The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

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Johnny
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The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by Johnny » Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:17 am

The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding system.jpg

Yes, this is without a doubt the hottest topic of the year! At last, a 2-pin binding for XCD! So many hopes, questions, concerns and confusion. I'll try to make everything clear. But before I start, let me say in a few words that even this is far from being the binding I have been dreaming of, I absolutely LOVE the XPlore! As you know, I was dreaming about THE holy grail XCD binding. But this is not what we got for many reasons. That said, I am very, very excited about the XPlore, it's actually much better than what I was expecting!

So is it really good?
The big question still remains, is it really worth throwing everything away and switching to the XPLORE system? The main general consensus seems to be that "it will all depend on the boot offerings". So Johnny, does it really depends on the boot offerings? Because so far we have only seen a very few XPlore boots. And so far, the only thing we officially heard is that it seems like Pål-Trygve Gamme, a very reliable and respected skier, is not exactly in love with the XPlore system. Hummm... The boot offerings, perhaps? 8-)

Well, I can honestly say that no, from a certain point of view, it does NOT really depend on the boot offerings. Whether we like it or not, the made-in-Norway XPlore binding is simply better and superior to everything we have seen. To clear all doubts, let's take a look at physics. No opinions here, no biased views, no involved parties, just pure scientific facts. Let's take a look at the contact points of the actual XC systems available on the market. Not the width of the sole, but the actual points where force is applied to control and steer the ski. (I will try to keep it simple and avoid words like leverage, pivot and torque, as they were misused and abused too many times...)

75mm 3 pin vs NNN-BC versus Rottefella XPlore.jpg

Look at the old 3-pin Nordic Norm. A mere 33mm between the contact points. On the other hand, NNN-BC at 42mm offers much better control. Not considering the bail, that is a whooping 27% increase of lateral steering power over pins. And this time, with a metal on metal connection. A lot better, no matter the old romantic sentiments you may have for your old pins. And this is especially true when the heel is raised.

Now look at the Rottefella XPLORE New OFFTRACK Backcountry System Norm™ (Yes, that is the official name! There is a complete official Rottefella XPlore "Name Structure Table" in the paperworks!) The XPlore offers a stunning 70mm between contact points, now that is a hell lot of power! A 112% increase to be exact! No matter if your entire foot is flat on the ski or if your heel is fully raised, the power is always there, never leaving your toes. So people might be biased, have preconceived ideas and opinions, and they might say it all depends on the boot offerings... They might also have sentimental attachments for certain bindings. But no matter what people say, the fact is that yes, even if it's only for that, the XPlore binding is technically better than everything else on the market right now. Just basic physical laws. (And yep, it also means that NNN-BC is "better" than pins). 8-)

That's awesome Johnny, but how do they ski?
Well, really, they ski like crazy! Really. I have to admit I was very skeptical, seeing mostly the obvious and clever marketing scheme behind the whole XPlore thing. Well, I wasn't wrong, but Rottefella did deliver the goods! I will tell you more about how they ski in a separate XPlore boot review, because I don't want to mix things up here. But the overall feeling is incredible. I remember the first time I tried 700g leathers... Well, I had the same feeling on the XPlore bindings, only TWICE AS INTENSE! Never before cross-country skiers were able to enjoy that much lightness, ability and control at the same time. Which ultimately translates into MORE PLEASURE and MORE FUN!

Putting any ski on edge has never been easier, no matter how wide it is. The edges react lightning-fast to the slightest muscle impulse, thanks to that wide 70mm lever and the super-tight connection of the pins, injecting the power directly into to the ski. Even the smallest amount of muscular power is transferred straight under the ski, like if you had an hydraulic power steering. Kicking and gliding has never been so precise. Actually, even if I was previously only excited about the downhill potential of the XPlore, I am blown away by the XC feeling. I was not expecting this at all: I instantly fell deeper in love with XC, in a way I never did before. Suddenly, XC skiing took on a new perspective. Ok, it might have something to do with the XPlore boots... But really, that much precision for simple XC skiing definitely increases the FUN factor, both on the snow and at the end of the day by the fire. (And nope, there are no NNN-BC style grooves to reinforce the boot/sole connection. The 70mm wide power-pin does everything.)

Stepping-in the binding couldn't be easier. Just align the pins and click, you're locked on the ski. And stepping-out is even easier, a small pressure with the tip of your pole and you're out. Super simple. Super brilliant. No complicated mechanisms with potential problems here, it couldn't be more simple. The "Rottefella Springpin™ Integrated Technology In The Front of the Toes" are simply pushed inside the boots when you press the lever. VERY COOL! (Nothing to do with the sluggish step-in NNN-BC autos, this is WAY better!)

Rottefella XPLORE pins.gif

The new way to change flexors is great, but it could be improved. We all know how it's almost-impossible to change white flexors on NNN-BC. Well, it's SO easy with the XPlore bindings! Just push a button and POP!, there goes the flexor! You can replace it on the spot with a harder one, or a blank one for no resistance at all and full range of motion for climbing. (AT LAST!) The thing is, that LITTLE slider is located under the boot, and it's not possible to activate it without removing your gloves. In fact, it's so small that you have to actually use your nails to push it fully inside in order to release the flexor. Not very practical, as you can see in the picture (Notice the Torx mounting screws...) A minor annoyance, but I believe this could be somehow improved pretty easily right? Because I'm not crazy about the idea of having to grow long nails... I don't play classical guitar much anymore...

Rottefella XPLORE flexor.jpg

Cables? Sure, why not? Some stubborn telemark skiers will never be able to accept the fact of skiing without cables. I can see a full invasion of FrankenXplore bindings coming soon, with all kinds of exotic tech cables combos and homemade Dremeled grooves. Hopefully @bobbytooslow will come up with 3D-printable cable-groove-blocks for every XPlore boots..? And XPlore second heels to Meidjoize them? 8-)

As for the possible icing issues, I don't think this is going to be problematic at all. I might be wrong, I only tested the bindings in hot weather. But the way the whole system is built, I don't see how it could become a problem. Yes, although the Springpins are well sealed, there could always be some ice buildup or water freezing here. But in that case, the binding should be able to force the pins inside when you step in the binding and break any buildup around the pins. Same thing when you step out, the force of the lever should push the pins inside even if it's frozen somewhere. I sure will put this to the test next season. But really, how can anything be worse than old 3-pin holes full of ice?

And the best of it all? The thing only weights an incredible 189 gram!!! Amazing isn't it? That is 378g per pair, including screws, flexors and climbing bars. That is the weight of a Super Telemark binding, only with A LOT more power! Remove the climbing bars and the semi-useless plastic covers, and you're down to 340g a pair! MUCH better than the 530g previously announced last year! (I can hear you, but the answer is no, the bulk of the system's weight has NOT been transferred into the sole... It IS really light...)

Rottefella XPLORE weight.jpg

And bonus, you won't have to buy a new expensive jig or turn your beloved skis into swiss cheese to upgrade to XPLORE: The distance between the mounting holes are the same as NNN-BC. And it goes right into the same pin line for both bindings! Just add a few holes and you're done. SUPER cool!

I really think this COULD be the finest XCD binding ever. Not the holy grail one I'm still dreaming of, but it could become the best you can find in the Milky Way right now. Well ok, I will need a few more days on snow to confirm what I just said. And I will have to try a few more pairs of boots. But most importantly, I will have to wait until the hard flexors become available to make a true, fair comparison. (Yes, I have a bazillion pairs of NNN-BC skis. Among these, I have 5 pairs of dedicated downhill skis on which I use White flexors exclusively... So I REALLY can't wait to see how the new hard "Grey" XPlore flexors perform!)

Technically, the potential is unlimited. But to unleash the full potential of the XPLORE bindings, yes, it WILL all depend on the boot offerings. With all the potential horsepower available from the binding itself, it is the boots that will turn this 2-pin beast into whatever you want according to your needs.

Coming soon: My review of the GORGEOUS Alpina Alaska XP boots... 8-)


PROS:
- VERY light
- True step-in / step out
- BEST lateral control ever for everything XCD
- Climbing bars included

CONS:
- No tour mode (Carrying spare parts in your pockets is NOT a "touring mode")
- No release
- No adjustment plates


P.S: At 189g, it's getting quite close to the weight of the XCelerators, which are 94g each. That doesn't take into account the embed mounting plate in the ski which is around 50g, making the XCL system around 140g each in reality. That brings some serious food for thought about the relevance and the viability of the whole spectrum of classic and skating boots and bindings. The XPlore adds just a few more grams for a million times the power. If they can make 700g big "Backcountry" boots, what about WC classic and skating racing boots? With 2-pin toes, superlight racing versions of XPlore soles and moving plates? Why bother with metal bars at all? The market will have to seriously rethink itself sooner or later...
/...\ Peace, Love, Telemark and Tofu /...\
"And if you like to risk your neck, we'll boom down Sutton in old Quebec..."

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telerat
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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by telerat » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:51 am

Again a very positive review like Christer's experience described in the other thread:
http://telemarktalk.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3563
I am a bit ambivalent to locking that thread as it contained much valuable information and discussion. You could rename this topic to "The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding Review" to reduce confusion and let this be actual binding review info and discussion on that, and let the other thread continue to for speculation and discussion of the system.

I don't agree with the 33mm wide support in 75mm bindings, as there are walls on the binding that help stabilize the boot, both when the heel is at the ski and when raised. The NNN BC binding also has extra stability when the heel is at the ski, but that disappears when the heel is raised. The holes in 75mm boots usually have a steel insert that helps retention and longevity; you can even see them in your picture.

There is some play of my boot in the Rottefella Super Telemark binding that I can feel, so I like the feel of a cable binding, but then it has more heel retention and is worse for kick and glide/walking. I'm hoping Xplore can be the holy grail; a system that is easy to step into and get out of, avoiding snow build-up, with a a proper patterned rubber sole and excellent performance both flat, uphill and downhill. I'm still skeptical of the downhill performance after seeing the lack of boot flex and lack of torsional rigidity in review and videos, but yours and Christer's experience makes me hopeful. Can you tell more about the downhill performance? Does the boot flex or is it just raised like in the previous review? And if so how does this feel compared to a 75mm or NTN boot? Is there any drawback to this system compare to NNN-BC for kick and glide (except for the added width)?



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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by Woodserson » Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:13 am

telerat wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:51 am

I am a bit ambivalent to locking that thread as it contained much valuable information and discussion. You could rename this topic to "The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding Review" to reduce confusion and let this be actual binding review info and discussion on that, and let the other thread continue to for speculation and discussion of the system.

I don't agree with the 33mm wide support in 75mm bindings, as there are walls on the binding that help stabilize the boot, both when the heel is at the ski and when raised. The NNN BC binding also has extra stability when the heel is at the ski, but that disappears when the heel is raised. The holes in 75mm boots usually have a steel insert that helps retention and longevity; you can even see them in your picture.

Agree on your comment on 75mm binding. The pins are only to keep the boot from sliding out backwards. The bail clamps across the bill and provides the pressure across the entirety of the duckbill-- there is 75mm of contact.

Disagree on your comment about NNN-BC. Lifting the heel, ball-of-foot must remain down to engage the rails between the binding and foot. That is the crux of the NNN-BC system. Lifting the heel and the entire boot off the rails so a skier is just suspended on the bar is not using the binding to its full effectiveness. It's poor technique. Keep the ball-of-foot down. Engage the rails. There are no rails on the heel pad (like NNN), this is for a reason, they are not needed. The rails up front are there for turning.

I am intrigued by this binding system and cautiously optimistic. IF ONLY THEY MAKE BOOTS BIG ENOUGH (looking at you NTN/Scarpa... stopping at 30... terrible)



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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by Johnny » Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:36 am

telerat wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:51 am
Can you tell more about the downhill performance? Does the boot flex or is it just raised like in the previous review? And if so how does this feel compared to a 75mm or NTN boot?
More about this in the boot review... As I said, I don't want to mix things up, I want to be as objective as possible. The binding itself holds all the downhill power you can ever need. Just like 75mm and NNN-BC, the downhill performance you can get out of a binding depends on the boot you use.

Woodserson wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:13 am
Agree on your comment on 75mm binding. The pins are only to keep the boot from sliding out backwards. The bail clamps across the bill and provides the pressure across the entirety of the duckbill-- there is 75mm of contact.
Not exactly true. The pins are there to steer the ski. Grind down the pins on your bindings and try to move, edge or steer. No pins = no power. Try to picture your feet in a Chili binding... without the cable. 8-)
Even with the bale locked over the 75mm rubber duckbill, you won't be able to do a thing without being anchored to pins or cables. All the power comes from the pins...

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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by riel » Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:37 am

Woodserson wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:13 am
Disagree on your comment about NNN-BC. Lifting the heel, ball-of-foot must remain down to engage the rails between the binding and foot. That is the crux of the NNN-BC system. Lifting the heel and the entire boot off the rails so a skier is just suspended on the bar is not using the binding to its full effectiveness. It's poor technique. Keep the ball-of-foot down. Engage the rails. There are no rails on the heel pad (like NNN), this is for a reason, they are not needed. The rails up front are there for turning.
This is one of the things that worries me a little bit about XPlore.

With the Riva bindings I use today, the boot is in contact with the bindings both in front and in the rear of the boot.

With NNN-BC, about 1/4 of the length of the rear boot is in contact with the bindings during a telemark turn.

With XPlore, all the force goes through the very front of the boot.

That should work great, IF the soles actually transmit the power the skier exerts all the way to the front of the boots. That is a significant change from 75mm and NNN-BC, and I don't know whether the boot manufacturers are going to get that right, especially considering there are known issues with some 75mm and NNN-BC boots that have been around for years without getting fixed.

I'm cautiously optimistic :)



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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by bgregoire » Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:55 pm

Thanks for the passionate review.The XPlore surely sounds interesting. All this talk about bias-free-dom has me thinking forums are a great place for peer-review: a useful method for truth attainment.
Johnny wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:17 am
75mm 3 pin vs NNN-BC versus Rottefella XPlore.jpg
Look at the old 3-pin Nordic Norm. A mere 33mm between the contact points. It would be hard to be more wiggly than this. On the other hand, NNN-BC at 42mm offers MUCH better control. A whooping 27% increase of power over pins. And this time, with a metal on metal connection. A LOT better, no matter the old romantic sentiments you may have for your old pins. And this is especially true when the heel is raised.
The XPlore mechanism might outwin the other two in terms of "power", looking forward to trying that out someday. But those numbers: 33mm for a 75mm duckbill solidly locked into a rat trap binding just does't add up (or in this case substract). Besides, we are comparing apples to oranges here as the mechanisms in each are different and imperfect in different ways, so a simple measurement just won't do. This needs some extra work my friend.
Johnny wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:17 am
(And yep, it also means that NNN-BC is "better" than pins). 8-)
:lol: unb%$&ed right? 8-)
Johnny wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:17 am
And the best of it all? The thing only weights an incredible 189 gram!!! Amazing isn't it? That is 378g per pair, including screws, flexors and climbing bars. That is the weight of a Super Telemark binding, only with A LOT more power! Remove the climbing bars and the semi-useless plastic covers, and you're down to 340g a pair! MUCH better than the 530g previously announced last year! (I can hear you, but the answer is no, the bulk of the system's weight has NOT been transferred into the sole... It IS really light...)
Very cool!
Last edited by bgregoire on Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by bgregoire » Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:04 pm

Johnny wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:36 am
Not exactly true. The pins are there to steer the ski. Grind down the pins on your bindings and try to move, edge or steer. No pins = no power. Try to picture your feet in a Chili binding... without the cable. 8-)
Not quite. The pins are there to prevent the squishy rubber duckhill from slipping out of the binding once the bale is compressed on it (locked). The pins are essential on a binding designed to be used WITHOUT cables. Their main "raison d'être" is to keep the boot aligned and in the binding.

The pins don't steer, the skier does.
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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by Woodserson » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:38 pm

So BG beat me to it. The bail compresses the duckbill down, there is actually compression across the top of the duckbill. The Chili is just a space/box for the duckbill to slide into and mainly contact on the sides, and the cable to keep it in place. There is no bail. But on a 3pin there is a bail. Two related yet different systems that use the same boot technology.

It's kind of a 3rd rail detail anyway to compare. The Xplore is a totally different concept and I think the potential, if done correctly is huge. Light, strong, a SOLID connection on the sides of the boot. Easy climbing, swappable flexors... I really like the simplicity of the whole rig.

However, without rails to lock the sole in place laterally, there are a very real physics issues that I hope the engineers have thought about. Twisty floppy soles are going to be a problem. It will be interesting to see which boot company does what with the sole. It's going to come down to the boots.

I'm going to need another Rabb or FT62 to mount these on so I can do objective side-by-side reviews. dammmmiittttt



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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by telerat » Tue Apr 27, 2021 3:35 am

Johnny wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:36 am
telerat wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:51 am
Can you tell more about the downhill performance? Does the boot flex or is it just raised like in the previous review? And if so how does this feel compared to a 75mm or NTN boot?
More about this in the boot review... As I said, I don't want to mix things up, I want to be as objective as possible. The binding itself holds all the downhill power you can ever need. Just like 75mm and NNN-BC, the downhill performance you can get out of a binding depends on the boot you use.
This is of course boot dependent, but there is a interaction with the flexor in the binding; So what I really ask is how stiff the flexor is and how much it can help bend the sole of the boot, or if you have to put much weight on the boot to flex it? This is one of the advantages of a cable binding, where the cable helps bending the boot. You still have to weight the rear ski, which also helps bend the boot, so the binding and boot needs to be evaluated as a system. A picture in the Ute-review shows a very tippy toe rear boot. I have changed my mind and am not sure a cable is a good idea in Xplore, as it will stress the pins much more. Edit: I've changed my mind again; a cable might counteract rearward pressure from the flexor and thus reduce tension on pins and help bend the boot. We'll see if it ever materializes.
Johnny wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:36 am
Woodserson wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:13 am
Agree on your comment on 75mm binding. The pins are only to keep the boot from sliding out backwards. The bail clamps across the bill and provides the pressure across the entirety of the duckbill-- there is 75mm of contact.
Not exactly true. The pins are there to steer the ski. Grind down the pins on your bindings and try to move, edge or steer. No pins = no power. Try to picture your feet in a Chili binding... without the cable. 8-)
Even with the bale locked over the 75mm rubber duckbill, you won't be able to do a thing without being anchored to pins or cables. All the power comes from the pins...
The pins in 75mm is for retention of the boot in the binding, while the sidewalls are for power/steering. There is some play in a 75mm binding (a cable can eliminate this). You can thus argue a NNN-BC binding is better than a 75mm toe binding due to less play, due to both the attachment and the rail under the boot sole, but not because of a narrower attachment point. The best NNN-BC boots are also more torsional rigid than the 75mm boots with a molded sole, which is part of the reason that I haven't bought an Alpina Alaska 75mm boot. I unfortunately have no personal skiing experience on NNN-BC, so I can't compare directly.

Xplore is interesting in that if you don't flex the sole, you could get better edging performance as you will not twist the sole as much. You will get a tippy toe feeing in the rear foot and I assume an unnatural/bad feeling when trying to weight the rear ski without bending the ball of the foot. I'm just curious how (well) the whole system works and think (as with NTN) that you can't evaluate the binding and boots completely separate.
Last edited by telerat on Tue Apr 27, 2021 3:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: The new Rottefella XPLORE OFFTRACK Binding System Review

Post by Johnny » Tue Apr 27, 2021 7:34 am

bgregoire wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:04 pm
The pins are there to prevent the squishy rubber duckhill from slipping out of the binding once the bale is compressed on it (locked). The pins are essential on a binding designed to be used WITHOUT cables. Their main "raison d'être" is to keep the boot aligned and in the binding.
Woodserson wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:38 pm
So BG beat me to it. The bail compresses the duckbill down, there is actually compression across the top of the duckbill.
Have you ever installed smiley plates into rubber duckbills and noticed the huge increase of lateral power they add?

telerat wrote:
Tue Apr 27, 2021 3:35 am
So what I really ask is how stiff the flexor is
The stiffness of the black flexor of the XPlore binding is very similar to the black NNN-BC one.

telerat wrote:
Tue Apr 27, 2021 3:35 am
how much it can help bend the sole of the boot, or if you have to put much weight on the boot to flex it?
I know this is what you want to hear! Because this is THE MAIN thing behind the XPlore. It is THE most important thing that will decide the fate of the XPlore system. Hence the reason I am keeping the sole and boot flex related stuff for the boot review to avoid confusion. Because even if the soles are the same for all boots, different manufacturers will do different things with it, with different midsoles probably too. So I tried to focus on the binding itself and its properties here... The juiciest part will be of course in the boot review... 8-)

telerat wrote:
Tue Apr 27, 2021 3:35 am
Xplore is interesting in that if you don't flex the sole, you could get better edging performance as you will not twist the sole as much. You will get a tippy toe feeing in the rear foot and I assume an unnatural/bad feeling when trying to weight the rear ski without bending the ball of the foot. I'm just curious how (well) the whole system works and think (as with NTN) that you can't evaluate the binding and boots completely separate.
Precisely.

Now we have to understand that there's got to be a difference between something "unnatural", a "bad feeling", a "tippy-toe feeling" and "something new" or "something we are not yet used to".

Remember NTN in 2006? We are in the *exact* same situation right now. 8-)
/...\ Peace, Love, Telemark and Tofu /...\
"And if you like to risk your neck, we'll boom down Sutton in old Quebec..."



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