Buy this as your first kite and you’ll have a hard time to outgrow it, whatever discipline you move towards!
THIS TEST FIRST APPEARED IN KITEWORLD #104 IN MARCH 2020
You may also want to read our Airush Session 9m kite review, published September 2020 in issue #106 – read the test report here now!
TESTED BY: CHRIS BULL AND JIM GAUNT. FIND THEIR DETAILS AND TEST SCORE BREAKDOWNS HERE.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
A little scene settting: since your grandfather was a little boy, the Airush Lithium has been one of the best first-time / freeride kites you could hope to ride. Mixing super steady sheeting drive with a clear direct bar response, the Lithium always made complete sense to new riders, producing predictable jumping technique and easy carving turns. Although it has always been far more than just a beginner’s kite, there was always quite a big gap in the customer’s journey when they were ready to progress off the Lithium onto the next kite in the range, which recently, has been the Union… quite a step up.
Looking at this new Lithium, it seems that Airush have taken the sportier tips of the Union in recent years but maintained the Lithium’s reliability and constant feel.
This year the Lithium still delivers plenty for the rider who has just come off their lessons, but any rider could have fun on this because there’s now more forward drive. Obviously it’s not a handle-pass machine and it’s not the fastest wave kite in the world, but if you’re going to ride hooked-in on a twin-tip (primarily) in a range of conditions, this is a superb option.
The increased forward drive through the window isn’t vastly different, but the kite’s position in the window is now more dynamic, making the kite more agile. Crucially, Airush haven’t tampered with the low end. You don’t have to swing the kite up and down to get going because the smooth sheeting drive is still there.
As the wind picks up, if you engage your rail the Lithium will drive forward better. The connected steering feel stays very constant throughout the kite’s range – even though there’s huge depower available. The Lithium now stretches its legs better, giving you more comfortable performance at its top end.
Jumping couldn’t be easier, especially in moderate winds. The basic ‘drift the kite up and sheet-in when the kite’s overhead’ technique still works as well as ever, but perhaps the biggest improvement in performance from the increased forward drive is that the clean response gives you loads of confidence to start sending the kite harder and harder up through the window, even in stronger winds. When you do get it right and send a big one, the Lithium is just rock steady overhead and needs very little piloting. Park it a little bit beyond 12 and you can leave it there as you drift down before easing the kite forward again on landing.
This is a kite that you can start to learn looping technique with, especially in lighter winds because the low end power is good, so there’s still plenty of lift and time in the air and the kite drives round tightly but smoothly, allowing you to build confidence.
Advanced riders will want more pull as the kite travels round the bottom of the window, but the Lithium’s connected feel makes it ideal for starting to instinctively know when to add a downloop for landing, or for looping out of a transition for an injection of speed, without feeling too intimidated. The dependability and feel is just what most people need.
We found it difficult to accidentally put the kite in the wrong place in the window because the positive but not fatiguing bar pressure meant we could always feel where it was. Great fun hitting kickers, you’ll be inspired to try new rotations because the predictable feel instills confidence and the kite is easy to keep rooted overhead while you spin. For transitions there’s a lovely element of control at the bar and if you do get it wrong you can still muscle the kite round from anywhere in the window because the Lithium still never finds itself stuck at the edge of the window and that really does keep your riding smooth.
Airush kites always have a certain positive feel about them and we always respect the large range that’s packed into every kite. The bridles are however relatively long, so there can be more to tangle – but as we also always appreciate in Airush kites, the dynamic range from their bridle set-up is superb.
A slightly upgraded bar this year is very grippy and quite coarse but still doesn’t wear your hands, even after a long session. The bar diameter is thin in your hands for easy leverage and grip. There’s a spinner above the chicken-loop, but it’s quite small and takes a firm grip to twist. Airush brought out a new IQR chicken-loop safety last year, and it’s truly top of the tree in terms of safety and meeting the new ISO standards. The two centre lines are plastic coated while the safety line runs outside, free and clear.
We rode the cleat trim bar which has had a tweak with a new rope and Velcro attachment (there’s also a pull-pull webbing tab trim available, which usually has a slightly longer throw). Finally, Airush always give the options to customise your set-up for a bit different feel and the three metre top line extensions can be removed to reduce down from 24 to a 21m line set.
The Lithium is still one of the most accessible kites on the market, now mixing it’s always formidable low-end, with a better top end and improved fluidity. Extremely predictable performance adds confidence to your riding because the bar power and turning response relationship is so well balanced. Airush have stepped up the Lithium’s performance without removing the easy, smooth feel and if you buy this as your first kite you’ll have a hard time to outgrow it, whatever discipline you move towards.
Utter predictablity and fantastic mix of sheeting power alongside nimble turning, allowing you to nail all the basics and then shred harder and harder.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
The swivel that untwists the lines above the chicken-loop could be bigger and a bit smoother.
LITHIUM BALANCE POINTS
Build quality: 9
Full package: 8.5
Low end: 8
Top end: 8.5
Steering speed: 7
Turning circle: 5.5
Bar pressure: 6 Nicely firm
Water relaunch: 9
Unhooked: 5 – If you trim it well down you could use it Crossover: 5 – Twin-tip and some foiling
Ease of use: 9
SIZES: 17, 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m
Find out more: www.airush.com
AIRUSH SESSION 9M KITE REVIEW – HERE