Hardwater Kiting Peak 2 Early Impressions.
The new PEAK2 (PK2) is considerably different yet obviously very similar to the PEAK1 (PK1). The biggest changes year over the original PK1 are a new bar system, higher aspect ratio, lower projected area, and less bridles and expanded depower and a lighter wing. At Hardwaterkiter.com we've had a few opportunities over the last few weeks to get out on the PK2. All of have been light wind sessions and on a mix of soft and firm surface conditions with 3 riders. Molly @140, Paul @160 and Chris@ 200 lbs. All the testers are experienced foil flyers with a minimum of 12 years snowkiting experience.
First, the new bar: Initially I was skeptical of the new bar system and I loved the bar system on the on the PK1 because it was extremely simple, light and functional. From a pure touring kite point of view it was very good and fit nicely in the overall design philosophy of the PK1. Sure there were reports of "bar bite" or stiffness on the center line while steering and sheeting. but most would agree that much of it went away with usage. Many remarked that a stopper ball would be a nice addition as you generally ride the Peaks sheeted in. There was no trim system on the PK1 and really there didn't seem to be a need.
The new bar is a variation of Flysurfer's Infinity bar. It's much more like any other bar that you would find on most kites. It has a longer depower throw than the PK1 bar and now has a micro clam cleat trim system. It now has a simple stopper ball as well as floats. The bar width is also adjustable as are the leaders under the floats, to adjust and find tune the steering. As a result the overall weight of the bar is more than the PK1 bar and also bulkier which may put some purist touring/backcountry PK1 devotees (myself included) off but for overall fun factor and performance enhancement, it's really a great set up.
The new bar allows for fine tuning the throw and depower on the fly without stopping to do it by either our pigtail additions or the FR/Tour adjust that came on the PK1. The trim works great, a little stiff under load but not difficult. As with the PK1 the amount of depower untrimmed is as much as most people will ever need. However in an emergency or for taking a break the fully trimmed the PK2 in moderate to light winds is dead. No power, hardly any steering. This new kite has depower to spare.
The stopper ball is simple, works well under load and seems to have just the right amount of push through.
The new bar system really broadens the usable range of the PK2. Until we get some high wind days we won't know exactly how much but we think it will be considerable. As we stated in our PK1 review the Peak in our opinion covers the wind range of about 2 traditional depower foils. In experienced hands the PEAK2, based on what we've seen so far, will cover more. Maybe even, dare I say, 3 traditional depows. We need another test session in high winds to know for sure.
And here is where we say again, as in our last PEAK 1 long term review, to those who find this hard to believe we assure you nobody understands until they get the PEAK in their hands.
My initial feeling was this bar is as much an effort to appeal to a broader user spectrum as much as a performance enhancement but I was wrong. The new bar really adds a level of performance that allows the PEAK2 to blur the lines between "Touring" and "Rip around free ride kite". It retains all the properties that make it a great backcountry kite but now offers performance that makes anyone say "wow!". For advanced foil users the new bar will allow for real fine tuning the power/depower range of the kite on the fly and the ability to customize it to your style or need.
Upwind: The PK2 is .2 higher AR (aspect ratio) than the PK1. Although the .2 difference doesn't seem much the difference is striking in appearance to anyone used to the PK1. A few of our customers who purchased the PK2 4m this season remarked how it seemed as big as last year's PK1. We actually felt the same and decided to take a picture to show how close in size they appear. The PK2 4m is actually wider (wingtip to wingtip) than the Peak1 6m. But this is only AR, not projected area and not a true illustration of the size of the kite or power available in a given kite.
As expected the new AR allows the Peak2 to go up wind noticeably better but until we get the PK1 and PK2 out in a side by side comparison we won't know how much better. The time I spent on the 12m PK2 it seemed to go upwind extremely well but I couldn't figure out if it was the AR or the amount of power the kite could produce that I could then translate to forward motion. The surface I was on was perfect for setting an edge and in deeper snow I may have been pulled off edge a little thus reducing my upwind ability. But I suspect all these new Peaks will go upwind very well if what we've seen so far is any indication.
Turn Rate: The turn rate on the PEAK 1 was very good we thought. An experienced kiter can make them turn very fast. The PEAK 2, in spite of a higher AR (high AR kites are generally slower turning than low AR due to wider wing and turn radius) the new PEAK 2 turns fast. The 9m PK2 seems to have a turn rate similar or faster than the PK1 6m. The 12m PK2 easily turns as fast as the 9m IMO. And the 4m PK2, turns like a stunt kite. This new turn rate not only improves the kite's ability in climbing up hills or jumping but also increases the ability to get the kite to build power in low wind situations. To put the turn rate to the test I switched from the 12m PK2 to the 4m PK2 in winds that were 5-7kts and a firm surface. I was able to ride with the 4m by working the heck out of the kite. And we're talking riding where I'm actually leaning against the pull of the kite, not simply bolt upright scooting around.
It was a lot of work but the fact that I could go from the 12m PEAK2 to the 4m PEAK2 and ride the same conditions says a lot for what the kite can be made to do with its new turn rate.
Depower: As with the PEAK1 the depower on the PEAK2 is seemingly endless. When we were told that it would have more depower than the PK1 we couldn't even imagine what that would be like. We've not had a chance to really test the limits of the depower because we have had light winds every time we've been out on the PEAK2. But we have played with the depower and I actually had the opportunity to really test it on the 12m PK2 in conditions that we feel the PEAK2 offers some of the best benefit and that would be at the ridgeline in a hill climbing situation. When climbing you often run the risk of being overpowered when you get to a ridge due to compression of the wind at the ridgeline. This wind can be much stronger and often requires you to depower your kite to avoid being overpowered or even lofted in a gust. Depending on the ridge and your environment this can be a tense situation even for an experienced kiter. The PEAK2 really shines here. I was able to use the 12m to climb a 30degree incline in 7kts with hardly an effort. At the ridgeline the compression nearly doubled the wind speed and also added considerable gust factor. I trimmed the 12m out maybe 20% and felt completely comfortable on the ridge. Gusts would hit and I would feel it build and simply sheet out. Soon I was flying back and forth on the ridgeline without concern. Not something we get to do here normally. It was an amazing feeling of security to have a kite that can generate the power the 12 does and yet dump that power at will. The depower on all PEAKs is substantial and a huge part of what makes these kites so appealing to both beginner and advanced kiters.
The new bar has something to do with this. Which begs the question for PEAK1 riders, do they get a similar benefit from adding a trim system to their kites? I've discussed this with a PEAK1 rider in Germany who had put a traditional bar on his kites. He said it was great and I suspect that the PK1 would gain some benefit in performance from a trim system. The bottom line, any PEAK has a ton of depower and the PEAK2 has more than enough for anyone. Obviously not everyone has the opportunity to use their snowkites in the mountains or for climbing. But the same traits that make the PEAK such a great kite for those environments also make it an awesome kite for riding/touring lakes and fields long distance where conditions can change dramatically while you are out. The PEAK minimizes the need for multiple kites in those situations.
The depower flutter that was prevalent in the PK1 has been reduced considerably in the PK2. And the flutter feedback through the bar is considerably less when it is fluttering.
LIGHT WIND: The question everyone wants to know. Is the 12m a light wind kite? To be honest, the 9 and the 12m are both light wind capable kites. Chris Krug at #200 and another tester Paul Morse at #160 were out in 5kts on a firm snow (not glass ice) surface and both were fully powered. The 12m is a joy to fly and works exactly as you would expect any smaller sized PEAK to act. It claws upwind, even in light winds also maintains good grunt on the down wind. As one would expect the 12m performs in light wind like the PEAK1 9m but better.
In one of our earlier test sessions, Molly Savard was able to ride with the PEAK2 12m in winds about 6kts in soft wet snow. For comparison Chris had to fly the 18m Chrono to get his extra 60# moving in the same conditions.
Given that the light wind kite category has traditionally been the most expensive category and often the least used kite in one's quiver, we feel that the PEAK2 12m will make a great light wind kite for a lot of riders and actually still get a fair amount of use as a moderate wind kite due to its exceptional depower. Again making the PEAK a phenomenal kite for the money.
Reverse Launch: Just like the PK1 the PK2 relaunches like a dream. Seriously the easiest relaunching kite out there right now.
Jumping: The PK2 has a little lift added to it's design to enable it to be used for jumping. We have only been flying in light winds so far so we can't really comment on the jumping ability at this time. We will discuss that at a later date.
Set up and Pack down: The PEAK2 is similar in regards to set up and pack down. Faster than a traditional open cell foil and much faster than an LEI. Launch time, even without rushing, is still around a minute and a half. Pack down seems about the same as the PEAK1 as well although the PEAK2 compresses smaller with the reduction in stiffeners throughout the wing. There is still nothing on the market with the ease of set up and launch of the PEAK2. Ozone is closest with their new "re-ride" system which to some extent minimizes the need to lay out the kite and secure it but still not as fast as the PEAK.
As we said this is not an in depth review, just our early impressions. We obviously didn't go over the technical details, just first flight impressions. We will add observations as we ride the PEAK2's more and as we get feedback from our students and others. In the meantime if you're in New England and want to try the PEAK 2 please look us up.
Hardwater Kiting: You will struggle to find many reviewers with more depower foil experience anywhere. These reviews are non-brand biased and based on our first hand experiences and those of our customers. Granted these reviews are on product that we carry so there may be an assumed bias but I do my best to be impartial and to incorporate customer impressions as well.