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Plum Race 145 Bindings - first impressions

There is no arguing the fact that ski mountaineering racing is a gear-intensive pursuit. The equipment is highly specialized and there is a small segment of the ski industry dedicated to developing gear for racing. As the sport grows we are seeing more niche companies entering the fray and grabbing a piece of the market. Much of this gear and the technology used to create it has started trickling back to mainstream skiers.

Make no mistake, this stuff is expensive. The price reflects the relatively small market, exotic materials and designs that minimize weight while maximizing reliability. Old school skiers often scoff at this "trick" equipment believing it unnecessary but for weight weenies like me, this gear is vital to our pursuit of skiing objectives in the mountains. Carbon boots, super-light skis and race bindings along with other weight saving measures help ambitious ski mountaineers cleave hours off tour and ski descent times.

I've been dabbling in skimo racing for about five years now. Although I continue to balk at the price of some of the best gear, I have slowly accumulated enough racing gear to look like just another of the obsessed geeks at the start line. I own the nicest ski on the World Cup circuit (Trabs) and my boots now have some carbon fiber in them. Bindings were my last hold out as the sexy Euro race models were hard to get in this country. I finally ordered some heel pieces from France and raced on a hybrid of an older Dynafit titanium race toe piece and a Plum 145 heel piece. I was almost there. 

Finally, late this winter, I developed a modest relationship with the folks at Plum and got a full race binding set-up. Of course, the racing season is mostly over so I mounted them on a new pair of Dynafit Broad Peak skis, my go-to mountaineering set up for the rest of the season. Some things are worth waiting for.

There is no shortage of Dynafit-style bindings out there. All of these are produced and marketed in Europe. It turns out the some have reliability issues that makes using them in the high mountains a sketchy proposition at best. Having a binding fail in the middle of jump turning your way down a 50 degree couloir is an unsavory thought. Plum, on the other hand, does not suffer from these issues.

Based in the Haute-Savoie region of France, the company was born from it's original task of precision machining custom motorcycle parts, Swiss watches and ski bindings. Their first "low tech" race binding was produced in 2007. Most of the bugs have been worked out and they have seen very few failures in the race bindings. They have an unofficial test team of World Cup medalists, extreme skiers and professional mountain guides punishing the bindings throughout the season. I've heard that there were some problems with the Guides related to the synthetic parts but this may have been resolved.

In a word, these bindings are beautiful. There is limited plastic-like material on the race models. It's not surprising that they are not breaking. As with any race-style binding, release capability is set at a DIN of approximately 7 although this cannot be stated "officially" since it is not adjustable. The heel releases up and laterally; the toe release is typically locked out for racing and steep descents. Yes, there are some increased safety risks with these and all race bindings. Many skiers feel the trade off in simplicity and weight is worth it. It's your call.

The Race 145 is, you guessed it, 145 grams each (heel/toe piece, combined). There is an option that saves 10 grams each which incorporates titanium in the heel pins (Race 135). There is also a version that uses an adjustable plate allowing different boot lengths that weighs in at 165 and 185 grams.

The Plum Race 145 binding

Not to limit themselves to the racer market, Plum has also come out with several standard touring bindings. These have the full gambit of standardized safety release settings in addition to more heel lift/climbing options. These bindings also lack the plastic seen in others while remaining quite light weight. Iconic American free skier and general maniac, Glen Plake, has chosen Plum as his ski mountaineering binding.

The Plum Guide binding

The Plum Guide weights in at 670 grams/pair which is the same weight as the Dynafit TLT Speed. The more full-featured Dynafit TLT Vertical ST weights in at 800 grams per pair. Clearly, Plum is competing nicely with the established "big boys" of the binding industry.

The Plum Guide "S" binding

The Plum Guide "S" is a slightly stripped down touring binding eliminating the highest heel position in favor of a lighter set-up, weighing in at 630 grams/pair. Personally, I have come to prefer lower-angled, Euro-style skin tracks as they seem to be more efficient in the long run. Additionally, the newer race-inspired touring boots have so much more ankle articulation that I can manage even the steepest, chest-thumping vertical tracks around here with a lower heel lift.

Buying them

Currently, the only North American importer of these bindings is the Escape Route in Canada. However, Plum is a small company and very responsive to direct email inquires. I have received two parcels from them this winter in this manner and service has been prompt. I typically have the bindings in less than a week. The only downside is that shipping is pricey but the exchange rate has been better lately so it's not too bad. 

I will keep you all updated on my experiences with my Plum Race 145 bindings this spring. There are lots of projects at hand if the weather ever settles out. My initial impressions have been exceedingly favorable. If all goes well, I anticipate adding another pair to my quiver for the upcoming race season. Stay tuned. - Brian  

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Reader Comments (5)

Hi Brian,

I had tried to comment on your latest post about Plum gear, but found it impossible, is it because it opens in a seperate window maybe?

Well anyhow... I had commented in Jan 11 on the 135 and we discussed the new rulings by the ISMF on auto-locking toes. Well there is good news. I spoke with the Plum tech guys at the TSF Millet race in Febuary and they told me the following:

Firstly, they believe that the new rules will not be implemented for the coming season as, they believe, that not all manufacturers could make the required changes in time.

Secondly, Plum already have a retro fit solution for their race toe piece. They showed modification and it is simple, easy to fit and best of all super cheap. They have changed the aluminium strip that sits beneath the toe piece lever and added a sprung ridge to the center of this strip. Simply the strip is just slightly longer with a small raised bend in it. When you engage your boot, the lever sits against the ridge and is in a releasable mode, to lock the toe, pull the lever back to overcome the spung ridge and the toe is locked. It seamed super easy to use, not as difficult to pull back as the dynafit speed.

They said the modification would be available when any new ruling is applied and would cots a few euros to purchase.


Hautes Alpes

May 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Just a correction. The heel unit is not all metal. The housing is plastic. The guide housing is similar and I've seen a lot of failures in the guide housing. Hopefully the race won't have the same issue. Or maybe Plum will offer it in aluminum ;)

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Hi Joe,
I'm curious what "a lot of failures" translates to. I suspect you've seen these in Europe because I just don't see that many here in the States to comment either way. But that's good to know. Interestingly, I just bought a pair of PHAT-ass skis for the resort and put Dynafit bindings on them. I simply wanted the brake and Plum has not worked their's out yet do to legal wrangling.

And, yes, the Race binding is all metal. Yeah!

October 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterBrian

Hi Brian,

I stopped by a local shop (Escape Route) and they showed me a box of their returned broken Guides. They all failed in the same part of the plastic housing. There must've been 20 heel units there (no race units though). To be fair these might be older generation Guides, maybe this problem was addressed. I spoke with Plum directly asking about the "all metal" race bindings. They confirmed they have a plastic housing made from "Ertacetal", their site also lists this material in their race bindings (a quick google search will confirm that this is a plastic). I'm hoping to buy the race 165 this month, it looks like a solid construction.

December 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Well, shit, Joe. Just goes to show you you can't believe everything you read on the internet.

I never really worried about the guides because I don't use them. Good to know they have/had problems.

As for the all-metal claims I made about the race bindings, you seem to be right. It's quite deceptive, really, but I'm scratching around my bindings right now with a blade and it seems the black parts in the heel may be synthetic.

I stand corrected. Pretty embarrassing but I can make it accurate now. Thanks for the heads up.

For what it's worth, I have not heard of any failures of the race bindings. Obviously, Plum is the place to ask for this. I retired a pair after 2.5 seasons just in case.

December 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrian

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