Spark R&D Surge Pro Review
Cons: Might be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modes
Compare to Similar Products
Spark R&D Surge Pro
|Price||$575 List||$540 List||$385 List||$830 List||$670 List|
|Pros||Lightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use buckles||Lightweight, easy to transition||Uphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjusters||Improved interface, downhill performance, comfortable straps, easy to deploy heel risers||Easy to deploy heel risers, comfortable straps, reduced icing issues|
|Cons||Might be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modes||Have to buy heel lock separately, soft pole baskets can struggle with riser bar||Heel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer baskets||Expensive, weight of entire system||Expensive, heavy field weight|
|Bottom Line||This lightweight binding offers excellent performance at a reasonable price||Our all-time favorite female-specific splitboard binding||This top-performing model is our first choice and has been for many years||Exceptional downhill performance with refined in betweens||Karakoram's entry-level binding is far from entry-level|
|Rating Categories||Spark R&D Surge Pro||Spark R&D Arc Pro - Women's||Spark R&D Arc||Karakoram Prime-X||Karakoram Prime Nomad|
|Uphill Performance (20%)|
|Downhill Performance (30%)|
|Straps Lean Risers (10%)|
|Specs||Spark R&D Surge Pro||Spark R&D Arc Pro...||Spark R&D Arc||Karakoram Prime-X||Karakoram Prime...|
|Measured Weight (pair)||2.7 lbs||2.4 lbs||2.8 lbs||3.18 lbs||3.18 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||Karakoram Splitboard Clips, Prime Crampons||Prime Crampons, Ride Mode 2.0|
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 the heel cup. The highback requires an extra pat to be able to move past where it gets caught.
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.
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.
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.
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