TEST DRIVE: ARBOR ABACUS
Early this season the good dudes at the Arbor Collective shipped a few Abacus splitboards east to Northwestern Vermont for a test drive during filming for the DTK video series. We were excited to tour a few miles on them as soon as they came out of the box; the beautiful wood finish, contrasting die-cut base colors, and floaty looking nose and tail outline, combined with Karakoram “K clips” and “whale clips,” made for a solid looking setup. After mounting up some pucks, dual heights, and Spark R&D LT brackets, the 156 and 160 were ready for some kick turns and knuckle-dragging in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and on the Gaspe Peninsula.
The Abacus is palpably light in both ski and ride mode whether you are running a lightweight Spark setup with LT’s or stock Voile plates and stainless. The Karakoram “K clips” have the mechanical advantage to hold the interior edge of the board tighter than traditional ying yang clips can. They do make some additional clacking noise while skinning on icy terrain, but latch with a satisfying “snap” when converting. The tip and tail Karakoram whale clips didn’t pop or vibrate loose during descent, even on icy run outs and ice bulge billy-goating, no strings necessary.
Arbor’s “Pow System” relaxed rocker profile left enough contact patch for good skin engagement and floated well through powder and thicker spring soup with a centered stance. Only low angle deep powder made us wish for slightly more taper or rocker. The ride was responsive and snappy, and was stable and reliable on icy traverses one or two footing. The Abacus’ Grip Edge setup, with minor parabolic protrusions under the toe and heel along the edges, was the board’s unexpected favorite feature. These gave extra confidence on icy hardpack, and helped to mitigate the notorious squirrelyness of splitboards on hardpack in general. They also helped with the navigation of some blue ice, sliding predictably and controllably with the extra concentrated contact points.
The wooden top sheet and bamboo sidewalls are unique with an aesthetic congruent to disappearing into the trees. The topsheets were tough and resilient to direct impact and damage from crampons and poles. The corners of my Spark Fuse’s did not press and mark the topsheet as has happened on some other splitboards. The edges of the topsheet at the bamboo sidewall interface peeled back in a few spots from the inevitable cross-stepping and edge clacking that comes with navigating a dense bushwhack, and this was the only concern we had with the boards during testing.
We are still riding these splits, as the season is far from over. We’ll continue to report on the ride of the Arbor Abacus in the coming weeks and hopefully show it some more secret lines in the Northeast.