Ive been testing the s-bow 5m today in Tarifa with very rough conditions. We had levante with 30-40 knots and it was gust galore! Eric from IKO and designer of the kite was there and so I had to try it as I like to compare all gear I can get my hands on.
For the ones who dont know me, I fly pretty much everything (sonics, crossbows, waroos, rhinos, type6, pulse, speed and others) and teach here in Tarifa as well as in Ibiza/Formentera. Even though I do sell kites too, I do believe that im not your average joe pimping or bashing gear, when it comes to my reviews.
Now the session was about 40 minutes and I was pretty much alone out there except for windsurfers with tiny sails (around 3.8 m or so). Thats always a sign for gusty levante at punta paloma (Tarifa). The s-bow was very stable and although I went by the book of typical bowkite rider errors, in order to provoke an inversion or weird miss-shaping of the fronttube, that thing was always stable. The usual mistake where you suddenly depower the kite (letting go of the bar or pushing it far out) right when you are fully powered up and then riding downwind to give the lines slack, well this just didnt affect it as the waroos, crossbows,slingshot td (they invert in this situation). It didnt even deform the leading edge (like my sonics do). Instead it just hangs in the air and drifts backwards without letting the nose of the fronttube dive. The reason for this (as I saw later on the ground and when someone else was riding the kite) is the shape of the fronttube (the nose is bent upwards) and that the canopy on the trailing edge seems to be bent a little upwards, acting as a "spoiler". In fact when the kite is on the ground, it doesnt lie flat with the nose of the fronttube touching the ground, its just above.
So then I tried various things that usually provoke inversions on my other bows and it wasnt budging. That kite is rock solid and I was watching it all afternoon (while i was teaching just close by) to see if it would collapse or deform the leading edge while others were testing it.
Now I have yet to let the kite fly through the whole wind window fully depowered (let go of the bar) to see if this will make it invert but I didnt have the balls with the winds we had, maybe tomorrow. This trick does miracles to any bow - my sonic goes all whop-whop-whop while it "squares out" and regains shape again several times in a row until it stabilizes at the end of the window. Not nice and scary, but it doesnt invert. The Waroo doesnt like this either - it inverts on this and collapses into the water. We will see what the S-bow does.
Now the bar and the feeling of the kite: Well its a pulley bar and the pulleys do what pulleys do. You need double the strength to pull on that bar but it only has to travel half the distance. Well in my opinion the bar pressure is far too high. I would compare it to pretty much any other pulley bow ive ridden like for example the crossbow (no mod). It makes the turning of the kite difficult and slow. Especially for a teaching environment where you dont always have students fresh from the gym, that is just too much to ask for. There is no comparison with the Waroo and much less, the Sonic. Also the pulleys used were already stuck due to the fine sand here. Eric did however mention that these are not final and will be changed in the next revision.
I believe by putting the kite onto a Sonic or Waroo style bar, this kite would profit a lot and become even faster on turning. I talked to Eric and he said that it can be done but thats up to the rider. He prefers this bar because it makes the kite less nervous and prone to error inputs from for example students.
Talking of turning: I didnt pull any kiteloops in these conditions (sorry but I wanna live a few more years) so I cant comment on its turning radius. It is however a slower turner than the waroo, by a lot (comparing the 5m Waroo to the 5m S-bow). I guess thats a trade off to the rock solid stability.
The kite itself looks bomb proof and has been re-enforced pretty much everywhere as shown to me by Eric. I agree with him that if you are looking for a kite that will hold at least 2 seasons (im talking of high wind areas) then you should be looking at the S-bow.
The chickenloop is similar to the Naish loops - gotta pull away to release and bye bye kite. There is a leash attachment on one of the frontlines and so heres the big moment: Does the kite flag out completely on a frontline or does it go into death spirals?
It flags out like any regular C-kite. I myself didnt pull the release but I watched another rider on it do it and the kite flags out - no bridle stopping it or keeping its shape.
What else is there to say? Well I liked it, overall very impressed with the stability and I see this as a very interesting kite for teaching and riding myself BUT not with a pulley bar. I want to ride it with a Waroo/Sonic bar tomorrow, maybe Eric will let me try that out. He said that he has tried it and that the kite is a lot easier on the bar but of course you need to move it more to get the same depower as on a pulley bar.
Ok lets see if I can give some more infos tomorrow.
ps: ive looked for 5 minutes on the new review page and either im too dumb to find WHERE i can enter a new review or its just not visible enough *hint*hint*toby*