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Spark R&D Surge Pro Review

Built for the send.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $575 List | $574.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use buckles
Cons:  Expensive, 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  ⋅  Nov 25, 2019
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 8
  • 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 wins our Top Pick for Best Ratio of Response to Gram to Dollar. It is a lighter and more responsive version of Spark's already excellent Surge, with Spark using 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.


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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $574.95 at Backcountry
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$285 List
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Pros Lightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use bucklesUphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjustersImproved interface, downhill performance, comfortable straps, easy to deploy heel risersBeautiful carbon highback, improved ease of use, tight board connection, convenient forward lean adjusterInexpensive, lightweight, exceptional downhill performance, slightly above-average straps, lean, risers
Cons Expensive, might be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modesHeel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer basketsExpensive, weight of entire systemExpensive, heavy, snow and ice can complicate transition to ride modeSlider pin is outdated, not the most convenient forward lean adjuster
Bottom Line Built for the send.Spark does it again.Enjoyable for the up, down and inbetween.The Prime X Carbon is the best offering from Karakoram.A 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 Karakoram Prime-X Karakoram Prime-X Carbon Spark R&D Blaze TR
Uphill Performance (20%)
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Weight (10%)
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6
Transitions (30%)
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Downhill Performance (30%)
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Straps Lean Risers (10%)
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Specs Spark R&D Surge Pro Spark R&D Arc Karakoram Prime-X Karakoram Prime-X... Spark R&D Blaze TR
Measured Weight (pair) 2.7 lbs 2.8 lbs 3.18 lbs 3.16 lbs 3.25 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 Karakoram Splitboard Clips, Prime Crampons Karakoram Splitboard Clips, Prime 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 their focus being simplicity, weight, and user-friendliness. The Spark R and 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


A lighter weight is be appreciated no matter if the board is on your back or feet.
A lighter weight is be appreciated no matter if the board is on your back or feet.

Uphill Performance


The Surge Pro can tour with the best. Its lightweight, stiff design provides an incredible on-track performance. Uphill performance encapsulates our overall experience when ascending. Here we look at the quality of stride, range of motion, 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 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, and both features together 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.


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 1 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 3 pounds 10.34 ounces. This was lightweight and impressive compared to a stiff binding; it's also a major factor for its Top Pick Award.


The Pro interface with standard voile pucks is 8 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 quick.
The Pro interface with standard voile pucks is 8 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 quick.

Transitions


The transition is a huge competitive frontier in splitboard bindings. Transitions are a major strength of Spark R&D; 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 its back from walk mode, and 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.


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, which 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 Surge Pro is for people like a responsive and stiff high back for the down.
The Surge Pro is for people like a responsive and stiff high back for the down.

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

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 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 heel cup. The highback requires an extra pat to be able to move past where it gets caught.

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

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 or when fatigued. 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.


Value


The value question for the Surge Pro is fascinating. 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 itself 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 have custom aluminum hardware like the Karakoram Prime-X hardware, the price is very reasonable. The value of this binding allowed it to win a Top Pick for Best Ratio of Response to Gram to Dollar.

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