The AT in the K2 Lien AT stands for All Terrain. Is this the take-no-prisoners binding you’ve been looking for?
The K2 Lien AT binding is K2’s top of the line freeride binding. The Lien series first came out in 2016 and have now evolved into the current shape you see in 2018. While the originals had a plasticky feel to them, these new ones have a slick high end finish to them and are a solid binding for all types of riding.
The straps on the K2 Lien AT are built with a minimalist feel that fits well with the overall streamlined look of the binding. The Precision ankle strap is a thin strap that has just the right amount of padding. Thanks to the neoprene cushioning, you can crank it down really tight without squashing your instep. Going back and forth between this strap and the older, larger asym strap made me realize that while both feel great, I slightly prefer this minimalist version and don’t miss having more strap coverage. I’m sure this helps with the weight savings.
The Perfect Fit 2.0 toe strap now has an adjustable lower section that really makes it easy to fit all boot types. They are strong and really lock your lower boot in, even for a pair of 2018 K2 Taro Tamai boots that have a hard to grip rounded toe box. You can see how much the bottom section can be moved to really nail the fit down:
A really convenient feature of the straps is the Cam-Lock adjustment tabs. No need to fiddle with screws to lengthen or shorten the straps – just flip the tab up, adjust the strap and push the tab down. Centering the straps during the initial setup is simple. You can also do it easily with gloves on and is perfect for when you trade boards with your buddy for a run and he has different sized boots.
The ankle strap has a hinge mount which allows the strap to naturally fall away from the footbed when unstrapped, making it easier to get your boot into the binding. The hinge mount they use is solidly built and seems more durable than the tech in some comparable bindings. The downside to this feature is when you are one footing, the back foot ankle strap now lies where you’d place your foot and you end up either stepping on the strap or trying to ride one foot with both feet unnaturally close to each other. It’s not an issue for getting off the lifts, just for when you ride a longer distance without both feet strapped in. It’s hard to blame K2 for this as it’s an industry-wide ‘improvement’ over a perceived problem (stepping on the straps when putting the foot in the binding). So now instead of stepping on your strap when strapping in, you step on it when skating. It’s not much of a problem though – you just have to get into the habit of flipping the ankle strap out of the way before any serious one footing.
Worth mentioning also are the EZ Feed ratchets – they are smooth and I haven’t had any problems with them not gripping the ladders, even on cold powder days when snow gets caked in everywhere. They were the first things friends who tried them commented on.
The K2 Lien AT now have minimalist cored out highbacks, which are slightly stiffer than the medium flex of the originals. Overall, compared to the stiffest bindings on the market, these highbacks are a touch softer in a lateral hand flex, but that’s like rating them an 8 or 9 to the 10 of a stiff carbon highback. They’re still comfortable though and don’t dig into your calf, all the while providing quick response. For riders who prefer a softer highback, switching to the included softer pods on the tripod chassis (discussed below) will give the whole back end more play, in effect loosening the side to side flex of the highback.
Forward lean adjustment is done without tools and it sits well when it’s been adjusted. The actual adjustment process though is a bit fiddly and isn’t something you can do easily at the top of a run. I tend to set it and forget it so this was a non-issue for me.
Highback rotation is also done with the forward lean adjustment levers and similarly, this one-and-done operation can cause some colourful language the first time you attempt it – don’t try to do it in the morning with your friends waiting for you. There are three holes on each side of each heel cup and it was easy to match the angle of the heel edge for me at 21° and I didn’t need to rotate my back foot highback for the -3° angle. I do have to mention that the second time I used the forward lean and highback rotation, I knew what to expect and was able to do it efficiently at the top of a run.
The K2 Mini MC disc works on 4×4 inserts and the channel. There are 5 holes so you can adjust your stance in 1 cm increments, which I really appreciate for getting my preferred stance width exact. Liens also come with a pair of extra discs for additional edge-to-edge boot centering options. With a size 10 in Large Liens, my boots were centered as is, and I did not use these extra discs.
Tripod Chassis Technology
This is where the K2 Lien AT really shines. K2 has designed a system of three urethane pods placed on the underside of the binding, which they call K2 Tripod Chassis Tech.
Three sets of pods of different hardness come included in the box, along with a pair of EVA basepads. Red pods are soft, yellow are medium, and blue are hard. Changing them up gives you more or less lateral roll in the heelcup and highback. Since there are 3 sets of pods, and you can add the basepad or not, you start out with 6 options to try out. The combinations increase exponentially if you try to dial in a custom flex by mixing the different colours – for example, a pair of stiffer blues under your forefoot and a soft red under your heel. And double the options if you decide to have individual flexes for each foot (for example, a softer back foot flex is a hot thing for carving these days).
Use the reds for the most surfy, loose ride or yellows for a little less. Both of these colours are really good if you want to really tweak your grabs or stretch out some laybacks. That said, we’re just talking about lateral movement here – front to back the Liens are still providing full support. Blues are the stiffest and will give you the best power transfer, especially when coupled with the basepad.
I found I liked the reds with the basepad for regular riding the best as the softer pods form a bit of a suspension system to cushion landings and for an overall smoother ride. For powder, I had good results with the reds and no basepad. For banked slalom races though, I’ll be running the blues with the basepad for max response. That said, I didn’t dislike any of the combinations I tried and I think that laziness will decide which setup I run. I could see myself changing the system if I was moving the bindings from one board to another, but not necessarily going out of my way to change for a slightly different ride.
Above the Tripod Chassis, the K2 Lien AT have 3° canted footbeds which align your body better and ease pressure off your knees. I don’t notice the canting but maybe that’s by design – it’s supposed to feel natural.
The K2 Lien AT binding is for the rider who wants a solid high end binding with great straps. A binding that as a bonus, has the ability to be that powerful, big line binding one day, then easily loosen up to become surfy and fun the next, just by changing out the pods and removing the basepads. Customization is the name of the game here as Tripod Tech will make you feel like you own a quiver of bindings. Such versatility makes the K2 Lien AT into a binding which really lives up to its All Terrain moniker, providing a performance that should check all the boxes for many riders.
Get more information on K2 Snowboarding at their official site.
Disclosure: The K2 Lien AT were provided by K2 Snowboarding.