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Gear Review | ATK FR 14

Lightweight binding for tough use

by Alexander Braschel • 03/30/2020
With the FR 14, ATK is continuing its series of high-performance, lightweight freeride bindings. With a maximum Z value of 14, the binding is also one of the strongest pin bindings on the market. You can read about how the binding performs in practice and what else I can think of here.

First impression

When you unpack the FR 14 from the box, you are met with a few individual parts. On closer inspection, however, it quickly becomes clear what belongs where.

At first glance, the binding makes a very solid impression. Apart from a few small details, the toe piece is made of aluminium or stainless steel. The heel piece (also made of aluminium and stainless steel) sits on a plastic slide, which also makes a fairly solid impression. Only the stoppers seem a little dainty (thinner aluminium tubes, less plastic than similar products). In general, the back of the binding looks more like a binding for ski touring races at first glance. However, the Z-value scale (vertical and horizontal) of 8-14 leaves no doubt that the binding was packed in the right box. The freeride spacers (plastic) are located at the height of the stoppers, but I will come back to these later.

The drilling pattern, i.e. the distance between the screws of the binding, is quite wide, which certainly favours use on wide skis. The binding is fastened with 8 screws per ski.

The tester and the test conditions

I myself weigh about 85kg and am 185cm tall. I don't really have a favourite touring terrain in that sense any more. Depending on the conditions, it ranges from grassy hill tours with Hansi Hinterseer turns to big slopes with long radii and the occasional jump to steep gullies with jumpturns. The ascent length varies from short hikes from the mountain station to tours with a maximum of 1500 metres.

After working as a ski instructor all winter long and spending about 160-180 days a season on the slopes, I can describe my skiing skills as pretty solid.

I've also had several pin bindings from Marker and Dynafit mounted on various skis. For a few years now, I've actually only used pin bindings for touring. This is my first experience with ATK products.

The binding was tested on a Scott Speedguide 95 in 178cm with a Dynafit Hoji Free boot. I travelled exclusively in the Upper Engadine, where the conditions were extremely tough this winter, but there were also the odd powder day and a few firn descents.

Binding features in practice

Like every manufacturer, ATK also advertises its products with special features that are intended to emphasise the special capabilities of the binding. I would like to take a brief look at some of these features, explain them in more detail and explain their functionality/usefulness.

  • EES - Easy entry system: This system promises easy entry into the front automatic thanks to improved geometry. I haven't done much research into the geometry of front-entry bindings so far. However, getting into the binding at the front is actually child's play.

  • Snow Pack Proof System: The front jaw of the binding has been designed in such a way that, if the boot is in the pins, the area under the springs is completely closed (see photo) preventing snow or other things will accumulate underneath, which could impair the function of the binding. This feature definitely makes sense and also works perfectly.

  • UHV - Uphill hardness Variator: This allows you to adjust the hardness (3 settings) of the locking of the front pins for the ascent, which is primarily intended to reduce wear on the inserts of the boots. I have set the value to medium. The lever can be locked and released with little force. There were no false releases on the ascent. I can't say whether the whole thing really makes a big difference (Dynafit also has different locking positions for the front lever) and the wear and tear only becomes apparent after a very long period of use. In any case, the system doesn't add any weight and so I think: "Hifts ned, schods ned" [Austrian slang]

  • Elastic Response System: Means nothing other than that the heel can slide on the sled during the ride and compensates for the bending of the ski. This is definitely an advantage when landing jumps, compressions and anything where the ski is bent in any way, as the flex of the ski is not affected and, above all, unnecessary false releases are avoided.

  • Freeride Spacer: The Freeride Spacer (optional to attach during assembly, but included in the scope) ensures that a wider power transmission between boot and ski is guaranteed in the downhill position. This means that the boot lies almost across the entire width of the spacers on the ski (see photo). This noticeably improves edge hold on hard surfaces.

  • Magneto heel flaps with 5 climbing aid positions: With this binding, the climbing aid remains in position with the help of magnets, which has the advantage over other systems that work with springs that the springs cannot become unhooked. The climbing aid is very easy to operate with the poles. However, the 5 positions of the climbing aid are more of a marketing gag. Experienced tourers who are out and about with pin bindings normally only need the 0-position and sometimes the 1st climbing aid anyway. In addition, to be able to switch between the positions, you would have to turn the back 180 degrees each time, which in practice is only possible by bending down and turning by hand. The 3 positions (0, 1 and 2) that can be set without turning, but by folding, are already more than sufficient.

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Test report

For ascent mode, the small heel is turned 180 degrees with surprisingly little effort. The stopper is pressed down by hand and simultaneously fixed in place with a button (see photo). Contrary to my expectation that with this system, which was unfamiliar to me, the stopper would probably become self-unlocking at some point during the ascent, there has not been a single problem with it so far. Unlocking the stopper also works wonderfully and you don't run the risk of pinching your fingers (as with other manufacturers). Just don't forget to unlock the stopper when removing the skin, as switching the binding to downhill mode and unlocking the stopper are two independent processes. Theoretically, you can also ski downhill with the stopper fixed...

On the ascent, you notice (or don't notice) the binding's low weight of 360 grams. The crampons can be inserted laterally into the holder if required (just like those from Dynafit, which also fit into the ATK binding and vice versa). Switching to downhill mode is again done by turning the rear part to the starting position. In the front, in the back, off you go. The downhill properties of the binding are good. The power transmission to the ski is very direct thanks to the wide drilling pattern, the good workmanship and the freeride spacers. I haven't had any false releases, but I'm someone who locks the binding at the front on descents where it's better not to fall, but that doesn't mean I don't trust the binding.

The binding releases reliably in the event of a fall, I set the Z value to 10. As with most other pin bindings, you can get out by pressing the lever on the front jaw.

Conclusion

Due to its weight and downhill performance, the FR14 is suitable for uphill and downhill orientated ski tourers, but is more suited to the latter. The binding is well thought out and there aren't really any details that I would change. For anyone looking for a binding for wide skis that is light and still delivers tremendous downhill performance, I can only recommend it.

By the way: For lighter riders who still like to accelerate, there is the little sister, the R12. It looks the same (except for the colours). The Z-value can be adjusted from 5-12 and the freeride spacers are not included (these can be ordered as accessories).

Advantages & disadvantages

+ very light

+ very good downhill performance

+ Well thought-out operation and functionality

+ various spare parts can be ordered via ATK

- as almost always with such bindings a high RRP of € 595,-

Details

RRP: 594.95

  • Easy Entry System®: a new geometry of the elements of the automatic front entry system that makes entry extremely easy, intuitive and safe with all the latest generation tech ski boots, even with worn soles.

  • SNOW PACK PROOF SYSTEM®: avoids the problem of ice and the blocking of the front automat, even with multiple changes of skins, considerably reduces the accumulation of snow on the front automat and thus guarantees an optimal low weight in all phases of use.

  • U.H.V.® System (Up-hill Hardness Variator): System that allows to vary the hardness of the blocking of the front automaton in the uphill mode. It compensates for the wear of the front insert of the ski boot over the course of the year, offers each user an appropriate closing force and reduces unnecessary pressure on the locking mechanism.

  • CAM RELEASE SYSTEM®: exclusive system that guarantees the best downhill performance on the market, as well as an extremely precise release and the softest insertion into the automatic heel.

  • ELASTIC RESPONSE SYSTEM®: an elastic glide system applied to the automatic heel that guarantees the natural flex of the ski (even on big jumps/compressions), improved release performance under heavy loads on the system and reduced loads on the ski/boot/binding system

  • New FREERIDE SPACER included

  • An updated version of the Magneto Heel Flaps® system offers 5 different positions.

  • The integrated SRA cross tip holder ensures the perfect insertion of all ATK® cross tips.

  • The 25 mm adjustment slide integrated into the automatic heel adjuster allows quick adjustment when changing ski boots.

  • The release system on the automatic heel adjuster allows lateral adjustment (Mz) and vertical adjustment (My) from 8 to 14.

Here is the link to the ATK website with further information.

The binding was provided to PowderGuide by the manufacturer free of charge for testing. You can find out how we test them in our test statement.

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

Show original (German)

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