Expert Review: Union STR Snowboard Bindings · 2022
This review is my honest opinion of the snowboard bindings, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2020.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the snowboard bindings, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2020.
The Union STR is the ideal snowboard binding for intermediate and advanced riders who don’t want to spend too much. It provides a stiff frame and a durable construction, meaning it is a binding that will grow with the rider and last for several years.
About the gear
- Model: 2020 Union STR Snowboard Binding
- Size: Large
- Burton channel compatible: Yes
- Mini disc: No
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 190lbs
- Experience: 13 years of snowboarding
- When I bought these: December 2020
- Days tested: 60 days
- Board: Arbor Element Rocker, Bataleon Party Wave, Burton Skeleton Key, Bataleon Goliath
- Boot: Burton Ruler BOA
- Where I’ve used it: Park City, Brighton, Solitude, and Snowbird, UT; Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Copper Mountain, CO; Mt. Snow and Okemo, VT; Liberty, Whitetail, and Roundtop, PA; Wisp, MD; Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine, AB, Canada; and Kicking Horse, BC, Canada
- Terrain: On all types of terrain except backcountry
How they perform
What I was looking for
When I bought these bindings, I was a college student looking for affordable bindings that would last until I got a job after school. Essentially, I needed an all-mountain, durable binding that didn’t break the bank.
Why I chose this gear
I chose the STR because it is a binding for advanced riders and wasn’t expensive. There aren’t many other bindings that fill this niche as most bindings for people who need binding rigidity and responsiveness are more expensive. However, Union did the college kids and budget-conscious riders a huge favor in creating the STR, which provides high performance at a lower price.
Other bindings at this price point are usually softer and marketed towards beginner/intermediate riders. When I was shopping, the only bindings that came close were the Burton Mission bindings, which were still softer, slightly more expensive, and lacked heel cup adjustability.
What I love about them
- Binding adjustability in boots: The STR adjusts well to most rider preferences. The binding boasts heel cup adjustability along with three rotations for the highback. The straps also conform to fit around boots.
- Stance adjustability: The STR accommodates all stances. The universal plate allows the bindings to be mounted at any angle, and the tool-less forward lean adjuster lets riders adjust the highback to their preferred stance. It’s not the most adjustable binding out there, but it has more adjustability than most.
- Responsiveness: The STR responds very quickly to movement thanks to the stiffness of the bindings. The stiff highback and rigid base plate help translate force quickly to the board.
- Carving: The stiffness of the STR and shape of the highback make this binding good for carving. The stiffness also enables carving at higher speeds.
- Ease of turn initiation: Once again, the rigidity of this binding makes it very responsive. Turning and transitioning from edge to edge is quick and precise.
- Straps: In my many years of using this binding, I never had an issue with the straps. The design of the straps also spreads out the force on the boots, so the straps never cause me any pain.
- Buckles: I love Union buckles. They’re especially fun when, after finishing the day, I just slap them at the same time and they magically come off. They’re super easy to use when there’s snow everywhere, and I can easily put them on while wearing mitts.
- Durability: My STRs have yet to break anywhere. The bindings are over-engineered, so they are much stronger than they need to be. In the past, some people had issues with strap hardware coming unscrewed, but Union has fixed this issue with new hardware. Although I am retiring my bindings this year, I’ll be giving them to a friend who I hope to introduce to the sport.
- Weight: The average Union STR weighs 840g, which is about average for a binding. Most people won’t notice the small differences in weights between bindings.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Shock absorption: Union had to bring the price down somewhere, and they clearly chose to reduce costs in the damping department. My biggest gripe with these bindings is that there is very little absorption of impacts. While most premium bindings have multiple layers of shock-absorbing materials, the STR just has a thin layer of cushioning for the middle and tip of the foot. Thankfully, newer models have more heel cushioning. Union also put cushioning in between different parts of the plastic baseplate, but the plastic still transfers impacts to the feet. Union has improved this with more cushioning in the heel, but riders looking for more damping should look at higher-end models like Union’s Strata and Atlas.
- Buttering: The stiffness and highback rigidity make it harder to butter with this binding, but buttering is definitely possible.
- Other: When considering the Union STR, riders should be mindful that the baseplate is large. Therefore, anyone buying the large size should also be buying a wide board. Getting a wide board to accommodate the large binding will also help with carving, as it will allow riders to really carve deep into a turn.
Favorite moment with this gear
I’ve ridden these bindings for all of my college snowboarding adventures, but I’d have to say that my favorite day in these was spent in the back bowls of Vail. My buddies and I went on a Wednesday after a small snowfall, and we repeatedly bombed down the slopes. It says a lot that a binding that I picked up for just over $200 was able to handle speeds up to 60mph over and over again without ever failing.
Value for the money vs. other options
To my knowledge, the Union STR is the most affordable binding in its class. While writing this, I checked Rome, Burton, K2, Now, Jones, Ride, and Arbor, but I couldn’t find a cheaper option with the same stiffness. Bindings that are cheaper than the STR, like the Arbor Hemlock and the Salomon Trigger, are all softer and/or lack some adjustability. Union can offer this binding at a lower cost because it makes so many of them, does its own manufacturing, and designs the binding in a cost-effective way. Even with less shock absorption, the STR is still an excellent value for the money overall, and I would choose the STR again over those bindings.
The Union STR is the ideal budget binding for intermediate and advanced riders. It offers responsiveness and a rigid frame, which is specifically good for riders who want to ride fast and hard. It also provides many of the features typical of higher-end bindings, like extra adjustability and boot-conforming straps.