Having the ability to skin climb in my alpine boots, without the weight penalty of Alpine Trekkers, and then fix my heels for a descent could be the grail. However, as a big guy (I like my beer), previous AT binding offerings looked a bit fragile. Without doubt, I was excited with the introduction of the beefed up Naxo N21.
|Naxo on my bench, with other important backcountry skiing items.
First impression was that these were cool looking binders. My excitement waned with my initial run when I perfected my impression of Superman following a double heel eject. I quickly realized the cause was that my forward pressure was not properly set. The heel piece of the NX21 slides on twin rails that run the length of the binding and forward pressure is adjusted by flicking a lock (no tools required) and moving the heel piece on the rails. Relock the mechanism and you are good to go. I was able to make this adjustment at the top of my second run so quickly that my impatient friends didnâ€™t have time to give me grief. This mechanism allows for the sole length to be adjusted in four millimeter increments, which made me a little nervous as my boots fall between increments. However, my anxiety was unfounded as I have not had a prerelease since this adjustment.
Lou did a lateral flex and roll play test on his bench a while back and reported that the NX21 showed similar characteristics to the Marker Comp 1100 alpine binding, ie. little to no lateral flex. Iâ€™m here to one-up his results. Iâ€™m unhappy to admit to weighing 235 pounds. I skied these bindings with my Lange Comp 120 alpine boots and could feel no difference flex-wise between the NX21 and my Marker Comp 1400â€™s. This is a solid clamp.
Another fear going into the test was the stack height of the NX21. The above mentioned rails are necessary to unfix the heel for climbing. However, they add approximately 12.5 millimeters to the stack from ski top sheet to boot sole. I thought that this would be awkward and unstable. Once on snow, I didnâ€™t even notice it.
|The two rigs I enjoyed this winter. Tough choice.
As well as the NX21 skis, they climb even better. Naxo incorporates a dual pivot stride system on all its bindings. (For more detailed info regarding the dual pivot mechanism and theory behind it check out the WildSnow.com Naxo FAQ page, via link in our nav menus on this page.). This is not a gimmick nor is it hype. It works and works really well. Alpine race boots may be the clunkiest footwear ever invented, to walk in, but the dual pivot rounded out and lengthened my stride. Climbing on the NX21 is more akin to walking in a comfortable light hiker than enduring the Machiavellian torture devices that are my Langes. That said, traversing with this system can be tough due to the amount of flex and slop when your heel is lifted, but you get used to it.
In addition to the dual pivot, the NX21 has three climbing height positions. Switching between the three is a breeze. I found myself switching heights more frequently to match slope angle because it was so easy. This and the dual pivot make this rig considerably more comfortable to climb on than my tele setup and, despite being heavier, make it my rig of choice for skiing that involves climbing.
The NX21 is slightly heavier than the 01 model. One of the reasons for this is the addition of the D-Lock. This additional plastic piece assures that the binding does not inadvertently pop into touring mode during a descent. As much as I like the tele turn, I do not want to try telemarking with this binding and alpine boots. At first I had a hard time disengaging the D-Lock — I actually broke a ski pole while levering on the lock However, with practice this has become a bit easier and doesn’t torque my ski poles as much.
Conclusion: This binding design works. I liked them so much that I put a pair on my wife’s powder skis to give more versatility to her quiver. Lou asked me to ski these bindings because I’m a big guy. They are solid. I’m looking forward to skiing them this spring up on Independence Pass, Colorado. For a heavier backcountry skier or one on a budget who needs a binding that can do it all, NX21 is the choice.
(Editor’s note: While the binding had it’s fans and was good in many ways, the Naxo NX21 was subsequently discontinued. The company had problems with quality control, and the design in many people’s opinion was overly complex, prone to fragility, and had problems with rigidity in both touring and downhill modes.)
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