High-octane hooked-in freeride performance
Before you get into the KW magazine review below, check out the first of our in-depth 2018 test videos in which chief tester Chris and KW editor Jim delve into the XR5’s key performance points – shot for the Kite Show.
The Kite Show is a free-to-watch kitesurfing video network, produced by the Kiteworld Magazine team. Why not download The Kite Show app? It’s free, and you’ll never miss a thing!
This test first appeared in issue #89 in August 2017
TEST TEAM NOTES:
Our second year reviewing the XR series and what is a now fairly unusual breed of high-aspect, big-power, bow-shape kites when compared with the mass output of hybrids. The XR5 sits in the same category as hooked-in specialists, like the Ozone Edge and North Rebel.
You’ll notice the wider, more open shape with a flatter section in the middle than the majority more mid-aspect, all-round hybrid performance kites. The big sell in these flatter kites is lots of sheeting power and big, easy jumping. We were excited to get the chance of having a selection of three kites for a month here in the UK to test across a wide range of conditions, following on from the howling sessions we had in our annual Cape Town test sessions with the XR4.
The UK enjoyed a stellar start to autumn in early September with back-to-back days of 30+ knots. Bully made the most of having the XR5 to hand and recorded a 17.4 metre boost with ten seconds of hang-time on the nine! That should tell you all you need to know about the XR5’s flight credentials, but it’s how it feels and behaves that we’re also focused on.
We had the 12 and 10 out in the calmer end of August winds, but those first autumnal winds of the season in September came with moody skies, a big shore dump and winds as strong as Cape Town… and in fact more brutal in ways given the extremity of the gusts. Whatever, the XR5 maintains unbelievably good control, however aggressive Mother Nature wants to get. And we still had room to trim further, but just didn’t need it. Your heart rate stays the same whatever the wind is doing. Riding the XR5 is like being able to do a five mile run, but 20 minutes quicker than you could before with no more shortage of breath. Performance gains are very apparent.
Performance gains for strictly hooked-in riders, though. The Rebel may tick more boxes in terms of being able to unhook, and the Ozone Edge has a bit more base power, but for sheeting comfort as well as intuitive steering and control, the XR5 is absolutely sublime. The weight at the bar, balance, talk-back and easy comfort are phenomenal. That continues on the way down from a big boost when doing corrected heli loops to land with a butter soft landing. Though of course with all the natural float, those correcting loops aren’t always necessary, so don’t worry about that – but when you go the moon (as this kite can), they’re usually needed on whatever kite you’re flying.
Freeriders will really appreciate the range on the XR5. The 12 is particularly usable, from its bottom end; powering you along in 14 knots – it continues happily to way over 20. That’s unusual for a 12. You’re usually adjusting your stance to deal with the grunty power of a 12 and trying to stop your harness digging into your back as you approach 20 knots. The XR5 is no bother at all.
There are no gaps in its sheeting range either; it’s beautifully nuanced and balanced with fine adjustments felt at the bar for small sheeting movements. Highly tuned it is, but it’s not highly technical to use. The other nice thing which we’re always big fans of is that Core use one size of Sensor ultra light bar (coming in three spec options), whether you’re riding a 12 or a 9, which feels lovely, small and compact. In fact the bar is a beauty – with a sheet-down line untwister, super-clean layout and easy, light impulse rope trim. The only thing to note – and it’s something we were aware of in hairy conditions – is that we had to remind ourselves that if it did come to the situation that we ever needed to release the kite quickly – it’s a twist mechanism, rather than push-away. It is very smooth, though.
So, a glowing review, for sure – but what isn’t it good for? Well, let’s recap: for beginner to intermediate riders, it’s awesome. Sheet and go in comfort and have an uncomplicated ride. If we look at the more advanced freeride category, this can be split into two categories: that air style, darkslide, board-off, super floaty transitions and multiple rotation type of riding with hang-time for days. You pretty much can’t beat the XR5 for all that, but if you’re a freerider who enjoys a certain level of aggressiveness and is constantly looking to smash out proper kite loops, or needing an instant, quick-steering machine to also hit up windswell waves, the XR5 isn’t the model for you (though wave riding credibility will of course improve in the smaller sizes, but the turning impetus will be similarly styled).
Rather than feeling a kite that turns around its wing-tips, the XR5 has that more delta / bridley / pivotal handling. Forgiving for sure, and you can do easy loops and steer along a wave, but the electric feel for performance riders isn’t there. Those riders should look to the GTS instead. The XR5 isn’t set up to drive around the bottom of the window for driving kite loops, where you get the wang from three round to nine in the window, because it’s too pivotal.
And in terms of the XR5’s immense jumping, we should touch on the technique. The rewards are there for intermediate riders who haven’t learnt to send the kite hard through the window for big boosts. Bear off, gather speed, drift the kite to 12, edge upwind and sheet in. It’s a very easy technique, but if you try to overcomplicate it through aggressive technique, it doesn’t necessarily give you what you want.
Core are right up there in the top three for build quality and construction and this canopy is a fine example of that. Super solid whatever the gusts, it doesn’t shudder at all. Several tuning options, though the stock centre-setting for all of them is ideal. Short, tidy bridle and robust attachments along with great cloth, stitching and the Speed Valve 2 wide inflation system that guarantees quick, hard inflation. Which everyone hopes for…
Standout quality on the XR5 for us is the beautiful gearing – never slipping its clutch, whatever the wind – gives immense control at the bar; all of which adds up to a mega jumping, hangtime machine that’s as rewarding as riders want to make it. If you want to go huge, there’s so much range in this kite and you can feel really good riding it at the top of its range. Almost to the point that the 12 metre continues working to the point that you’d normally be changing down to a nine. Quite a machine, as long as your game is hooked-in.
One of the best feelings of sheeting control in the business.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
Proper kite loopers and riders looking for a faster, wider steering arc or reactivity in waves will find the XR5 lacking, and should step up to the GTS.
XR5 BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9.5
Full package: 9
Low end: 9
Top end: 9
Steering speed: 6
Turning circle: 3.5 (Smooth and powerful)
Bar pressure: 5
Water relaunch: 9
Ease of use: 9
SIZES: 19 / 17 / 15 / 13.5 / 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 8 / 7 / 6 & 5m
For more information on the XR5 and Core’s product range visit