We review the best Solo yet!
THIS TEST FIRST APPEARED IN ISSUE #91 IN JANUARY, 2018
TEST TEAM NOTES:
If you’ve never really considered the point of owning a single strut kite, there are a few reasons why you should. Some are of course different to others as they are designed to perform primarily in light winds, so when dealing with the extremes there are certain character traits and handling techniques to be aware of between the different brands. However, the Liquid Force Solo is still the easiest to use even for the most basic level of rider.
We’ve extensively ridden all three versions of the Solo and it’s allowed us to create sessions when we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to ride on both a twin-tip and surfboard, but more recently, during our hydrofoil riding progression, too.
The Solo generates pretty good power at its low end, and has a good mix between sheet-and-go drive and the ability to move it swiftly to generate power. However, the best feature must be the fact that it’s so stable both forwards and backwards in light winds. The art of designing a kite that works well in light winds often results in a kite that may have fantastic air speed and performance, but can have a tendency to be so forward flying that if you crash and come off your board, the kite will continue to fly forward for a little way; just far enough to reach the edge of the window, your lines will then go slack and the kite will start to fall out of the sky. The Solo never does that; it never front or back stalls and is happy to just sit there all day. The nice position that the Solo adopts in the sky generates good, stable pull and never feels uneasy as a result.
On a twin-tip it’s very easy and provides a steady, smooth power delivery. All but the biggest riders will be able to happily get riding constantly in 12 knots on a twin-tip with a 12 metre Solo.
Bully has also found that the nine metre has often saved his wave sessions, too. The turning is quick enough to go down-the line and there’s the comfort and confidence you get from knowing that the kite won’t fall out of the sky as you ride the wave and create line slack. Should it go down, the Solo is one of the better single strut kites at relaunching too – it’s why there are plenty of schools that use this kite for lessons. If you’re worried about wear and tear of a lesser reinforced kite that’s designed to be light – don’t be too concerned. The winds that you use these kites in are light and generally cause far less flutter wear and tear, which is where most of a kite’s degradation come from. So the Solo will last you well.
What has improved with each generation of Solo is the steering. The canopy has become cleaner and there’s been less flapping through the turn. The V3 is now the best of the Solos for foiling with. As you progress with your foiling, you’ll start wanting to downturn the kite as you turn the board around and often the V2 just took a little too long with that. This is where the biggest difference is between the handful of single strut kites on the market. The better you are at foiling, the quicker you’ll want this turn to be, but the offset of that, as we’ve mentioned, is their stability in the sky, so you need to be a better rider. Also, the faster through the air the kites become, the less easy and fun they’ll be for general light wind twin-tip tricking, which the Solo is great for.
As we’ve said, the Solo is a really good kite for allowing you to make mistakes and generally get away without the kite falling out of the sky, and that is an excellent asset when you’re learning to foil. When you fall off a foil board, quite often you’ll push the board away and in light wind can fall further underneath the kite. The Solo simply drops back a little and regains tension in the lines. It’s ideal.
What we have found is that given the huge areas of canopy that aren’t supported by a second and third side strut, the kite will suddenly hit its top end limit and start to flap. The nine metre sizes and bigger have awesome low wind performance, so you have a lot of range, but really, once the wind is hitting 20 knots, you’re going to be better on something of this size with more canopy support as often the wind buffets as the gusts are stronger. An unsupported canopy will always struggle a bit more with that. So when it does suddenly hit its limit, you’ll know about it through some vibrations at the bar.
If you are riding the Solo within its range then you can get some pretty good jumps, too. It’s ideal for basic transitions as there’s some lovely float and then as the kite is responsive and pivotal, you can get used to downlooping out of turns or jumps because everything feels so much less intimidating in lighter winds. There really is a lot of good progression available in the Solo in the 12 – 20 knot range, which is common almost wherever you are in the world.
Fixtures and fittings: The Solo V3 has LF’s shiny triple ripstop canopy material and their excellent Maxflow inflate / deflate one pump system. The Mission V2 control bar now, thankfully, comes in two sizes, including a more compact 40 to 46cm size which is much better paired with the smaller kites. It’s all very functional with single-line safety, below-the-bar swivel, smooth coating on the centre line and evenly soft rubber grip on the bar itself.
Mild mannered, good relaunch and chocolatey smooth power. Subtle and comfortable and yet also offers solid performance for twin-tip cruising as well as trick progression when others will be sat on the beach.
A super all-round light wind playa. Twin-tip fun, saving a surf session or progressing with foiling: it’s all easy on the Solo.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
Riders with more hydrofoil riding experience will want something with more drive through the turns.
SOLO V3 BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 7.5
Full package: 8
Low end: 9
Top end: 6
Steering speed: 6
Turning circle: 3
Bar pressure: 5
Water relaunch: 7.5
Ease of use: 9
SIZES: 17.5, 15.5, 12, 9, 7, 5 and 3.5m