A true all-terrain vehicle for the ocean –
Quick, refined, easy to tune into and delivering brilliant lift and hangtime for a supposed ‘wave’ branded kite
THIS TEST FIRST APPEARED IN KITEWORLD #104 IN MARCH 2020
CLICK HERE TO GET THIS NEW ISSUE AND OUR 2020 TRAVEL GUIDE FOR FREE!
TESTED BY: CHRIS BULL AND JIM GAUNT. FIND THEIR DETAILS AND TEST SCORE BREAKDOWNS HERE.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
The ‘S’ stands for surf and F-One are branding this as their dedicated strapless and surf kite. No doubt that’s true – and we have more on its surf capabilities on page 91 – but here we’re going to focus on the general freeride attributes the ‘S’ offers. After all, the Bandit has been one of the best freeride kites for the mass market in recent years and you’ve just read how the Twenty-Twenty model has stepped up a few gears for freestylers. So what’s left in the pot for everyone else on a twin-tip?
The Twenty-Twenty and the S look virtually identical in the air, however the S has more open, thinner tips and a thicker canopy profile (lower aspect-ratio). The Twenty-Twenty is locked in three positions on the front leading edge bridle, while on the S it’s only locked on two. Both feature two pulleys.
The major differences between the two models that give such different riding performances are the way the kites turn and how they depower.
Both kites depower extensively, but the S will depower more immediately and then stay in its position and not pull you forward. The Twenty-Twenty will depower but still drive forward in a more locked position. In very strong wind situations the Twenty-Twenty now delivers less power into your back through your harness and legs than the Bandit last year. Good riders will appreciate being able to keep their board speed up without having to manage the sheeting power and the kite’s position so much in difficult conditions. The depower on the S is a bit more immediate and the kite is capable of doing a really tight U-turn if you need it to and is also naturally more pivotal. We will come onto that more in the Bandit S surf review, but where the Bandit S has improved things for twin-tippers compared to last season’s model is in the way the kite allows you to ride your rail much more cleanly, whatever the wind is doing. The kite flies very cleanly and doesn’t rock back and forth in the gusts. Somehow it just manages them.
For freeriding, it’s hard not to like the S; the speed that it flies, the power it delivers and the fun, lively turn. A great ability in stronger winds, mixed with quick steering reaction and plenty of sheeting range mean that there is still plenty of jumping performance packed in. This kite was developed in co-operation with the F-One strapless team, who need totally smooth control when jumping, and that translates very well into a good jumping kite for the masses.
Keener to fly forward than last year this is also a really good fun and unintimidating kite to learn to kite loop on. When you’ve got a kite like this with more forward flight speed than a wider five strut jumping kite, it’s so rewarding to do lots of heelside slashes on waves. So smooth, tuned and manoeuvrable, the Bandit S really encourages you to push all aspects of how you ride your board, from playing on the waves, to going toeside and using both your rails and generally being a more energetic rider. You just can’t substitute the amount of time that F-One have put into making the Bandit the freeriding / jumping / wave combo performer that it has become. The S continues that vain.
The S rarely gets beaten back by the wind. The bottom end has continued to improve but at the top end there’s a lot of lift on tap. When you take it beyond its main range the Bandit S still flies forward very well. If you’re coming off a Bandit and you’re happy with it, then the S is the new version of your existing one. Most people will be better armed on the S in all aspects of riding.
If you’re into foiling, go for the S. The stability and the way it turns combines with drift to mean that you won’t slack the lines when moving downwind towards the kite in light wind, when gybing for example. What the Bandit never does is let you down when you need power; when you’re leaning back and sheeting in to try to keep your balance. It won’t choke up, but just gives you what you need, catches you and flies forward. It’s a very refined power to tap into.
The bar remains 99% the same as last year apart from colour changes and some minor tweaks to some of the smaller components. Those include the more rounded shape of the splice so it moves more freely and the V box on the line splitter has been locked in position better and the two holes are bigger for smoother running lines.
As usual, beautiful finish throughout without being too heavy as the Bandit is built for pure performance. F-One use just enough cloth for reinforcement believing more material and reinforcement can actually reduce the integrity of the overall structure. They pushed Teijin to develop a 130 gram (rather than 160) in-between Dacron that they use on the trailing edge, the back line reinforcements and on the side of the struts; believing that a small saving in weight actually makes a lot of difference to inertia performance. F-One also use a very effective push-pin valve that you find on SUPs. After using this for several seasons, we’ve found it a highly reliable system and very easy to push a pin in and out with cold fingers, rather than trying to untwist small caps.
The Bandit S delivers real joy-stick handling but the incredibly intuitive sheeting control mean that for freeriding this is a very forgiving kite that can also very much deliver for jumping. Also one of the best and cleanest learn-to-kite-loop kites out there that will still keep more experienced twin-tip riders happy at its top end because it feels so secure. The turn radius is so tuned that you can widen a loop as you wish, but essentially this kite continues the heritage of the Bandit line over the years; a really fun tool for all the ocean challenges you could imagine facing.
The Bandit S is a true all-terrain vehicle for the ocean. Quick, refined, easy to tune into and delivering brilliant lift and hangtime for a supposed ‘wave’ branded kite. Massive cross-over score for this one.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
The only thing you might want different is a more naturally powerful kite loop and stability overhead for big boosts. That’s what the Twenty-Twenty is for.
BANDIT S BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9
Full package: 9
Low end: 8
Top end: 8.5
Steering speed: 7.5
Turning circle: 5.5
Bar pressure: 5.5
Water relaunch: 9
Unhooked: Will unhook but very turny.
Ease of use: 9
SIZES: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4m
Only the Bandit Twenty-Twenty is available in sizes 11 metre and above, but in a bigger kite most riders want the same thing – power, efficiency and forward drive, so no need to split the range for such specialised stronger wind performance as there is in the smaller sizes.
In its smaller sizes, the Bandit S is an incredibly potent wave kite – read our review of the 6m here. And here is our review of the Bandit Twenty-Twenty 10m.
FIND OUT MORE: WWW.F-ONE.WORLD
CLICK HERE TO GET THIS NEW ISSUE AND OUR 2020 TRAVEL GUIDE FOR FREE!