Hello and welcome to my Union Atlas FC snowboard bindings review.
In this review I will take a look at the Atlas FCs as freeride snowboard bindings.
As per tradition here at SnowboardingProfiles.com I will give the Atlas FCs a score out of 100 (based on several factors) and see how they compare with other Freeride bindings.
Bindings: Union Atlas FC
Price: $549 (USD recommended retail)
Other Uses: Aggressive All-Mountain
Flex: Stiff (9/10)
Rating Score: 90.7/100
Compared to other Men’s Freeride Bindings
Out of the 13 Men’s Freeride bindings that I rated:
- The average score was 85.3/100
- The highest score was 92.3/100
- The lowest score was 79.9/100
- The average price was $456
- The Atlas FC ranked 3rd out of 13
Overview of the Atlas FC’s Specs
Check out the tables for the Atlas FC ’s specs and available sizes.
Freeride, aggressive all-mountain
2 x 4 | 4 x 4 | Channel
US BOOT SIZE
EURO BOOT SIZE
UK BOOT SIZE
Who are the Atlas FC Most Suited To?
The Atlas FC is best suited to those who like to charge hard and will match with stiffer flexing boards best. Anything from 7/10 to 10/10.
Definitely not for the beginner. This is a binding for those that are advanced and is take no prisoners.
The Atlas FC in More Detail
O.k. let’s take a more detailed look at what the Atlas FC are capable of.
Binding: Union Atlas FC 2021, M
Date: February 28, 2020
Conditions: No fresh overnight but there was the previous night. Groomers were nice. Well enough groomed with a medium snow base and a soft layer on top.
Off groomer good too - not fresh like it was the previous day but medium - not hard or crunchy or anything.
Visibility variable. Temp was -3°C (26.6°F) with wind but didn't feel overly cold to start. Wind picked up and was quite a chilly wind later on.
Bindings angles: +15/-15
Stance width: 550mm (21.7″)
Board demoed with: Rossignol One LF 2018, 159
Baseplate Length: 24.4cm (9.6”)*
*measured on the top side of the footbed - a little bit of angle down to underside of baseplate which was 23cm (9.05").
Baseplate (footbed) Length fully extended: 25.4cm (10")
Highback Height: 21cm (8.3")*
* from bottom of heel cup to top of highback. From bottom of baseplate to top of highback is 27.2cm (10.7")
Weight: 920g (2lbs)
* for one binding, including screws and disc. The average weight of a small sample size of around 30 bindings (2019, 2020 & 2021 models) I weighed, was 895 grams. The lightest was 760 grams and the heaviest was 1,020grams. So the Atlas FC is a pretty average weight based on those samples.
There's virtually no twist in the high back and the baseplate to be rated just as stiff. Definitely one of the stiffer bindings I've ridden.
As expected this binding gave my board a more carvy feel and drove it harder - so much so that it almost overpowered my board (6/10 flex). It's definitely hard charging and makes you want to carve harder.
Reduces maneuverability at slow speeds vs the softer flexing Atlas (which I rode the same day) and my test bindings (Burton Malavita).
Board feel isn't bad for a such a rigid binding. But just a hair less board feel than the regular Atlas, and a good step down from the Malavita. But
Very similar to Atlas and very similar to Malavita, but just that little bit more effort involved.
Let's Break this Text Up with a Video
LIke the regular Atlas, the Atlas FC is super adjustable. You can adjust in most ways.
Heel Cup: YES
Stance Width: Can set disc horizontal or vertical - and given that you can adjust the heel cup, there's a good chance you won't have to run it vertical. Running it horizontal gives some good micro adjustment to stance width possibilities.
Highback Lean: YES, tool-less
Ankle Strap Position: No
Toe Strap Position: Yes
Ankle and toe strap length: Tool=less
Gas pedal/toe ramp extension: YES
Highback Rotation: YES
Compatible with: 2 x 4 | 4 x 4 | Channel
Whilst the footbed feels rather firm and like it's going to be a bit harsh underfoot, it's actually pretty good. It's thick enough, and actually felt pretty decent on flat landings, and at absorbing chatter.
The heel is a little more spongy than the rest of the footbed too, so that helps. Still quite firm, but a spongier firm, if that makes sense.
Overall not ultra shock absorbing, but better than you'd think when riding compared to how firm the footbed feels.
Nice and smooth ratchets make it easy to get in and out of.
Overall a nice and comfortable binding, particularly for how stiff it is.
Ankle Strap: Nice and conforming, without any pressure points that I noticed. I slightly prefer the strap on the Falcor, but that's not taking anything away from this ankle strap, as I really like the Falcor one.
Toe Strap: Nice toe strap. Sat really well on my boot - felt secure and comfortable.
Canted Footbed: YES
Padded Footbed: As per shock absorption section above, it's a firm footbed, but has more give when riding than what you expect.
Highback: There's some padding on the highback which helps. I did notice a little bit of calf bite, but that's typical with a stiffer binding with more high back lean. It's the kind of binding you want to drive hard with, so I wanted a little more highback lean, and that, for me, typically leads to a bit of calf bite. Was nothing that was so bad that I wanted to stop riding, but noticed it a little. It would be less so with less highback lean on though I would say, or if you were used to a lot of highback lean.
Good ankle support and Union have really improved in this area over the last few years with their ankle staps. The one thing that this binding doesn't have in terms of adjustability is a different ankle strap position.
If it had options for the ankle strap position, then that might give it even better ankle support (if there was a higher position option), but that's getting really picky as it is really decent.
Score Breakdown and Final Verdict
Check out the breakdown of the score in the table below.
Contribution to Final Score
TOTAL after normalizing
The Atlas on steroids really. Really hard driving bindings. Made my board feel lighter and more powerful. Almost overpowered my board, but on a stiffer board would make it sing.
Great for anyone who wants to bomb or carve hard on a bombing, carve hard kind of board.
You'll want to have a big binding budget for them though, of course, these bad boys don't come cheap!
More Info, Current Prices and Where to Buy Online
If you’re interested in learning more about the Atlas FC or want to research prices and availability check out the links below.
If you want to check out some other freeride bindings or want to see how the Atlas FC compare to other freeride bindings, check out the next link.
You’ve already helped me a great deal with binding choice (recently discussed under the Union Falcor thread) and I wondered if I dare to bother you with the same topic still… but since there aren’t any comments under this Atlas FC review, maybe we should get the conversation started 😉
Based on your advice and current availability I’ve already narrowed my options into a stiff freeride binding in size L, with the Union Atlas FC and the Burton X EST as the top candidates.
I received the Customer X 162W and set it up with my Spark Surge Pro split bindings (temporary solution, but seems to work well with the solid conversion kit), put on my US 11 Burton Imperial boots and took it out for the first ride. As a background to the binding choice, here are my impressions:
– Easy to ride, not at all catchy – though I was trying to be more careful on this first ride and focus on keeping the board on edge.
– The base is really fast, even with the factory wax on. I think I broke my “speed record” yesterday, though that definitely wasn’t the intention.
– No question it carves well, but I was nowhere near the board’s capabilities yet. Got to get used to the twin shape, different sidecut etc. and build confidence.
– Pretty good to ride switch, even with a forward stance. Think I’ll learn to carve switch better and at some point later on set this up duck and carve both directions.
– Tried some small tables, pops nicely and the landings are stable, so I’ll probably use this for jumps, too (though that wasn’t the main intention, originally).
– It even butters well (I don’t butter well on any board, but in comparison…).
All in all, my first impression was that it is actually quite a versatile ride and I might use it to more than just carving morning groomers. That said, since it really is fast, finding a setup that enables holding an edge at speed will still be a priority.
With these thoughts, I tried to make sense of what I’ve read about the Atlas FC and the X EST:
– The Atlas FC might be stiffer and more responsive? Would it be a better match for carving with the Custom X? Or does the SpringBED add so much in response that it beats the Atlas FC for a Channel board?
– Perhaps the X EST has a better board feel and forgiveness, would it make it a better binding for buttering? Some say, though, that the SpringBED on the X ruins the board feel…
– Considering jumps and chatter, I wonder whether the Atlas FC’s “regular” shock absorption or the SpringBED would be better?
– It’s probably mainly due to my old boots (and perhaps also the splitboard binding), but the heel hold / ankle support could be better. The Atlas FC and the X EST both seem to be pretty good at this, would you see any difference?
Both bindings are available at a discount and very similar price, so that isn’t really a factor. The ability to use the Atlas FC on non-channel boards naturally is, but on the other hand I don’t have other boards at the moment that would require a binding this stiff. So I’m thinking that if the X EST offers some unique benefits over the other options, this could be the time to get one. On the other hand, if the Atlas FC is still a better binding for what I intend to do on the CX, I’ll go for that for sure.
I’m also still considering the X-base, but if I understand right, the Re:Flex version has more give than the two above and might not make as good a carver with the CX? The EST version, on the other hand, apparently lacks the SpringBED and would lose in shock absorption to both of my top options?
Not sure if it makes much of a difference in the choice between these bindings, but at some point I plan to replace my Size US 11 Imperials with a more responsive boot. Probably one from your “top 5 freeride boots” list. Also the Ride Trident seems like a great boot, if it isn’t too flexy for the rest of the setup.
Which binding would you go for in my case? Or yet another one, after all?
Thanks for the follow up and extra info.
I haven’t ridden the X EST, so I couldn’t say for sure how it compares. I rode the old X Base Re:Flex a while bask, but don’t think it had the Spingbed, so I’m not sure how that affects things. The X Base is almost as responsive I would say as the Atlas FC, or maybe just a touch under, but still very responsive. I find that EST bindings tend to provide better response and better board feel – at the cost of shock absorption usually. I would say that the X EST probably doesn’t absorb shock as well as the Atlas FC, but would provide as good a response and better board feel. But perhaps that springbed evens out the board feel and shock absorption a little? But I’m not sure.
I’ve certainly always preferred Burton EST over Burton Re:Flex on a Channel board. The trade off of less shock absorption for better response and board feel is well worth it to me. So if you were to go Burton, I would go EST, if you’re not likely to have these bindings on a non-channel Burton in the future. But that is of course the biggest downside of EST. I would probably (having not ridden the X EST, but based on other EST bindings and previous X Base) go X EST, because it’s a channel board. If it was between the X Base Re:Flex and the Atlas FC, I would go Atlas FC. Between the Atlas FC and X Base I think you’ll really like both, so there’s not a wrong decision. I think the biggest thing is to decide if you think you’ll ever want to use them on a non-channel board in the future. If you think that’s unlikely I would be leaning X EST (again with the proviso that I haven’t tested those specific bindings), but if you think there’s a reasonable chance then I’d go Atlas FC, and I don’t think you would be disappointed with either choice.
Thanks again Nate!
Great points that you made. Since I really don’t have another board at the moment to pair a very responsive binding with (and might not need another for a while), I decided to “optimize” for Custom X and went for the X EST in size L.
Also noticed that my faithful Imperials are really starting to come apart (just counted approx. 160 days of riding with them on), so I also ordered the K2 Thraxis boots on the same go. I read your review of it once more and concluded that apart from the not-so-reduced footprint there really aren’t any downsides. For the size L binding and 162W board that shouldn’t be any issue anyway. With pretty good shock absorption it probably counters what I might lose with the X EST, while also the board feel appears to be better than on Ride Insano. The real deal makers for me, though, are response and heel hold.
The only two concerns I have… some seem to complain about the inner boa skeleton being very painful – I hope that’s not the case for me. Also sized down from US 11 Imperial to US 10,5 on this one. However, I measured my feet again and the larger one is 278 mm, so (given I measured right), there should be 7 mm difference to the mondo size 285.
I went for another ride on the CX today and it really is a fun board. Really looking forward to riding it with its “final” setup 🙂
I think that’s sound reasoning. I had no issues with the inner BOA skeleton, but everyone’s feet are different. And yeah not being low profile shouldn’t be an issue at all if you’re in 10.5s on the 162W.
Look forward to hearing how you get on, once you’ve got the full set up going.
Now that I have a few days’ experience with the new setup, perhaps it’s time to report back a bit of first impressions…
Overall, the setup feels really solid. Easy and fun to ride both early morning hardpack and the afternoon slush. That said, I don’t think I’ve had the courage and skill to make the most of this energetic and responsive combo yet. So I’m hoping it’ll force me onto a learning curve for the remainder of the season and the next one.
Sizewise, the Large X Est could not be any larger. The ankle strap has plenty of range left, but the toe strap is adjusted to its smallest and still doesn’t feel like it gets very tight. I haven’t noticed it being loose while riding, though, so maybe that’s just how it is.
On the deeper heelside carves I’ve also booted out quite a few times (i.e. the heelcup of the binding has caught up with the snow, not sure I’m using the correct terminology here…). I’ve tried to mitigate the problem by moving the bindings towards the toeside and also by using bigger stance angles, but with EST there seems to be a limit on how far you can adjust (= the bigger the angles, the less heel-toe adjustability there is). Additionally, even if I could move the bindings further to the toeside, I’m close to starting to have binding overhang, so there’s another limit. It works as is, though, so maybe I’ll just continue to learn on it and tweak the angles etc. as I go.
The K2 Thraxis boots have been a really good addition to the board and bindings. Stiff, but comfortable from day 1! Sizing down for US11 Burton to US10,5 wasn’t too much – over time the liners might even pack enough that I could’ve had a size 10. But for now it feels just right.
Without question the Custom X – X EST – Thraxis combo is the best all-mountain setup I’ve had so far. I also haven’t managed to ride a day long enough yet that any part of it would’ve started to develop serious pressure points or be otherwise uncomfortable. So I think they’ll see a plenty of use during the coming seasons 🙂
Thanks again for you advice!
Thanks for the update. Really appreciate the feedback and insights into your new setup.