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Spark R&D Blaze TR Review

A classic contender in our fleet, it comes at an excellent price, with decent performance across the board
Spark R&D Blaze TR
Photo: Spark R&D
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $285 List
Pros:  Inexpensive, lightweight, lean adjuster
Cons:  Pin-based binding
Manufacturer:   Spark R&D
By Isaac Laredo & David Reichel  ⋅  Dec 31, 2020
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 11
  • Uphill Performance - 20% 5
  • Weight - 10% 6
  • Transitions - 30% 6
  • Downhill Performance - 30% 8
  • Straps, Lean, Risers - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Spark R&D Blaze TR is crowned an award winner for its blend of value and performance. It performs well on the down and up with the med flexing and featured highback. As an entry-level binding, it still utilizes a pin system for transitions. Fortunately, its pin is large, which makes it easy to handle. The efficient lean adjuster helps minimize the time in transition based on its simplicity. The Blaze TR is best for the cost-minded splitboarder who doesn't mind the pin system, but is seeking an overall well-rounded binding.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Spark R&D Blaze TR
This Product
Spark R&D Blaze TR
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  
Price $285 List$385 List$540 List$575 List$830 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Inexpensive, lightweight, lean adjusterUphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjustersLightweight, easy to transitionLightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use bucklesImproved interface, downhill performance, comfortable straps, easy to deploy heel risers
Cons Pin-based bindingHeel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer basketsHave to buy heel lock separately, soft pole baskets can struggle with riser barMight be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modesExpensive, weight of entire system
Bottom Line Friendly on the wallet while providing decent performance, it's a tried and true classicThis top-performing model is our first choice and has been for many yearsOur all-time favorite female-specific splitboard bindingThis lightweight binding offers excellent performance at a reasonable priceExceptional downhill performance with refined in betweens
Rating Categories Spark R&D Blaze TR Spark R&D Arc Spark R&D Arc Pro - Women's Spark R&D Surge Pro Karakoram Prime-X
Uphill Performance (20%)
5
8
8
7
8
Weight (10%)
6
9
9
9
5
Transitions (30%)
6
8
8
8
7
Downhill Performance (30%)
8
8
8
8
8
Straps Lean Risers (10%)
6
8
8
8
9
Specs Spark R&D Blaze TR Spark R&D Arc Spark R&D Arc Pro... Spark R&D Surge Pro Karakoram Prime-X
Measured Weight (pair) 3.12 lbs 2.8 lbs 2.4 lbs 2.7 lbs 3.18 lbs
Compatible Systems Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, Sabertooth Crampons, Ibex Crampons Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, and Ibex Crampons Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, and Ibex Crampons Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, and Ibex Crampons Karakoram Splitboard Clips, Prime Crampons

Our Analysis and Test Results

Hands-On Review Of The Original Spark R&D Blaze


The Blaze TR is Spark's introductory level binding. It has a medium field weight, a medium flex, and employs a pin-based transition system. The objective of this binding is to provide a lower-cost option for you to get into the backcountry; it also supports your travels with tour-ready features.

The R&D Blaze TR is one of the best pin bindings on the market.
The R&D Blaze TR is one of the best pin bindings on the market.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Uphill Performance


The uphill performance of a splitboard binding can have an enormous impact on your touring experience. Remember, most of your day is spent ascending. For each model, we looked at stride quality, side hilling ability, and overall comfort.


The R&D Blaze TR has impressive stride quality given its based system. It has a full range of motion that is accessible through low to medium friction touring points. The friction in the pivot point can affect your efficiency through the course of the day. Its highback has -13 degrees of lean, which allows you to maximize your stride. The length of your stride also impacts your efficiency as you can cover more ground in fewer steps. This is accentuated in long rolling terrain. In the pin-based category, the Spark R&D Blaze TR provides one of the best overall strides.

An additional component of uphill efficiency comes from the ability to sidehill. The Blaze TR has lower side arms, which provide less support than other designs. However, the binding provides a secure and proficient side-hilling in most situations. Testers who rode softer boots noticed additional difficulty side-hilling based on less lateral support in the system. We still found the Blaze TR to give adequate support to technical side-hilling.

The Blaze remains comfortable for all-day touring outings despite its milled out metal baseplate. The model uses padded leather straps, which are quite form-fitting and avoid pressure points near your instep.

The R&D Blaze TR climbed comparably to higher-end models.
The R&D Blaze TR climbed comparably to higher-end models.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Weight


Weight is all the rave these days. It has become a competitive frontier in practically every piece of equipment used for ascending, especially when it's on your back or feet.


The R&D Blaze TR is one of the lightest pin based bindings on the market. In the grand scheme of things, it is a pretty lightweight binding. A single binding weighs 703 grams or one pound 8.8 ounces. We like to measure the weight of the entire system as that is the actual weight we will be carrying uphill. The field weight of the binding is four pounds 2.1 ounces. This is a very competitive weight when compared to the rest of the market, especially for being a pin-based binding.

Transitions


The transition has been one of the main differentiators and competitive frontiers between binding manufacturers. The goal is to provide the most efficient and user-friendly system in transition, which can then become a top of the line downhill riding system. As other options arose, the pin-based transitions systems became less desirable but remained completely functional.


While the slider pin used by this contender is not particularly sexy anymore, it is still completely functional. The Blaze pin is easier to use. The 'L' shape of the Blaze slider pin secures on the inside of the toe strap quickly and easily. The wider opening of the baseplate (holding the bushings) means that it is again easier to secure or remove the pin from ride mode.

The pitfalls we found while transitioning were generally brought on by environmental hazards. When handling in fresh snow, the pinholes can have some icing issues and difficulty lining up. The pin is harder to accurately handle with larger gloves on. However, this is an issue with all pin bindings. Fortunately, the pin is very large, which makes it one of the more user-friendly options around. The metal lanyard holding the slider pin can be annoying at times and seems short on length based on its attachment point sliding around or having slack. It is about as unobtrusive as a metal lanyard hanging out by the toe of your binding can be. More often than not, our transitions were easier than expected.

The pin sits on the inside of the toe latter. It is not noticeable...
The pin sits on the inside of the toe latter. It is not noticeable when riding and less cumbersome then it looks.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Downhill Performance


The R&D Blaze is an excellent binding for any objective. The binding doesn't feel overwhelmingly stiff for those who like a playful ride.


The R&D Blazefound a nice blend of toe to heel response that had a touch of tip to tail lateral flex. This provides a responsive edge to edge feel that one would expect from a stiffer end of medium binding. The tip to tail flex of the high back helps support a playful and fluid riding approach, and our testers very much enjoyed the surfy feeling of this model. Overall, the Blaze is a fun and high performing product.

The R&D Blaze TR provides plenty of toe to heel response while...
The R&D Blaze TR provides plenty of toe to heel response while also offering lateral movement -- for a playful feel.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Straps, Lean, and Risers


The straps, lean, and risers of the Blaze offer value to the overall product and user experience. Each feature is simple, reliable, and functional.


Straps

This model uses Burton ratchets and ladders. These have been well tested in the marketplace by Burton. The incredible smoothness can be found on this contender. When tightening the straps, the ratchets grip well and can be released by quickly slapping the ratchet open.

The leather-based straps are nicely padded to prevent discomfort...
The leather-based straps are nicely padded to prevent discomfort. They should last for many seasons for the casual splitboarder.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Lean

The R&D Blaze TR utilizes the Rip N' Flip Highback, which is easy to transition from walk to ride mode and has -13 degrees of lean. The system enables quick adjustments to ride and walk mode with a simple toggle. It's easy to set up but hard to ensure that the lean on both bindings are the same.

The Spark system offers one of the largest ranges of negative lean on the market. This allows for the most efficient touring of flat or rolling terrain as you can maximize your stride length to minimize your steps.

The toggle found on the R&D Blaze TR is intuitive and fast to...
The toggle found on the R&D Blaze TR is intuitive and fast to switch from tour to ride mode.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Risers

This model relies on the standard Voile climbing bars when ascending. The modern Voile climbing bars are easy to use and work well; they come in both short and long lengths; with a modest amount of practice, they can be engaged from a standing position with the handle end of your poles. Reviewers felt that the overall support provided by this competitor was quite notable during challenging sections of climbs. These metal risers can be heard clinking on the base of the Blaze with each step but do work well and serve their purpose.

The metal risers on the board make more noise every step but remain...
The metal risers on the board make more noise every step but remain one of the more user-friendly options on the market.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Value


The R&D Blaze TR is rated extremely high for its value. If you're willing to accept a few sacrifices regarding the convenience of transitions, this model offers an excellent bang for your buck. This pair of bindings deliver solid performance, while also saving you some bucks.

Women's Model


There is no women's specific model for the R&D Blaze TR.

Conclusion


The Spark R&D Blaze TR provides excellent performance and relative affordability. For the price, you get a lightweight and reliable slider pin system. Once you have transitioned and are shredding downhill, the medium flexing high back provides a smooth surfy feel. The R&D Arc is for users looking for the best value and performance from a pin-based binding. This binding is the best pin binding to tackle larger days in the mountains based on its performance on the climb, descent, and transition.

Isaac Laredo & David Reichel