The Cartel X is not the upgrade that you would think it is. Normally in the Burton range, the “X” is the upgraded, high performance version, where this time it is just some interesting marketing.
Over the years the Cartel binding has earned a reputation as a very solid binding, with a mid-stiff flex that makes it an ideal choice for all kinds of riding. Lots of people know the name, and you find that lots of people would ask about them, just because they have heard the name before.
The problem is that it was on the stiffer side, so it doesn’t really suit riders starting out, as it isn’t a super forgiving binding. It gives you plenty of support, and is one of my favourites – I own a couple of pairs of them.
In previous seasons you have the Burton Mission, a medium flexing cheaper binding, that had a simple set of good features. For the more aggressive rider, the next step up was the Cartel – with a stiffer flex, more cushioning and some slight changes to the straps.
I am sure that it exists in most sports, but I notice it a lot in snowboarding – people want to ride “cool” gear. Now whether or not it suits their skill level or goals, it doesn’t matter to them.
This is what I think Burton is doing by adding the Cartel X to the line. The Cartel X takes the spot of the old Cartel, they add a token feature and change the look a little.
Now you have the current Cartel, which looks very similar, but has been downgraded all over.
It has the lower softer baseplate from the Mission, lower toestrap (though it looks the same), the AutoCANT footbed and B3 Gel was removed and replaced with the plain one from the Mission.
The difference now is that when someone comes into a snowboard shop, they will see Cartels (at a cheaper price without knowing the features are gone), which is a much easier sell. On top of using the good name, with the softer flex it will be an easier ride for a wider range of riders.
Burton Cartel X 2021 Review
I rode a few different versions of the Cartel X, in both the EST (just for channel boards) and the Re:Flex options.
When I first saw them, I was keen to try them – I really like my Cartels and I assumed that the “X” meant that they were going to be stiffer and more responsive. They looked different, but other than the look of the highback the main thing I noticed as the Heel Hammock.
When I put my boot into the binding, I noticed that you could see the Heel Hammock wrap nicely around the heel of my boot.
After riding a few laps and trying the same bindings on a different board, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between those and my older Cartels, though I though that it could have been because I was on completely new boards.
I can’t really see how the Heel Hammock really does anything if you actually tighten the ankle strap properly, your boot shouldn’t be able to move anyway.
Other than that, they ride just like the old Cartels. A smooth, solid flex, quick response from edge to edge and nice straps that easily lock you down.
Features of the Burton Cartel X
The Re:Flex option is the best choice in my opinion. It lets you mount the bindings to regular 4×4 boards, as well as Burton/Signal/Endeavour boards with the Channel. Although there are technically some advantages with the EST versions of the bindings, these give you the best flexibility if you upgrade and change boards over the years.
Single Component Baseplate
A nice fairly stiff flexing baseplate.
A very comfy ankle strap, that doesn’t give me any pressure points at all on my Salomon boots.
B3 Gel Cushioning
Just a little squishy section under your heel, to help with bigger impacts. It is made so that it still works and doesn’t get harder even in really cold conditions.
Supergrip Capstrap 2.0
A nice fitting toe cap, that works well on my boots, and never slips on me.
A grippy section that wraps around your heels,
Forward lean is adjusted by spinning the dial on the bottom of the highback.