Fritschi Tecton long term test (by Martin Volken)
I have had the opportunity to ski and tour on the new Fritschi Tecton in the Spring of 2017 in a very big variety of conditions. These conditions ranged from warm and deep maritime snow in the Pacific Northwest and Norway, to hard groomers in France, bone rattling wind swept high alpine slopes and perfect powder in very cold weather in Switzerland. I am simply telling you this because it is one thing to ski a binding multiple days in the same conditions, but strange things occur when you change snow conditions, temperature and humidity. All in all, a very telling 40 day enduro test for the highly anticipated competitor to the successful Marker Kingpin. If you are not big on reading and would rather watch a video, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHBiTzR-XKI If you are STOKED and would like to Pre-Order the bindings, click here: http://www.proskiservice.com/fritschi-tecton-12.html Market positioning of the Fritschi Tecton:The “Tecton is clearly aimed to compete with the Marker Kingpin and is therefore positioned in the Freeride / ski touring market. In other words the binding aims at the same market that the by now legendary Fritschi Freeride Pro opened up almost 20 years ago.When Marker introduced the concept of a “hyprid tech binding”, meaning a tech toe with a traditional heel the binding did two things: It garnered market share from all sorts of competitors and it opened new possibilities in terms of what is possible when we talk about the compromise between touring performance and power transfer in ski mode. Many people who might have put up with the mediocre walking performance of a Marker Baron in order to get its amazing ski performance were stunned by how well a binding could walk that skis so great. Conversely, a lot of weight conscious backcountry skiers felt that the obvious ski advantages of a hybrid system did not seem to diminish the beloved tech toe walking performance . Simply put, the Marker Kingpin stole market share from its lighter and its heavier neighbors in the assortment.The Fritschi Tecton effectively tries to accomplish the same things that the Marker Kingpin did, but tries to do it even better.Here is what I found:Overall binding weight: 550 grams (this is roughly a 100 gram weight advantage over the Kingpin and only about 50 grams heavier than the by now fully matured Fritschi Vipec Evo 12 or the Dynafit Radical 2 ST. In full disclosure; the closest we have been able to come to the officially stated weight was by removing the brake, the binding screws and the heel piece mounting plate (531 grams). With brake, screws and mounting plate we weighed the binding closer to 680 grams which was rougly 100 grams lighter than the Kingpin 13 and about 50 grams heavier than the Dynafit Radical 2 ST. Ease of entry: This has been a big issue for the Fritschi Vipec in the past. The admittedly unrefined step in performance of the first generation Fritschi Vipec gave Fritschi a bit of a rough start into the market, but in classic Fritschi stylye they were committed to keep improving until they got it right. And I would say that latest rendition of the Vipec Eco and Tecton toe piece just went from good to great. As mentioned the Tecton shares the toe piece of latest Vipec and they finally have the “Ease or entry” figured out. The binding is very easy to step into. Is it easier than the G3 Ion? I am not sure, but it sure is easy and I really feel that the new step in feature with the convenient front bumper will put any residual concerns about this to rest. Uphill / downhill switch: By contrast to the Marker Kingpin, you do not have to come out of the binding in order to switch between modes. In order to switch from ski to walk mode, you simply press onto the heel lever of the heelpiece then pull the lever all the way forward. This action closes the heelpiece and then moves it backwards and out of the boots way. Step down now and the brake stays up in touring mode. Now pull up the front lever of the toe piece to the “walk” position and you are set. In fairness to the Marker system, most mode switches include a skin switch as well; so the ski will have to come off in most cases anyway. DIN certification: The Fritschi Tecton is as DIN certification ready as is possible at this point. A strange statement I agree, but here is the deal. There is a ski touring boot norm, which regulates among other things the toe and heel dimension and plastic type of the boot. The problem is that many of the boot manufacturers do not comply with these norms and it is therefore impossible for the TUF (arguably the worlds most respected technical safety standard and certification organization http://www.tuv-sud.com/activity/testing) to hand out any DIN certifications.For more information on how Fritschi determines binding – boot compatibility, check out this simple 4 point check: https://fritschi.swiss/en/manuals/safety-pin-system/From everything I have learned regarding the topic, it appears that the whole concept of DIN safety for ski touring bindings is in a bit of a state of flux right now, since not even brands like Dynafit who manufacture both boots and bindings can assure full compatibility across their boot binding assortment. Safety in uphill mode: Here is major differentiator between the Fritschi tech bindings (Vipec and Tecton) and all other tech bindings on the market. While the Tecton and Vipec Evo 12 toe piece looks a lot a traditional tech toe piece, they function very differently. The pins are attached to a carriage that can move laterally 13 millimeters before the pin wing folds down and release the boot out of the binding. As with most other tech toes, there are effectively 3 modes. The open mode, the ski mode and the walk mode, which gets activated by pulling up the lever in front of the toe piece. The major difference is that by activating the walk mode in the Fritschi bindings you are only increasing the toe release value by about 20 percent. You are not fully locking out the binding. This means that you could come out of the binding in uphill mode if you were to get caught in a slide while touring uphill. In my mind this is a major safety consideration.Overall binding safety: DIN certification in a tech binding was a seemingly unachievable standard just a few years ago. Overall, this is a great development for the Fritschi, Dynafit and Marker brands and I am hoping that the other tech binding manufacturers will follow in this positive trend.As mentioned already, the toe piece does not fully lock out in uphill mode, which is a great safety feature. The other differentiating feature is that the lateral release of the Vipec and Tecton bindings occur in the toe piece and not by a rotating heel piece. It is hard to argue against their position that this creates a more positive power transfer in down hill mode, but more on that later. Their reasoning for the lateral release in the toe is as follows. They believe that most lateral toe releases originate at the tip of the ski (a caught edge or a buried ski tip) and therefore the lateral toe release is bio-mechanically a safer way to go.The heelpiece also offers impressive elasticity with 9 millimeters of elastic travel, which means that you might not to have crank down the binding to such a high DIN release value in order to get good retention. As mentioned before, the binding is fully DIN certification ready and this only happens with a good forward pressure feature which assures consistent heel to toe piece distance.One other little tidbit regarding the pins of the Tecton and the Vipec Evo12. It is hard to believe, but the dimensions of the pin width is not normed and we have measured differences of 2 millimeters in the total width. This is rather astonishing to me, since this influences the amount of closure of a traditional yoke tech toe system. The Tecton and Vipec Evo 12 system allows for an accurate adjustment of the pin width. This adjustment should ideally be made by your Fritschi authorized retailer. Overall binding performance in uphill mode: The Tecton has three uphill modes. A flat mode and two elevator bar settings – just like most other touring bindings. They are easy to activate. Some bindings that have rotating heel pieces tend to create snow build up right in front of the heel piece in soft snow (especially heavier soft snow) conditions, which can then inadvertently turn the binding into ski mode. This can be annoying. Since the heelpiece simply slides backwards and out of the way when the binding gets put into walk mode and the heelpiece does not rotate, I did not notice this problem. Pretty cool for sure. The one drawback of the toe release is that there are obviously more moving parts under the toe of your boot and you can feel that in very hard technical skinning moments. In a classic tech toe piece, you are fully locked in and nothing is moving which creates a very solid power transfer in uphill mode. Fritschi has worked hard to solve this problem by creating a non-progressive DIN release curve over the elastic travel distance (it is getting geeky now, I know). This means that you will have to create the set DIN release value in order to move the toe piece laterally at all.In previous versions of the Vipec this release curve was progressive which makes a lot of sense in terms of downhill safety, but it created too much lateral play in walk mode. See Graph belowOf course, there is the issue of being able to release while in uphill mode, so considering that technical hard skinning happens relatively rarely and you can just put the ski crampons on, I am in favor of their solution.Overall I consider the walking performance of the Tecton very good and a noteworthy upgrade in uphill safety. Overall binding performance in downhill mode:
As mentioned before, the lateral release happens in the toe piece. This brings a major performance benefit for the downhill mode. The heelpiece does not have to rotate and this increases the lateral transfer power since most of the power and weight hitting the ski in the apex of a turn hits the ski in the heel area first.Another clever thing the Fritschi guys thought about is that the shape of the heelpiece includes a protrusion that fits snuggly into the heel cutout of any tech binding equipped touring boot. So in addition to the constant downward pressure that the traditional heelpieces provide, the Tecton adds this LEGO like feature which in turns increases lateral power transfer even more. They call it the Power Rail. Ski crampon: Fritschi uses the same ski crampon for the Vipec and Tecton. The ski crampon is very strong (maybe even a bit over engineered) and very easy to put on. Thanks to a little pivoting plastic piece you can adjust how deep you would like the ski crampon to penetrate into the snow. The ski crampon is currently available in two sizes (95 and 120 mm). Hopefully there will be another size in between available soon. Durability:After 40 days of touring and skiing in a huge variety of conditions I do not see any unusual wear. Time will tell of course how the binding will hold up over the years. The verdict: I believe that Fritschi might have a hit on their hands here. The binding clearly targets the already great Marker Kingpin (on top of that Marker is being sued by G3 Genuine Guide Gear and is not currently selling the Kingpin ) and has been able to come up with a hybrid binding that raises the bar on several fronts and in my mind has set a new standard of what is possible for a sub 600 gram binding in terms of safety, touring and skiing performance.