INTRO – The test team get their hands on the first in what looks to be a long line of excellent 2014 gear, starting this issue with a few weeks spent thrashing the Slingshot Rally
This test was featured in Issue #66 - SUBSCRIBE HERE FOR ALL THE LATEST GEAR UPDATES
Four years since the mark one and the 2014 Rally is the most versatile kite Slingshot have ever produced, delivering incredible wind range with proven high performance for intermediate to expert riders looking to excel in freeriding and surf conditions. The 2014 model is faster, more manoeuvrable and has a better low end. An updated air frame and Slingshot's patented Splitstrut construction make it incredibly stable and the new Rally features Connect Forward, a breakthrough in attachment point placement that allows the wing-tips to twist open and prevents stalling. You can choose from three attachment points to tune the optimum bar pressure for your riding style. Bigger Reflex wing-tips allow the kite to pivot, balancing faster turning speeds with precise control and stability. As on all Slingshot kites, the 2014 Rally features legendary construction through a state-of-the-art manufacturing process and top-of-the-line materials.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
The Rally has had a reputation for being great in light winds with excellent relaunch and pretty good jumping in the past, but has suffered in early models with some flapping in the wing-tips and lacking total rigidity in the air frame in stronger winds. The 2013 model was really good with great all-round performance but felt heavier than 2012. Less pivotal and a little less lively but what it lost in speed it gained in rigidity. We were excited to see where Slingshot had gone with the new Rally.
Let's start at the bag, which remains the same but has a new colour scheme. A good, tall back pack size with a clip top hood and a zip running down the side allowing the kite to fit in with just one fold. Find a bar pocket on one side, a pump holder on the other and some extra straps on the front to attach a board to or any other clutter you have to take to the beach for the day.
The bar is all black now, and testers commented that it was a shame to have something so plain after quite a distinguished white/red/black look last year – now with just a grey Slingshot logo indicating the right hand side of the bar and a red emblem in the left corner. It's still very robust, but more importantly the new bar is better functionally and lighter in weight, too. It feels comfortable in your hands with ideal grip levels for all riders. The chicken-finger has been worked on and improved to be a better quality plastic design and is now semi permanent, needing an allen key to remove it. The trimming system still operates in the same way under the bar but has been revised. There is more detailing with the push away safety release a more ergonomic shape making it easier to grip and release and the chicken-loop itself is a slightly altered shape. Time proved that Slingshot's last system was very strong and reliable and this one is just a step on. The leash system still runs through the bar and attaches by the chicken-loop. Very neat and tidy, but the nicest improvement for us is that the cleat line inside the chicken-loop safety is now thinner and smoother. Slingshot's below-the-bar trimming was always smoother and less sticky to operate close to your body than most, but there was still a tendency to have to use two hands to trim the kite in really strong winds. The 2014 operation is certainly more manageable and even easier to use.
One more thing on the bar; not that you can expect to be repairing bits or replacing parts, but should you ever need to everything is modular, and rather than having to buy a pack of three parts when you only need one, you can just get the exact part you need from Slingshot, who have always made things simple and easy in this respect.
You'll still find the same heavy duty Slingshot flying lines which are very confidence inspiring. The sliding stopper ball is excellent and above that sits a line swivel with a ceramic bearing which is reachable at a stretch. There are few items on the market that you can trust your life with quite as much as you can with Slingshot. It's very good quality.
The kite features Slingshot's original One Pump system and a new panel layout and shape. The Rally has medium bar pressure on the outer setting for the outside lines and increases as you set the lines further forward. On the 12 we found the outer setting the most comfortable and provided the best turning speed, on smaller models it might be better to use a slightly more forward setting for more feedback and control.
The jump in performance between the 2012 and 2013 models was bigger than the jump between the 2013 and new 2014 model; the latest improvements are based around refinements. We now class 12 metre kites for use in fairly light winds and you're never going to go wrong with the Rally which has a superb bottom end. Our heaviest tester, Stu, gets going really comfortably on a twin-tip and can throw tricks in just 15 knots and is still happy at 25 knots when everyone else is on nines.
The new Rally is more trim straight out of the bag. You still get a lot of power at the bar when you sheet in, but when you do so in light winds the kite doesn't over-sheet and backstall anymore. More poised and balanced the Rally drives further forward too, which is excellent for riders who don't have the best light wind handling skills that like to pull in on the bar for support. Anyone that really like to throw their kite around to get that big boost of power and knows how to cope with a little back stall may miss that gnarly feeling.
However, those people are very few and as soon as you put the Rally up in the sky you'll feel right at home. The air frame feels excellent; strong and very steady. Dive the kite once and then park it at 45 degrees and the pull through your harness is lovely. There's plenty of juice at the bar for the pull-and-go rider. The turning speed is fairly average for a 12 – it's not super whippy and doesn't turn right on the spot, but it is pivotal. Any hint of wing-tip flap from last year has now been completely ironed out, finalising the super clean, solid canopy feeling anywhere in the window or at any stage of a turn. For carving turns and wave riding you won't get pulled you off your edge. The smaller sizes have always been popular wave kites and this should be no different. In fact, considering the improved forward flying characteristics that make the kite feel faster and with less backstall, the 2014 models should be even better with lovely progressive doses of power.
It's no kite looping monster, but makes it reliably round a loop and easily catches you. What it does have in bucket loads is superb boost and hang-time and lets you drift down for what feels like ages for a super soft landing. The Rally lets you know where it is in the air at all times, instilling confidence to try new tricks and gives you the ability to go out and really enjoy some amazing freeride sessions. You'll be jumping big without much boosting knowledge or refined technique and it suits the hooked-in blaster looking to go large down to the ground.
The steering isn't the lightest; it's firm and you do feel the weight of the kite when you turn it. Not heavy, but it's getting there. You have to make it turn, which is why it's so easy to do big floaty jumps and transitions, is super reliable over head and gives you extra time and control to complete your moves. It's not overly responsive or incredibly nippy but for freeriding performance it's a joy for most people and doesn't fly unexpectedly across the window. Smaller people lacking biceps could find it harder work than other kites.
The only thing the Rally doesn't do naturally is offer the opportunity for high level unhooked tricks. You can throw a few raleys and basic unhooked moves, but you'll need to pull on about six inches of trim, but for passing it's too much of a brute. The RPM is much better for that unhooked kite loopy freestyle rider, but it doesn't have the built in, almost automatic, boosting and hang-time performance of the Rally.
As a freerider looking to progress your jumping and all-round hooked-in riding performance with a superbly produced product that you can trust, then you can't go wrong with the Rally. Incredibly easy to use straight out of the bag and always with excellent relaunch, the 2014 model ticks all the boxes to give you the quickest learning curve.
Superb build quality, plug and play qualities - the Rally seems as though it comes with an ability to automatically improve your huge airs and freeride skills from the day you buy it.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
For most people this is a fantastic choice for all round freeriding and wave riding, but smaller riders or those looking to progress their unhooked riding should look to the RPM.
KITE BALANCE POINTS X/10:
Build quality: 9 (1 = Good luck getting it out of the bag in one piece / 10 = Indestructible)
Full package: 9 (1 = Pigtails sold separately / 10 = Comes with its own wind)
Low end: 9 (1 = More power in a handkerchief / 10 = If the leaves are moving you'll be flying)
Top end: 9 (1 = Force 3 feels like gale force 8 / 10 = Trees blow down before you max out)
Steering speed: 6.5 (1 = Barely turns / 10 = Blink and you'll miss it)
Turning circle: 7 (1 = Most pivotal / 10 = Likes to scrape the water)
Bar pressure: 5.5 (1 = Light as a feather / 10 = Get down the gym)
Water relaunch: 9 (1 = Superglues itself to the water / 10 = Has an allergy to water)
Boost: 8.5 (1 = More lift in a wet towel / 10 = Will take you into space)
Hang-time: 9 (1 = Back to the water before you know it / 10 = GPS needed for piloting)
Unhooked: 5 (1 = Collapses or pulls your arms out of their socket / 10 = who needs a chicken-loop?)
Ease-of-use: (1 = Will make you give up kiting / 10 = Put your mother on it and she'll shred)
SIZES: 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6m
OUTRO – Thanks as ever to Chris Bull of CBK Hayling Island, our diligent head tester and to Stu Layton for their input. Find Chris at:
This test was featured in Issue #66 - SUBSCRIBE HERE FOR ALL THE LATEST GEAR UPDATES