Bucking the sales-speak trend of snowboarding’s forced jargon, this season introduced Union’s Forged Carbon bindings to the masses.
More concisely a “forged composite” binding, what Union has debuted is a lighter weight carbon-reinforced hill-killer.
In plain terms, rather than using sheets of carbon-reinforced plastic laid down one on top of the other (picture making your bed, or a sandwich) and then bonding those layers together (adding mayonnaise or some comparably viscous bonding agent), Union has utilized a process similar to that pioneered by Lamborghini and Callaway- Yes, that Lamborghini, and yes, that golf-greens-centric Callaway.
Forged composites, as opposed to their layered predecessors (remember your sandwich?) feature a paste of shredded up fibers contained within a product matrix; Imagine putting your neatly layered sando in a blender.
That is, instead of the layered carbon content being oriented in alternating, singular directions with each successive layer, forged composites are made with a carbon content whose orientation is all over the place- Instead of a neatly made bed with crisp, hospital corners, a forged carbon composite is a bit more like sleeping in a massive hairball; fibers are all over the place and impregnate the entirety of the polymer plastic resin or carrying agent they are bound within.
Where Lamborghini and Callaway have incorporated the technique into formed auto body components or the “Diablo Octane” line of drivers, Union has created a second generation carbon binding that is not only lightweight, rigid and strong, but price competitive, too; While the FCs are still pretty spendy, the forged composite/forged carbon approach will (I predict) make the incorporation of carbon tech into hard-goods cheaper, and potentially, standard (as an added plus, Union also steered clear of putting a goofy name like “Diablo Octane” on the resulting binding).
Union Ultra FC Snowboard Bindings
For starters, it’s important to recognize that these are not entry level bindings; The Union FCs, however branded, are going to best accommodate advanced-intermediate to expert riders- The bindings are stiff and rigid enough that lazy-footing and sluicing around aren’t really an option, aggressive riders bound to get the most out of a design like this; As with a willful northern dog, if you aren’t in control these bindings will walk all over you.
Park rats and jib-kids may be thrilled with the incredibly low weight of the FCs, but in my opinion where these bindings truly excel is in steep, variable freeriding terrain; my current go-to boots are geared towards backcountry/mountaineering use and I found the FCs worked best with the already stiff uppers I was sporting.
Locking into some easily articulated forward lean had them performing even better, just enough flexion coaxed out of the bindings in crucial situations; I don’t like a lot of play in my bindings, so the union fc bindings felt terrific in the terrain I’m keen to get after. Deeply custom and easily altered for changing conditions/terrain, the FCs are easy to dial in for what you need in big terrain (another added benefit is that their light weight makes hauling your board around a whole lot easier!)
This isn’t to say that the freestyle set is going to be hard done by if they decide to go the Union FC route, only that they shouldn’t expect the FC to behave like a standard plasticized binding model; The FC isn’t a clone, it’s a high-bred hybrid that looks like a conventional binder but rides like a jacked-up cyborg- Lighter, stronger, faster.
If you’re more focused on playful, bendy, tweaky, cruisey, this binding is not for you.
On the design side, maybe it’s that Lamborghini had a hand in developing the materials technology used in the FCs, but the binding projects a terrifically sleek-meets-beefy vibe- From the foot-beds/toe-ramps to the straps and high-backs, the designers at Union really nailed it on the design end.
The bindings strike a great balance between utilitarian and performance-driven, neither over-styled nor underdeveloped; The bindings don’t look or feel like a lot of the disposable, single-season price-point bindings so many brands seem to churn out (and that’s a good thing ‘cause they ain’t cheap).
Instead, Union has done something innovative, coupling forged composite tech with traditional design mores to make the industry sit up and take notice… and not just the ISPO folks, but actual riders, too- As winter shifts into spring ‘round these parts, there’s a line-up of bros keen to give these a whirl.
Five outta five for this guy on the brand new Union Force Carbon ($519) absolute charger.