WE REVIEW ONE OF THE MOST LEGENDARY FREERIDE KITES IN HISTORY
THIS TEST FIRST APPEARED IN ISSUE #92 IN MARCH, 2018
TEST TEAM NOTES:
The Rebel has been one of the most popular kites of all time, and as such received only incremental tweaks most years. There are a few kites on the market now that have been in existence for over a decade, including the Switchblade, Edge and Bandit alongside the Rebel. All continue to be fine kites in their own right as little tweaks over many years obviously result in refinement. But they all differ.
This year represents a major change in the Rebel as it’s the first year that it can be flown as both a five and four line option. Having always been a five line kite, this year the fifth line isn’t loaded, so you can choose the right set-up for you (some people prefer a fifth line safety, flagging to the middle of the kite. Many obviously prefer the common four line simplicity).
Quite what else has gone on in terms of the shape isn’t immediately obvious, but the Rebel has definitely gone up a level in terms of top end performance. Let’s cut simply to the standout element: there’s pretty much 100% comfort whatever the hell is going on around you. If there’s a tornado, you think, ‘It’s okay, I’m on my Rebel’.
There are kites like the Core XR5 that generate more low-end lift and hang-time, but when the wind really ramps up, they become different beasts and need a little more gutsy technique. This year the Rebel has offered us the most comfort and confidence in strong winds – for all levels, not just the ‘Chris Bulls’ of this world!
The gust management in the airframe and the sheeting range are sublimely smooth. It was simply howling for a couple of sessions that we had the Rebel out in and on other kites would have felt like we were strapping ourselves to a pack of wild horses, yet the Rebel actually managed to feel not only relatively safe in those conditions, but rewarding too. It wasn’t just survival kiting, we were sending it with confidence and going to the moon. Like good noise cancelling headphones, we could just focus on riding. We’re not suggesting inexperienced riders should go out in savage conditions at all, they’re still dangerous, but for those who are ready for it, the Rebel has an unmatched level of comfort when the wind gets brutal.
The comfort shouldn’t be confused with a lack of performance, it’s just that the rev range is so smooth. The Bandit for instance delivers a harder spike in power at the end of its sheeting range. It’s also more whippy in its turn. It may have been around a long time too, but suits a different rider looking for more all-round gnar. One of our staff members who is a progressive intermediate and just getting into some good jumps said that the Rebel is almost too clean for him, that he’s used to more raw grunt. So if that’s a bad thing, then perhaps it’s something to be aware of if you prefer a wrestle with your kite, but what he didn’t realise was that he was already riding more cleanly, he just didn’t feel as much power ‘on tap’, though it’s certainly available.
The Rebel isn’t just about high wind control, though. In average eight or nine metre weather it performs exceptionally well too with a good low-end and plenty of smooth, tuned performance. Every time you take-off you have so much control in flight, so for grabs or one handed air tricks it’s a beauty and loops so cleanly at the end of a trick to pull you smoothly forward on landing. Chris commented that it makes everyone immediately look better within their first few runs on it… cleaning up their act and body position. Your harness digs in less in strong winds because the sheeting control is so manageable.
This year’s Rebel jumps very well and has a very linear boost and hang-time ratio and, as we’ve just mentioned, the turning characteristics have also improved in terms of the constant turning and smooth drive. The Rebel confidently gets round a loop now, whereas in the past it wasn’t a nice feeling because it had hollow points around the bottom of the window – which are synonymous with a wider, swept back shape. North have erased that. The down loops in particular are very consistent, and when you’re boosting super high the only time the Rebel drops a bit of power is on the descent at times, but you have to be coming down from really high to start to notice that. When you do, this year’s increased athleticism and agility take effect as you can be forceful with the bar and the Rebel’s heli loops will just make you smile as you have so much control. For 90% of people’s jumps however, there’s no need to worry about heli-loops because the Rebel will seem to always be in its happy place, and glides very well.
At the kite, the Trinity TX yarn is exclusive to North and they claim it’s superior to any other yarns in terms of durability and dynamic performance. It certainly feels nice in your hands and the kite is rock solid in the sky. All North’s fixtures and fittings are not only strong, but they’re very clean and simple, too.
We used the click bar with the Rebel. The V2 Click bar can now be set up on three different chicken-loop sizes, depending on your riding preference (and whether you’ll be riding with a rope harness or not), the floaters have been upgraded with integrated rubber patches and there is a new V distributor, which is even easier to adjust for rigging up on different kites.
Of course there’s the clicker on the bar end to depower which means there’s no more reaching forward to a cleat and potentially losing your edge. One often overlooked element of the Click bar is that, every time you sheet in, the bar automatically untwists your lines after a rotation as the covered centre line is slightly rectangular, so as you pull the bar down the line rotates in the swivel. Covered up, subtle, clever and smooth (there is a swivel above the chicken-loop too).
The natural riding position that you can have with this year’s Rebel is very upright and in control. You’re never massively fighting to hold your edge in the water, instead you’re always balanced, dynamic and looking good. If you’re a dynamic rider and enjoy a super smooth delivery of power (there’s plenty of it, don’t worry) for a pure, purposeful and fast style of hooked-in riding, the Rebel is very difficult to look beyond this year and should be converting advanced hooked-in riders who have been riding the Vegas for years to finally switch over.
The cleanest feeling of control in difficult conditions we’ve yet experienced.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
Perhaps bigger intermediate guys would want a bit more obvious bite and drive at the bar, in which case they should go for the Evo.
REBEL BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9
Full package: 9.5
Low end: 8
Top end: 9
Steering speed: 6.5
Turning circle: 4
Bar pressure: 5
Water relaunch: 8.5
Crossover: 5. Pure performance twin-tip freeride
Ease of use: 8
SIZES: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m