucks work, NOW bindings take the energy from your foot and put it directly to the edges of your board, enabling easier turns, less foot fatigue and a much more comfortable ride. It's a bit of a hard concept to grasp (check out the video below - it makes perfect sense once you see it) but basically your binding is only "hard-attached" to your board in two spots - mid-binding on both sides of your arch - and the major contact points are (adjustable) rubber bushings in all four corners.
If you're gonna sell bindings, you're gonna need to test them! JF by Chad Chomlack
WHAT IS ‘SKATE-TECH’? Inspired by how easily and efficiently a skateboard
turns; major components of our system mimic both the function and description
of skateboard trucks. The ‘Hanger’ powerfully transfers energy input from the
straps to the bushings and onto the edges of your board. The Kingpin acts as a
fulcrum, magnifying this energy through leverage. Traditional bindings diminish
energy transfer by the flexing and bending of their baseplate, forcing you to
crank your straps down harder, ride with more forward lean, or run taller and
stiffer highbacks. This all leads to more foot fatigue and pain. NOW bindings
bypass the middle of the snowboard and direct your energy right onto the
board’s edges. They simply transfer more power to the board with less work,
meaning your feet will stay more relaxed and comfortable, longer.
After years of tinkering in his garage, JF releases the first NOW binding on the industry two years ago. The IPO gained instant respect and was winning awards before it even hit the market. A strategic partnership with Nidecker followed and allowed JF to focus on further innovation as oposed to manufacturing, and two years later the NOW lineup now includes three models and has the support of some of the biggest players in the game.
So I got on the NOW bindings a couple years ago and haven't gone back since. I guess I should try the regular style bindings to see if really my lack of foot pain or breaking in a new pair of standard style bindings are any different. Well I'm in Austria right now and just spent a day on the glacier and rode a different board setup. Union bindings to be precise and boy was I glad at the end of the day because my feet killed and I most definitely was not on my game on slope. I guess the NOW program has made my winter days easy with no foot pain and pure pleasure.
Product tweaking in the Whistler Backcountry. Chad Chomlack photo
The Drive and Select models complement the IPO. fillng out the lineup and allowing NOW to offer bindings that suit any style of riding. Working with top pros like Jeremy Jones, Devun Walsh and the whole YES Snowboards team, JF has dialled in what works best and what doesn't and he feels strongly that the current NOW Bindings lineup is the best thing to happen to snowboarding in a loooong time.
And I totally fucking agree.
After lusting after a pair of NOWs since hearing about them two years ago, sometime last season I managed to score a pair of demo IPOs from JF to test out. It's hard to remain inpartial when you're so excited about something but after taking one run with these babies, I knew it was the real deal. Strapping in, you immedietly notice how cushy and comfortable the straps are (something that has been improved upon even more this year) but it's not until you start cruising that you really notice the magic that NOW binding deliver.
My first run on a pair of NOWs:
Like any new concept, it's sometimes a lot easier to just roll your eyes and stick with the status quo, but once you link your first two turns on a pair of NOW bindings you will instantly become a believer for life. The kingpin/hanger/bushings system just works. Plain and simple. It does exactly what JF and everyone else has been saying. Without question it delivers a smoother ride, a more comfortable ride, and makes for the smoothest rides I've ever felt. It's not some drastic change that is going to make shredding feel different and force you to relearn all your moves. Rather, the bindings simply take your ride to the next level, eliminating the stress-points and fatigue that has unfortunetly become a part of riding and allowing your foot to interact with your board more directly and intuitevely.
Simply said, it's a seemingly small change that will completely change the way you look at a day of shredding. Goodbye insane foot pain, goodbye overcranked straps cutting off circulation to your foot. Life is a lot better in a pair of NOW bindings. Plain and simple.
Owner JF Pelchat explains the NOW Binding:
Personally, I'm super stoked to try out the Drive binding this year. Hey, I shred as hard as Jeremy Jones, right? (Not!) But I suspect the Select model will appeal to the most people as it really is so well suited for almost any type of riding. The flippable ankle strap is another great idea from NOW, allowing you to choose exactly where you need and want the most support.