The Helix continues to bridge the gap between Cshaped and bridled kites with an engaging feel, fast turning and punchy power. The Helix is the exotic sports car of the kite world... pushing the envelope in both design and flying characteristics. Radically redesigned to provide C-shaped performance and feel, while maintaining the depower you expect out of a bridled kite, the Helix continues to evolve with a revolutionary 'power foil canopy' sigma outline. This platform coupled with refinements to the aspect ratio, leading edge diameter, strut foil, and arc have produced the most performance driven sigma kite ever. With speed, versatility, huge jumps, kite loops and precision handling in mind, this kite allows riders to push their limits to new heights.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
First off, this is a great looking kite, full stop. A few people still aren't sure about the aesthetics of the sigma shape, but here we have Naish's version of a bridled hybrid kite with C kite tendencies. This is more C and less sigma than ever before with a very deep profile. Straight away you think it's going to have a lot of power and tight C kite handling. The profile of the canopy has very sharp angles and at the top where it faces the wind it's really flat and is aggressively styled from the canopy top right down to the very vertical wing-tips. It's angular where other hybrids are smooth. It's all sucked in and muscular. In human terms it's a mesomorph. Visually it looks like it's got a big set of balls. In the changing rooms, this guy wouldn't be shy. We were excited about trying a kite that we thought would have the best bits of a Torch mixed with the best bits of a Cult.
Setting it up it's got the usual Naish build quality. High-quality Dacron, attention to detail and one pump. There are also no pulleys on the bridle and the set-up is nice and simple. The bar system is sexy as usual with excellent lines that we know last for donkeys years. The depower that comes on the standard option is below the bar again, which is fashionable with a lot of manufacturers. It means they can provide a lot of bar throw, but the old above-the-bar system was easier to get leverage to apply depower in strong winds.
As you'd expect from a set-up like this, the Helix depowers forever. There is a little black stopper though that you can have on or off, so you can set how far you want the bar to run. It depowers very quickly, and without having to let the bar run out a long way, which makes you wonder just how much wind you could have this kite out in.
At this point we've got to point out that we didn't get to try this kite in as much wind as we would have liked. In fact, it was light for most of the sessions, although not all, and this wasn't helped by the fact we only had the 20 metre line set options (you have a choice of 17, 20, 24 and 27 metre line lengths).
There are huge C-shaped characteristics to the flying nature of the Helix; in fact it feels much more C than hybrid. It's very direct on the bar, there's plenty of pressure there and you always know where the kite is heading with good feedback. It's also as quick in the turns as last year's Torch, and this is a stand-out point on the Helix. There's nothing wishy-washy about it, there's a good kick of power which is meaty when it comes in. During loops it initiates the first part of its turn powered, like a C, softens up and goes more pivotal in the middle, before coming back at the end with a good dollop of power. If throwing kite loops is your focus on the water, then the Helix will keep you entertained,although there is less power all the way through the turn that the Torch.
It's also a very fast kite in the air, which is actually a double-edged sword for the Helix. Punchy and powerful it can fly quickly towards the edge of the window which, when you're not powered, means you have to be really on it with your kite skills to get the most out of it. It generates good power nice and quickly, but then getting it to sit in a nice spot to just keep generating the tractor-like pull you need in light winds was a skill. You have to keep it working properly in light winds, which is a bit more like kites used to be. We've all become lazy, having been afforded the luxury of just plonking the kite down in the window and getting straight onto an edge. With good handling, it's doable, but just something for less experienced riders to be aware of.
Those characteristics however, coupled with the fact that it still steers well at the edge of the window (look at the size of the wing-tips ? this mofo turns!) make it a very good option in the waves.
Out of the hook it performs really well. No issues ? it's great for unhooked quick power tricks and the handling through the bar is lovely. There's also stack of boost under the bonnet when you want to fly.
There are some negatives we've mentioned with this kite, but that's only because we were frustrated by conditions most of the time during the window we had for testing. It's also good to note that we reckon if you're over 80 kilos, you should at least be opting for the 24 metre line set. It's really fun riding around on 20 metre lines, but we recommend keeping those as a second option. When it was powered, it's a stunningly good kite though for riders looking for that C kite / hybrid mix. Like a superbike it just gets better and better higher up its rev range, peaking its performance at its top end. The Helix excels in the top 60% of its wind range, when it's beautiful. If you're the type of rider that gets going in a fly's fart, or you tend to only go out in stronger winds, then you'll find the Helix a scream.
KW LIKED: Agility and handling when the wind's up.
KW WOULD CHANGE: More juice at the bottom end.
SIZES: 14, 12, 10.5, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m
This test is inissue #44
Naish Helix 9M (2010)
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Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland