The Bandit 4 has a brand new shape with a modified span, increased C-shape, revised tip shape, profile and leading edge diameter. The number of struts has been reduced to three but the Delta C-shape (original and patented by F-One) on the Bandit four is identical to the Bandit 3, giving the kite stability, power / depower and auto-relaunch. Three struts mean a lighter, smoother and more dynamic kite. Set on the front settings you get a lighter pressure and slower turning kite; switch to the back for more bar pressure and higher turning speed. The squared tips allow two different back line settings and a more aerodynamic effect during turns. The bigger sizes in the range are orientated towards power and smaller ones towards control and the overall structure of all models is that they are more stable for better control in high wind conditions. At the low end of the wind range, the kite is more efficient and pleasant due to its lightness and reactivity and instantaneous depower. Unhooked, the Bandit 4 isn't overpowering, remaining light and the feeling has never been so precise and direct during kite loops. Looping speed has been improved with a lighter boost at the end of the kite when the kite goes back to the zenith. Suiting all disciplines, the Bandit 4 requires no adaptation time from the rider.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
For the last three seasons, F-One have gone into battle against the multiple models from other brands with their Bandits – a onekite does all range. The Bandit 3 was mighty fine, very close to C kite handling with rapid speed and lots of depower. This year they've answered Bandit fans' requests to include a one pump system, the number of struts has dropped to three, making a lighter kite and cosmetically the kite has a beefy central cord and increased thickness in squarer tips. It's the closest looking kite to a C shape without actually being a C shape we've seen for a while. The long, ungainly bridles of the early Bandit models are now virtually non-existent; a modest front line V bridle has a pulley helping the kite tilt backwards and forwards nice and smoothly. Pulleys are usually associated with heavier steering but the Bandit 4 is incredibly light at the bar, but retains enough positive feeling for you to easily be able to predict flight and behaviour. Super nimble, combined with the light bar pressure, at first that you think you might be under powered, but dip the Bandit into the power and there's a plentiful surge to get you up and going.
We rode the Bandit over a few sessions in 16 – 20 knots and 20 – 25 knots and the kite's exquisite balance is what's immediately apparent. There's no constant pressure needed through your back arm to stop the kite dipping into the water, as you get on some kites when you're riding. The 2011 model is poised and obedient. The range on the bar, for what's not an overly large bar throw, is impressive. Small amounts of sheeting in and out give you a lot of power and depower but, throughout our sessions we barely had to trim the kite at all, such is the kite's ability to control gusts beautifully at its top and bottom ends. We never really got to try the kite's top end, but it must be incredible as, riding it strapless in plenty of chop and gusts, we never once got such a poke of power when throwing it about that it threatened to pull us over the front. Instead the power delivery is smooth and definitely not as grunty and chunky as it was in the early models. This is the first of two tests on the Bandit 4. As F-One produce only one range - that has now established itself as such an all-round set - as well as testing it in the blustery wave conditions we did this issue, we need to test its freestyle and high-wind pedigree.
We will be doing that in Cape Town next issue. For the everyday wave riding that most of us experience, if the kite ever dropped back, perhaps during a turn or when the lines went slack, a quick pull on the bar was all that was needed to get the kite to downloop in an instant and be right back in position in a fraction of a second, no worries. Nimble, agile and forgiving of mistakes, it whips round with very little power if you pull hard on the bar. Pull less and you getter a bigger, more progressive arc. This is all ideal for the crossonshore slop. Perfection is predictable, crumbling lumps aren't but this kite allows you to be so much more adaptable and alive to possibilities. If you're used to a high-depowering kite with a long throw, the first few times you come round your top turn and go to sheet out might feel strange. When you send the kite back towards the beach before turning you usually go to push out aggressively on the bar and this at first feels like it needs to be pushed a bit further and caught us off balance the first few times. It actually doesn't, but because there's so much range for small movements on the bar it's then really easy to regain the kite and power it up again with just a little pull on the bar.
Really well-balanced with great upwind performance, relaunch, mellow and aggressive power delivery, depending on your input. Hooked-in it's just a super-simple package that you can't really fall out with. Further analysis next issue. We didn't get to try the new monobloc one piece bar, but it looks very-slick and has a new grab-point making the Velcro chicken-loop quick-release even easier to use and is still unaffected by sand getting in the system. The trimming cleat also has a new handle and the mini-fifth line no longer runs behind the cleat. It's apparently much lighter and tougher, too.
Switching off from thinking about the kite, not having aching arms - even in freezing weather - and just being able focus on slapping up the slop.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
The weather. Riding inboots and hoods sucks!
SIZES: 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m