I have to say that I really love my B4s and I did not necessarily want to go for the new kites. The B4s are light compared to other brands, feel also light in the bar and are great kites for mixing up old and new schools of tricks and for waves. However, the changes that were made on the B5 were appealing and rational, so I went initially for an 11m and then replaced my entire quiver (8,11, and 14m). I weigh 83 kg and I am a paying customer.
Why to post this review? I have been flying Bandits since the B2. Every year there is significant improvement. However, when I did my research on the B5 I got disappointed and somewhat annoyed. For example one of the invited distributors for the F-One product show (on Mauritius!!!) could only say after one week of flying them in admittedly EPIC conditions, that “it felt smaller”. Vow!!! And Vow Again!!! Vow, because the “it feels smaller” is a slim reason to justify the headache associated with replacing something that works and I actually like to something I do not know. Not to mention the thousands of $$$$ I have to shell out, and the act of smuggling them home.
Born out of this frustration and the excitement I have after each session here is a review on the B5 from a man made lake near Dallas, TX :
1. Appearance: Cool!
It is a beautiful kite. It looks to me more delta than the B4. The reduced diameter of the LE is actually very proportional and it is not too skinny at all. The graphics are really nice. The attention to details is obvious and it really shows how much thinking went into this kite.
2. Weight: Light
I am obsessed with the weight of my kites. This comes mainly from the struggle making a session in Dallas, TX during the summer months in 10 mph of “teaser” winds. The lighter the kite, the less chance it “Hindenburgs” out of the sky in a lull at the middle of the lake and the more responsive and agile for steering. It also helps down the line waveriding as the kite tracks and drifts very nicely in onshore wind conditions even when surfing towards it. Kudos goes to F-One realizing this. (They actually made significant changes and markedly reduced the weight of the B4 in 2011.) There is a small approximately half pound or 0.2kg improvement at each kite size for the B5. The 8m=2.4kg, 11m=3kg, and the 14= 3.6 kg. By comparison the 2012 Liquidforce Envy weighs 12m=3.8kg, 15m=4.4kg and my 16m Havoc from 2008 5.5kg!!!
3. Fly: SMOOTHER!!!
I almost wrote: “it feels smaller” or IFS, but actually it feels smoother than the B4. It flies further in the window, so I was able to do crazy angles on my tacks. This is great, because it helps a lot in marginal conditions to climb back upwind after a trick is pulled. It has about the same bar pressure as the B4. I am not sure though that it is really a beginner kite, because it is very fast. Fast can equal a lot of self-inflicted damage. One has to be very light handed, however when you get familiar with it one-handed tricks are well within reach as the “servo” is working great. The B4 has similar light bar pressure, but needs more torque on steering. It is probably one of the biggest difference and improvement appreciated and welcome by intermediate and advanced riders and may make the B4 a better choice for beginners.
3. RANGE: Improved, the 14m is less intimidating and feels smaller☺
Low end: I am especially grateful for the gain in the low end. I used to love my Switchblade 8m from 2010. The best thing was the range of that kite. The B5 has the same great low end with a very forgiving high end, as well. I was flying the 8m B5 against a friend of mine who is about 5-10 kg less than me and was on a similar size board and on a 2011 8m Switchblade. We went toe to toe. It is an improvement compared to last year. For extreme light wind conditions one still has to use kite-flying skills to get through the lulls and I am not sure whether the 14m is truly a match for a 16 or 17m kite. For now being 83kg I am keeping my 17m Edge for the super light days.
High end: As for the 14m: it got less intimidating. At places where the wind jumps up and down in speed within a session it is a great plus. The B2 14m was an intimidating kite for me. After a certain wind speed it just got uncontrollable making the session survival kiting. The subsequent bandits got more and more forgiving on the high end and so far the B5 is the best in this regard. This feature will be an especially appreciated by kiters 180lbs and less as they will be able to control this 14m with ease. In other words the kite feels like a 12 or 13m: flying fast with great high-end control (IFS)☺.
4. Jumps: Hang time!
It has about 25% more hang time than the B4. This comes handy with old school board offs and also with surface transitions, when you float over the water. The B4 has one additional lift after the end of the main jump this one has two, with a small last upward pull on you. It is easy to finish the jumps with downloops as the kite will not pull too hard. One has to pay attention to the timing though: I used to initiate those downloops way earlier on the B4. The feeling is like jumping and downlooping a small kite (8 and smaller) or in other words: IFS, again☺. There is a bit of an adjustment time, however it gets a lot of fun. The kiteloop is smooth, controllable and not jerky.
Height: it jumps as high as the B4 (probably higher). It has to be sent slightly differently though. One has to initiate the back steering only approximately from 11 o’clock. Sending it from lower e.g.: 10 o’clock, does not help and actually makes the jump smaller. The re-entry is very predictable and soft.
5. Loop: Wow!!!
Big change with this and for the way better! AND I have to eat my words again, because “it does feel smaller”☺. The kite turns on its tip. This helps a lot during transitions on the wave as the kite even in overpowering conditions would not pull you off your strapless surfboard. The flow through the loop is laminar. The wings of the kite cut the air as blades with almost no flattering of the wingtips. The RRD Obsession is marketed with this: “Neutral pull on kite loops technology”. I do think that the B5 has something similar too. You can make the loops so fast that the actual pull is miniscule. Also, if you combine this with the great hang time and the low bar pressure of the kite you are pulling off “dark sides”, and “Jesus walks”.
Uploops: tested on the 8m with 45 cm bar and standard line length and it works: the kite catches you!!!
The less intense pull is also great for any kind of unhooked trick with a kiteloop component.
6. Wave: Drift!
I only flew it on a man made lake (and not in Mauritius), but when it gets really windy we have 4-5 feet of onshore type of pretty nice swells. It drifts very nicely down the line (due to probably its light construction) and you can really ride your board on the wave. The floaty feel translates easier transitions on your surfboard. Again, smooth kite loops help to surf the transitions and let one ride and stay on the board.
7. Unhook: More in control, great pop.
Much better than previous years. It has a terrific pop and a very nice feel in the bar. I was able to redirect it very effectively during the unhooked flight (even my 14), which is really remarkable. I was way overpowered, at the edge of being able to do any unhooked stuff: the kite did NOT powered up after unhooking and the delicate bar control made in-flight adjustments possible. These simple things make the difference whether you pull off a trick or end it with a “yard sale”. Even with this improved control I can screw up things getting myself into unhooked (sometimes one-handed) kiteloops, which were survived due to the relatively low punch of the loop. Due to the fast flying characteristics of the kite smaller sizes (8 and smaller) need attention not to over steer. The kite however has a very good feedback feel in the bar: it takes time to get it, but when you do, it is fantastic.
8. Relaunch: Better.
Bandits relaunch generally well if there is enough wind. In “no wind” conditions on the B2, B3 and B4 I learned NOT to inflate the LE to 10 PSI recommended by F-one. Over 5 PSI the LE becomes very rigid not allowing it to deform and get into the relaunch shape. On the B5 the reduced diameter of the LE makes the kite more flexible allowing it to get into the right shape and go back to the sky at once.
9. Safety: instant depower
The breaks work great. Letting go of the bar immediately kills the power. The last kitemare I had for “deathspirals” due to bridle tangling was on a B3. It happened once only, but I was dragged towards Interstate 30 with no control whatsoever. The B2 like to do it all the time when it “Hindenburged” out of the sky. The B4 and B5 are super light weight and do NOT “Hindenburg” to start with and the bridles on the B4 and B5 got significantly shorter not allowing it to happen. (I do not want to jinx myself, and knocking it on wood as I am writing: nothing to report on the B4 or with this kite so far).
10. Bar: Have not tested. (I am flying all my kites including the Bandits on Liquid Force bars, which work great and cost much less for me)
In conclusion, I do think that the B5 is a superbly refined and excellent kite. It is like a sport car (bad ass look) empowering you with lots of power (low end), smooth servo steering (IFS), soft, cushy suspension (re-entry after jumps) and double disk breaks (great high end and instant depower).
Kudos goes to Raffael and the design team for their dedicated work improving, refining the kite to this level. (I do agree: “It does feel smaller”, so the distributor I was lashing on was right, however I do like to drool over the details when it comes to new kite purchase: it eases the pain of spending my bucks)
You cannot go wrong. If you are out just to enjoy the ride you will have a fun companion. If you want to hit it hard, as the B5 really does it all only one question remains: what’s your excuse?
Have a great ride!
(Will try to upload a couple of images by John Meredith in the near future)[code]