TEST TEAM NOTES
Where other kites have focused on adding freestyle performance to their freeride kites, North have added a freeride quality to their freestyle kite. On the freeride setting we were absolutely gobsmacked on our first run out. Bully was so surprised he went up to Hadlow when he saw him on the beach in Cape Town and said, ‘I thought you were hardcore!’. (We’d later found out how hardcore he is.)
In terms of quality, looks and feel, North’s quality and attention to detail is very good indeed and year on year they make a sensible and worthwhile step forward. North’s version of the one-pump system is a wide inflation valve that connects directly to the pump hose without the need for a nozzle and inflates very quickly. The unique turn element to lock the valve off works well, once you get the knack. The North bars (and there are two options for the Vegas) are the absolutely business.
There are three settings for the front bridle – ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ depower. In the high depower setting, the Vegas has to be the most comfortable C kite on the market. There’s still a direct connection but the Vegas also feels light, easy and the response is just bang-on. You can ride all day long and not get tired but you’re riding around on a C kite feeling like a badass. Frankly this really is an easy kites to ride in this setting and goes way beyond being suitable only for freestyle.
C kite performance combines with incredible range in a modern freeride feel. This isn’t a difficult-to-fly C in its high depower setting, though is still different to a bridled kite in the way that it jumps and creates lift, and also differs in terms of the direct feeling you get at the bar (though the Vegas is lighter than most other C kites in this soft setting). Providing a broad sweet spot that’s typical of C kites, the Vegas generates lift as soon as you start to move it, unlike a more bridled kite that really only creates true lift when it hits the top of the window as you sheet in. To get the most out of a C kite you have to have good board skills as well as good kite handling skills, so that is still a big difference between this and a pure freeride kite, but it’s amazing how soft, easy and intuitive the Vegas feels, thanks in large part to its impeccable behaviour.
There is massive depower compared to more traditional C kites, but the Vegas always maintains at least a little power, which helps it feel so smooth. Not unruly in the power it maintains, the retained power is great for just keeping your board speed going. You’ll notice it especially on downwinders when you want to just come off your rail for a section. The Vegas sits nicely above you at 11 with enough tension in the lines to keep you cruising downwind, and this poise only becomes more useful the better you get.
The three different attachments for the front lines allow the Vegas to really change its personality, progressively generating more power through the turn and increased pull the further back you attach your lines. Even in the middle setting the Vegas is certainly a much dirtier machine. So much so that we questioned if there was need to even go a step further, but who are we to question Hadlow’s low depower setting in which it becomes a raw, powerful beast. Still predictable, it’s heavier, set steadier further back in the window, slower to turn and with more bite. And it’s fascinating to see how the master has his own kite set up.
VEGAS OR DICE?
The Dice is North’s ultimate crossover freeride kite, so we thought it important to cover some differences. Parked next to each other in the sky they look very similar in shape, the Vegas having an extra strut in the tips. Other than that the differences in cosmetic structure are hard to pick at first. The Dice has more low end grunt this year, the sheeting is more direct and there’s more feeling and feedback. The big difference comes in the Dice being a four line set-up, compared to the Vegas’ five, and there’s more sheeting power and depower dump on the Dice. The throw is bigger and the power at the bar can be more on / off which a lot of people feel safer with. The Dice turn builds in speed getting more pivotal as it progresses around the turn. You can affect the turn more on the Vegas, which also initiates its turn quicker, reacts faster, especially in the softest mode when it really drives positively through the turn. The Vegas turns more like a snowboarder carving downhill; the Dice has a bit more of a skidding turn. The Vegas; a road racing bike – the Dice; a dirt bike. Both can be ridden by a wide spectrum of people. The Vegas however can be tuned for way dirtier freestyle performance at its top end, while the Dice is the choice for waves.
The Vegas is insanely good for any rider looking to seriously progress in freestyle as it allows you to break yourself in steadily and yet has all that jumping performance that took Aaron to the King of the Air along with highly-tunable C kite performance. The cherry on top is that it also has room to breathe as it depowers so well.
Approachable handling in a kite that converts C kite handling advantages in a way that freeriders can appreciate.
KW WOULD CHANGE
Many people are so used to four line simplicity and convenience that this will be an overriding factor swaying them away from the Vegas.
14.5, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6m
Very neat and functional design / Mid-size diameter / Smooth, tidy above-bar trimming cleat and minimal line / Clean, functional, easy, reliable chicken-loop / Easiest line untwister above chicken-loop / Oozes quality and function. Wakestyle bar also available that is very small indeed. Great for to reduce reactivity in smaller sizes. Our opinion is it’s just a little too small for freeriding on the 9m and bigger.
VEGAS BALANCE POINTS
Build quality: 9
Full package: 9
Low end: 7.5
Top end: 8.5
Steering speed: 7
Turning circle: 6
Power through turn: 7 (needs moving to 7.5)
Bar pressure: 4
Water relaunch: 6.5
More info at: www.northkites.com
Here’s the official Vegas product video from North