The Surge splitboard binding is the top dog of the Spark R&D lineup. It is the culmination of 10 years of innovation from Spark R&D, and we feel it is the best overall splitboard binding out there. There are many factors that go into making this our 2016 Splitboard binding of the year pick. First, the build quality is superb! Spark has been making bindings at their Bozeman shop for 10 years and know what they are doing. Meaning they actually make the bindings in the USA, by hand, and are rider owned. Pretty dang cool.
We have tested out many Spark bindings over the last 6 years and have always been impressed, but never as much as we were with the Surge. Last year we reviewed the Arc and found them to be great bindings, but a bit too soft for our tester. The Surge easily answered this concern. The Surge and the Arc are very similar bindings. Both feature the Tesla T1 technology – not to be confused with the Tesla system. The T1 system is a more refined version and features one climbing wire (very helpful) and the Rip N Flip Highbacks. The Surge is more robust and offers a stiffer and more responsive feel. Great if you are heavier (as our tester is 200lb) and/or are a more aggressive shredder. There is a slight weight difference between the Arc (3lbs per pair) and Surge (3.4lb per pair). The almost-1/2 pound per pair weight discrepancy is easy worth it to us!
So you have a responsive binding that rides great and can control a big board. Great, but how does it tour? How easy is it to use? Glad you asked. After using the T1 One Wire system for the last 2 seasons, we have grown to love it. Just one wire for high (18 degrees) and low (12 degrees). Simple and effective. To make it even easier to use, we HIGHLY recommend getting the Whammy Bars. These are just a climbing wire with a little bar that protrudes out, so you can use your trekking pole to engage or disengage them. Brilliant! they are just $25 and a no brainer. If you get either Spark binding, get the Whammy Bars and make your life that much easier.
The T1 Heel Rest is simple and holds the climbing wire in place. The ankle and toe straps on the Surge are a bit wider and feel more connected than the Arc. You will need a screwdriver to adjust though, no tool less adjustment on them. The buckles are smooth as can be and did not cause any issues in frigid temps.
The Snap Ramps are easy to use and maintenance free. Just line them up, slide them in place and snap the ramps down for touring. Nothing to lose, no pins or moving parts. Again, simple and effective. Rip N Flip Highback is very responsive and one of our favorite parts of the bindings. They actually scanned several manufactures of split board boots to make the mold for them. THAT is impressive. We tried the bindings with 4 different boots and each boot fit perfectly. It gets its name from the fact that you flip the forward lean adjuster (FLAD) up when you are touring to give you 13 degrees of articulation, then snap it back down for the ride down. This is a tool-free adjustment system too.
After testing the bindings out for 12 tours and a variety of conditions, we are very impressed. Nothing has broke (aside from loosing one rubber cap on the Whammy bar – big whoop) The bindings performed well in all conditions. They transferred energy to the board when sidehilling on wind blown slopes and feel very connected to the board on the way down. The puck system seems to self clean itself from snow build up (for the most part) which makes transitioning from touring to riding faster.
All in all, Spark R&D nailed the heck out of making a reliable and responsive binding for the heavier and aggressive rider. We most appreciated the simplicity of the binding (less parts to break!) Keep in mind you will need to have pucks to use these. We recommend the Spark R&D Pucks ($75) as they are very adjustable and sturdy. This is our go to splitboard binding for the 2016/2017 season. MSRP $415