Today’s reader question:
I just got some new bindings and I’m setting them up for the NZ season, how much forward lean should I use?
Alright, so first let’s do a quick 101 on forward lean before I get into the good stuff.
What is forward lean?
Forward lean is an adjustable setting on the highback of your snowboard’s binding (the highback is that flappy section that folds up and down). What it does is adjust how far forward your highback sits against your calf.
Different bindings have different natural built in forward lean and depending on your personal preference, you can adjust the binding to have more or less forward lean.
Why should you adjust your forward lean?
Forward lean helps with heelside carving. If you have more forward lean, you will find your heelside carves and turns respond quicker and there’s a tight, responsive feel to your heelside movements.
If you have less forward lean, you’ll find your heelside movements feel more relaxed and loose because the highback sits further away from your calf.
More or less forward lean is up to you. Some prefer a loose, relaxed feel to their bindings and some prefer a tight, responsive feel. However, be aware that too much forward lean can cause pain as the highbacks will begin to press against your calf muscle whenever your knees aren’t fully bent.
So.. how much forward lean is ideal?
Typically, racers, freeriders and halfpipe riders tend to like more forward lean because it gives them a responsive and quick movement in their bindings. You’ll also find heelside carves a lot easier with more forward lean.
On the flip side, many freestyle riders prefer no forward lean because it feels more comfortable and because it gives them more movement to adjust their feet on rails.
Neither is the wrong choice and you can always pick something in between. Do note that if you have no forward lean, you’ll find that you have to push your calves a lot further backwards to turn heelside.
In the past, I’ve used both none and medium forward lean.
I usually have no forward lean set because I ride 90% park and I like that relaxed feel when I do freestyle, plus forward lean hurts my calves.
However, when I ride halfpipe or do any freeride carving or snowboard instructor tests, I put on more forward lean because I know I’ll need responsive carving and turning.
You can always adjust your forward lean for the type of riding you’ll be doing. More forward lean when you need responsiveness, less forward lean when it’s not an issue.
A forward lean ‘cheat’ for beginner snowboarders
If you’re a beginner and having problems with bending your knees on turns, you can use forward lean as a tool to force you to bend your knees. Having more forward lean will force you to keep your knees in a bent position because otherwise you end up with highbacks digging into your calves.
It can be a little uncomfortable, but it’s a useful trick to get your body used to keeping those knees bent and you can always take off the forward lean once you get used to bending your knees.