You’ve got a great community here and all the info on the forums has proven to be really, really helpful for me. Thank you about this!
I’m a beginner in splitboarding and even though I’ve read a decent amount of information I still have some doubts as to which bindings I should choose. As I am from Europe and getting to try different brands is quite difficult I can only depend on the internet for info so I would appreciate some advice from you! My dilemma at the moment is between Karakoram Split30 and Spark Afterburner. There are few differences between them – a few things that I don’t like and a few that I like in each system.
For me personally as follows:
Split30 Pros: - The mechanism of the binding also serves to keep the board more firmly in ride mode (as far as I understand it) - You can detach the binding from the board without removing your boot from it (however are there any problems with snow sticking to the baseplate?) - Heel Lock Down
Split30 Cons: - A bit on the pricey side - Problems with snow around the interface? Should be really clean of snow? Any experience with this? - Sparks crampons seem better to me - Need to additionally buy the short climbing wires (not that it’s a big deal, just don’t like the politics)
Afterburner Pros: - Climbing wires sit in base plate (and are both included in the set) - Burton straps - Better crampons available (again correct me if I’m wrong) - They have a better look I guess, not that it matters again...
Afterburner Cons: - Toe lock plastic wears off – any experience with this anyone? How much will this last before it needs changing? - Have to remove foot from binding to unlock it - Generally don’t like that it has to be used with Voile pucks
I’ve probably missed some important things and some of my points might not be realistic, so correct me where I’m wrong.
As a whole Karakoram’s bindings seem a bit more robust to me, but the new 2014 models from Spark R&D don’t seem to lack in features (mainly the now improved speed and most importantly the lack of the pin system!). So in the end do the Karakorams live up to their price?
What I’ve got at the moment is the Jones Solution which comes with Karakoram clips. I guess that I don’t have to change them even if I use Voile + Sparks?
On a side note – while I’ve read about different brands of skins as with the bindings I’m struggling to decide.
G3 – That was my first choice but I’ve read that a lot of people are complaining that their glue doesn’t stick and they have snow build up because of that. (That is on their last batch from 2014 as far as I understood.)
Gecko – Quite like these guys, however can hardly find any and again some complaints about snow build up (weak adhesive).
Voile – At the moment I’m leaning towards a Voile + Spark R&D tail clips. From what I’ve read this seems to be a nice build. In the end grip or glide don’t seem to matter much when your skins don’t stick to your board/skis, am I wrong?
BD Ascension – Alternative of the above? Any particular reasons I should choose these instead of the Voile ones?
Other brands – there are quite a few other names on the market. I’ve seen that Spark R&D have also released their own skins. If you have any other suggestions please, would love to hear them. The brands mentioned above are the most talked about so that’s why I was looking at them.
Anyways – it’s a long post, I still feel that I’ve missed some bits, but I won’t bore you anymore. Would be very grateful to hear your thoughts!
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 6:48 pm Posts: 671 Location: Kodiak, AK
I switched back and forth between the K-ram Split30s and Spark Burners (with LT touring brackets) for a good part of the spring of 2012. I had one board set up with the Ks and swapped the Burners between two other boards, and cycled through all the setups regularly. I even ran one K binding with one Burner binding on the same board for a half dozen outings just for a real apples-to-apples comparison on the hill.
I ended up preferring the Sparks in almost every regard.
The LT brackets are smoother and have less slop than the K touring system. The outboard pivot points are wider on the Sparks and the bushings have very snug tolerances. The K system had flex and slop to it. It was so bad on my first set that the K Bros swapped out my brackets, and while the replacements were better, they were not as solid and positive as the LTs. Given that I am using soft boots, the difference may be a little academic, but when side hilling I just had an easier time on the Spark setup. With the Ks I had to exaggerate leaning my knees into the hill to hold an edge, and that got old on a few long traverses. I did love how easy it was to engage the K brackets (drop the binding in place and fold flat), but after getting the binding set in the touring brackets, the Sparks worked better/were smoother/were more positive. I should add that the K touring brackets also have plastic nubs that stick up to guide the toe bar into the bracket, and these stick up so far that when you pivot your foot really far forward (like when you semi-kneel down to flip up/down the heel riser, or install a crampon, or are going up a really steep slope) those nubs dig into the toe area of your boots. My boots have wear marks in the sole from those nubs and I could feel them digging in periodically. It would be nice if they didn't poke up so far.
The cutouts on the K bases were a little too much and even with my relatively stout Burton Driver X boots soles I could feel the holes and it gave me some serious pressure points on the balls of my feet. It took me a while to figure out what was causing my metatarsals to burn, but doing the one-of-each binding days made the issue clear. I even introduced a friend to splitting this winter and started him on the K-mounted board. Near the top of the approach he said "does splitboarding make your feet fall asleep?" He is new to splitting but hes a very experienced and competent rider, and also uses Driver X boots. Maybe the problem is specific to those Burtons, but he seemed to have the same foot pressure issue I did. He never complained when he was on Sparks. By the end of demoing all my stuff, he bought Burners. I even made a plastic toe ramp for the Ks thinking that may be the issue, but even with my toes supported the burn never really went away. The solid bases on the Burners just works better imo.
The straps on the K bindings are ok, but not great. The Sparks ship with Burton straps which I like a lot. I put Burton straps on my Ks after a few days too and that was better. If you have some straps sitting around you like that you can swap out then the K strap issue is moot, but if not that may be an extra expense for you.
Since I own multiple boards, I wanted to own one set of bindings that I could swap between my decks. The Voile puck setup makes this totally painless. The Sparks just slide onto whatever board you are riding that day. Because every board has a tiny bit different hole spacing and because the K bindings adjust in length to match the base plates, you may not be able to pop them from one board to the other (assuming you can even get spare base plates for the Ks). The Voile pucks adjust to the length of the binding, so the puck spacing is identical between boards by definition. The Ks do the opposite- the binding adjusts to the base plate spacing, and that can differ between boards. If you only have one split this would not be an issue for you, but it was for me. One of the K locking mechanisms seemed to get stiffer and stiffer with time.
The K setup was pretty sensitive to any snow sticking to the base plates, and I had to clean them more thoroughly to be able to get the bindings to mount. If the board halves were not perfectly in plane (which they often weren't) I'd have to bang on the base of the heel half to bring it up high enough for the front pin to find the slot in the toe base plate. This was the case in about half my transitions and made the process a bit annoying and made the Ks no faster to transition than the Voile puck system. The wide K base plates also seemed to flex a lot when rocking the bindings side to side. Part of this was also that the side pins had some extra space to move vertically in the base plate slots. I could not feel this when riding (we're on soft boots here, remember) but the amount of movement didn't seem that desirable. Part of the issue may have also been that the little rubber bumpers on the K bases kept falling off, and they are supposed to rest on the board's deck to prevent metal-on-top-sheet contact. The K Bros sent me a sheet of extra bumpers, but they kept falling off. Seems like a half-assed strategy. In the future I would just stick those things to the top sheet directly instead of the bindings. Maybe they would stay stuck there better.
The K heel risers were not that great, and certainly were not as solid or smooth to use as Voile's. I really like the dual height Voiles. The low is nice for gradual approaches and the high is perfect for clawing up steep faces. The K single-wire heel height split the difference between the two Voile wires (I measured the resulting binding base angle as 13 degrees and 19 degrees with the dual height Voiles, and 16 degrees with the Split30s). I was often wanting the K heel risers a bit lower on the gradual slopes and a bit higher on the steeper stuff. The K wires had a ton of slop and they folded down regularly until I bent them in using a vise. They were then very stiff to lift. I can lift the Voile wires with my ski pole handles without bending down, and can knock them flat again using my poles. The K wires made me bend over and do them by hand. It seems like a small thing, but when you are in rolling terrain, it adds up. You can use Voile heel risers with K bindings and I did this a little, but the wire does not meet the binding base at a 90 degree angle so it seemed to me that is was stressing the wire and plastic support. This may or may not have been a real issue.
I have the crampons for both bindings. It is possible to mount both crampons while underway without removing the binding from the board. Both are a little bit fiddly to get mounted while standing on the hill, but the Spark Mr Chomps were a little easier. With the Chomps you can hinge your binding forward in the touring bracket nice and far (kneel down) and hook the crampon in without the crampon touching the snow- so you can keep your skis on the snow. There is no way to mount the K crampons without them hanging below the ski, which makes them very difficult to mount in hard snow since you basically have to lift the ski up a little. Try kneeling down while lifting the other foot on the the very last bit of a long, steep bowl. Any situation necessitating crampons makes installing them an extra challenge. Maybe my technique was bad and maybe I should have planned ahead each time, and the Ks are ok to mount in softer snow, but i though the Chomps were a bit easier to engage in dicey situations. The Mr Chomps can free-hinge and lift off the snow when you slide the ski forward while the K crampon hung farther down and was always digging into the snow. The K crampons do dig in deeper by about 1/2 an inch, but for me this was actually too much of a good thing. I preferred the amount of grab and hinging action of the Sparks, personally.
With the LT brackets the complete Spark system was lighter than the Ks, if you care. I didn't notice the difference on the hill, and my favorite board is my Venture Zephyr which is not known for its svelt weight, so I can't claim to be a weight weenie. Lastly, I had to get a few replacement parts from the K Bros over the course of my Split30 ownership (which the Bros sent out free in each instance, generally quickly), but I never needed to replace anything with my Sparks. With the Split30s I needed to swap out the rear base plate due to limitations in the stance angle, a broken heel riser, lost rubber bumpers, and a set of very sloppy touring brackets.
I suspect you would probably be happy with either, but when I tried both back to back, and even side by side, I know which I preferred. Some folks swear by the Karakorams, and more power to them. They just weren't for me. Now I have the Afterburners which, from a performance standpoint, seem to be an incremental improvement over the Burners. Mostly just in the stability of the climbing wires and in the ease of transition thanks to the snap ramp. Removing the touring pin from the Spark system obviates the last thing I preferred about the K setup.
_________________ Jones Solution 163W Venture Zephyr 164/260 Never Summer SL 163X Burton Spliff 148 Voile Mojo RX 166 BD, G3, and Gecko skins Sparks!
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 10:10 am Posts: 1177 Location: Denver
Great write-up by Philip. I agree with what he has said. I have also owned both split30s and burners. I would say Afterburners hands down. Now that they dont have pins the fiddle factor is practically zero. I have always had icing problems with my Karakoram setup. Also, changing from split to ride mode without taking off the binding may be possible, but it is difficult to the point that you will always unstrap in my opinion. My next softy setup will be the afterburners for sure.
Snurfer: What I meant with that (and mentioned it as well, not clear enough though) is that the Karakoram system looks more tough, as it can take a bit more than the plastic pucks. But obviously there are just a few complaints during the years of broken pucks. On the other hand the metal bits seem to have their negative sides as well. Again - with no personal experience, what I'm saying is only from observation and what I read on the net
Philip: Thank you very much for your post! I definitely have a clearer idea now and the scales are leaning towards the Afterburners.
Any info on my questions about the skins? Or I should post this in the other subforum?
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2005 8:43 am Posts: 83 Location: SL,UT
I think tcheezy (I mean phillip.ak ) covered the binding question in impressive detail. As for skins, the Voile's are just rebadged BD's, and the Sparks are rebadged G3's (with different heel clips, not sure if they're the standard or high traction though), so that should simplify your choice. I think everybody's glue has gotten worse in the past few years, they've probably switched to more eco-friendly glues or something. I never used to have issues but the past few seasons I've had to reglue or renew my glue with an iron. The standard BD/Voiles are pretty burly, and not as supple and easy to pack as the G3's. Backcountry.com sells another rebadged G3 for splitboards too. I like the idea of the Geckos but the reviews scare me off. Unless you're doing long, flat approaches I wouldn't worry too much about glide (mohair, BD splits, etc) - I'd get something grippy if you're just starting out. I'd just go with something that comes with tail clips (G3/spark/bc), or install them yourself (some of the BD skins with tip loops and tail clips work well with splits when you swap the little flat ski clip for the G3 twins), because peeling a skin back when you slide backwards (which you will do a few times) sucks. I prefer the slight edge in packability of the G3's but either are fine.
_________________ Winter is coming...
Various Chimera prototypes TLT5/Dynafit/Phantom 32 ULs/Blaze LT
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:22 am Posts: 83 Location: Bratislava, Slovakia, Europe
Philip.AK: AMEN! I mean, you nailed it! I was watching your binding test/comparison last season and I respect you for that very much! The one-to-one binding comparison was great, I like the way you go into testing/analyzing and reviewing gear, and also same goes for the Gecko skins...
Simeon: 2 years ago (if I had the money) I would go into Karakorams, but none of the systems produced a year ago was for me the way to go, because they were not so well thought out as I wished them to be, and that's the reason I still ride Burton's S-Series system. Nothing, I mean NOTHING clamps the board halves together the way the Burton's system does/did. None of the systems had such a great crampon function as Burton's. For me to this date, nothing beats the S-Series system in ride mode. I know that S-series system has many downsides like snow/ice cleaning, sloppy touring connection and can be a pain in the ass when converting, but I know them, and I am prepared to handle them. The Edison system was the thing I was hoping for, because it took and refined the philosophy of some great things about S-series system. But Edison is gone. Karakorams did not convince me after such reviews as philip.ak made. Voile system was for me a NO GO! Hate the pins, hate the plates, hate the pucks, hate the crampon use absolutely no way for me. But then, then came Tesla system. And my girlfriends afterburners are already ordered... (she rides also S-Series system to this day). I realized, that really the f... pucks are the only system which doesn't need to be cleaned much from ice or snow during the transition. Pin is gone in an very elegant way, touring brackets with no slop like philip.ak said, and dual heel risers on the plates! That's the thing I like the most about S-Series system besides the clamping function, that the heel risers push the crampon into the snow, so at any position with/without heel risers you have the whole crampon pushed down. Tesla system took the best things I love from the S-Series, refined them (wide heel risers, wide plastic heelrisers counterparts which help better force transition from the binding to the board halves and better edge hold) combined it with the most versatile and proved puck system (see "One binding system" or Wildschnee pucks for mounting on solid board and using your afterburners also on resort Boards with very little extra costs (not meaning the One binding system ) that's also very important for me, especially when going to the Austrian alps with my friends for resort/backcountry riding I don't need two bindings (and also two sets of boots in my case Edison would be better with the clamping of the board halves together in ride mode, but I thing Tesla system is the best combination of simplicity/rigidity/usability/versatility/comfort and reliability for me, and I finally don't see any major downsides of a system, what makes me finally thinking about changing from S-Series to the 21st century Now my problem is not what system but which board
As for skins, Geckos are great skins, and I stand by that statement also after having troubles with them. They stick to the base without any tailclips in ANY condition (wet, dry, hot, freezing, powder, corn...), they glide well, and have great grip on steep ascents. The only problem with them is the short lifetime of the gecko layer (see the topic about geckos on sb.com where I and philip.ak post the photos viewtopic.php?f=17&t=11783&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=gecko&start=26 viewtopic.php?f=17&t=11783&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=gecko&start=65 I now know what precautions to take to not ruin the gecko layer (no skiing on hard or iced surface, no sticking the skins together (still figuring out which kind of cheat sheet to use). For somebody this are issues when you ask yourself than why the geckos when you have to take special care like on glue, use cheat sheets and cant do whatever you want with them (skiing harder surface), for me simply because they stick well in any occasion, especially good for many short laps, where glue skins in wet conditions don't stick well after 2-3 rounds. But if you are that kind of person that you want stuff to last 5-10 years, don't go for the Geckos, the gecko layer may or may not last more than 2 years. I got mine replaced under warranty for the newer ones (with plastic gecko hands as tip/tail clips and some kind of dark blue/grey color of the skin instead of black). I got money returned for my girlfriends geckos which will make another 1-2 or more seasons I think. Many thanks at this place to Simon Graf from Splitboards.eu for his great approach on warranty issues with geckos (that's why he finished selling them, because "Gecko sees it other way.." but he said I was not the only one having problems with the gecko layer getting off...) Maybe bad year for Gecko, maybe bad batch who knows... I did not try the new ones (saving them for a new splitty maybe next season) so can't say if the newer ones are better or not... Now I am using old Burton skins which attach to the notch in tip/tail of the Burton S-Series board an love the thing about that I can put the skins on/off while the board is together... Definitely searching for a way to have that possibility on my new board, so K2 or Voelkl skin attachment system looks great for me, that's why I have my eye on K2 ultrasplit...
_________________ One day it will be a Jones or Venture and a set of Karakorams Now it's Burton S-Series 165, old Nidecker bindings and Gecko skins ... Times change so now the stoke is on Tesla system and Afterburner bindings and K2 Ultrasplit...