2017 F-One Bandit review

KW’s review of the tenth edition of F-One’s all-terrain classic.

THIS REVIEW FIRST APPEARED IN KITEWORLD ISSUE #85, RELEASED JANUARY 2016

 

 

TEST TEAM NOTES:

This is the tenth year of the Bandit, hence the ‘X’ and we have tested the Bandit every year. It’s very much a kite we really look forward to testing because, since its inception, it set out to offer something for all riders. How much it satisfied different types of riders has differed year to year, however.

 

For the last two seasons, Bully has had a full quiver of Bandits, so has ridden the 12, 9, 8, 7 and 6 metre sizes extensively. Essentially, what you can expect between last year’s model and this 2017 model is the same wind range throughout the sizes. Any slight issues with back-stalling in the bigger sizes in lighter winds that were apparent three years ago are a thing of the past, and this year there’s also more low end than the 2013 – 14 models. The Bandit still isn’t the most powerful kite in its low end, but it’s not underpowered. You can get going in 16 knots on a 9 and still be holding onto it with adequate comfort if you’re a good rider in over 30 knots. That’s a big call. How much power and depower you have is essentially the same, which produces a very nuanced feel. You can sheet out to ditch all the power and sheet in for lots of power, and in-between the Bandit is highly tuned to give you lots of feel and control.

A change we have noticed is in the lift and jumping ability in the 8 metre sizes and below. Two years ago the 7 metre was a highly charged beast – it was an immense handful to wave ride with, but in the right hands in strong winds was an absolute weapon in terms of high performance jumping and looping. Last year the Bandit went the other way in the smaller sizes and was much more suitable for wave riding and had less lift for boosty jumps. This year we have a kite that you can ride waves with and jump in the seven metre. In truth this year’s kite is exceptional in its low to mid-range in waves. Offering good power for the size, we’ve used the seven metre extensively in waves. It’s also incredibly responsive and loops you beautifully into waves in an instant, with a lovely injection of power to get you going and then offers wonderful precision in terms of its handling, so you can position it exactly where you want, when you want.  

Just by looking at the small and compact bar that the Bandit comes with is an instant indication of how nimble the kite is. The standout features for all the test team are the way the Bandit combines agility with comfort. It’s also not at all tiring to ride with reasonably light bar pressure and no lag in the steering. For sure it’s fast, it injects power through its loop and offers power when you want it, but it’s just so well behaved. The air frame is obviously highly evolved after ten years and the Bandit has this beautiful ability of offering the same steering and handling characteristics no matter how under- or over-powered you are, translating very logically in terms of feel whichever size you’re riding.

 

 

On his second day in Cape Town this year, Bully had already posted his own personal best boost of over 20 metres on the 8 metre, higher than he managed on the 2016 model at the end of his trip last season. He highlights that he’s able to get so much out of it because although it’s so highly tuned, it’s manageable and not fatiguing. The Bandit is one of the most intuitive kites out there. Although it’s very quick, the steering makes sense and there’s plenty of power and depower. At its top end the danger is that because the Bandit feels light in your hands, isn’t fatiguing and has good depower, it can be ridden by riders of a wide range of abilities across its entire wind range, but just be aware that the stronger the wind is, the more potent the ability of the Bandit. As soon as you tell it to do something it does it, and that ability only gets more and more wicked as you fill it with more wind. There are other all-round kites in this category that offer more forgiveness at their very top end, such as the North Dice, but we think that the Bandit offers a more focused and tuned feel at every stage of its bar throw however.

 

 

We’re always big fans of the small, compact and comfortable bar that the Bandit is set-up with, working on 45 centimetre bar widths on the 9 metre and below. The trimming cleat is always very smooth, the grip is ideal and the chicken-loop releases and re-sets very well. What may be a make or break deal for you (and is the major downside of the Bandit for us) is that F-One still use the basic, thin rubber inflation valve and there’s no swivel under the bar to untwist your lines. Easy, wide inflation valves and swivels have become more or less standard with other manufacturers. But, in all honestly, F-One probably have very few warranty claims and for sure when you’re riding it you have utter confidence in simplicity with few moving parts to go wrong. It’s a convenience issue, though.

 

SUMMARY:

This is surely one of the top three all-rounders on the market. You can unhook on it, you can wave ride, you can jump, you can get a punchy loop and you can also cruise upwind and progress as an intermediate. There are other kites that do a better job in each of those particular things, but as a whole the Bandit probably scores a higher average score across the board with that magic mix.

 

KW LIKED:

Surely the most widely applicable all-round performance kite on the market. Other kites may beat the Bandit at certain things, but the Bandit ticks every box in the freeride category well.

 

KW WOULD CHANGE:

We’d implement a wide inflation system and a swivel under the bar.

 

BANDIT X BALANCE POINTS:

Inflation: Traditional rubber valve (with one pump)

Build quality: 8.5

Full package: 7.5

Low end: 8

Top end: 9

Steering speed: 8

Turning circle: 5

Bar pressure: 4.5

Water relaunch: 9

Drift: 8

Boost: 8.5

Hang-time: 8

Unhooked: 8

Crossover: 9

Ease of use: 9

 

SIZES: 17, 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m

 

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