North Reach – 9 & 12M Kite Test
‘It feels incredibly constant, smooth and predictable whatever the conditions and in whatever you’re asking it to do’
TESTED BY: CHRIS BULL AND JIM GAUNT. FIND THEIR DETAILS AND TEST SCORE BREAKDOWNS HERE.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
The North Reach is becoming popular with buyers because it’s one of the lightest and least physical to fly three strut all-rounders on the market. If after a long session you’ve been known to complain about a bit of elbow ache, you’ll appreciate the fingertip response and lightweight feeling of the North Reach. On the beach we spoke to several riders who have recently switched to the Reach from something more bow style and they commented how easily they’ve been able to increase their sessions, from being quite physically tired after a couple of hours, to riding all afternoon, no problem.
TURNING AND POWER
Don’t mistake the Reach’s light feeling with a lack of power. The low end is excellent, but rather than being obviously felt through a more gruff sheeting delivery, the power comes on through efficiency of movement. Overhead you may not feel like the Reach has the same power on tap as the Nexus 2, but once you dip it through the window and direct the kite forward you’ll be surprised how easily you pick up speed.
The Reach has a beautifully even pace through the window. When you pull on the bar, the turning response is instant but smooth, and the speed of movement and power delivery never backs off. There’s no pulse or spike, so no matter what board you’re riding, it’s very easy to adapt to.
Very keen and constant forward flight means that although you never feel like the Reach is super powered, it smashes upwind. The range is huge. Even in strong winds the kite’s character doesn’t change; it never becomes too gnarly. The forward flight is very clean – the Reach likes to be travelling. On the first dip of the kite when you sheet in as you’re coming up onto your board, if you just sheet out a touch from fully sheeted in, the Reach clicks beautifully into gear with an incredibly smooth drive. Once you’re moving the steering remains light and the kite is incredibly agile with no sticking points, however much you have the bar sheeted in or out; you’re connected the whole time.
There’s no hesitation once you’ve given an input at the bar. Where that might sound too responsive for early intermediate riders, the gentle and unaggressive power delivery makes you feel very comfortable and builds confidence. Even if you make a steering mistake the Reach never yanks you through a turn, and is never too overbearing at the bar. You’re always able to have a good stance over the board and manage to increase or decrease the power very calmly. You are always the master of the kite rather than the other way round.
This all leads to a really smooth riding style because the Reach feels beautifully balanced. Riders who are more big air focused will appreciate the extra feedback, grunt and powerful whip through the window that the North Orbit delivers, but it’s a more fatiguing ride and becomes much more of an effort to deal with at its top end. Both the Reach and Orbit have good range, but you need good edging skills and leg strength to be able to handle the Orbit in stronger winds. While the Reach doesn’t have the same levels of boost height and hangtime performance of the Orbit, it’s generally more comfortable and is a better all-round machine. It’s easy to see why North’s marketing campaign is based around the Reach being your ‘desert island kite’, because it really is very capable in all departments.
HOW ALL ROUND?
Very! For twin-tip riding there’s more than enough easy jumping performance and hangtime and as the 12 metre has such a good top end and light steering, you don’t find yourself desperate to come in and change down as soon as the wind picks up. We’ve ridden the 12 easily in 25 knots and, what’s also noticeable is that as you start to reach the kite’s top end, the air frame holds firm and there’s no paddling at the bar when some kites might splutter with so much wind running over the tips.
Equally, in just 15 knots the 12 metre also kite loops very smoothly. Those conditions are not usually much fun for kite looping but, like the nine metre, the 12 steers quickly, never backs off or threatens to stall. Whether you’re coming out of a kite loop or a transition with a rotation, whenever you come in to land, the Reach is always where you expect it to be in the sky. Transitions are so much fun because you feel so at ease with the power levels. You can pull on the bar to downloop the kite while you’re spinning and know that the linear increase in drive is never going to pull you off balance or affect your movement; it will only help you exit your move cleanly. While it’s not meaty, the Reach also isn’t too pivotal. Once again, it’s all about the constant but untiring connection.
For unhooking the 12 metre is excellent and in 15 knots of wind requires no bar trimming. Rather than slowing up like a lot of kites would when you unhook in those conditions, the Reach drives forward. The bar pressure also remains relatively light – it’s a really capable kite for unhooking for what most people are ever going to do.
For foiling the light and balanced handling are ideal. Whether you’re turning the kite, sheeting in for more power or feathering the kite overhead, the connection and feedback is always very constant. Again, no peaks or troughs; no poor wifi signal. The green light is always on. You can also fly the 12 metre in 12 knots no problem and it will just behave, which for those of you who are starting to push the lower wind threshold on your current 12 metre kites, is a massive benefit for foiling.
Waves – yes, fantastic, primarily because it delivers more power than it feels like you have on tap, so you can work the kite around the window without getting yanked or feeling fatigued, always with your weight nicely over the board. Great depower in combination with clean forward flight and fingertip control.
We used the Reach with North’s V1 Navigator bar (a new model has literally just been released, with ergonomic changes, stronger lines, a new smaller size and more – read our interview with designer Hugh Pinfold here in this issue!). The Navigator is extremely clean and has all the features you’d expect, but where we felt that the system let itself down a bit is that the safety line bungy twists up above your bar system quite easily when you’ve done a few rotations. The line unspinner above your chicken-loop removes the twists no problem, but we do use the spinner a bit more on this than on some other bars that have a safety lines that tend to untwist themselves more automatically. It will be interesting to try the new V2 bar. It’s incredibly well featured, as you can see in this video!
Some kites have a bit more obvious low end power running through them, but also more bite if you pull loops a bit late or just get the timing of your steering wrong. The Reach makes kitesurfing easy for the masses. It’s a kite you can enjoy as a total beginner or with 25 years experience under your belt. Whatever genre of kiting you want to do; it will help not hinder. The Reach may not jump as high or loop as well as the Orbit, or unhook like a C kite, but it is an all round performer that lets you do what you want, without having to fiddle with settings.
The Reach delivers the same riding experience and feel, whether you’re out in 15 or 25 knots. The standout characteristics are that it’s light and manoeuvrable but not wayward. It feels incredibly constant, smooth and predictable whatever the conditions and in whatever you’re asking it to do.
Intuitive all-day-long kite control, offering connection and predictability.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
The elastic bungy of the safety line above the bar tends to twist up easily during rotations, but it can be straightened by turning the swivel above the chicken-loop easy enough. Some kites tend to need less untwisting with the swivel, that’s all.
NORTH REACH KITEWORLD TEST RATINGS:
Build quality: 8.5
Full package: 9
Low end: 8
Top end: 8.5
Steering speed: 7
Turning circle: 5
Bar pressure: 4.5
Water relaunch: 8.5
Ease of use: 9
SIZES: 17, 15, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 and 3m
Find out more: www.northkb.com
THIS TEST FIRST APPEARED IN KITEWORLD #106 ON OUR NEW FREE DIGITAL PLATFORM IN SEPTEMBER 2020. READ MORE ENTERTAINING CONTENT HERE.
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