Friday, December 16, 2005

New Kite Design Hits the Market - the GK SONIC

I have been flying Naish kites religiously since i started kiting 5 years ago. For overall ease of use, durability and stability, I still believe that Naish kites (the Boxer line in particular for steady winds, and Torch line for gusty conditions) are fantastic.

That said, I have recently been experimenting with 'crossbow' style kites and have found one that is amazing - designed by Mat Pendle of Globerider Kites - This team of designers were behind the first really commercially popular line of kites - Wipika - and then went on to found Takoon.

Now their efforts have given birth to an entirely new style of crossbow kite. This kite moves the pivot 'axis' from the leading edge on a traditional kite to a 'rolling range' using a bridle system. While the Cabrina kites also use a bridle, the GK Sonic design produces a kite that flies with very little bar pressure and that can absorb incredibly strong gusts effortlessly. Great for kiting in waves during winter storms off the california coast. Here are some reviews of the kite :

Monkey Air GK Sonic Review

KiteForum GK 11 Review

KiteForum GK 8 Review

And a picture:
Orange GK Sonic
UPDATE : MAY 28 2006 - I've finally had enough time on the water with this kite to feel comfortable writing about it --click on the 'comments' section below. ive embedded my comments there....


Blogger kiteVC said...

I have finally had enough flying time on the GK Sonic 11 to write an informed review of the kite. This kite DEFINITELY handles differently than any other type of kite I have tried, inclusive of C style (Naish, Slingshot, Cabrina) and traditional ‘bow kites’ (Cabrina Crossbow) and takes some getting used to. Why is this the case? I surmise that there are two key design differences that make a big difference in the way a GK handles compared to other kites.

1. “Sliding front pivot point” - All kites I have flown previously have a fixed point where the front lines attach – at or very near the leading edge of the kite. This creates a static pivot point, around which the kite’s angle to the wind is varied by pulling on the bar. On the GK, the front lines attach to a pulley that is meant to slide forward and backward along ‘rails’ when the bar is pulled. This innovation produces several noticeable differences in handling.
a. First, the ‘slide in pivot point’ allows the GK to absorb huge gusts with ease. As the kite hits changing wind speed, the leading edge ‘gives’, absorbing gusts.
b. This results in a very ‘soft’ feel – there’s very little pressure or feedback from the kite in general to the bar. This takes some getting used to for sure. The GK feels relaxed and ‘loose’, and definitely is less tiring to ride than other kites when powered.
c. When the kite is powered, the sliding pulley gives the GK MUCH greater lift and acceleration compared to other kites I have tried. Compared to a fixed leading edge pivot point, a tug on the GK bar changes the articulation of the kite AS WELL AS shifting the pivot point toward the back of the kite – thus it articulates faster per unit of motion at the kite bar.
2. “Flatter, squarer, profile” – While the GK falls into the category of “bow kite”, it has a different profile than the group of bow kites that includes Best, Cabrina, Naish and others. The GK is flatter than the ‘flat bow kites’ and feels like it has a higher aspect ratio.
a. In theory the additional flatness should produce greater flying efficiency - more lift per unit of fabric. This kite definitely generates much more vertical (to the kite’s top surface) lift than other kites I have flown in 2 cases – when either the kite is very high in the wind window, or very low in the wind window.
i. When the kite is very (and I mean very) high in the window – above you at 11-12-or 1 o’clock, a slight tug definitely produces more vertical lift for jumping than other kites I have flown. When the kite is fully powered and straight overhead, the GK is faster and more responsive than other kites.
ii. When the kite is low in the wind window – such as when the GK is coming off the water on a re-launch, leading edge perpendicular to the water, just powering up when the kite is down wind, the GK is dangerously quick to accelerate. The same ‘lift’ that is a vertical pleasure is a bit hard to control when the lift is horizontal and direct down wind. I’ve learned to really push the bar away when launching or re-launching in strong wind as the kite will definitely RACE across the horizon, and pull really hard down wind when it powers.
b. When the kite is NOT either ‘high’ in the wind window, the flat profile may also contribute to some tricky handling that takes some getting used to – especially in lighter wind.
i. The GK 11 has a tendency to ‘fly backward and crumple’ when the wind is light and the rider pulls the bar in for power. The pull on the back of the kite causes the corners of the back edge to fold over underneath the kite and the kite starts to fall backward, losing power until it folds in on itself and goes down. I’ve had similar experiences with high aspect ratio C kites on occasion when the kite stalls overhead and a tug on the bar causes the kite to fly backward instead of powering it up. A yank on the center line helps but is awkward.
ii. The ‘crumple’ can also occur in decent wind, if the kite is not moving though the wind window fast when the rider transitions directions. This kite needs to be moving fast to stay powered.
I’ve read other people’s reviews stating that this kite ‘likes loose back lines’ ( . I can definitely see why. With looser back lines, its easier for riders who grew up yanking on C kite bars for power to not over-sheet the GK. Looser back lines keep the kite flat and floating.

In summary, on the plus side:

 This kite re-launches well.
 It has a TON of vertical lift at the top of the window.
 The GK handles gusts better than any kite I have flown. It’s REALLY smooth in gusty winds.
 The range is so large, a de-power strap is not really necessary.
 The GK has the lowest bar pressure of any kite I have flown. It’s really hard to get tired flying this kite.
 The bar mechanism is extremely nice and simple. 4 lines, no 5th line to get tangled in like the higher performing C kites.

The other side of the coin on each of those items:

 On re-launch (typically from dead downwind), the kite TAKES OFF really fast horizontally once it is out of the water -- get ready.
 The ‘sweet spot’ fly zone (wind window) for the GK feels narrower and than any other kite I have flown. Great at the top of the window, and “crumply” as you get to the edges unless the kite is moving fast. At the edges, it is definitely sensitive to over-sheeting. It will take me a while to ‘unlearn’ the C kite routine for powering up – the GK requires a STRONG “sheet out” instead of a ‘sheet in’ to keep the kite from flying backward and crumpling in the air.
 While the light bar pressure is great for not getting tired – the flipside is that the kite and bar do not provide much ‘feedback’. The GK is SO responsive you have to ‘tone it down’. I for one am used to 6 years of really yanking C kites around and using arm strength to jump – this kite needs to be ‘tapped’ not ‘yanked’.

Feel free to comment….

1:10 AM  
Blogger kiteVC said...

update: IT FLYS!!!

I made a very simple adjustment today that made a whole lot of difference. Loose back lines. Loose back lines. Loose back lines.

Ive been working it to change my riding style (hard to do!!) by forcing a 'super sheet out' all the time when riding this kite.

After loosening the back lines (where they attach to the leaders from the bar) by one more knot, this kite feesl MUCH MUCH more comfortable, even in light winds.

The "fly backward and crumple" (the result of oversheeting) issue appears to be gone, and the kite now feels like its in a sweet spot for flying well, powered even in modest winds. It still has quite a lot of randge and lift.

The comments about loving 'loose back lines' really old true for this kite. Even in the Fully sheeted position, my back lines feel slack compared to settings i'd use on a C kite, BUT THEY WORK.

4:40 AM  

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