The Spark R&D Blaze TR is crowned as the OutdoorGearLab Best Buy award winner for its blend of value and performance. As one of the cheaper splitboard specific bindings that are available, this pair represents an impressive value. It performs well on the down and up with the med flexing and featured highback. As the market has progressed, the pin transition system has become outdated, and more efficient options exist for a marginal increase in price. We recommend making the upgrade to one of the non-pin systems available. The Blaze TR is fit for the introductory splitboarder who doesn't mind the pin system but is seeking a well-rounded binding.
Spark R&D Blaze TR Review
Cons: Slider pin is outdated, not the most convenient forward lean adjuster
Manufacturer: Spark R&D
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Spark R&D Blaze TR
|Price||$285 List||$385.00 at REI|
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|$574.95 at Backcountry|
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|$829.95 at Backcountry|
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|$949.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Inexpensive, lightweight, exceptional downhill performance, slightly above-average straps, lean, risers||Uphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjusters||Lightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use buckles||Improved interface, downhill performance, comfortable straps, easy to deploy heel risers||Beautiful carbon highback, improved ease of use, tight board connection, convenient forward lean adjuster|
|Cons||Slider pin is outdated, not the most convenient forward lean adjuster||Heel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer baskets||Expensive, might be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modes||Expensive, weight of entire system||Expensive, heavy, snow and ice can complicate transition to ride mode|
|Bottom Line||A classic contender in our fleet, it comes at an excellent price, with decent performance across the board.||Spark does it again.||Built for the send.||Enjoyable for the up, down and inbetween.||The Prime X Carbon is the best offering from Karakoram.|
|Rating Categories||Spark R&D Blaze TR||Spark R&D Arc||Spark R&D Surge Pro||Karakoram Prime-X||Karakoram Prime-X Carbon|
|Uphill Performance (20%)|
|Downhill Performance (30%)|
|Straps Lean Risers (10%)|
|Specs||Spark R&D Blaze TR||Spark R&D Arc||Spark R&D Surge Pro||Karakoram Prime-X||Karakoram Prime-X...|
|Measured Weight (pair)||3.25 lbs||2.8 lbs||2.7 lbs||3.18 lbs||3.16 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||Karakoram Splitboard Clips, Prime Crampons||Karakoram Splitboard Clips, Prime Crampons|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The New Spark R&D Blaze TR Compared With The Prior Model
In the last few years, the Blaze got a couple of letters added to its name: T and R. TR stands for "tour ready" and refers to the addition of the LT touring brackets and the dual height climbing wires. The new LT touring brackets are lightweight and feature wider pin contact, which, according to Spark R&D, should increase control (making backcountry travel more seamless). The dual height climbing wires add inches for skinning up terrain with varying inclines. The latest model weighs 82 grams less than the original model and also costs less. The phrases "weigh less" AND "cost less" are two phrases we don't often see in one sentence!
Check out the comparison images below, with the newest model pictured on the left and the older version shown on the right.
Summary of updates:
- LT Touring Brackets — The new touring brackets are lighter weight (2.43 oz/pair) and feature a wider pin, which, according to Spark R&D, should increase control.
- Dual Height Climbing Wires — The Blaze TR's include 55mm and 75mm climbing heels for added height while skinning up varying slope angles.
- Lower Price — The new model costs less than the prior model, further solidifying its title as "Best Buy".
- Decreased Weight - The TR's weigh 1384 grams, which is 82 grams less the prior model.
- New Name — If you're curious, the "TR" stands for "tour ready".
We can't wait to try out these new bindings! While we wait for the snow to do so, the writing below pertains to the Blaze bindings we initially tested.
Hands-On Review Of The Original Spark R&D Blaze
The Blaze TR is Spark's introductory binding. It has touring ready features, a medium flex, and a pin-based transition system.
The uphill performance of splitboard binding is derived from their design and features. Here we will discuss the forward lean and heel risers of the binding.
The Blaze features the Rip and Flip highback, which 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. When adjusted to the ideal lean, it's a simple toggle back and forth. In walk mode, the high back has industry-leading negative lean.
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.
At 3 pounds 4 ounces (for the pair), these are one of the lightest splitboard bindings in our review. For those weight weenies out there, a pair of lightweight bindings are certainly appreciated when ascending.
While the slider pin used by this contender is not particularly sexy anymore, it is still completely functional. Compared to the Voile Light Rail, which is the only other splitboard binding in our review still using a slider pin, the Blaze pin is easier to use. The 'L' shape of the Blaze slider pin secures behind a toe strap quickly and easily, while 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 Blaze features an older style forward lean adjuster that requires several touches to move it between large and small amounts of forward lean. While there is plenty of forward lean for most riders on the high end, the lowest angle of forward lean is noticeably higher than the smallest amount that is available on the Arc. This is mostly an issue on rolling terrain where less forward lean allows for a longer, more natural stride.
The metal lanyard holding the slider pin can be annoying at times but is about as unobtrusive as a metal lanyard hanging out by the toe of your binding can be. We were concerned that the baseplate (with all its weight shaving holes) would become iced up and a pain during transitions, though in practice, this was a very minimal issue.
Snowboarding down the mountain with these pair of bindings feels great. The attachment to the board is secure, and the highback and straps offer comfort. A few of our larger riders felt the highback was too soft for them.
Straps, Lean, and Risers
This model uses Burton ratchets and ladders. These have been well tested in the marketplace by Burton, and 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. They function identically to straps on the Spark Arc and are far smoother than the straps found on the Voile Light Rail.
The lowest forward lean setting on this model is not as low as the amount that can be found on the Spark Arc, which, to be fair, is the lowest in our review (and also costs more). Don't fret; the lowest setting on the Blaze is low enough to function well for most rolling terrain. The mechanism itself feels a bit cheap and clumsy to operate but does effectively switch between high and low highback angles.Risers
These bindings use the standard Voile risers. 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 winner of our Best Buy Award, we rate this model extremely high for its value, as it offers the most bang for your buck. If you are willing to accept a few sacrifices of convenience in transitions and adjusting forward lean, these pair of bindings deliver performance that is comparable to the Editors' Choice winner, the Spark R&D Arc, saving you some bucks.
The Spark Blaze wins our Best Buy based on its performance and relative affordability. For the price, you get very nice Burton manufactured ratchets, the second lightest binding in our review, and a reliable (if slightly dated) slider pin system. Once you have transitioned and are shredding downhill, there is very little performance difference between these and the Editors' Choice winning Arcs. If you can afford it, jump up to the Spark Arcs; their Snap Ramp and improved forward lean adjusters are tempting, and almost all the difference is in the transitions. If you're just starting, it is likely you will be too busy catching your breath and enjoying the view to worry about a minute or so of extra fiddling between climb and ride modes.
— Isaac Laredo & David Reichel