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Spark Surge Pro Review

The R&D Surge Pro is an amazing but spendy binding.
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Price:  $575 List | $574.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, stiff, responsive, great straps, easy to use buckles
Cons:  Expensive, might be too stiff for lighter riders
Manufacturer:   Spark
By David Reichel ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 27, 2019
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 5
  • Uphill Performance - 20% 8
  • Weight - 10% 8
  • Transitions - 30% 7
  • Downhill Performance - 30% 8
  • Straps, Lean, Risers - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The Spark R&D Surge Pro is an improved version of Spark's already excellent Surge. The Surge Pro is updated in numerous ways; using high-end materials, Spark made the straps lighter, the highback is stiffer, the aluminum is lighter and strong, and unfortunately, the whole thing is also more expensive. It is absolutely a great binding, but whether it's worth the premium over the non-pro version is tough to say.


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Pros Lightweight, stiff, responsive, great straps, easy to use bucklesUphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjustersBeautiful carbon highback, improved ease of use, tight board connection, convenient forward lean adjusterInexpensive, lightweight, exceptional downhill performance, slightly above-average straps, lean, risersInnovative, simple transitions, affordable, cool forward lean adjuster
Cons Expensive, might be too stiff for lighter ridersHeel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer basketsExpensive, heavy, snow and ice can complicate transition to ride modeSlider pin is outdated, not the most convenient forward lean adjusterHeavy, slightly awkward buckles, snow in touring interface an issue
Bottom Line The R&D Surge Pro is an amazing but spendy binding.Spark does it again.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.The Speed Rail is a creative binding in an affordable package.
Rating Categories Spark Surge Pro Spark R&D Arc Karakoram Prime-X Carbon Spark R&D Blaze TR Voile Speed Rail
Uphill Performance (20%)
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Transitions (30%)
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Straps Lean Risers (10%)
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Specs Spark Surge Pro Spark R&D Arc Karakoram Prime-X... Spark R&D Blaze TR Voile Speed Rail
Weight in g (per) 610g (medium) 675g (medium) 715g (medium) 733g (medium) 770g (medium)
Weight in lb (per) 1lb 5.6 oz 1 lb 8 oz 1lb 9.2 oz 1 lb 9 oz 1lb 11.2 oz
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 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

Our Analysis and Test Results

The existing Spark R&D Surge is a great binding. Along with its sibling the Blaze, it is well reviewed and popular. For 2019, Spark decided to bling out their bindings by creating the Pro line. Without changing the basic design, they upgraded 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 Solution handled the firm snow and the soft stuff on this tour above Lake Tahoe.
The Solution handled the firm snow and the soft stuff on this tour above Lake Tahoe.

Performance Comparison



Uphill Performance


The Surge Pro features the same dimensions and basic functionality as the standard Surge. The forward lean adjuster works exactly as the non-pro adjusters, which is to say, it works very well. The high backs and forward lean adjusters in the Pro series are made with carbon infused nylon, which should make them stiffer, lighter, and more responsive. They felt great during testing, but it's tough to say if we could notice an improvement over the standard Surge bindings.


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. For us, this lightening of the Surge Pro's is the most compelling reason to purchase them.


Transitions


Transitions remain a strength for all the Spark R&D T1 bindings including Surge Pro. The simple to use snap ramps and pins that slide sideways into the touring bracket continue to be very easy to use. The design requires minimal snow clearing and can easily be accomplished while wearing gloves. The forward lean adjuster switches easily from climbing to descending mode.


Downhill Performance


The Surge Pro absolutely rips on the down. They are on the stiffer end of the spectrum and might be overkill for lighter or less aggressive riders. If you are bigger, hard-charging rider who knows you like a supportive and responsive binding, the Surge Pro is a great option.

Straps, Lean, and Risers


Straps

In the Pro line, Spark upgrades the strap material to pebax plastic, which is commonly found on fancy ski boots; it also reduces weight. We found the straps to work very well, and 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.


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, but would be amazing if your splitboarding boots allow for enough rearward cuff articulation.

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. This can quickly become frustrating for some users.


Best Applications


The Surge Pro is a great choice for strong riders who know they prefer a responsive and stout binding, as it features a solid baseplate and a stiff highback. If you are a larger rider who wants a binding that can handle your weight and power or a smaller rider that loves a super stiff and responsive binding, the Surge Pro fits the bill.


Value


The value question for the Surge Pro is fascinating. 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.

Conclusion


The Sparks 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.


David Reichel