This test was featured in Issue #67 - SUBSCRIBE TO KITEWORLD MAG HERE
F-ONE BANDIT 7 - 9M
The improved direct connection you'll feel with the new Bandit will help you ride more confidently. The whole kite profile is more stable and much cleaner, more clearly defining your sensations. Lateral traction has been reduced, giving you more control over your riding, however there has been no compromise in the available power for early planing, yet the kite is also less physical to ride. Fabric upgrades have been made to the new double rip-stop Technoforce by Teijin, with a superior wear strength and better in-flight profile control thanks to added stability. New designer Robert Graham left no stones unturned and was able to further refine the Bandit shape, while maintaining the Bandit's signature power and improved depower, impressive hang-time and flight capacity for all your favourite disciplines.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
We are old friends with the Bandit after having ridden and reviewed it for seven years. Refined and tweaked in that time, it's certainly got a Premier League status. As the first all-round Delta shape we've always looked forward to see what Raph and his team will deliver. Each year there are improvements to the way the kite is made, and the new material this year is certainly noticeable and the canopy feels very taut and long lasting. It's a really great looking kite this year, with a big range of good colour combinations to choose from (playing a bigger part in our buying decision than we'd probably like to admit). The other big news, which we're really pleased about, is that there is finally a totally new chicken-loop. No more Velcro releases or red and green balls, now totally up-to-speed, there's a push away red collar over the chicken-loop, safety/suicide ring leash options, self-locking for unhooking and a plush trimming cleat system. And it really does look like a pimp bar; very sporty. Losing that Velcro release is a huge improvement for us. It was the only thing that we felt that F-One were behind on. That connection and confidence from safety is as important as the kite's performance.
In terms of the rest of the construction, F-One always produce good quality lines and with the new Teijin material you know you have a serious bit of kit. One pump as usual and F-One have stuck with the standard inflate/deflate valves, which must have weight saving advantages, although they have added a deflate valve on the middle strut. Providing endless enjoyment when your mates borrow the kite and you forget to tell them about it before they pump the kite up, we're not sure how necessary it was as an addition, but must make pack up a bit easier.
The Evo bridle is simple, with just a pulley on each line and the system becomes the life line when the safety is release, turning the kite on its back. You have just two options for bar pressure on the back lines which keeps set up nice and simple for everyone.
First impressions in the sky strike you about how crisp and taut it looks. There's no distortion, it's just grrrr. It looks smaller than other nine metres as well, like a muscly bull dog pulling at its chain and ready for a run around the neighbourhood. The responsiveness is a definite improvement, there's very little delay or lag once the turn is initiated; just finger tip pressure and the kite reacts like an eager puppy. If you're really brutal with the Bandit it reacts very, very quickly. The bar pressure is surprisingly light too, so there's less fatigue. The light, quick steering may catch beginners and early intermediates out, but we have have never been disappointed with the way the Bandit kite loops as a bridled kite. Retaining a nice amount of power to give good feeling at the bar, it's not lacklustre at all, has good attitude through the air and if you want to scare yourself you can as it doesn't drop power in the turn. It's not totally pivotal in its turn, but the super easy initiation makes it feel really tun-able in terms of the way it can turn.
Like the Varial X this year the Bandit feels as if it has lost a bit of its low end. We were questioning if we'd put weight on, which I can assure you we haven't! For powered freestyle and boosting performance you might have to wait for a few more knots than you're used to for its size compared to previous models, but when the wind gets up there are few kites that can put such a smile on your face in stronger conditions. The Bandit has found its explosive jumping boots again, no doubt, it just needs a few more beans at the bottom end, but that is reflected in the incredible top end performance. The winds we've had this out in have been ridiculous, switching between a wave board and twin-tip. So very comfortable at its top end, we were easily handling the type of squalls that would usually destroy us. In 18 knots you start to get the indication of the type of performance it has, but give it an extra five knots and you really get flying. Having said that because it's so manoeuvrable and efficient we've had some super wave sessions on a wave board when it's barely been nine metre weather. Flying nicely forward after every turn and with smooth, progressive depower, there's no stalling and and that responsively is a joy, with the nine feeling more like a seven through the sky.
There is trimming needed for unhooking and because of its super fast responsive nature and lack of required bar pressure to get it to turn, it can catch you out if you're learning inverted handle-passes, but it has all the basics covered.
A true all-rounder that grows and grows with you, suiting you more the better you get. Waves or high wind hangtime, the usability is superb, the reactivity is a joy and the relaunch is still impeccable. Down on power per size at the bottom end of each size, so bigger riders might need to think about buying a size bigger, but the Bandits come in a huge range of sizes, so no problem. Overall, the all-round performance is the best we've seen yet from the Bandit for riders looking for a kite to charge around on and any of last year's slight stalling when ridden aggressively has vanished. This will satisfy a massive range of riders, from intermediate upwards.
Agile, light, responsive, superb in strong winds, the boost is back and it's just incredible to throw-around in waves, too.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
Handle-passers might want less reactivity, but trimming it well down helps and bigger riders may want a stronger bottom end, but changing all of that would reduce the incredible top end... which is where the magic happens.
SIZES: 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m
KITE BALANCE POINTS X/10:
Build quality: 8
Full package: 8
Low end: 7.5
Top end: 9
Steering speed: 8
Turning circle: 6
Bar pressure: 4
Water relaunch: 9