DUOTONE NEO SLS 8M (2021)
EVO SLS 10M 2021
WORDS BY: Jim Gaunt
TESTED BY: Jim, Rob Claisse and Kyle Cabano
TESTER BIOS AND TEST PARAMETERS: Here
PUBLISHED: Print Summer Issue 2021
TEST TEAM NOTES: In the last few seasons the only criticism we've really been able to angle at Duotone's Neo is that it has been quite forgettable because of its total reliability. It has almost been too good. Overlooking the Neo's dominance on the men's GKA Kite World Tour since 2016 is, however, impossible and if you're heading out at a new spot, or into more difficult conditions, it's the sort of trustworthiness you want.
NO ORDINARY NEO While you can still buy a 'standard Neo' with the same Dacron material as previous models, we were testing the Strong, Light, Superior (SLS) model, made with Duotone's own Penta TX material that replaces the Dacron on the leading edge and struts. Adding more airframe stiffness and being lighter in weight obviously comes with a heavier price tag. While we found there's certainly a difference, the changes in performance on the SLS model aren't necessarily advantages that all riders will be able to appreciate just yet. Basically, if you're not flying your kite aggressively, looping it regularly every session and aiming to push your lighter wind performance boundaries, you could still look towards the more basic material model, in our opinion. The Neo SLS has improved its handling in the most technical of areas; responding so crisply to steering input and exiting a turn or a loop with such positive speed and smooth fluidity (particularly in light winds), with never a hiccup or hint of stall. It's almost eradicated moments where you're left waiting for the kite to catch up with you, or when it hesitates and then pulses with an awkward dose of energy when it kicks into gear again if you're being particularly aggressive. You may not feel like there's much power on tap in light winds, but the power generated through movement is very effective. The synergy between forward movement through the window and the initiation of a turn is seamless and a clue as to why the Neo's velocity on exit of a downloop is so slick. Penetration through the window is also as good as the kite's drift. When sending the Neo SLS overhead for a tack it continues to reach high into wind and at that delicate moment where you want to switch feet, there's just constant, controlled lift when you need it and then immediate response to your front hand bar pressure as soon as you pull.
The Neo SLS still offers the sort of accessibility that early intermediates can tune into, with smooth sheeting power and a good awareness of the kite's position, whether you've rigged it up on the softer (light pressure) or firmer (more like medium) bar pressure setting on the back lines. There's also complete depower available through the adjustable stopper on the throw if you want it. However, where the Neo SLS creates magic is in the darker arts of tight kite loop sorcery and slack line drift. These two qualities can seemingly combine anywhere in the window, meaning that the Neo SLS will appeal to the rider aspiring to improve the technicality in their surfboard and foil riding. Even in lighter winds with slacker lines the Neo SLS climbs so beautifully as you're pulled positively out of every foiling transition or when carving towards the kite. Super balanced, the SLS Neo handles like the stiffness has been carefully laid over the frame of the kite, resulting in immediate steering response that's surely also helped by the improved aerodynamics of the bridles, which are noticeably thinner this year and also combine with stiffer, low stretch flying lines. Your constant board speed in and out of manoeuvres is a stand out, especially so at the kite's bottom end in lighter winds. We've used the eight metre for foiling in 12 - 14 knot conditions and found plenty of power through clean movement and relaxed handling, knowing that the kite will climb back up through the window even with slack in the lines. The Neo still retains its unique ability in the wave market to deliver above average freeride jumping and airtime performance for riders also looking for a softer, less aggressive introduction to twin-tip jumping.
FIXTURES AND FITTINGS Duotone use their own unique pump valve which is robust and lets the kite inflate very efficiently, but does require a specific attachment for your pump hose, so it’s worth getting a nice new Duotone pump with your kite (though you’ll usually find someone with one to borrow if you’re at a busy kite spot - hopefully!). On all Duotone kites you’d find a second dump valve near the end of the leading edge to help expel air quickly when you roll the kite tip to tip, rather than having to roll the tips to the centre of the kite. On the rear bridle attachments there are just two settings to choose from for more or less pressure / bar feedback, so it’s a really easy set-up. The Click bar may be the most expensive bar on the market, but it’s a really classy cockpit experience with new, stronger, stiffer lines and we do always enjoy it. Not only is the click depower system easy to operate and makes for a super clean area in front of your eyes with no flapping trimming rope, the rectangular shaped plastic coating on the centre lines automatically untwists your lines when you sheet the bar in and the rubber grip on the bar itself is bang on for both comfort and grip. The push-away quick release is as easy as they come and the kites always flag out sweetly.
“Super balanced, the SLS Neo handles like the stiffness has been carefully laid over the frame of the kite, resulting in immediate steering response...”
SUMMARY: When foilers and wave riders start moving towards the kite's pull with dynamic speed and energy, the Neo SLS matches them, handling with crisp precision and mixing automatic drift with turning response and tight loops. That said, the Neo is still one of the more powerful wave kites, but steers remarkably well with more than half the depower trim applied through the highly spec'd Click bar. You should size your quiver to make the most of the Neo SLS's superb bottom and mid range though, which probably means dropping one size down. KW LIKED:
The tightness of the turn with grip and feel throughout, combined with the way the kite climbs positively up through the window after a downloop, is where the Neo SLS shines. KW WOULD CHANGE: Nothing really, but if you are quite an inexperienced kiter and looking for excellent reliability, strength and ease of use, the regular Neo model is all you need.
NEO SLS BALANCE POINTS: Build quality: 9.5 Full package: 9.5 Low end: 8.5 Top end: 7.5 Steering speed: 7 Turning circle: 3.5 Bar pressure: 3.5 - 5.5 Water relaunch: 8.5 Drift: 8.5 Boost: 5.5 Hang-time: 5 Unhooked: DT Crossover: 8.5 Ease of use: 9 SIZES: 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 & 5m
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