Binding Review: 11-12 Spark R&D Blaze
21 Sep, 2011
Location: Mammoth, CA
Snow Conditions: Hardpacked groomers to softer slushy runs.
Setup: I rode the Sparks Blaze bindings on the Venture Storm splitboard with my Vans Veil Boots size 8.
Time to set up the binding: I set up the Sparks R&D Blaze bindings with the stainless steel pins for the voile touring brackets on the Venture splitboard. It took some adjustment to get the angles/width for the bindings on the splitboard and didn’t need to do anything to the straps to ride them with my boots. Overall time to set up didn’t take long and was easier than I expected.
Fit: This is my first time trying the Sparks R&D bindings and I was happy to see the small size binding fit my boot just fine. It’s meant for a women’s size 8 and below but it felt very comfortable together with my boot. The width fit fine with my boot width, no gaps and no moving around in them.
First Impression: The Blaze bindings are lightweight and a good freestyle backcountry binding.
Appearance: Pretty minimal binding with a black design and slight design on the straps but barely noticeable. I liked the design but definitely a simple look and reminds me of a mix between bindings now and a couple years ago.
Comfort: This was my first splitboard specific binding in a long time so hard to make comparisons and it’s definitely a bit different in comfort than your usual binding. The baseplate didn’t have the usual comfort padding under the foot so I noticed that on the ride down but the straps and highback still offered decent padding. It’s not your normal super padded binding either. I didn’t notice any pressure points with the straps on the Blaze binding.
Functionality: For 2011-2012 Sparks R&D is working with Burton for the manufacturing on the straps, thermo plastics and buckles. The Blaze bindings feature a lightweight profile design. The bindings are built for durability, the custom bronze bushings with an inside flange eliminate wear from the touring bracket. The highback offers a variety of lean on the market (25 degrees forward lean to -5 for touring) and has a increased glass fiber content, vertical built-in slots and an extra large grab hole. The baseplate has a pivot area for touring that’s been beefed up, medium and large sizing and puck interface designed to slide better onto both factory and DIY pucks that require less adjustment and improved toe strap attachment area. The ankle strap has a webbing edging for durability, tunnel to keep ankle telescope out of the way while touring and a size specific 3D skeleton to conform to your boot.
Flex: Definitely on the medium to softer flex for a binding. The stiffer portion is in the baseplate and the bottom of the highback but that means the straps and top of the highback portion are softer and more freestyle focus. That can be good, the binding is forgiving and any level of rider could ride it but you won’t get a ton of response from it either.
Response: It’s a softer flexing binding that requires a bit more rider effort to get response. It wasn’t a letdown because I expected it and for the riding I did, I was quite comfortable on it. Definitely for a rider looking for a stiffer option, the Burner model offers it.
Toe Strap: I wondered how well the toe strap would grip to my boot but it ended up staying in place for the entire ride up and down the mountain.
Overall Impression: The Blaze bindings are a great choice for the freestyle backcountry rider or entry level backcountry rider looking for a forgiving, softer flexing binding for their splitboard.
Shay’s Honesty Box: This was my first time reviewing a splitboard specific binding and my first time with Sparks R&D. It was definitely a learning experience to test the waters on reviewing splitboard gear and it was a good one. I was able to see what splitboard bindings have to offer and the differences between them and regular bindings. Very similar but a lot of the functionality and point is them being compatible with splitboards and what you want them for. It’ll be interesting to watch Sparks R&D continue to develop a binding for the backcountry that works for a lot of different types of riders. I didn’t encounter any technical issues with the binding straps and ratchets.
On Snow Photos
Sparks Blaze Description
Review Disclosure: I received this binding to demo from Sparks and returned it to Sparks after reviewing it.