The Speed 3 features unrivalled light wind performance. The bar feeling is very direct, smooth and precise; rare in such a highachieving light wind kite. Hang-time and butter-soft landings are impressive and it's never been easier to land and learn new tricks, whatever the wind conditions. The stability has grown to new levels for this class, especially in strong and gusty winds. Thanks to the further refined 'triple depower system', the resulting wind range is unbelievable with no compromise in safety. This kite is the benchmark of light wind performance and killer hang-time.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
We tested this kite in winds between 12 and 20 knots. The lower speeds seemed ideal for this 15 metre, while the top ends pushed its range. To our delight we found that the kite was all pre-lined and very easy to set-up, which was motivating. A setup like this could be intimidating with so many lines on the bridle going up to the kite, looking quite complicated, but it's presented beautifully and was a doddle to rig. There are Velcro holes that can be opened to inflate the kite, but it seemed to fill itself up in the breeze very quickly on its own.
There's nothing unusual about the bar; it has a good standard safety release, sturdy donkey dick etc. and the bar itself isn't overly large. On a 15 metre you often feel like you've got a fishing rod in your hands, but this was relatively compact. Just above the chicken-loop is a swivel with three lines going through it, allowing you to take any twists out of the lines really easily. After looping, you could either pull the bar down to untwist the lines, or just roll the swivel around manually. We thought this was a nice touch and really simple, keeping things safe by allowing you to always keep your lines free. A pretend 5th line comes down neatly through the bar as your leash point. There's also a separate ring on the chicken-loop for suicide attachment. Other than that, the bar is standard and comfortable without any fuss.
The first thing you notice on the water is that the kite sings to you! The wind on the bridle generates quite a bit of noise, but you soon get over the Julie Andrews element and get into your riding because you're instantly comfortable. Stable and producing a lot of power, it's not aggressive in its delivery. A foil has a much more refined feel than LEI kites. More solid canopies provide more of a punch; this is punchy enough, but has a soft and smooth quality. As the canopy isn't rigid it buffers the wind, which is a good thing, meaning that you're not going to get tripped up by the gusts. You might notice a lack in explosive pop, but this isn't under par in that department compared to many LEIs.
There's no denying the light wind performance. It's staggering. When performing in the top 20% of its wind range, it doesn't depower to nothing; you have to rely on your board skills to edge and force it to the front of the window. Inexperienced riders would find it a brute when overpowered, but in 12 – 15 knots it depowers beautifully, taking all the hard edges off your ride. The steering is fast enough for a big kite, but you have to get manly with it to get it to move any quicker. It doesn't drain your arms by pulling viciously against you, but needs quite a lot of input to get it to move quicker than average.
There's some power under the bonnet and we were kicking up some right old rooster tails as a result. The power doesn't horse you off downwind as many big kites would. Instead you could hold speed and crank upwind 'like a beast from hell', according to Bully.
Usually in 12 to 15 knots, you're not thinking about throwing up a big one, but the hang-time reality on the Speed 3 is...unreal. You go properly big; board-off big. Go round, do a rotation and you'll find you've still got time to check out the view before being brought down nice and softly. For big, floaty stuff it's brilliant. It's a sky hook, so make sure you check how much room you've got downwind of you before boosting as you will travel.
Believe it or not, it was fun to unhook on, too. It needed some trimming first and you have to ride with your leash on the suicide attachment ring, otherwise you'd activate the safety and you'd have a few lines to sort out before you'd be riding again. Relaunching is a bit different to LEIs in that you have to make sure you keep the leading edge into the wind, but all the bridling
comes into its own; maintaining the canopy shape while the inflated cells mean it floats well. Once up again it takes a few moments for the water to fully drain from the wing-tips, but after that you don't notice thing.
The design and look of this kite might place it outside of the mainstream buyers' comfort zone, which is a shame, because if you've got money for a dedicated light wind freeride kite, you can't go wrong with one of these as an average kiter. If you want an all-round kite for snow, land and water this is the ticket. It's so stable, you can't luff it on your jumps and leave it behind you and, given the choice of a 15 metre LEI or this in light winds, we'd choose this. You've got to get your head around it, but it'll soak up crappy winds in whichever kite sport you choose to do beautifully, leaving others looking up at you.
KW LIKED: Soft, forgiving power delivery and monster boosts. Surprisingly easy set-up and pack-up; just leave the lines attached, roll the bar up at the end of your session and you're gone.
KW WOULD CHANGE: Other people's knowledge of how to help you launch it!
SIZES: 19, 15 and 12m
The Speed 3 is also available in a 'Deluxe' model in the same sizes, made with only the finest materials that the German manufacturing euro can buy!
This test is in issue #43