Jul 27 2015

First Look: Spark R&D Dyno hardboot binding

The vast majority of snowboarders prefer soft boots for the same reason I prefer tele boots over alpine boots — comfort. Unfortunately when you need mountaineering versatility soft boots don’t perform the way hard plastic boots do. True, hard plastic boots don’t perform in soft snow the way soft boots can, and soft snow is typically the prize splitboarders are chasing, but not always.

I spoke recently with a Seth Lightcap, marketing director of Jones Snowboards and an avid splitboarder and he confirmed the preference for soft boots and strap bindings, “except at altitude.” That’s where crampons are practically required and hard boots get the nod.

Top down view of the Spark R&D hard boot binding system - Dyno plates with Dynafit toes.

Top down view of the Spark R&D hard boot binding system – Dyno plates with Dynafit toes.

If you’re ready for that side of splitboarding, you’ll need to figure out what boot works best for you, but it’s a pretty solid bet it’ll be a plastic boot of sorts. That also means you’ll want a binding for hard boots.

The Dyno DH

The Dyno plate holds a plastic AT boot solid, er, NTN boot in this case.

The Dyno plate holds a plastic AT boot solid, er,
in this case a New Telemark Norm boot.

Spark R&D’s Dyno DH is a clean, functional, relatively lightweight hardboot binding system. The boot plates take advantage of the snap-ramp locking mechanism developed with the Tesla binding. This eliminates the need for a pin to hold the binding to the splitboard pucks, as well as the potential for losing it. Simply slide the plate over the pucks and snap the ramp down at the toe to lock it on.

Mechanical aptitude required - bits provided.

Mechanical aptitude required – bits provided.

You may have to adjust the position of the toe lever or heel bar to hold your hard boot snug in the plate, but that’s a fairly straight forward operation if you’re even mildly mechanically inclined. Not sure you have the correct tools? Spark R&D provides a little tool case with all the hex bits you might need to adjust anything on their bindings. I can’t recommend using the tool case as the screwdriver handle. You’ll want to apply more torque in tightening or loosening various bolts on this system than it can withstand. However, you can take it apart easy enough and use those bits with a real screwdriver handle, or socket set for at-home adjustments. In the field I recommend a universal handle like Doc Allen’s Versatool.

Tech Inserts Recommended

2-pin tech toe makes skinning incredibly efficient.

2-pin tech toe makes skinning incredibly efficient.

In theory you can use the Dyno with any plastic shelled boot, but to take full advantage of the Dyno system you will want a boot that has Dynafit compatible tech inserts. This will allow you to experience the legendary efficiency of touring with tech bindings. However, this requirement immediately limits your options to Alpine Touring ski boots or the next generation of plastic telemark boots, NTN boots with tech inserts.

Of the two, my recommendation is to try and find a used pair of Scarpa F3′s, or the TX (both models discontinued). Alpine Touring boots may be lighter, but in general lightweight AT boots are made to be extra stiff in the cuff to compensate for lack of mass that generally delivers rock solid alpine ski performance. However, these AT boots yield very little lateral play, something that is essential for initiating a turn on a single plank. Telemark boots are inherently softer, especially in the cuff.

Mounting Considerations

Spark's Tech Toe adapter plate works with classic 5-hole pattern and the newer 4-hole pattern.

Spark’s Tech Toe adapter plate works with classic 5-hole pattern and the newer 4-hole pattern.

Spark R&D uses a plate adapter to allow you to mount a tech toe to the split ski. It has hole patterns for the current generation Dynafit Radical toes with a 4-hole pattern, or the legacy 5-hole pattern found on older Dynafit toes, and some of the copy-cat brands. If you have an old pair of TLT toes, all you need are the adapter plates for the toe and the climbing posts.

Be aware that if you have a narrow stance, you may be forced to widen it. The presence of the toe lever on the tech toe means you may have to move your front foot forward so you can slide your boot plates on and off easily. The more your front foot is angled, the more room you’ll need to make.

Switching Modes

Switching from uphill to downhill mode with the Dyno is fast. Remove you boot from the plate, then slide the plates off and stash them in your pack. Split your board, add skins, and click into the tech toe for superior skinning with the improved lateral rigidity associated with a plastic boot for better edging on a traverse, and free pivot motion without the excess weight of a plate. With the wide footprint of a split ski you should have no trouble dusting your rando buddies in the skin track.

Don’t forget to cant

If you’re a splitboarder who is more mountaineer than powder pig, you’re a candidate for using hardboots. This will mean changing your riding style, and probably means you should make sure you have your feet properly canted. Spark R&D also makes canted pucks to help with this last important detail. Once you’ve figured out what hard boot you’ll be riding on, it’s a slam dunk to count on the Dyno as the link between your board and your feet.

Spark R&D
Dyno DH Hardboot Plate Binding
MSRP: $250
Weight/pr: 762 g &bull: 1 lb., 11 oz

Dynafit Speed Radical Toe
MSRP: $183
Weight/pr: 313 g • 11 oz

Dynafit Adapter Plates
MSRP: $ 65
Weight/pr: 192 g • 7 oz.

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