Yesterday was one of the periodic Phuket days with real wind - a consistent 15+kts for hours and hours. Everyone rode their 12m kites and 137cm boards, including me. Great day.
Today however, was one of those Phuket days for which I bought the 16R. Must have been between 8 and 12 kts all day. I rode the s#*t out of this kite for 2 hours, which is about as long as I can stand to ride. I don't know how people ride for 4 or 5 hours, but I suppose you build up your endurance over time.
I really like the kite and am pleased as punch for having purchased it. Pluses are that it has plenty of power. There were many times today during which me and the Speed 3 were the only ones riding, while the other 10 or so kites were in a holding pattern with riders in the water. At no time did I lack enough power to plane and ride upwind.
I don't know enough about kites, nor have I ridden enough of them to say much of value, but I'll make some more comments.
The 16R seems to turn well enough. My only reference is my Bandit IV 12m, the only other kite I've ridden. Given the size and design difference (high performance vs race), I would say the Nitro turns fairly well. Obviously it doesn't turn as fast as the Bandit, but it turned well enough - maybe about 25 to 30% slower than the Bandit.
Bar pressure is about 20 to 30% higher than the Bandit, I think, and it will take some getting used to. I did experience times when the kite let me know where it was in the sky while I was looking elsewhere, which is to say that it was careening toward the water without me realizing I had directed it to do so. I was able to recover the flight pattern, not crashing the kite. In this respect, the bar pressure served its purpose. Still though, I want lighter bar pressure. The Bandit adequately lets me know where it is in the sky, but with lower bar pressure. I may change my tune like those who have gotten used to it and thereafter prefer the Nitro bar pressure. But I'm not there yet after one ride. One thing I found that I need to confirm with another ride. It seems to me that the bar pressure is lighter if the power adjustor is set such that one can ride with the bar sheeted in at about 50%. I think I was finding that bar pressure was higher past the sheeting out half-way point, but I'm not sure about that.
The bar has a velcro strip to attach the depower adjuster when it's pulled to length. The teeth on the small piece of velcro are not substantial enough to reliably hold the depower adjustor dongle. This design feature is really nice, and I want it to work right. I really liked having the dongle secured rather than swinging around and winding itself around the center lines. Although the feature worked sometimes, it often failed and the dongle soft velcro would fall off the counterpart. I've looked over the teeth side, and there are definitely more substantial velcro teeth out there. I'm going to either need to do some kind of modification with velcro of my own, or something.
More on the power of the Nitro. I understand that power isn't the only goal in kite design. The Bandit for instance, is actually quite a low power kite. My 12m is like a 10m in another model. You really need high winds for that kite to allow you to plane - like at least 12kts, its minimum published wind range. Other 12m kites provide significantly more power. According to my understanding, the reason for these performance characteristics is to give the Bandit other strengths. In my experience, the Bandit has a lot of grunt. Even with its 3 strut design, it's a heavy kite, and it charges through the wind when directed and has very nice momentum, speed, turning, etc. As I become more skilled, I imagine I will one day greatly appreciate the capabilities of the Bandit.
The Nitro 16R on the other hand, seems to me to be a more balanced design. As is written in product literature, Switch kites are designed for efficiency, meaning I believe that they are quite powerful for their size. This power aspect of the kite's design was the reason I bought the Nitro (along with the outstanding price). I need a kite that can give me the power I need to give me a day of kiting on a typical Phuket day of 8kts, the minimum published wind range of the 16R. I can't imagine the 16R does not offer the highest relative value in a big kite. How can another big kite possibly perform better such that the performance difference outweighs the additional cost to the extent that it would offer higher relative value than the 16R? Fat chance.
Fact is, I simply couldn't have afforded a big kite from another brand this year, no matter how much better another big kite may be. Switch has given me what will probably turn out to be 20 to 50 days of kiting this year that I would have otherwise not had. THANK YOU Switch Kites!
For those who are seeking a light-wind setup, take note. With the help of Switch kites, according to what I've seen, I believe I have come up with a combo with the highest relative value. The 16R and the 2012 Aboards Glider 164 combo, which I have dubbed 'The Insurance Policy', is a day saver that I dare anyone to beat in terms of price/performance.
The 16R offers very nice power and performance for a game-changing price, and I do believe it to be the highest relative value big-kite out there. The Glider is the most ridiculously awesome light-wind board I can imagine, and not because of the size. I'm absolutely nuts about this board after riding it for the first time today. I had such a good ride on this board, and I just can't get over it. Although this board is the size of an airplane wing, the real reason why it's so spectacular is because of the science in the design. The thing they say on the product page is no bulls%*t. The board really does ride on the water in a way such that much of the board remains in contact with the water rather than rising up out of it. The result is that you feel like you're standing on solid ground compared to other boards. It's just such a good feeling to have such a substantial base rather than having that feeling that you could sink at any moment if you don't keep up that speed.
2nd design cue that makes it such a killer light-wind board, is the thing about 'pointing the rider upwind'. It's true. The board is somewhat convex, and you can direct the board to point upwind or neutral, in an almost rocking like manipulation that's very easy to implement. Rather than having to apply all of your skills to adroitly ride upwind, this board somewhat causes you to ride upwind by default. I often found myself so far away from the beach today that I was thinking 'ok, enough already. i'm out here far enough to lose some upwind progress to some lame attempts at jumping'. Just a little bit of shifting in weight and leg extension and the board sort of rocks into an upwind-pointing position with such ease. My Crazyfly Raptor Pro requires quite a bit of foot and leg muscling along with flying skills to ride upwind compared to the Glider. With the Crazyfly, you really have to focus on riding upwind unless the wind is really good. But the Glider requires a vastly lower amount of attention to point upwind and actually go there.
3rd design cue that performs as advertised is the 3d stepped pattern. The board does feel like a smaller board, and I can see that tricks should be possible. I guess this is a design element on many boards out there. Sure is neat.
So, anyway, I cannot more strongly recommend the 16R and Glider for a light-wind setup. It must be the best $/kts combo out there, if that is in fact a valid quantification.
One more short note about the 16R flying characteristics - it flies toward the edge of the wind window rather than hanging further back in the power zone as I have read some kites are designed to do.
I would guess that this design aspect is helpful in riding upwind. If the kite were to sit back further in the window, I can imagine that there would be more pull down-wind and more effort would be required to edge hard enough to make upwind progress. With the 16R, riding upwind just happens as a matter of course.
When winds are 8 and 9kts, and you're just hoping for a day of kiting, it's really nice to be able to ride upwind rather than walk until you're so tired that you just decide it isn't a kiting day after all.
I would guess that flying near the edge of the window is also good for racing, as that would seem to help with riding fast, but I really wouldn't know.
I don't know why some kites are designed to sit further back in the window. I guess there's a good reason for it, but I'm sure glad the 16R is such a good upwind flyer by way of sitting closer to the edge of the window.
Thanks for reading this poorly organized combination 16R report, bar report, and light-wind setup pimping job.