Snowboard flex rating is essentially as it sounds – it describes how flexible a snowboard is.
There is a large variance in that flexibility depending on the snowboard and what it’s designed for.
The first part of this post will go into more details on the different types of flex and the different flex ratings that are typically used by manufacturers.
The second part will take a look at what level of flex you should be going for – this will depend on your style and ability level.
Flex Rating Explained
There are broadly two different types of flex in a snowboard – longitudinal and torsional.
Longitudinal and Torsional Flex
Longitudinal flex is the flexibility of the snowboard length ways (from nose to tail). This is what is typically referred to when talking about the flex of a board. The flex rating given by manufacturers refers to the longitudinal flex and so will be the focus of this post.
Longitudinal flex can be progressive or continuous. Progressive flex means that the flex in the centre of the board, the nose and the tail could all have different levels of flex.
It is often the case that the flex of the tail is stiffer than the flex in the nose – but it is also often the case (as it is with the true twin shape) that the flex will be the same in the nose and tail. This all depends on what the snowboard is designed to do and I’ll get more into that in the “what flex is best” section below.
Torsional flex is the flex width ways (from edge to edge). This is generally not considered by people when deciding on their snowboard purchase and typically there isn’t a rating given out by manufacturers for this. Whether or not it should be considered is a debate for another post (but feel free to leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this).
There may be the argument that Torsional flex deserves more attention as a softer torsional flex will help with sharper turns and a stiffer torsional flex will increase edge-hold (so it does have an effect).
The Flex Ratings
There isn’t a generalized standard across snowboarding manufacturers so there will be some difference in what one manufacturer considers “medium” compared to another. This is a bit of a pain and the sooner a standardized system is developed the better.
Usually flex is described in one of two ways (or both) – on a scale of 1 to 10 or on a scale of soft to stiff.
If rated out of 10 then:
- 1-2 translates to soft flex
- 3-4 means medium-to-soft flex
- 5-6 means medium flex
- 7-8 means medium-to-stiff flex; and
- 9-10 means stiff flex
I have seen other scales that translate more like this:
- 1-2 is soft
- 3-5 is medium
- 6-8 is stiff; and
- 9-10 is very stiff
Essentially they are saying the same thing but with different terms so it pays to double check the scale that the retailer or manufacturer is using before deciding.
For example one retailer may use the second scale above and rate the board as medium and in reality it has a flex of 3 out of 10 – that same board would be rated as medium-to-soft on the other rating – so make sure you know the scales being used.
All the reviews and discussions surrounding flex on this website use the first scale above, unless otherwise mentioned. And I try to give both a word flex rating and a number rating so it is more clear as to the actual flex of the board.
What Flex is Best?
O.k. that’s all well and good but which flex is better? This of course depends on a number of factors including style, ability and bodyweight.
Every rating of flex all the way from 1 to 10 has it’s uses and is the “best” in any given situation.
Certain styles are more conducive to either a softer or stiffer flex.
If you are a freestyle rider who likes to play in the park then you usually want a softer flexing board. This increases manoeuvrability for spins, allows for easier buttering on jibs and generally gives greater manoeuvrability.
Flex is typically the same in the nose as it is in the tail. This is so that the board feels the same or similar riding in either direction so that you can ride and land in switch with ease.
Street/jib boards (a.k.a noodles) will be very soft, 1-2 out of 10 and will perform very well with butters – but they won’t take you very far from the park.
Most freestylers tend to go for something a little more soft-to-medium (3-4 out of 10) so that they can actually leave the park and do some trails (even if it’s just to find some natural hits).
Check out my top 10 freestyle snowboards
If you are a free-rider who loves to ride the backcountry, bomb steeps at speed and generally ride aggressively and love to carve then a stiffer flex will serve you much better than a soft flex.
A stiffer flex will give you greater stability and edge-hold, particularly at high speeds.
The flex in the nose is usually softer than it is in the tail. The softer nose helps to keep it afloat in powder and the stiffer tail helps with edge-hold.
Free-riders will typically look for anything from a 7 to 10 flex (depending on personal preference bodyweight etc)
Check out my top 5 freeride snowboards
All Mountain riders who like to do a bit of everything will naturally look for something in between.
A majority of all mountain boards will be between 4 and 7 out of 10.
Check out my top 10 all mountain snowboards
A softer flexing board will be easier to control and to manoeuvre and be more forgiving of mistakes. Therefore a softer flex is better for beginners.
But beginners don’t want to go too soft or edge-hold could be compromised too much. So the ideal flex for a beginner, in my opinion is medium-to-soft (3 or 4 out of 10).
Check out my post on what makes the best beginner board below.
What longitudinal flex is right for you also very much depends on your weight.
If you are on the lighter side then a board that is too stiff is going to be very difficult to control – the board will likely be taking you for a ride down the mountain rather than you riding it!
This can be quite dangerous as well as no fun.
Thankfully most (but not all) manufacturers have a suggested weight range for each length of a particular snowboard. The length of the board also affects the board’s flex.
Check out my post on finding the right length snowboard for more info about choosing the best length.
And that’s about the gist of it
O.k. so hopefully you’ve learned something about snowboard flex today and hopefully this will help with figuring out which flex is best for you.
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.