Nirvana UL 2005 reviewed

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Before you start reading this review, I think you should know that I’m kind of biased. I will really try to stay objective throughout this review, but have really fallen in love with this kite and I have a feeling the review will be somewhat affected by my emotions. However, I hope you can live with that!

The Nirvana UL – or NUL from now on in this article – has been in my bag since winter 2004 and have seen lots of hours in the air. I’ve flown it in all kind of weather and wind conditions. In addition to solo recreational and competition flying, my NUL has also gone through the paces of team flying. In other words; I have logged quite a few hours in the air, and I think I can say I have learned to know the kite’s characteristics pretty good. Most of the time I’ve flown the NUL with approx 10 grams at the end of the spine, a weight I find best suited for my flying style.

But first, the….

Specs:

  • Wingspan: 235 cm
  • Height: 97 cm
  • Sail: Icarex with dacron and mylar reinforcements
  • Frame: A mix of Structil and Skyshark
  • Spine: Structil HiMod 6mm
  • Upper spreader: Structil HiMod 5mm
  • Lower spreaders: SkyShark 3PT
  • Leading Edge: SkyShark 3PT
  • Standoffs: 3mm CF rods
  • Wind Range: 3 – 15 km/h (~ 0,8 – 4,1m/sec)

Double Standoffs
Double Standoffs

Build quality:
The NUL is a very nice kite indeed. It’s built of well-proven materials like iccy31, a healthy mix of Structil and Skyshark and it’s reinforced with mylar and dacron at the appropriate places. The bridle is static three-point and the bridle measurements are evenly matched on both sides. The NUL also comes with the neat R-Sky yoyo stoppers installed and it uses the ultra-slick R-Sky sail side standoff connectors. These guys make line snags literally impossible. The whole package is delivered in a good looking black nylon sleeve with a distinct imprinted logo.

Taking a closer look at the kite reveals its quality workmanship. No loose threads, no stitches out of place. Connectors are APA and the centre tee is Skyshark. Assembly is straight forward, however, I have a feeling that my kite was equipped with improper LLE connectors. The inner diameter for the lower spreaders seemed too small, and it was a struggle to get the spreaders inserted into the connectors. However, this seems to be a one of a kind mishap, because all the other NULs I’ve seen have not suffered from this.

But to cut a long story short; Quality as usual from Roger and his crew at R-Sky!

The Ultra Light ... or Low Wind (LW)
The Ultra Light … or Low Wind (LW)

Initial impressions:
This kite takes off in a slight breeze and reveals itself as a very crisp, responsive and agile kite. I’d say its lower wind range is as stated by R-Sky, 3km/hr (or just a whisker below 1m/sec), and it delivers all the way down. What has surprised me a bit, is its upper range. R-Sky says 15km/h but I have flown it successfully in more, I’d say up to 20km/h. I suggest you switch to a standard Nirvana before your wind meter hits the 20kmh mark, but I’ve been there and it kind of works.

As mentioned, the NUL is very crisp on the lines and your input is immediately transferred to action by its rather stiff framing. You make your move and the kite reacts immediately. A feature that suits my flying style.

Even in light winds, there is a significant pull so you can really feel the kite at the end of the lines. This is a feature that is to my likings. It’s nice when you do tricks, but even better when you do precision and team stuff.

When it comes to tricking the NUL is second to none, most limitations lie on the pilot. It’s a very agile kite and switches from aggressive trick flying, via playful freestyle to sharp precision and back. This is definitely looking good!

Absolutely R-Sky
Absolutely R-Sky

Precision stuff
The NUL does all the different precision
stuff with ease. Flying straight trajectories does not take much tending – if any and it cuts crisp and snappy combination turns. Due to its rather stiff frame, it reacts immediately on the input and even though it’s an Ultralight kite, it can be flown pretty aggressively. Another feature I appreciate.

Speed control is well above average too. It does not speed up much when passing the centre of the wind window and by moving back and forth on the ground you’re in control of the speed all the time.

It’s perhaps not quite on par with a few super precision kites, but clocks in not far behind. That is pretty impressive for a kite as trickable as the NUL, and definitely a proof of polyvalence!

Tricking
The NUL can do them all; any limitation lies on the pilot. This sounds too good to be true, but so far I can’t think of a trick the NUL won’t do. OK, I admit that perhaps some tricks don’t look as good as on other kites, but the NUL will do them.

I broke the tricks down with a brief description of each. The rating system is 1-5, with 5 being the best. 1 = Kite can’t do the trick, 5 = easy to do and looks great doing it. A rating of 3 is average, meaning the kite can certainly do the trick, but maybe not in all wind conditions or maybe not as good as some of my other kites.

A good day at the office
A good day at the office

Axel: 🙂 🙂 🙂
The NUL does the trick without hesitation, but perhaps not as flat as the best axel machines.

Spin axel: 🙂 🙂 🙂
Spin axels are well within reach too, but lacks a little in the ”looks” department.

Half Axel: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Excellent! The half axel can be carried out aggressively and sharp or relaxed and playful.

Cascade: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Another Excellent! The Cascades are at their best given a little counter pop, and by varying the force of this pop, you can easily do FlipFlops and Fountains as well.

Coin Toss: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Nice – Sometimes – if popped too carelessly a tiny counter-pop will be required to complete a full rotation. Done correctly the NUL does great Coin tosses.

Reverse C.T.: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Same comments as above. Rotates nicely.

Cartwheel: 🙂 🙂 🙂
Decent ground recovery, but due to its rather straight leading edges and UL framing the Cartwheel requires a touch of finesse.

Headspring (nose popup to fade): 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
WOW!

Sleeping Beauty: 🙂 🙂 🙂
Timing is crucial. The NUL has a tendency to fall down in the dead position if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on and pull exactly when required to take off. When you get the timing right, the Sleeping Beauty is a … beauty.

Pancake: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Does a pretty quick pancake. Playing with different weights will have an impact on the pancake, but my fave weight – approx 9 grams – works well for me.

Fade: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Sits nicely in a stable fade. In favourable winds, you can stake the kite down and it will soar in the fade position. When the wind gets a bit bumpy, action from the pilot is required. Rising fades are a doodle in most conditions.

Turtle: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Quick to turtle; VERY quick from a horizontal pass, just pop and release. Without a tail weight, the nose sits semi-deep. Adding weight to the tail flattens the kite a little, but at nine grams it still sits deep enough to enter Lasy Susans or other Turtle based tricks.

Lazy Susan/multi lazy: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Lazy Susans are easy and can be done whoppingly fast or slow and gracefully. Same goes with Multilazies. Get the timing right and you can pull off loads of super fast Multies. Cool!

Tip stabbin'
Tip stabbin’

Snap Lazy/Inverse: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
The NUL loves to be popped into a Snap Lazy or an Inverse from a horizontal trajectory. Delicious!

Combo: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
When I finally found out what this trick was all about, a little bit of timing is all that’s required to get that NUL down in a good looking Combo.

Flapjack: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Timing is required. It takes half a second or so to settle in the nose deep turtle ready for rotation. When it falls into that position it’s very easy to pull off the rotation. Multiple rotations are easy as well.

Tip stab: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Excellent! Be careful so you do not break anything!

2 Point Landing: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Ground shattering!

540 (flat spins): 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Some people say Nirvanas doesn’t look good doing 540’ies. I do NOT agree! The NUL does ’em pretty flat, slow and gracefully or quick and snappy; your choice!

Slot machine: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
A treat! From any kind of straight trajectory; double pop line and the NUL does a great Slot Machine!

Snap stall: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
The NUL performs great Snap Stalls. It does require a controlled input, but then you get it right you can stop it on a dime anywhere in the window. Super stuff to punctuate a beat in a ballet, or just for showing off.

Yo-yo: 🙂 🙂 🙂
The best way to yoyo a NUL is IMO by using a double pop. Make sure you are allowing enough slack so you’re not choking the rotation. When you get the rotation right, you should hit the yoyo stoppers almost every time.

The kite flies very nicely rolled up, so the placing of the yoyo stoppers must be right. This also allows for a lot of rolled up tricks like Lewis, RolledUp MultiLazies, RolledUp 540, RolledUp Insanes, Fruit Rollups and other rolled up stuff.

Please note that the NUL doesn’t come with covered upper LE-connectors, so some times the flying lines are snagged. However, there are several ways to remedy this.

Flic-flacs: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
The FlicFlac needs some attention from the pilot. If the kite goes beyond horizontal in the package the pull to fade some times just pulls the kite towards you rather than rotating it. When pulling out of the fade, you should have the kite’s nose pointing a little up or down (not quite horizontal), or it might just be pulled towards you. But when you get this right, FlicFlacs are easy and stable.

Yellow, off course!
Yellow, off course!

Backspins: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Beyond words! Super easy! With 9 grams extra on its tail, the NUL even does quadruple BS from one pull while slowly descending. Helicopter Backspin???

Backspin Cascades: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Keyword: Large input! When you get this, this kite is a BS Cascade machine!

Rolling Cascades: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Nice and easy. Gets harder if you add more weight.

Jacob’s Ladders: 🙂 🙂 🙂
It takes a bit of time to get used to the kite’s slow lateral rotation, and if weighted down too much the turtle some times doesn’t want to sit deep enough to allow a comfortable JL. However, with practice a little work, nice JL’s are well within reach.

Insane: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Like the Rolling Cascade, the Insanes are nice and easy. If you add more weight they get more unreliable and often end up in a tip wrap.

Cometè: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Well, the NUL was the kite that took the mystery out of the Cometè. My success rate is still far from the Debray or Graziano level but rapidly improving and making me wear that silly grin on my face. (So the 5 points might be somewhat biased. 😉

Slides: 🙂 🙂 🙂
The NUL does impressively stable and floating side slides despite it’s deep sail. OK, it sometimes needs a bit of tending, but when you get it right (which is not too hard) you can slide some serious distance.

Straight-line tracking: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
The NUL definitely holds a nice and straight line, and not much (if any) tending is required. It does not accelerate much when flying across the centre of the window, and speed control is good.

Conclusion:
I guess that by now you have figured out that I’m pretty fond of the NUL. And, yes, you’re right! The NUL is currently my absolute favourite kite and is the first kite out of the bag when the wind is dropping.

This sounds too good to be true. Are there no downsides?

Well, the NUL comes without covered upper LE-connectors. When you cash out that kind of money you might expect such a feature. Sure, it’s no problem to remedy this, but at +300 Euro….? Well, let’s say it’s a potential for improvement.

There’s also an issue about the bridle. The long lines from the centre tee, some times wraps around the tail. This tail wrap is almost impossible to shake loose in the air and can be very difficult to get out of even when the kite’s on the ground. A tending line will remedy this. Perhaps another potential for improvement?

The price might also be an issue if you are on a budget. +300 Euro might come a bit stiff.

But apart from these issues, I can’t really find any other downside. The Nirvana UL is a helluva kite and if you’re considering yourself an average (+) kiter looking for a light wind polyvalent kite that changes between aggressive trick flying, via playful freestyle to sharp precision and back, your search might be over.

Thumbs – all ten of them – up!

Sven walking with his Eclipse
Sven A

This article was originally written by Sven Arnesen and published on AERIALIS-DOT-COM on June 16th 2005.

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