Drake Mikey LeBlancs vs. Burton Cartels: Binding Review

Before I went to Tignes this year I changed my bindings from the Burton Cartels (El Habano) to the Drake Mikey LeBlancs. I’ve been meaning to review this change ever since I returned, so here it is:

Why did I change my bindings?

That’s a good question. Here are the reasons:

  • I thought that the Drake MLBs would be more freestyle orientated, specifically a lower high-back
  • The Drake MLBs looked like less ‘fuss’ than the Cartels. There was something about the ratchets on the Cartels that bothered me, the heel gasket got in the way and I didn’t like the clip that holds the high back in place (one of them was always a little loose)
  • I wanted to try something different

Mikey LeBlanc Bindings

How did the bindings compare?

Performance-wise, I didn’t really notice any change. The high-back is a little lower on the MLBs but this didn’t seem to register. Neither did any difference in respective weights. I was hoping for a little more lateral-leeway, for tweaking, but I didn’t notice anything different here. The Cartels always felt a bit ‘plasticy’ in hand (funny that, given they are made of plastic) – flimsy somehow. On the other hand the MLBs felt a little more solid in-hand… however, this difference didn’t come through when riding. Both bindings seemed to ride like “good quality” bindings should and they did the job.

Cartel El Habano Bindings

Less Fuss? Yep, the MLBs are a simpler binding. The ratchets felt good and worked nicely. No alignment-adjustment on the high-back. No heel gasket to stop snow getting in. A high back that can be easily pushed down flat.

What’s wrong with these features you may ask? Let’s start with the alignment-adjustment on the high-back. In principle, having the high-back line up with the edge of the board is a good idea: more responsive to your movements. But in practice it tended to loosen off when I set it up the way I wanted. An extra adjustment also gave the impression of a weaker binding. I never detected a benefit. The heel gasket to keep the snow out was really good – but it could do with some refinement. It wasn’t long before the cup wasn’t sitting snug, and was squashed out of the back. This was a little annoying. What’s wrong with the high-back clip? Well, I’m sick of low hanging chairlifts catching the top of my binding as I get on… it’s handy if you can just knock your high-back down out of the way.

Drake Base Plates

Base plates. One thing that worried me about the MLBs was the inserts in the base plates. They’re the type that don’t have separate holes for each screw (see picture). I always thought that they would slide around. In contrast I really like the definite holes on the Burton plates. Solid. However, the MLB bindings never moved. It was never a problem.

Comfort – this is what sets the two bindings apart. I don’t like to diss the MLBs, but in comparison to the Cartels they were uncomfortable. The Burton Capstrap owns. It’s simple really, with the cap strap you don’t ever squash your toes; no pain and no pins and needles. It’s not just the cap strap though, the Cartels have an ankle strap that is shaped to fit around the ankle – the superstrap. I don’t think this is a gimmick… it really makes a difference by distributing the pressure. The MLB ankle strap is kinda-flat, so when I cranked them up they made my foot ache.

Maybe I have my bindings too tight? Maybe I’m being a wimp? Maybe it’s just me and other people experience these bindings in a different way. But that’s the point, in my opinion the Cartels easily outscore the MLBs when it comes to comfort. If I sat around waiting on the hill I had to loosen off the straps…

Overall

Well the MLBs are quite a bit cheaper (in the region of ยฃ40 I think, and more if you get the suede El Habanos). I think they ride just as well, and to me they’re a more user-friendly binding with a no-nonsense feel to them. Also, they’re not Burton which may appeal to some people (I’m not one of them though).

But the comfort is a big factor – it made more of a difference that I expected.

So what am I riding now? Well, I’m sticking with the MLBs. I like the overall feel of the binding, they look sick and I can put up with the periods of discomfort for a little while longer (I should point out that you only really notice the discomfort when you stop :-).

What would I advise a friend to buy if spending a little extra money wasn’t an issue? Get the Burton Missions. I’ve ridden the Missions (before the Capstrap) and they’re really good. You’ll get both the capstrap and a nicely shaped ankle strap (it’s only the Luxstrap, not the Superstrap though!) and save some money.

So tell me again why you’re not going back to the Cartels?

I don’t have the choice – I sold them to my dad really cheap! D’oh

14 Comments

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Mal

    Mate, that is a *good* review. Keep it coming! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    JP

    Nice. I’ve been running Drake MLB’s for the last couple of years now. I like the 03/04 models the best. The ones with the little green irish dude on the back. Also have a pair of 04/05 Technine Justin Hebbel’s that I like alot.. but the MLBs are my primary. Simply and light

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Thanks dude, glad you liked it – especially as there are more coming ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Yeah the MLBs are nice – I like the feel of the whole binding, in the hand and when it’s strapped on. I didn’t really touch on it in the review – but the MLB has a responsive feel – like your foot is attached to the board. It probably helps that my boot size is a really good fit with the bindings…Hey JP, what board are you riding along with thos MLBs?

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Thanks!Nice one with the fix on the 05 Cartels. I’ve never heard of the Flex bindings – are they Burton made?

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Anonymous

    Just an FYI. The 06 Cartels dont permanently strap the highback up. Further the 06 toe strap is more of a cup system that wraps around the boot toe. In other words the toe strap wont slide up on you. Anyway, I got around the 05 Cartel issue by going to a harware store and getting a properly sized screw and simply pulled out the clips. Set the lean you want and tighten…no more locked high backs. Keep your eyes out for the 06 Flex bindings, they are very nice. They are fairly identical to Cartels, including price ๐Ÿ™ but I liked how you could reverse the bindings. Someone was given a pair to demo here in Colorado, but he was just cruizing, no park riding.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    I don’t think it’s necessary to match them to a set of Salomon bindings, but it is important that the boot and the binding are a good fit.What is it about the MLBs that doesn’t seem to fit too well?

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    payango

    i have 04/05 mlbs as well and i love them, but I just purchased a set of salomon f22s to replace my northwave legends and am concerned of how they fit together. Does it really matter whether I match the boot to a set of salomon bindings?Any thoughts?

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Yeah that made sense ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the info! I’m glad you’ve been getting good riding from your cartels.I totally agree about the straps, I really rate Burton’s binding straps.As I look back at the Cartels (after riding the MLBs some more over this season), there are certainly things that I like about the Cartels; and you’re right, is it good that they’ve removed the locking thingy!I still think that when I get some new bindings I’ll get the Missions. Similar setup but maybe a lower high-back…Thanks for posting!

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Cristi

    hey gavi’ve been running the 06 Cartels the whole season, and have no major complaints. the superstrap is super like always and the convertible capstrap gives you the power to take destiniy into your own hands ๐Ÿ˜€anyway, i wanted to specifically adress the rotating hi-back issue: it does NOT get loose if you don’t crank the screws too tight.if you noticed, the screws that hold the hiback to the baseplate have sort of a waved pattern, and so does the plastic piece thei fit onto.i had p1’s beofre the cartel, and i used to tighten those hiback screws a lot. in doing so, i damaged the waved plastic thingy that is supposed to match the waved pattern on the screws, so they don’t get loose. obviously, with the plastic piece nicely flattened due to brute force, the screws no longer worked the way they should have.so, if you ever come accross this waved-screw system again (i 1st met in on some rollerblade inline skates) don’t use too much force to tighten the screws. after they start to “click” turn them maximum 3 times morehope i was clear enough, and of course helpful ๐Ÿ˜€PS: good job burton removed the “locking flad”, it was really annoying

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    David

    I’m planning on getting the 08 Cartel lo-back bindings, but i’m not 2 sure about my boot size fit. My boots are Burton freestyles that are a size 10, and i was wondering if the capstrap would affect the fitting on a cartel binding. Could someone recommend me if i should get medium or large size bindings? O btw, i have bindings without the capstrap and my toes start 2 get sore and i’m hoping this capstrap will really help me a lot.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Hey David, are you a 10 UK size or a 10 US size? According to the Burton size charts the medium will go up to a 10 for US sizes and 9 for UK.I personally like to have my boots fitting really snug, so if you can get into a medium I’d try that.Can you get to a local snowboard shop and try on a set of burton bindings. Even if you can’t get that exact Cartel, it should give you a better idea about the overall size, and whether or not the cap-strap will fit…

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Anonymous

    yo man thats crazy cuz i just went from the MLB’s to the cartel’s i loved my MLB’s but i grew outta them so i bought the cartels i havent gotten a chance to ride them yet tho cuz of a injury but deff a good review because now i dont really have any worries about them…keep on reviewing man good shit.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Thanks! I just need to buy more gear, go snowboarding more, and then review more stuff. It’d be cool if someone was giving me this stuff for free ๐Ÿ™‚Enjoy the Cartels! Cheers.

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