Does the G3 binding muster performance to match its sexy looks or is it just another tech binding? Find out here…
G3 Ion Review
G3 announced the Ion around this time last year to a whole lot of internet accolade. Just one look and its easy to see why – to a skier like me it borders on jewelry. Its that nice looking.
Besides the overall sexiness of the binding, comparing the Ion to other tech bindings such as the Radical FT or any pre Beast/Radical 2.0 tech binding, the Ion has one major difference with the inclusion of “forward pressure”. To be fair, this binding really doesn’t have “real” forward pressure the way say, any alpine binding does. Instead the boot’s heel rests right up against the heel tower (no gap). However, the binding’s heel is not “pushing” into the boots heel the way an alpine binding does. Nonetheless, the binding’s heel piece is able to move backward when the ski bends. Older Dynafit bindings relied on a gap to take up the difference in length when a ski bends. (newer dynafit bindings too have this elasticity)
What should this translate to on snow? For one, this heel piece travel helps keep you from blowing up heel pieces when you “over bend” an older dynafit mounted ski (“fully “close the gap”. Second, it can help with pre release issues. Finally, heel elasticity can add some form of “suspension” to the feel of the binding as the heel slides back and forth while the ski flexes.
Other than this inclusion of forward pressure/heel elasticity, the binding is extremely similar to the older Radical in that you turn the heel piece to engage tour mode. Worth mentioning, one nice bit is the binding’s tower turns clockwise or counterclockwise. Though rare, there were previous issues where the Radical tower would have issues when forced the wrong direction. (like Zoolander, that heelpiece was not an omniturner)
Other features include a wider mounting platform to compliment today’s wider skis and the binding only requiring one tool to adjust it (posidriver only – no torx or flathead)
Playing with the heel lifters on the ski bench, they seemed easy to use and again, looked great. Quickly flippable with a ski pole.
Mounting the ski was a bit challenging in that no template was included in the box and most shops don’t have a jig. Thankfully, in Jackson, this isn’t an issue and mounting was fairly straightforward but for those who don’t live near a G3 equipped shop you can always download the template and mount yourself (or bring many beers to your local shop).
The Ion was mounted on the 4Frnt Hoji, was skied via the Vulcan. You can read about the Hoji ski here. Its one of our favorite skis and one we are very familiar with. Worth noting as we aren’t simultaneously testing the ski too.
Ion promo video
- Price: $450
- Weight: 585 grams with brake (vs 599 for Dynafit Radical FT12)
- Release Value: 5-12 (not DIN certified)
- Brake Options: 85,95,115 (tested) 130mm
- Intended Use: Touring
The Ion toured well though there are a few concerns. Before I get to these issues realize, it toured very similarly to any other “12 release value” tech binding I’ve used which is to say, very well. For those considering going to the Ion from a framed alpine binding you’ll find the Ion (or any tech binding) to be akin to the mechanical equivalent of dosing yourself with EPO. You’ll be climbing faster and more efficiently than you ever dreamed. But again, this applies to most all tech bindings – not just the Ion.
That said, there are a few issues.
1) The binding can be a bit challenging to step into. For whatever reason, no matter the technique I used, the binding wanted to spring closed further forward on my toe than the tech fitting on my boot was located . This is a bit frustrating on poorly lit dawn patrol missions. A boot with a slightly shorter toe than the Vulcan I tested this with may fair better. That said, this “issue” is hardly a deal breaker and something I could certainly live with.
2) The heel risers on one binding would not stay put. We’re hearing this is an isolated incident directed toward a few pre production test units. Considering we’re yet to hear of this occurring outside of my experience, we’ll agree. Our replacement heal unit worked 100% as expected with no further issues with the risers staying put.
3) Heel risers are too low. To be fair, this is a Tetons (and larger BSL) problem. Still, why companies don’t offer various heel risers is beyond me. It can make a massive difference in effort for those who do want to go steep(er-than-we-should) skin tracks. (every skin track in the Tetons/Wasatch). Worth mentioning, I’m yet to find a heel riser I find sufficient so I can’t say this is something that is isolated to this binding alone.
4) In flat touring mode I’ve had my boot catch the binding when flexing the ski. This is annoying. The fix would be to carve a bigger “eclipse” out into the binding for the boot’s heel when in touring mode. Realize this was only a problem through bumpy flat approaches where the ski is often flexing.
Most of these issues are nit picky and by no means deal breaking. Worth noting, the ski transitions from tour to ski very quickly and easily. I can’t do it with my pole but I can do it without taking my ski off.
Now off to the fun part. Skiing.
Before I get into the Ion’s performance, let start with the my tech binding track history. Besides the Beast, I’ve never had confidence in skiing a tech binding without locking the toe. I’m large. I’m not the smoothest skier and I’m far from the smartest skier. To add I often find myself in situations where losing a ski would at best suck and at worst cause potential injury. Now I know, skiing toe locked puts my knee at a whole bunch of risk. But its a risk I’ve had to come to terms with if I want to ski a tech binding.
When I first started skiing the Ion I wanted to ski it toe unlocked. I felt the faux forward pressure and more burly feeling toe springs (check Wildsnow’s test of just how burly they are here) would allow me to ski the binding without locking the toe. Thinking back there wasn’t a whole lot of rational reason to me just “assuming” I could do this. But then again, as we know, I’m not that smart…
Unfortunately, I found it not possible for me to reliably ski the Ion without locking the toe. Specifically, in harder conditions the toe is just as likely to prerelease as my Radical despite the inclusion of forward pressure and a stiffer toe spring. Like many other tech bindings, there is no way for the binding’s toe unit to absorb energy such as a chattering edge hence the unintended release. Put another way, adding some heel elasticity is awesome but does not mitigate the lack of toe elasticity contributing to pre releases.
Now that I’ve been skiing the binding toe locked (just like my Radical FT) its performed great on the down. It has a mellow ramp angle (between the Beast and the Radical 2.0), a very confidence inspiring engagement (stiffer toe spring) and skis well. If you want my thoughts on that binding, please look here as the G3 Ion mirrors the Radical’s performance in a number of ways. For the record, I have blown up a few Radical heel towers since that review – a known problem that has been remedied with respect to Dynafit’s lates Radical 2.0 offering. (Editor’s note: We’ll be testing the new Radical 2.0 soon)
For those wondering, I don’t notice the inclusion of forward pressure when skiing on harder snow. It doesn’t dampen the ride like I thought it might – or if it does, its immaterial. Again, the Ion skis so similar to the Radical I’d be hard pressed to tell them apart if I were to ski blindfolded (not suggested).
People often ask me if I’d ski the Ion as my everyday in bounds binding. The answer for me is a resounding no. Though, with the exception of the Beast, this is the case with every single tech binding I’ve been on to date. The lack of elasticity and fact I found myself locking the toe wasn’t something I’d like to find myself utilizing between the ropes. In a pinch it was fine, but the Ion is a far cry from FKS + Race Boot. (which is acceptable…FKS and race boots tour like shit 😉 )
So why not just go buy an old Radical FT12? Well, I don’t want to steer you wrong. The Ion is certainly a step forward from the Radical FT if for no other reason than then there is much less risk of blowing up a heel tower or unintentionally coming out of the heel. This is especialy important with softer skis that a skier may bend more than the stiffer skis I’ve often mounted my Rads to.
Finally the fit and finish of the Ion is better than that of the previous generation Radical. Take this with a grain of salt however as I haven’t put as many days on this binding as my trusty Radicals yet. That said, at this point (40ish days) the binding shows now sign of fatigue or wear* all hardware, bushings and springs look and feel like the day I got them. No play of any kind anwhere on the binding – something I can’t say about any previous touring binding I’ve owned.
If you are looking for a new touring binding with a release value that goes to 12 the Ion is a formidable competitor in the tech binding marketplace. While not revolutionary, it has awesome aesthetics, great build quality and a few bonus features over the previous generation Dynafit and Plum offerings.
When compared with current generation tech bindings such as the Marker Kingpin and Dynafit Radical 2.0 the verdict is still out but we’d wager the Ion will stand strong through the midst of that product showdown.