Spark R&D has been making splitboard specific bindings and accessories since 2005. All of their products are manufactured and assembled in their shop in Bozeman, Montana. Spark bindings were designed to work with the Voile splitboard interface by sliding over the hardware pucks when mounting them in ride mode, and attaching to the Voile touring brackets via a pin that slides through the bracket and binding. This year Spark has released the Spark R&D Tesla System, eliminating the need for the old pin system and mounting the climbing wires into the new base plates instead of on the board by way of the Voile interface. The new Tesla System not only saves weight, but also makes it much easier to transition from touring mode to riding mode and back.
Spark splitboard bindings give the rider a more secure attachment to the board than the original Voile design. In previous years, splitboarders used their regular non-splitboard bindings that would be attached to the Voile Slider Track (see pic). This setup put the rider a good half inch or more off the board making the riding experience feel a bit awkward compared to your normal board. The Spark system slides right on to the top of your board saving weight and giving the board a more solid feel. The Tesla System creates an even more seamless feel by integrating the locking mechanism into the binding itself instead.
The other great thing about the Tesla System is that if you already have a pair of pre-Tesla Spark bindings, you can retrofit them to take advantage of these great new features. Here is a lesson on how to change your existing Spark bindings over to the Tesla set up.
Tesla System Conversion
You will need to purchase the Tesla System upgrade kit, which includes the Tesla baseplates, touring brackets, heel plates and screws (you can use your old screws for back ups!) If you have Spark 2011-2012 season bindings and you want to convert them to the Tesla System you will also need a new pair of heel loops ($25) because they will not fit the Tesla baseplates. For 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 and after bindings, the heel loops match up fine with the Tesla baseplates. Then follow these steps (see also video below).
- Attach your heel loops to the Tesla baseplate using the four screws and an Allen wrench. You have four hole options to set the length of the baseplate. I wear size 9 boots and have the heel loops screwed into the number two hole from the back.
- Remove your old highbacks by unscrewing and removing the ankle straps- they will come right off at that point. Attach the highbacks to the heel loops on the Tesla baseplate. You can rotate them to be parallel with the back edge of your board for better power transfer or keep them in line with your binding if you prefer. Set the screw insert through the appropriate hole in the heel loop. Then screw the strap and ladder on either side of the binding using the strap buttons to lock down the screw.
- Remove the toe ladders from your old bindings and slide them into the slots on the Tesla binding. You may need a rubber mallet to tap them in. They may also hang down a bit below the bottom of the base plate. To remove the toe strap, unscrew the ratchet and slide the rear hook out of the strap. The touring pin cable will fall right out along with the touring pin. Then remove the strap ladder and install on the Tesla binding. Screw the ratchet back onto the strap and screw the strap back on to ladder.
- Next remove old Voile heel plates and touring brackets from your splitboard and replace them with the Tesla heel plates and touring brackets. Again, the Tesla comes with screws so now you have backups!
And you are done! For ride mode simply put the two halves of your splitboard together, lift up the Tesla binding toe ramps, slide the bindings onto the pucks and snap the ramp down. For touring mode lift the toe ramps up, and slide the bindings off. Then unlatch the board, click the toe ramps back down and slide the two pins into the touring bracket and click the toe ramp down. It can take only seconds to go through the whole transition!
Climbing Wires: You will notice that there are no climbing wires on the heel plates. That is because they are attached to the bottom of the base plate where they fold up. There are two sizes so you have options when touring in variably pitched terrain. The climbing wires can be put down using the basket of your pole. They both come down at once and if you want to use the shorter one simply pull the longer wire back up- the shorter one stays down. This design saves weight and is much easier to work than the old system.
Another benefit of the Tesla toe ramp (Spark calls it the Snap Ramp) is it does not allow snow and ice to clog up between the base plate and board. The touring assembly is mostly open space and any snow or ice simply falls away when transitioning. The climbing wire as wide as the base plate making them really stable and they transfer more energy into your step.
Spark has definitely made the splitboarding experience a lot simpler and efficient with this new Tesla system. Anyone who is thinking about getting into splitboarding should definitely check them out.