Elevator Pitch: Bon Hiver Freebase Bindings

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Editor’s Note: Elevator Pitch is a new column designed to give upstarts, innovators, and entrepreneurs a platform to share their ideas with potential investors, get feedback from the industry, and identify potential reps and sales opportunities. TWBIZ has also partnered with San Diego Sports Innovators to identify and prepare qualified companies out of their Springboard Program and membership for our Elevator Pitch and Upstarts columns.  

While innovative approaches to board building have overhauled the look, design, and performance of multiple times in the last decade, outside of rear-entry designs, binding technology has been dominated annually mostly by making lighter and slightly more comfortable binders. Bon Hiver is looking to throw a twist into the equation, literally, with a new strap binding that affixes to the board with magnets. We caught up with Founder Brendan Walker to hear his Elevator Pitch for the design that made Bon Hiver a 2013 ISPO BRANDNEW Finalist.

Here’s Walker’s Elevator Pitch:

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Bon Hiver Founder Brendan Walker

We love strap-in bindings, but hate strapping in.  For decades, this paradox left us resigned to accepting strap-in bindings despite the inherent drawbacks: wasted energy and time strapping in each run, limited control dismounting lifts, forced un-strapping and strapping back in for flat cat-tracks and one-footers, etc.  While step-in and rear-entry bindings were designed to mitigate some of these issues, riders still preferred strap-in bindings because the alternatives compromised performance in the name of negligible convenience.  If it doesn’t ride like a strap-in binding, it just isn’t worth it.  So, the answer to the paradox was simple: create a strap-in binding that you strap in once and ride all day.  We call it the Freebase binding and it’s the only binding that combines unprecedented functionality with uncompromising performance.

Our patented Freebase bindings are standard strap-in bindings, but the rear binding is completely removable from the board.  On your first run, you strap in the front binding and back binding and you’re done strapping in for the day.  Then, you remove the back binding to skate and mount the lift and, while you’re riding the lift, utilize the embedded magnets to bring the board up to the bottom of the binding so you can simply rotate your foot and lock back in, hands-free. Ride right off the lift, ollie the fools strapping in and keep riding.  Later, if you get stuck on flat cat-tracks, simply remove the rear binding to skate and then hover the binding over the board and let the magnets pull your foot back in so you can rotate and lock in on the fly.    

The Freebase utilizes powerful neodymium magnets to pull the binding into place so the super-tough nylon resin plate on the bottom and the helical-cam locking system on the board, both ice and snow-adhesion resistant, can align.  From here, the binding engages the helical-cam locking mechanism by rotating about a vertical axis, ejecting snow and ice.  The helical-cams rotate open to accept the protrusions on the bottom of the binding and then counter-rotate via friction and torque provided by torsion springs to prevent disengagement.  The dilating radii of the helical-cams provide a progressive counter-rotating force that accommodates any remnant snow and ice while keeping the binding completely locked in place – no play at all.  So, all you have to do is align, rotate and ride.    

The inspiration to create the Freebase binding came from a lifetime obsession with riding.  All my life, riding has been a major factor in every significant decision I’ve made.  I was a snowboard instructor during my time at West Point and after graduating, I chose to serve as an Army Officer and Ranger at Fort Lewis, Washington because of the access to riding in the Pacific Northwest.  After the military, I decided to attend grad school for a MBA at Dartmouth because it was 45 minutes to the gondola at Killington.  After Dartmouth, I moved back to NYC and spent several years in finance.  It was at this time, after twenty years of riding and wasting hours strapping in thousands of times, my obsession for riding provided the impetus for me to leave my job, start Bon Hiver, and finally bring this innovation to the industry.    

Considering that strap-in bindings were patented in 1984, it’s about time.  After all, riders have pushed progression from tweaked stalefish grabs to triple cork 1440s since then while the binding itself has barely evolved at all – toe strap, ankle strap, highback and base.  We just returned from the ISPO trade show in Munich and realized that we were far from the only ones that felt it was about time.  ISPO nominated Bon Hiver for an award and featured our exhibit in their BRANDNEW Village.  Due to an overwhelming response from European and Asian distributors, we’ve already sold out of all of our 2013/2014 sales samples.  We’re now well positioned to expand internationally, but we’ll be shifting our focus to the US and Canadian markets for the upcoming season.  Now we’re busy working on next gen designs for 2014/2015 that promise to provide riders with even greater innovations.  All of this just means more time riding and more runs at the end of the day for riders and, to that, we say Bon Hiver and wish everyone a good winter. 

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Unique display options with Bon Hiver.