I have been meaning to write up a review on the Dynafit Beast 16 for quite some time and with a recent turn in the weather resulting in an ugly rain crust plus a few days on the new Marker Kingpin 13 now seemed like an opportune time to get my thoughts on (digital) paper.
First a little about me. Normally I focus on mountain bike related posts but once the snow flies I am a skier through and through. I grew up skiing in the Interior of BC. A lot of trees, fresh pow, and an unfortunate phase as a park rat. I call those the lost years (mainly because of the concussions). I am a resort rat recently converted to backcountry, about 4 years now. I tower over the competition at 5’6″ and 160 lbs. I have not been kind to my ACL’s and now have a frequent buyers card at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic (thanks Steady!).
So, when I look for a binding my priorities are a little different than most backcountry skiers. In this order, I want:
- Touring performance
- Power Transfer
Now to the shootout. Here is what the quiver looks like and the rough number of days on each. I ski mainly in the Chugach and Talkeetna Ranges in Alaska but venture back to BC and the lower 48 a few times a season.
- Armada Magic J 185 w/ Dynafit Beast 16:
- Roughly 20-25 days, Approx. 100 miles & 100K vertical
- Single Ski/Binding weight: 6.83 lbs
- Binding weight: 2.12 lbs
- Rossi Sin 7 172 w/ Dynafit Speed TLT:
- 7 days, Approx. 25 miles & 25K vertical
- Single Ski/Binding weight: 4.93 lbs
- Binding weight: 0.83 lbs
- Rossi Soul 7 180 w/ Marker Kingpin 13:
- 2 days, Approx. 11 miles & 10K vertical
- Single Ski/Binding weight: 5.91 lbs
- Binding Weight: 1.7 lbs
- DPS lotus 120 185 w/Plum Guides:
- Approximately 15 days, 50 miles, 60K-80K vertical
- I no longer have this set up but I may reference it occasionally.
- Binding weight:0.79 lbs
I’ll try and be concise as I go through the major points of performance and give you my opinion on how each perform. I have the least days on the Kingpins so there will have to be a little bit of extrapolation on performance.
As I said, this is my number one priority. After a couple knee surgeries I’d rather not have another. I want a binding that I don’t have to worry about and that I trust. Something I know is going to release when I want it too and retain me when I need it most. I like to jump, drop, and (occasionally) huck. I’m not the biggest guy out there and I don’t send it like some others do but I still like to put a fun, smooth, poppy line down with some air along the way.
Dynafit Beast 16: The retention is fantastic. Stepping into this binding felt solid and reassuring. The rotating toe piece performed flawlessly and predictably – as tested when I tomahawked off of a flat light rollover at 50 mph. The release was smooth and effective. 10/10, would crash with these again.
Marker Kingpin 13: Early to say and no crashes yet but the 6 pack toe retention felt noticeably crisper and solid than the traditional 4 spring pin tech toes. The heel piece gave me the confident and solid feeling that I get when I step into an alpine binding. Just doing some bench tests the release felt smooth. The sliding AFD pad on the brake plus the rollers on the heel added to this feel.
Dynafit Speed TLT: The pin tech system has never really given me a reassuring feeling. I have had numerous pre releases which has lead me to ski more aggressive lines with the toe locked in the climb position – HIGHLY unadvised!! I notice that I ski much more conservatively with these bindings and certainly choose very different lines than I would like to. On the mountain and on the bench I find the release to be very exponential in the release rate, not linear at all. The Plums fall into this category as well. Similar results
Winner: Beast 16
Solid, consistent, reliable, and beefy. I am hopeful that the Kingpin may unseat the Beast though, more time will tell.
This is an important one. As my good friend Dante Petri over at http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/ can attest to, nothing ruins a day like equipment failure 5 miles out from the trailhead.
Dynafit Beast 16: Construction wise, these are solid. The issues I did have were more related to icing. The heel piece tended to have ice build up between the brake and riser which involved some tinkering when switching from ski to tour mode. That said, with a decent amount of mileage on them, I have had no major mechanicals.
Marker Kingpin 13: Nothing as of yet. I have seen on the interwebs that some people have had toe pin failures. I am watching for this and continually check the pins but have had no indications of problems yet. Another discussion going around is how reliable the carbon mode switch strip will hold up. I have an engineering background and researched the construction behind this quite a bit before making the purchase. I am fairly confident this will hold up in the long run. The band is in tension the whole time (where carbon likes to be) and there are no flex points that point load the band. It is fairly well protected from any sort of impact.
Dynafit Speed TLT: I have not experienced any failures on mine but have seen failures of the risers from other users.
Winner: Beast 16
I am going to be repetitive here: Solid, consistent, reliable, and beefy. I am hopeful that the Kingpin may unseat the Beast though, more time will tell.
Touring Performance & Weight:
I have a mix of touring days. Some are easy access laps not far from the road, some are long flat approaches to objectives, but most involve a steady approach to the mountain and then several laps before heading out. Days range from 4-8 miles on average and usually in the 4,500′ to 7,500′ vertical range. Some more, some less. I’ll combine performance and weight for this one as it is tough to talk about one without the other
Dynafit Beast 16: This is where the beasts fell down for me. I knew going in to it that they would be heavy (968 gm per binding) but I was willing to sacrifice for the downhill performance. I certainly noticed the extra weight and I worked a little harder then the rest of the crew but I would put it in the ‘ Suck it up, Buttercup’ category, not quite the ‘Just go on without me, I’ll never make it’ category. What the deal breaker was for me was the lack of a flat first position. In order to lock the brake for touring mode the first lifter locks in place, holding the brake down and covering the pins. This means the first position is comparable to being on the first riser on other pintech bindings. This is fine for climbing on an incline but if there is a long flat approach or any kind of down slope that you need to skin on, your quads will likely explode. Additionally, the toe lock can be hard to release from the locked position. With gloves its ok, mitts are harder. I was not really successful using the pole handle like other bindings. I found the most effective way was to loop my pole strap underneath and pull. This isn’t a deal breaker but just an annoyance. Releasing the heel lock was a little more effort and certainly needed the pole tip and leverage to get it to pop.You could use your hand but I always worried about pinching a finger on release.
I looked at taking the brakes off but they are cast into the binding and not removable. the heel piece does rotate, so it is conceivable that you could cut the brakes off and rotate the heel out of the way but i think there would be a lot of issues switching to riser positions.I know a lot of people like to transition without taking theirs skis off. I lack the flexibility for this and I always take a few minutes to have some water and a snack anyways. I suppose this could be done on this binding but it would be a lot of work.
Overall, this would be fine for slack country tours but I wouldn’t recommend for big distances.
Marker Kingpin 13: I am duly impressed. at 730 gm per binding the weight is more than acceptable for the performance. the standard tech toe is easy to use. switching between walk and ski is easy and could easily be done with the ski still on. The heel piece slides back and out of the way while locking the brakes down. The risers are by far the easiest and fastest I have used. the simply flip up and down, no rotating or fidgeting. They provide a larger platform and a flat, 7 deg, and 13 deg position.
Dynafit Speed TLT: Proven lightweight Dynafit performance. Standard tech toe and heel. fast on the up with standard riser angles. no complaints here. The only nuance i would pick on is that the flip risers are quick but small, they needed a little more precision to switch.
Winner: Tie. Speed TLT & Kingpin.
The Speeds are light and fast but the weight on the Kingpin wasn’t that noticeable. The Kingpins may edge the Speeds out just because I like the risers so much.
I like big skis and I cannot lie. All you other skiers can’t deny, when a ski slides round with an itty bitty waist, I get sunk.
I prefer a ski in the 95mm to 115mm underfoot range. The float and feel seem to fall in the sweet spot for me. Power transfer can be tough to achieve on planks like that.
Dynafit Beast 16: Very good power transfer. I felt this mimicked an alpine binding closer than anything else. I had the chance to ski this at Revelstoke Mountain Resort for 3 days and the conditions ranged from soft crud to skied out chop. The stability and performance on the variable conditions was very positive.
Marker Kingpin 13: The best way I can describe these is precise. They did exactly what I wanted them to do. Conditions ranged from deep and soft to chattery backcountry ski luge exits. I felt confident that the power was going where I wanted when I wanted it there.
Dynafit Speed TLT: Shocking I know, but these were not the best in this category. They felt weak and unresponsive and a little delicate. They did not inspire confidence on chop and ice and provided very little feedback in soft conditions.
Winner: Beast 16
As close to an alpine binding as you are going to get on pins. You could go to a Guardian if you are a sadist but with the Beast there is no need to punish yourself like that.
The final Word:
The Beast came out on top in 3 out of 4 categories, and very dominantly at that. It is a clear winner in downhill performance and reliability. But just as high as it soared, it fell dismally short on touring performance. The weight is almost forgivable but the lack of a flat touring mode really is what did it for me. I can see this being a great dual purpose binding for resort and side country but if that is the goal I would rather be on a cheaper and more reliable Guardian or Duke. I can’t recommend this for big backcountry days with long approaches.
Likewise, the Speed TLT is a clear winner for uphill performance at 373 gm per binding. But the constant worry of reliability and performance on the down was more than enough to take it out of contention for me. I don’t like the feeling of second guessing my equipment when I am about to drop in and I did this every time on these bindings.
While it may be premature, the win goes to the Kingpin for me. It has the best balance of weight and uphill performance combined with downhill stability and reliability. The binding was easy to use and confidence inspiring. Build reliability is yet to be determined but I will be putting it through its paces the rest of the season.
Overall Winner: Kingpin 13