A fusion of Airush's best selling models of last year, the Varial-X combines the direct C kite feel of the Vapor-X with the predictability, depower and four line ease of the Varial. Weighing heavily on the acclaim of the Vapor-X, the Varial-X is in a class of its own, offering massive depower and hybrid C kite performance in a four line kite for riders who don't want to be limited to a certain style of riding. A very short single V connection for the front line bridle supports the canopy, allows the kite to depower 100% however enables steering and control when the kite is completely depowered. Utilising a series of pulleys, the V3 bridle system allows complete five-line depower on a four-line bar. As the front line tow points can rotate forward, the kite can pivot off the front lines in a flat, powerless position when the bar is released in an emergency situation, which is extremely useful for self-landing situations.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
The Varial-X has five struts and is well constructed with solid bridle attachments points as well as more robust areas where the canopy joins the leading edge. The Airush kites have a faultless one pump system and this year, on the two kites we've seen so far, have two dump valves on the leading edge; one in the centre and one towards the end, so you can either roll the kites tips into the centre, of from one tip to the other. The 2012 Smart bas is much the same as last year, but has a new wardrobe, dressed now in striking red and black, but the biggest change is the plastic coating on the depower lines, so no more wear, which is actually retro fit-able to all 2011 kite bars. There's also a new sliding stopper and a slight tweak to the pull-pull trimming system which works very easily and is neat and tidy above-the-bar. The power killing kite roll-over system flips the kite over nicely and does indeed drop the kite down harmlessly when you release, although isn't the quickest to activate. It is nice and reassuring though.
In the sky you can see the influence the Vapor-X had on the Varial and which parts have been implemented from each. The Varial-X is now a little deeper than last year but still retains a relatively high-aspect profile. As soon as the kite's in the air you can feel the added depower at your fingers tips. The Varial-X's range means that just a dip of the kite and a pull on the bar is all you need to get going. The kite steers with medium bar pressure and you have access to a lot of power when you sheet in from about halfway down the throw. Pulling from there down to the chicken-loop gives a nice boom in power. The Varial-X sits further forward in the window than the Lithium and generally therefore requires a bit more experience to get the most out of it. Turning nice and quickly, it has a more sweeping turn than the Lithium, is less pivotal and generates a steady, even pull throughout the turn. We were sure just by looking at the Varial-X in the sky that it was going to have plenty under the bonnet in the boost department, and it does. But again, to get the most rocket power out of it, you have to understand the necessary handling requirements that a more high-aspect, technical kite such as this needs to get the extra few feet you crave. Unlike the plethora of three strut delta kites on the market that gratify intermediate riding skills with rapid access to air time through their ability to create boost easily even with some pretty unrefined handling, the Varial-X needs more of a whip. If you're an experienced kiter you'll know what we mean when we say you don't just send the kite up to somewhere near 12 and then pull down – to get the most out of this kite you need to whip it up to more like 2 o'clock (beyond 12) and then you'll get on the elevator properly. Like-wise coming down, the Varial-X responds to a good pull on the bar again to catch you up on your descent, but if you're not used to this kind of handling, you will find it quite manic. If you've been in the game a while, you'll find it engaging and more of a second nature.
In other disciplines the Varial-X is definitely accomplished, with better unhooked performance than the Varial of last season and has generally benefitted from the more sports-freestyle influence that the Vapor-X clearly brought to the table. Nice and direct at the bar, with impressive forward flight and beautiful upwind ability, the Varial-X would be as at home on the race track as it is in demanding freeride arenas.
Featuring a nice bit of old school charm, the Varial-X is suited to more experienced kite fliers that have been around the block, shall we say. The better your kite skills the more you'll get out of this kite. This kite is for the discerning freerider who wants be rewarded with an intensified boost from their acute handling skills but also wants to ride around in comfort all day long.
Good boost and hang-time and more all-round handling and unhooked performance over last year's Varial.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
The kite likes a lot of wind and has a great top end, but it also likes to be pumped up hard. Kites with this much range and power that are swept back but with big tips will always need to pumped hard to maintain stability. Just something to remember.
12, 10, 9, 8 and 6m
This test is inissue #53