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Apr 01 2013

Review: Adrenaline, Tyrolia’s passport binder

Adrenaline, Tyrolia’s BC passport

Last season Tyrolia announced their intention to join Marker with their version of yet another passport binding. When one floated through the Start Haus recently I took advantage of the opportunity and snuck ‘em out for a tour.

In downhill mode there is little to distinguish Tyrolia’s AT trainer binding from other brands. A passing glance would suggest the only difference between the Adrenaline’s toepiece and the Duke’s or Guardian’s is color, name, and brand painted on it. It seems that to provide the requisite adjustability in toe height that is necessary to accomodate AT and alpine boots there are limits to how creative you can be. Same for the heel. One could lament the lack of diversity in design, or accept it as being on par with other proven designs. My vote is for the latter, which is why it should be on your list of considerations if you want an AT binding that can perform wherever you point ‘em, down or up.

Downhill mode
Like the others, Tyrolia begins their embrace of the backcountry realm with a 16 DIN release value, the better to land short flights from mountain launch pads. When locked, your boot rests 36mm above your skis; not so great for sensitivity, but good for edging leverage. No athletes I’m aware of are using it, but that doesn’t mean it’s just another AT trainer binding. The downhill performance will take time to establish, but there are other reasons to consider the Adrenaline as the binding of choice for playing on both sides of the boundary.

Adrenaline doesn’t turn heads with the height of their climbing post, just how easily it is to switch to it.

Uphill mode
Where the Adrenaline distinguishes itself is in the uphill department. Again, this is a plate binding so there isn’t that much different from other brands. At less than 6 pounds per pair it takes the cake for the lightest of the heavyweights, but is still a heavyweight. It’s still a pound heavier than Fritschi’s Freeride, but frees the heel nearly as easy, making mode changes fast and worthwhile for short flat sections. Just stick the tip of your pole in the oval hole of the mode lever, then lever the pole forward to lift it up and release the plate. If you try it with your hand it will feel like it’s stuck, but with a meter of leverage from a ski pole and a few practice tries (the vid below is my very first time, it was smoother and quicker the 3rd time ;) ) and it moves easy enough to switch, but not so easy it might open on its own.

Once free the Adrenaline offers flat, low, and high climbing positions. The climbing bar tucks under the plate and flips down with a ski pole to the low or high position. At 5° the low post lets you mellow out with a sub 20° skin track, while the high post makes easy work of a macho trail thanks to an 11° lift.

When you lock it down again, the plate is held secure in a manner reminiscent of the Duke, eliminating the lateral play of a Guardian or Freeride.

Icing
On my maiden tour with the Adrenaline conditions were perfect for manifesting any latent problems with icing. The air hovered a few degrees above freezing, so shadowed snow was cold and dry, but anything in the sun was loaded with moisture. Both my climbing skins iced up, and my suspicions on the propensity for the Adrenaline to do the same were confirmed.

From the get go I knew the open underbelly of Adrenaline’s plastic frame would pack with snow. Although it did, it wasn’t as bad as expected, probably owing to the fact I only climbed 1600 vertical feet over two ascents. The open cell construction has been sealed up near the toe, and it even has a bit of a wedge shape to help clear snow off the bottom of the plate, but that only applies to the front of the plate. Supposedly the cells weren’t covered throughout the length of the plate to save weight. Do binding design engineers ever actually use the products they create? How did they come to the conclusion that the known weight of a thin plastic covering is not going to be exceeded by the amount of snow that will collect in those open holes in the plate, let alone all the snow that will glam on once the icing process begins?

Worse than the binding plate collecting snow was the propensity for the metal locking plate to also collect snow. After the first ascent one binding locked back down without incident, but the snow had glammed on with enough depth on the second to prevent the locking plate tangs from hooking on to the plastic frame. I was able to clear the plate with the tip of a ski pole pretty easy, but annoyed nonetheless. Dukes probably would have required clearing, as would the Guardian/Tracker, but not my Switchbacks.

When the snow builds up and you’re using the low climbing position the post can ride up and over the metal tab, then hook on the back side.

Where the icing really caused a problem though wasn’t with changing modes, but how it created another issue. When the climbing post is on low mode, it rests against a turned up ridge at the back of the metal locking plate. Fine and dandy if it’s dry, but this time the snow glammed on, blurring the height of the ridge so the legs of the post slipped over it causing it to collapse when weighted. Not a major issue really, except when I strode forward and lifted my heel the peg would get hooked on the backside of that same ridge of metal, preventing me from lifting my heel, or causing a noticeable glitch in my stride. If you only use a high climbing post you may never notice. If you subscribe to the low road you might want to wait ’til Tyrolia fixes that.

Length Adjustment
Another feature that is clearly easier to deal with is changing the position of the heel for different sized boots. No tools required, just rotate a lever behind the heel to free it along a slider path on the reinforced plastic plate. This may not mean much to you if you only have one pair of boots, but for a shop renting AT gear this is a no-brainer reason to use this binding for demos.

Summary
It is hard to say if the icing issues I experienced with the Adrenaline are worse, better, or on par with the Duke or Guardian. Without an extended evaluation the downhill strength of the Adrenaline is on par with other passport bindings. What is clearly superior are the free heel functions thanks to a switch that is as easy as Fritschi’s Freeride, but with more confident edging. Because they’re late to the gate, you will have a hard time finding a pair to fondle before buying. If you really don’t want the weight of a 16 DIN spring, next year there will be a DIN 13 version to shave a few more ounces and rumors of a still lighter version that clocks at only 4 pounds per pair. Stand by for news on that one.

Tyrolia/Elan/Fischer
Adrenaline
MSRP: $550
Weight/pr.: 5 lbs., 12 oz. (2.6 kg)
Sizes: Short (270–330mm), & Long (300–360mm)
DIN: 4-16
Brake Widths: 88mm, 97mm, 115mm
Crampons Widths: 90mm, 105mm, 120mm

© 2013