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Gear Review

4 5

A lot of work to get it right, but worth the effort

I bought my Split Decision kit from backcountry.com in fall 2010, but due to moving twice and doing a home reno since then, I didn't finish it and ride it until today. I read most reviews out there and watched as many online videos as I could find.

I wanted to do it right, and in the end I spent well over 50 hours on the conversion, not including reading, research and buying upgrade parts and tools. I consider myself pretty handy based on working on my own house and cars. I upgraded the kit's wood screws to T-nuts (McMaster.com), covered over the T-nut holes with P-Tex discs cut out of P-Tex sheet (Tognar.com) and glued using G/flex epoxy. Other than throwing away the wood screws, the kit was very well thought out and built, and everything fit together nicely. The instructions were out of order in some places, but I eventually figured them out. If I didn't do the T-nut upgrade, I think I could have down the conversion in about 5 hours.

I borrowed a friend's Makita portable table saw to cut my old Lamar beginner/intermediate board in half. This made it much easier than cutting with a circular saw. By far the hardest part of my conversion was drilling out the T-nut holes with a wood hole drill bit on a hand drill, because the drill bit dulled quickly from cutting the fiberglass and I had to regularly sharpen the bit with a file. Next time I will borrow a drill press and see if that might help minimize drill bit wear and bit walking. The drilling process took about 10 hours mostly because of the T-nut upgrade.

The second hardest challenge was blending the P-Tex discs with the base. This took another 10+ hours. I decided to glue P-Tex over the T-nuts so they won't get pulled off by the climbing skins. I cut out the P-Tex discs using a hollow punch (Ebay) and an arbor press (work). The P-Tex was much too hard/durable to file down with a hand file, metal scraper, the Stanley Surform tool, or even a belt sander. I eventually found that a rotary Dremel sanding drum worked best at medium speed. Next time I will just fill the T-nut wells with P-Tex repair rod using an iron.

I used the splitboard on a lift-serviced resort today as a shakeout. The binding plates were a snug fit when I first mounted them 12 months ago, but now they're a very tight fit. I wonder how I'll be able to slide them off in the backcountry to convert to climbing mode. The blocks and interlocking hooks do a great job of securing the split board together; the board felt much stiffer under foot than before the split. But I found the tip clips often unclipped themselves after riding through glades and bumps. The blocks also worked very well as elevators, as I was carving better than I ever have on packed snow and groomers.

Since we didn't get much snow in the northeast this year, I'll have to wait until next season to try the climbing skins (climbingskinsdirect.com).

A lot of work to get it right, but worth the effort