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Spark R&D Surge Pro Review

Meticulous engineering to make the good even better
Spark R&D Surge Pro
Photo: Spark
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $575 List
Pros:  Lightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use buckles
Cons:  Might be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modes
Manufacturer:   Spark
By Isaac Laredo & David Reichel  ⋅  Dec 31, 2020
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 11
  • Uphill Performance - 20% 7
  • Weight - 10% 9
  • Transitions - 30% 8
  • Downhill Performance - 30% 8
  • Straps, Lean, Risers - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Spark R&D Surge Pro is a lighter, more responsive version of Spark's already excellent Surge. Spark used high-end materials to make the straps lighter and the highback stiffer. It also boasts lighter custom hardware. As you would expect, it's also more expensive. However, it is an absolutely great binding; it rips on the downhill, operates efficiently, and is like a feather on the up. Whether it's worth the premium is up to your style and objectives. The Surge Pro is a great choice for weight-conscious, strong riders who know that they prefer a responsive and stout binding.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Spark R&D Surge Pro
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $575 List$540 List$385 List$275 List$285 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use bucklesLightweight, easy to transitionUphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjustersAffordable, comfortable straps, forward lean adjustmentInexpensive, lightweight, lean adjuster
Cons Might be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modesHave to buy heel lock separately, soft pole baskets can struggle with riser barHeel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer basketsHeavy, wet snow clumps in pin box, pin based bindingPin-based binding
Bottom Line Meticulous engineering to make the good even betterThe best of the best for all the lady splitboarders out thereTop-notch performance that keeps your wallet in mindA comfortable and user-friendly binding that is nice on the walletA classic contender in our fleet, it comes at an excellent price, with decent performance across the board
Rating Categories Spark R&D Surge Pro Spark R&D Arc Pro -... Spark R&D Arc Voile Light Rail Spark R&D Blaze TR
Uphill Performance (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Weight (10%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
Transitions (30%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Downhill Performance (30%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Straps Lean Risers (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Spark R&D Surge Pro Spark R&D Arc Pro -... Spark R&D Arc Voile Light Rail Spark R&D Blaze TR
Measured Weight (pair) 2.7 lbs 2.4 lbs 2.8 lbs 3.34 lbs 3.12 lbs
Compatible Systems 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 Voile Pucks, Voile Splitboard Crampons Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, Sabertooth Crampons, Ibex Crampons

Our Analysis and Test Results

Spark R&D has one of the best binding line ups in the industry, with its focus being on simplicity, weight, and user-friendliness. The Spark R&D line of Pro Bindings takes their existing models and upgrades them. Without changing the basic design, they improved seemingly every part of the binding they could, increasing strength and saving weight by using a variety of premium materials. The only real downside is the higher price.

Performance Comparison


When you strap into the Spark R&D Surge pro, you can expect a...
When you strap into the Spark R&D Surge pro, you can expect a refined and responsive ride.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Uphill Performance


The Surge Pro can tour with the best. Its lightweight and stiff design provide incredible on-track performance. Uphill performance encapsulates our overall experience when ascending. Here we look at the quality of stride, sidehilling ability, and comfort.


In its simplest form, touring is made up of a series of strides. The Surge Pro allows you to capitalize on every stride with industry-leading negative lean. Negative lean allows the high back to be off your calf, thus increasing your stride length. Longer strides mean more distance per step and, ultimately, more efficient travel. The touring pivot has very low friction. The low friction and amount of negative lean make for very high quality, efficient strides. The low friction touring bracket gives almost 140 degrees of rotation relative to the board plane, and we enjoyed the added range on challenging kick turns.

The Surge Pro is very capable when sidehilling, and the full metal baseplate is as comfortable as you expect, providing adequate comfort for a full day of touring. We have never had any foot pain, but if you're susceptible to foot trouble, it could be worth investing in the foam pad.

The Spark R&D line up and Surge Pro offer -13 degrees of lean in...
The Spark R&D line up and Surge Pro offer -13 degrees of lean in tour mode. This is the most offered in the industry.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Weight


The weight loss in the Surge Pro is measurable; these bindings weigh just over 10% less than the standard Surge. That reduction in weight that you lug up the mountain translates to extra energy for enjoying the down and additional laps. The reduced weight of this binding is the most compelling reason to purchase them.


The Surge Pro boasts an incredible stiffness to weight ratio. One Surge Pro comes is at 610 grams or one pound, 5.6 ounces. Because we need the whole setup to tour, we measured the entire kit. The field weight of the model is an impressive 1654 grams or three pounds 10.34 ounces. This is impressively lightweight when compared to other stiff bindings and the reason this binding won an award.

Photo: David Reichel

The Pro interface with standard voile pucks is eight grams lighter...
The Pro interface with standard voile pucks is eight grams lighter than the regular interface with the same pucks. Sparks custom aluminum hardware is 60% lighter than the standard steel screw. Those saving begin to add up quickly.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Transitions


The transition is a huge competitive frontier in splitboard bindings. Transitions are a major strength of Spark R&D, and the Surge Pro is no different.


The Snap Ramp is our favorite design because of its simplicity and ease of use. In both directions, we feel this is the fastest system. The binding easily attaches to the touring interface. When it's time to descend, the process is almost as easy. The design requires minimal snow clearing and can easily be accomplished in inclement weather while wearing gloves. The forward lean adjuster switches easily from climbing to descending mode. We noticed that the bottom of the highback gets hung up on the heel cup when shifting between tour and ride mode. The snag requires a sizable pat to overcome. This happened every time we used them and is our biggest gripe with this binding. While we hope this gets fixed, it's a small bump in an otherwise great binding.

The snap ramp is found on all T1 binding from Spark R&D. It...
The snap ramp is found on all T1 binding from Spark R&D. It offers fast, weather-resistant, and intuitive transitions.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Downhill Performance


The Surge Pro is no stranger to the way down, and is fit for any objective in all conditions.


These bindings are definitely stiff. The highback is rigid toe to heel as well as torsionally. This gives the model a reactive power transfer and additional support for larger riders. They are on the stiffer end of the spectrum and might be overkill for lighter or less aggressive riders. If you are bigger, or a hard-charging rider who knows that you like a supportive and responsive binding, then Surge Pro is a great option.

The stiff flex of the Surge Pro enables efficient power transfer to...
The stiff flex of the Surge Pro enables efficient power transfer to the snowboard for supported and quick turns.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Straps, Lean, and Risers


The straps, lean adjusters, and heel risers are a critical component to the efficiency of a binding. Spark has thought this through so you can enjoy the benefits while on the skin track.


Straps

In the Pro line, Spark upgrades the strap material to Pebax plastic, which is commonly found in fancy ski boots; it also reduces strap weight by 20%, which is stunning given that the Pillow Line straps are already 46% lighter than the old fabric straps. The one-piece molded straps are comfortable, snug, and responsive, and we continue to be fans of the burton made toe and ankle buckles Spark uses. These straps and buckles were easy to use and utterly reliable during our testing.

Spark Pro's Pillow Line straps are even 20% lighter than their...
Spark Pro's Pillow Line straps are even 20% lighter than their standard already ultralight pillow line straps.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Lean

Dialing in your desired amount of forward lean is a matter of simply rotating the adjuster to increase or decrease the angle. Transitioning from climbing to shredding requires a quick flick of the adjuster; this can easily be accomplished during the transition process and doesn't require a separate effort.

The Rip and Flip high back enables field micro forward lean...
The Rip and Flip high back enables field micro forward lean adjustability and quick transitions between walk and ride.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

The adjuster also offers an impressive amount of range. The rearward range for touring is more than our boots could take advantage of. Although, when we were shifting the highback itself from ride to walk or vice versa, we found the lower highback to catch on the heel cup. The highback requires an extra pat to be able to move past where it gets caught.

Our main gripe about this model is the allowance between the...
Our main gripe about this model is the allowance between the highback and heel cup is too tight. This results in the highback getting caught up when shifting between tour and ride mode. In order to overcome the hang up the user needs to give a strong pat on the highback.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Risers

The riser mechanism is identical on the Surge Pro as in the other modern Spark R&D T1 line. It is a riser bar mounted to the bottom of the binding that is deployed and retracted by using the whammy bar on the side of the binding. This design works well, but it can be tricky to learn for beginners. To place the bar in the climbing position (for ascending steeper skin tracks), a fairly accurate push is required with your pole. It is not a particularly difficult task to accomplish, but it is also easy to miss the sweet spot and be unsuccessful, which can quickly become frustrating for some users.

Spark binding have two height settings. Here the binding is pictured...
Spark binding have two height settings. Here the binding is pictured in its highest setting.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Value


The value question for the Surge Pro is fascinating, and it depends on who you are and what your goals are. It is absolutely a great binding; it's objectively lighter than the standard Surge, and weight is an important feature for climbing mountains. It also costs about 30% more than the standard Surge, which is also an excellent binding. If the extra cost is a minor issue for you, go for the Surge Pro. If you like Sparks, but the cost of building your splitboard kit is causing anxiety, pick the standard Surge and don't sweat the difference. Compared to other options on the market that also have custom aluminum hardware like the Karakoram Prime-X hardware, the price is very reasonable.

Women's Model


The Spark R&D Surge Pro is available in a women's specific model. The company has shortened and narrowed the baseplate footprint to fit the profile of women's boots. They have also lowered the heel cup and highback to ensure optimal placement of the straps on the instep and highback on the calf.

Conclusion


The Spark R&D Surge Pro is a great binding that comes at a price premium relative to other excellent Spark R&D bindings. If your splitboard prominently features carbon fiber and was handmade by devout splitboard craftspeople, and you are choosing between the best components you can find with little concern for cost, then the Surge Pro is a strong choice.

Isaac Laredo & David Reichel