First Look: Hagan ZR Binding

I’ve been a fan of Hagan skis for a while now, so it makes me happy to see them jumping on the Dynafit-patent-expiration bandwagon to become the latest company to offer a tech binding to the public, beginning around last week. At a retail price of $600, the ZR comes in several hundred dollars beneath similar lightweight, tech style race bindings such as the Dynafit Low Tech Race or the La Sportiva RSR.

The Hagan ZR race bindings. In the metal.

The Hagan ZR race bindings. In the metal.

Meanwhile, the weight has been trimmed to 116 grams of binding per foot, making the Hagan ZR’s the lightest binders currently for sale in North America. Cool stuff, especially since there are several pretty sweet innovations built in.

First, since the ISMF keeps changing gear rules, actual racers out there will be stoked to learn that the Hagan ZR’s can be switched from auto-locking to manual locking modes. Word is that auto-locking bindings aren’t allowed this year, and I must admit I’d be pretty miffed if I showed up to a ‘real’ race and got turned away because of something like that. (It’s obviously wise to read the rules long before you head off to an International Ski Mountaineering Federation sanctioned race..)

Toe piece can be switched from auto-locking to manual locking in just a few minutes.

Toe piece can be switched from auto-locking to manual locking in just a few minutes, depending on one’s needs.

Second, there are indents on the rear plate. A spring loaded plastic ball in the binding housing seats in the center indent, and provides tension against twisting forces arriving by way of the ski boot’s heel. In other words, the heel bindings will twist to help smooth an ejection – just like most race heels – but they’ll provide some additional resistance.

Heel piece in the center detent.

Heel piece in the center detent.

Twisted 90° to display the three deeper pits and the grooved out ramps that make it easier to spin the heel back into the normal skin/ski position.

Twisted 90° to display the groove, the three deeper pits and the grooved out ramps on the edge that make it easier to spin the heel back into the normal skin/ski position.

When the binding twists fully, the ball drops down onto the ski and is under slightly less pressure.

When the binding twists the ball fully off the groove (90° either direction), the ball drops down onto the ski and is under slightly less pressure., as visible here.

Third, the front binding’s locking piece includes a built in wheeled-groove system, which should help keep things not only centered, but rolling smoothly.

A look at the roller system that keeps the auto-lock arm lined up properly.

A look at the roller system that keeps the auto-lock arm lined up properly (in black).

Besides those things, in my quick look at the ZR’s, I noticed the following points.

  • The crampon retaining arms are BURLY. I don’t think spring approaches in ski crampons are going to be an issue here.
  • The heels mount with four, rather than three, holes. I prefer that alignment, as I think it distributes the binding’s forces over a less centralized area than a three hole binding permits. Every little bit counts if you’re using a race binding to ski steeper slopes!
  • Raising and lowering the heel piece’s toilet seat (hey, that’s what race heels look like!) is smooth as usual, and the ‘seat’ stays up just fine when it’s time to be in ski mode.
  • No ice-cutter grooves in the front pins.
  • I’m curious if any issues develop in the heel pins as they’re held in place with a small screw which provides little surface contact compared to some other designs. It is grooved out to mesh perfectly however, so hopefully nothing pops up, and my curiosity simply melts away…

Other points of note are that Hagan wisely offers an adjustment plate to fit these bindings. For a small weight penalty – and a 5 mm rise in heel height – Hagan ZR bindings mounted with the plate will offer the flexibility of skiing in different boots with different bsl’s, while using the same binding and ski.

Adjustment plates offer compatibility with an assortment of boot sizes. The lower plate is turned over so you can see the hollowed out nature of the pieces. Works of art.

Adjustment plates offer compatibility with an assortment of boot sizes. The lower plate is turned over so you can see the hollowed out nature of the pieces. Works of art.

Hagan also offers a skinny ski crampon (75mm width) which, with its aggressive teeth, looks like it’ll take a big bite out of icy slopes during long approaches.

A solid looking ski crampon, also offered by Hagan.

A solid looking ski crampon, also offered by Hagan.

As always, it’s cool to see some new stuff come available here in the States, even if it is technically a repainted ATK SLR World Cup binding. If you’re in the market for some new bindings, consider these lightweight marvels. For sale at Skimo Co.

8 Responses to “First Look: Hagan ZR Binding”


  • It’s the ATK model SL but marked Hagan!

  • so… ATK private labeling for Hagan? Thought so.

  • Bruno and Jim – Yep, exactly as La Sportiva got ATK to ‘paint’ their own bindings with a different logo while offering the same design starting a few years ago, Hagan has followed the same route with a different binding – the ATK SL World Cup this time, as Bruno points out.

    It makes me wonder why ATK doesn’t just get the licensing to sell their own products stateside, but I guess they fear it won’t pan out profitability-wise? Unfortunate, and hopefully something that will change (soon?!) as backcountry touring and rando racing gain more adherents in the States.

  • True, and bring the Raider 12 while they’re at it so we have a binding with broader appeal.

  • So, silly question about this style of binding. It doesn’t “look” like there’s enough clearance when the binding’s rotated 90 degrees to have your boot heel flat on the ski. Is this just a mis-perception, or are you skinning flat approaches or low-angle ridges with “high heels” on?

  • Paddy – While I didn’t try this binding with boots in the flat configuration, I have done so with numerous, differently branded race bindings. All allow for a flat touring mode, although some are designed better than others in this regard (the clearance you mentioned is tight, but present). For example, a screw on one of my bindings will hit my heels when the ski is flexed, as during a stream crossing. Not super problematic, just slightly jarring to feel, since it’s usually perfectly smooth with zero resistance back there.

    That aside, I do skin flat, and low angle – either up OR down, on the riser. With good boot articulation, it really doesn’t bug me, even over long distances. If prolonged, during steeper downhill sections, I’ll drop to a flat position, which helps maintain control while the boots are in walk mode.

  • The ZR is a collaborative effort between Hagan and ATK. No intent or desire to hide that, as ATK has a good reputation and the SL-R is an award winning binding. Of note, there are improvements in the ZR compared to last year’s SL-R: The titanium forks are a new alloy to reduce wear, reduce step in force and improve retention/release. The polymer wheel bearing reduces the force needed to lock and unlock the toe piece. Frankly, we investigated producing our own race binding, but determined the SL-R/ZR is so good, not enough improvements could be made to justify the expense of building our own race binding. We decided to focus our efforts elsewhere.

    The heal unit does twist 90 degrees to permit flat mode. To enable flat mode, the boot/binding gap should be set at 5.0 to 5.5mm instead of the normal 4.0. This will lower retention/release value. How much I do not know and am trying to determine.

    As to why ATK doesn’t distribute their own bindings in the U.S. — I don’t know. I do know that insurance, especially insurance for bindings, is VERY expensive in the U.S. It costs Hagan much more than for all other countries combined, even though the U.S. is still a small market for Hagan. Hagan was willing to make this investment to bring it’s Z01, Z02 and now ZR bindings to the U.S. Also, there is a lot of work, little of it fun or sexy, to distribute any product. Hagan has made this investment as well.

    Sincerely
    Michael – Hagan Ski USA

  • Michael – Americans like to sue.

    You can’t have a culture that reveres lawyers then leaves them unemployed.

    Good work handling the unsexy and unfun aspects! Sometimes it’s about heart, rather than glamour. (Or lawyer pay)

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