Fully established as the most prominent and popular binding manufacturer in splitboarding, Spark R&D step it up again for winter 2018 / 2019. I had the chance to use a pair of 2019 Spark R&D Arc bindings on a trip to the Alps this past winter. They proved to be light, comfortable and super easy to use.
The 2019 Spark R&D Arc binding is built around Spark’s Tesla T1 system that has been in the marketplace for a few years now. It’s a trusted platform that Spark tweak depending on the binding. There are two main models in the line; the Arc and Surge. The Arc is the lighter and more flexible of the two, the Surge is stiffer and a little heavier. There’s also Women’s specific versions of both models and for 2019 there is a Pro version of the Arc and Surge too.
Setting the Arc up on your splitboard is pretty easy. There are a couple of things that really help the process along. Firstly the small angle tool that Spark supply works really well when it comes to aligning the pucks. The tool sits between the pucks and helps keep things in place during set up.
Secondly the Arc binding’s cut away baseplate not only saves weight but also means you can easily get to the puck screws during set up. This enables you to put the binding on the loose pucks and tighten things up whilst the two halves of the board are together. Even just a few millimetres of misalignment in the pucks can cause a shift in the board halves. The fact you can tighten the pucks whilst the board halves are together makes it much easier to avoid this.
I rode the Arc on a 2019 Burton Flight Attendant X which, like all Burton Splits, has the Channel system. Although Burton use Voile manufactured pucks the Arc works great on them. Spark R&D Pucks are excellent though and definitely worth checking out for use on boards without the Channel system.
In the Skintrack
The Arc was a really great match for the Burton Flight Attendant X board on the both the up and the down. In tour mode you can really appreciate the binding’s low weight (630g per binding for the size medium I used) and high comfort levels. Spark’s Pillow Line straps are really well-shaped and engineered. They are super comfortable and have a one piece molded construction with no unnecessary padding to add weight or absorb water.
The Arc uses Spark’s well established Rip n’ Flip Highbacks. They have a toggle that flips up and increases the backward lean when in tour mode. It’s a cool feature that is particularly useful in flatter terrain. The highback complements the overall feel of the binding being light and reasonably flexible.
One of my favourite features on the Arc is the climbing wire, and specifically the Whammy Bar. It’s a single wire that covers a good range of slope angles. The Whammy Bar is a side lever that protrudes slightly from the side of the binding. It makes deploying the bar sooooo much easier than in the past. What sometimes used to be a tricky maneuver is a cinch with the Whammy Bar. It’s a nice example of Spark taking a look at a problem and fixing it with a simple, effective solution.
Transitioning from tour to ride mode is ridiculously simple and quick. Lift the snap ramp, slide the binding off, put the two board halves together, slide the binding on, click down the snap ramp. As long as you’ve positioned the pucks accurately in the first the place, the Arc slides on and off the board with ease. Everything feels slick yet solid – just how it should be. Moving back from ride to tour mode is just as easy. The bindings don’t attract too much snow either so don’t require as much clearing as some others I’ve used.
On the Descent
I think the Pillow Line straps complement the overall flex and feel of the Arc really well whilst riding. Although the Arc is the more flexible of the two main bindings in the Spark line it still provides a reassuring locked in feeling. There’s just a little more mobility for the rider who prefers a surfy ride over a stiff powerful one. Spark binders don’t actively pull the board together like some splitboard bindings out there, but they still help with overall torsional stiffness of your set-up.
I really can’t say anything negative about the Spark R&D Arc. They are very light, very comfortable and work great on the up and down. They are simple to set up and the transition phase is super easy. Although I didn’t ride them long enough to get a good idea of long-term durability, the build quality certainly looks good to me. It’s great how Spark have stuck with the tried and trusted platform and basic design but tweaked them each year to add improvements and upgrades where possible. They’ve become the industry standard against which other lightweight splitboard bindings are judged. Overall, it’s a big thumbs up for the Arc.
Disclaimer – I aim to be open and honest when writing gear reviews. On this occasion, Spark R&D loaned me a pair of sample bindings for review. My views and opinions are independent whether I’m reviewing an item that has been loaned or given to me, or a product I purchased myself.