Based out of Bozeman, Montana, Spark R&D is a rider owned and operated snowboarding brand dedicated to pushing innovation in splitboarding since 2006. With a view of the Bridger Mountains from its shop, they design and build splitboard bindings and accessories by putting backcountry performance first. The local brand unveiled its latest innovations and improvements to their line of splitboard bindings and accessories earlier this year and are gearing up for the upcoming winter season, which the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting to be huge.
The biggest changes for Spark for the upcoming season is the debut of the Pillow Line straps on all Tesla T1 bindings.
These unique straps are injection molded with one-piece construction and feature flexible pillows on the inside for comfort, and stiffer ribs on the outside to maintain rigidity. Soft and firm at the same time in a single piece.
“This is a huge accomplishment,” explained Will Ritter, Owner and Chief Designer at Spark. “We’ve been gradually building up the capacity, knowledge, and resources to be able to pull off something of this scale. Not only did we design and prototype the straps, but we designed and built the molds for them as well. We inject the straps here at Spark HQ, and make our own strap hardware. I’m really proud of our guys for making this all happen.”
The motivation for the project came from wanting to create a strap that meets the lightweight and comfort requirements of skinning, and the durability and waterproof needs of being out in the backcountry, without sacrificing the support needed for riding hard on big lines. After countless prototypes, the Pillow Line straps took form. “We’ve been working on this design for several years,” says Ritter. “The best part of working on a design like this is getting out and testing it. We’ve had a lot of fun taking out different iterations of the straps, putting them through the backcountry wringer, and then discussing what works and what doesn’t. We’ve also received a lot of helpful feedback from our team of athletes and product testers over the past couple of winters. Doing the production ourselves allowed us to put all of the last minute input into the straps for their first season on the market. These straps are incredibly refined having been through so many revisions. They wouldn’t be at this level if they were made somewhere else.”
The Arc and Surge have two distinct ankle shapes – the Surge straps are wide and asymmetric to offer a stiffer, more locked-in feel, while the Arc incorporates a flex window and lower profile design to give riders a more agile and surfy option. The weight savings for the Pillow Line straps over previous versions of fabric straps are considerable. Ankle straps are on average 50% lighter and toe straps are 60 percent lighter. Spark R&D did not stop with new straps. They are introducing their own splitboard clip – the Spark Crossbar Clip. The clip features a camming lever for locking the board tightly together, and a solid crossbar of lightweight aluminum that extends across the board seam to eliminate unwanted flex and movement.
Clamping tension is adjustable to allow a customized fit for every board. Crossbar clips rotate out of the way in tour mode for snag-free skinning. “Splitboarders and board manufacturers have been asking us for a while to come up with another option for clips. We’re really stoked on the new design – it’s simple, bomber, and easy to use,” says Ritter. “These clips will help splitboards ride much more like a solid board.”
Spark Canted Pucks are the final addition to the 17/18 line. With all the same great features as the popular Spark Pucks, the new canted version includes a subtle, but important, three degrees of inward cant built into the plastic puck. This cant reduces knee strain for riders that need it, or that like the feel of the inward angle.