Big Air Kite Test - Harlem Force / North Orbit Pro / Duotone Evo D/Lab / Cabrinha Nitro v2

Big Air Kite Test - Harlem Force / North Orbit Pro / Duotone Evo D/Lab / Cabrinha Nitro v2

Today's big air kite review from Jason focuses on the Harlem Force, comparing it to the North Orbit Pro, Duotone Evo D/LAB, and Cabrinha Nitro v2. As always, he'll highlight his favorite aspects of each while being as fair as possible.

Harlem Force

I had the benefit of testing the Harlem Force over five sessions, but unfortunately four of them were under 30 knots due to the summer conditions here in Auckland not being very favorable for big air. In the end, some of us did a little road trip south for 8 hours to find the 30 to 35 knots I needed to really do a proper big air test, and I'm really glad I did because that was when this kite came alive for me.

Design and Construction

So, is the fabric in the manufacturing technology as advertised, and does it make a very noticeable difference to the feel and performance of the kite? The short answer is, "yes, significantly," but as with a number of our recent kite tests, what kind of rider really benefits from this is, of course, a big question and, perhaps more importantly, does the kite design benefit as much as it could from the technology?

So far, the best overall example I've flown where design maximizes new materials from the last few years is the Evo D/LAB. The Duotone team spent a year developing that kite specifically for Aluula, and it probably didn't hurt development to have some of the best riders of all time helping the design team with testing and feedback.

I can say there is a similar feel with the Harlem in terms of the weight and the speed of the kite. Depending on your level, once you get used to that lighter feel and kite speed with either of these kites, it's very hard to go back to standard kites and they start to feel like a lot more work than they need to be. I can imagine it's like what people thought of power steering when it was first starting to become more common in cars. It was strange at first but quickly became familiar, and then after a while it was only enthusiasts that didn't want to have it in their vehicle.


How does this Harlem kite compare overall to the Evo, and what other kites are the most similar, in my estimation? I think the very closest comparison I could give in terms of overall performance to the Harlem would be the Orbit Pro. They both move at a similar pace in a very similar way, and are closely comparable in everything from low end to boosting to looping and hangtime.

Speed and Timing

The most significant difference between the two is that the Harlem feels and rides noticeably lighter both on the bar and in the overall feel while flying it around, which also translates to it moving a little bit faster, be it through the window, around a loop, or shooting up to 12 as you send it.

In my Orbit Pro review, I found this speed very challenging to get the hang of at first, but the performance reward you get from it is wonderful once you have. Just like the Orbit Pro, the Harlem Force is not as forgiving as similar-style kites like the standard Orbit or Nitro v2, and it can certainly punish you if you're caught slipping with your timing, particularly in more challenging, gusty conditions.

I was doing a bit of over-sending on my boosts and loops at times and, of course, struggled to get the kite very low on even the bigger, more powered kiteloops with my 22m lines. On a couple occasions, I even screwed up my descending Heli Loops on sent jumps in the gustiest session and found myself falling out of the sky a little bit, something I can't recall doing in a long time on any of the recent kites I've used.

Jumping and Height

In the lighter sessions, the Force felt like it had less power than the Orbit Pro in the low end, but only by a very small amount, and you could easily make the argument that it only felt that way because it's noticeably lighter in the overall weight of the kite and the bar pressure. When jumping in the lighter to moderate conditions, I only was finding about a 1m difference on the Woo jumps up to around 15m, which can easily be attributed to wind or technique variation from jump to jump. However, a couple of us had similar results in that we could, on average, get a little bit more height from the Orbit Pro.

Another explanation for this slight disparity could be that we found the sweet spot on the Orbit Pro a little bit easier to hit when sending the kite up, likely because it's moving a touch slower as well. I made a similar comment on my Nitro v2 vs. the Orbit Pro review that with all of these super fast kites these days, sometimes a little slower movement when sending actually makes it a bit easier for moderate level riders to hit that sweet spot. I would wager that a top-tier rider is likely to go a little bit higher on the Harlem because their timing is going to be a lot better and more consistent, but I don't think it would be that far off the Orbit's or Nitro's, perhaps less than 5 percent.

By the time I got to my session that was over 30 knots, I was a lot more in tune with the kite, but I still struggled at times with timing the launches optimally, especially with the addition of hitting kickers. I did manage to crack 20m on my Woo with one jump that I got just right, but I do feel like I would have fared a little bit better boosting, on average, if I was on the Orbit Pro or Nitro v2.

The Evo D/LAB would be a whole other tier above these kites in terms of power, lift and overall boosting potential. I would wager that in the same conditions of 30 - 35 knots I would jump about the same, if not even a little bit higher, going down to my 8m Evo D/LAB, which is no surprise. It costs 25 - 30 percent more and has a more top-heavy kind of bow shape, closer to an XR or Edge, which comes at a cost in the looping department, of course.

Although I'm not sure exactly how it looked on screen when seeing it in real time, from the beach where I was during last year's King of the Air, you could see the difference the Evo D/LAB was making in terms of height for the Duotone team in almost every heat where they faced other riders, and particularly in the finals where Andrea was consistently outjumping Lorenzo even though he often wasn't hitting the best-forming kickers. Lorenzo seems to have been doing a much better job of getting more optimum launches going to the left, but he couldn't just keep up with the height and lift the Evo was giving Andrea. I'm really curious to see what kind of height disparity there will be off flat water at the upcoming GKA events.

Loops and Catching

Where this kite really shines is in looping. The Harlem would appear to be the tightest, fastest loop I've tested, though it is very close to the Orbit Pro. The Ocean Rodeo Rise is probably right up there as well, but I did test that one almost 2 years ago, so its super speed around the loop was likely quite relative to the kites I was trying at the time.

The Harlem's super fast looping and catching speed takes some getting used to because you can over-send the kite a little or time it a bit incorrectly, but it does open the door to training loops without jumping as high as you need to with most other kites, and with a lot less pull because of the high angle of the kite's rotation.

The benefit of these faster, tighter-looping kites is that when you are progressing in loops or loop variations, you don't need to commit as much risk by not having to jump as high to loop, and when pulling hard you'll have a softer, higher-angled loop ready to catch you super quickly.

In comparison, even with my D/LAB, which is as fast-moving, the shape tends to create a little more pull, and with poor timing can bobble and pause for a fraction of a second before coming up for the catch after a loop, even on the 8m. Luckily, this kite moves so fast that it's very hard to get in trouble with this like I used to at times on my old Core XR7 when it would do a similar pause, but for much longer after the loop and before the ascent.

On the Harlem Force, I can do a front roll with a nice, late high-angled loop. It's a very safe tight-turning kite and it catches me very easily when I'm only about 5m in the air. There's hardly any pull, so if I stall or over-rotate, all I need to do is sheet out and the kite will likely easily complete the loop and shoot up above my head and be on its way up above me to catch me and reduce the power of the crash.

Another wonderful aspect of the overall weight reduction, bar pressure and speed of the kite is that pulling loops with one hand is far less intimidating because you're not feeling as much power in the bar. You can have a lot of confidence the kite is coming around to catch you.

On the pro level, I don't think anyone is going to argue with this kite; Lorenzo seems to be consistently pulling some of the sickest-looking double and S-Loop variations with an often ultra-low, fast-moving kite. At that KotA final, although his height was lacking, his kite angle on the Double Loop variations was vastly more impressive to me, likely in part due to this kite's maneuverability through the loops with an almost guaranteed catch.

Andrea seemed to have a habit of depowering the kite fractionally after his first loops on the doubles before the second loop, potentially to let it breathe a little and to keep the kite high enough that it won't bobble or stall slightly, especially when he's traveling a bit further downwind with more slack in the lines. To me, this is likely why we see so many high-angle doubles and S-Loops from him, and often the freefall from them as well. The slight pause in the double will keep the kite higher and extend the height of his jumps, but at the cost of the impressive kite angle. The Evo's shape and this style would contribute to the slack and freefall he's often seen with. I think both styles are super impressive, but I would probably make the argument that if the kites were reversed, we'd likely have seen a different winner at the end of the day.

Stability and Hangtime

With all the looping prowess the Force has, like the Orbit Pro, the downside would be that the kite does suffer somewhat in stability and hangtime. Both kites can be challenging in gusty conditions, but I probably preferred the Harlem because it is lighter so you don't feel the gust as dramatically, and it is slightly quicker to maneuver out of trouble.

With hangtime, I struggle to say which was better. They both allow you to do tight Heli Loops on a dime above the head. That is great fun while floating down from jumps and just zipping it around a few times as you descend. I had trouble doing board-offs with these kites because of the lack of hangtime, and also because my skills lack in that area as I've only just gotten into them in recent months, and mostly on my Evo D/LABS, which have the best hangtime on the market as far as I'm aware. I also found board-offs easier on the Nitro v2 because it was a bit more stable and less likely to allow me to make the mistake of sending the kite out of the window too quickly and thus run out of time to get the board back on my feet.


So where does this leave me in terms of which kites I prefer, and in what area? These questions seem to get harder and harder because, frankly, I've enjoyed all the kites I have tested the last few reviews, and the standard for kites these days just seems to keep getting better and better.

Although I absolutely love the Harlem Force, it's probably not my favorite in any one specific area with my riding style. However, I think I do prefer it overall to the Orbit Pro because it is a little lighter weight and it feels so easy to throw around, even when it gets crazy windy.

For the 9m size in kiteloops and loop-related trick progression, I would probably give the slight edge to the Nitro v2 because it was a bit more forgiving and stable, but that could also be due to testing the Cabrinha in fairly ideal conditions. My opinion could well vary from session to session.

If I was into doing Double Loops or riding these kites in the larger sizes, then I'd have to say I'd choose the Harlem Force over the Orbit or Nitro because it gets around slightly faster, it's lighter, and it would just be a lot easier looping it in the larger sizes, I'd imagine. But the Nitro is fast enough for me, and its added stability gives me just a little bit more confidence.

For boosting, power, and hangtime, none of them are quite on par with the Evo D/LAB, but they are all close enough to each other that I would wager most riders would tend to jump to similar heights on each of them in similar conditions, with the edge for ease-of-use going to the Orbit Pro and the Nitro v2, the easiest of them all.

What is quite wild about the Harlem Force kite, though, is that you have to remember it's only the first edition, and it's already on par with, if not better than, the best loopers in the game that already have years of design experience behind them with this style. For that reason alone, if you're a fan of the loop game, you should definitely try one of these kites if you get the chance.

I'd have to imagine they are also working on something closer in style and overall performance to the Evo, given that the kite's designer is also behind the technology that helped make this Force so special. Listening to the Kitesurf 365 podcast with brainchild and founder Ralf Groesel does give me a lot of hope for a more cost-effective, more durable alternative to Aluula in the near future, so perhaps we'll be seeing that from the Harlem kites first.

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30th Apr 2024 Jason Montreal

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