May 17, 2010
Author: SBC KIteboard Test Team / Shane Thompson
F-One Bandit III
Liquid Force Havoc
The All-Terrain Freeride category logically incorporates the greatest number of models of kites today. These are the do-it-all designs that have flying characteristics that enable them to adapt to the wide variety of conditions, riding style and disciplines of today’s kiteboarding. These kites are in many respects, the jack of all trades and masters of none, as they deliver the optimum levels of performance suited to the varied range of wind and water conditions. The key characteristics of the All-Terrain kite include: good levels of depower and useable wind range, and tunable performance that make them suitable for freeriding, freestyle or waves. With a good combination of wind range and control, instant depower, ease of use, safety and automatic water relaunch, the All-Terrain Freeride kite is capable of easy cruising and freeriding, boosting some nice airs, and has good depower and steering character to hit the waves. They have more high-end performance than the more basic and user-friendly Progressive Freeride category and in the right hands, can do almost anything. Many of these models are also highly tunable with multiple line connections and bridle settings that can dramatically change the amount of bar pressure, turning speed, depower capability and overall feel. This tuning character can change the kite attributes of depower and bar pressure to better suit certain disciplines, feel preference and experience levels. There are lots of options of style and design available in this category. The Delta shape is predominant within many new models this year, with its swept wing tip and canopy profile first introduced in the F-One Bandit two years ago.
Comparing the All-Terrain Freeride kites in a head-to-head analysis uncovers no clear standout winner of this broad category. Different Test Team members preferred certain kites for different reasons. There is a definitive series of performance characteristics that endears each model to certain rider preferences of feel and function. As true big-boosting freeride kites, the North Fuse, the Airush Varial and the Slingshot Octane standout from the pack and are great examples of smooth powered and good boosting modern SLE designs. If you like jumping and gliding and want predictable pull, then these kites are ready to take it on. These kites are standouts for the more intermediate cruisers who dabble in every discipline and what reliable and easy performance. For those riders that head into the waves often and want ideal wave performance the Test Team was impressed with the capability of the Naish Cult, the Nobile T5, and the North Rebel. All three of these kites had faster-than-average turning and had the best control while depowered. Their drift character and pull were ideal for wave riding. For the unhooked freestyle and flatwater park ripper, the Liquid Force Havoc and the F-One Bandit are standouts, with the smoothest and most capable unhooked pull of the group. Another honourable mention should go out to the Cabrinha Switchblade and Slingshot RPM; both could easily slide into the All Terrain category and find themselves as top choices for unhooked pop and smooth pull. The RPM was also a top pick of Test Team members for waves.
No designs are without their flaws and the All-Terrain category brings out the flaws in each model as it crosses disciplines. For example, the Naish Cult lacks the positional feedback of some of its competitors, although it has improved from last year’s model with the direct rear connection, some test members find it still takes a lot of time to get used to. The higher boosting and lofting freeride SLEs like the North Fuse and Airush Varial are also not the fastest turning of the bunch, as often more power and lift reduce the quickness and reactivity of steering.
Many of the Delta shapes also have drawbacks in the swept wingtip design and canopy shape when it comes to steering the kite out of a downward dive. At certain angles of attack it seems some of the more pure Delta shaped kites can lock in place as they dive downward towards the water, requiring a hefty pull on the steering lines to break the trajectory and start the turn.
Overall the top-ranked kites of the All-Terrain category were the F-One Bandit, the Liquid Force Havoc, and the Naish Cult. The others in the test should not be overlooked as they had performance that is better suited to advancing into higher levels of riding. These three stood out for their overall wind range, precision steering and performance that can push the limits in any discipline.
Read all the individual kite tests to find the perfect kite for you.
F-One Bandit III
Liquid Force Havoc
2010 Lightwind Kite Showdown
Progressive Freeride Head-to-Head Test
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