The 2011 Lithium Interview
Airush International sat down with the Designers of the Airush Lithium, Mark Pattison and Benoit Menetrier, for a break down of what the kite is all about, new features, how it compares to last years and how it compares to other models in the Airush 2011 range. This best seller for 2010 is back with some new surprises and familiar feels.
What kind of rider would the Lithium be ideal for?
MP: The Lithium was designed to be the best “all round” kite on the market, to meet the majority of the markets riding styles and feeling preferences.
So it’s a Delta Hybrid, right?
BM: Yes. The term ‘Delta’ was introduced to the market few years ago and is linked to the 2D planform that almost looks like a triangle shape, combined with a more “C-shaped” canopy curve (rather than a traditional BOW). This shape gives more “C-shape” steering from the vertical wingtip component, increased wind range / depower, and great stability. Considering the hybrid component, the early Delta designs had weakness in the flying characteristics that we addressed in our original Lithium design by combining them with key SLE components. This has evolved further for the 2011 Lithium.
As a serious wave enthusiast, do you see the Lithium as a good “wave kite” and what would define a wave kite?
MP: The Lithium is a great wave kite for the majority of wave riders, as it delivers a smooth amount of power through its pivotal / tight turns, while still having a lot of depower. Quick and easy relaunch and bomb-proof construction result in a great choice for a wave kite. Realistically, there are still riders that prefer more of a dedicated C-Kite, with a bit more speed through the window and a little better unhooked performance.
It is difficult to define a wave kite. For the majority of riders, something like the Lithium is a great all-round kite, sitting further back in the window with more pivotal turning characteristics.
Where are the Lithium’s key strengths in Freeride?
BM: The key features for a freeride kite are: simplicity, wind range, safety, depower, and gust response. We tried to put every single feature in one kite so that the very first ride on it will be comfortable. These combined features give great performance to the kite, like wave “park the kite” riding style, aggressive bottom turns, as well as kite loops and a level of unhooked freestyle.
This kite is simply forgiving and easy to ride aggressively.
What are the key flying characteristic differences between the Lithium and the Varial ?
MP: The Lithium generally sits further back in the window than the Varial, giving it a more constant pull, and constant power. It has very pivotal turning characteristics. The Varial can shoot a little further forward in the window in gusts, and therefore can give slightly better upwind performance for racing and slightly bigger vertical boost.
The Lithium has a little more direct steering that comes from the vertical wing tip component. Both kites pivot-turn about the same, but I would say the Lithium pivots deeper in the window, giving it more constant pull. The Varial slows down more through the turns and then shoots forward a bit more. Overall, the Lithium pulls more off the front lines and has an excellent gust response.
What are the technical design differences in the two kites that make them unique?
MP: Well, they were both designed for a unique feel to keep different customers happy. We designed the Lithium to meet the demands of a “Delta” style kite rider, where as the Varial is designed to meet the needs of a conventional SLE customer .Technically speaking, the Lithium has a more C shape canopy curve and the Varial is more flat in the center section of the canopy. The Varial has more sweep and more of a conical trailing edge shape, where as the Lithium is more delta or triangle-shaped, with a flatter trailing edge and a more pointed leading edge.
Can you go into more detail on the bar feel, as this is often a very a rider specific preference?
The Varial has a shorter bar throw, meaning that when you push the bar away (the same amount as on the Lithium), the Varial has more depower. Additionally, the Varial has a slightly lighter bar pressure.
The bar feel is very different, which is great because this allows us to keep everyone happy, if someone likes a short bar throw or lighter bar feel, then the Varial may be more for them. If they prefer more solid bar pressure then the Lithium would be where it’s at.
What are the other key features for the 2011 Lithium, beyond the performance?
MP: The 2011 Lithium has many refinements thoughout. From the bridle line catch-resistant small ends of the wingtips, to the slicker round nosed struts, the kite has been improved all around. We made sure, however, that the basic fundamentals of a super forgiving, easy to use kite were not compromised. The bar system has also been refined, the grip is much more durable, and the depower strap system has been made more compact and easy to use, along with other small improvements to what was a great 2010 system.
BM: The quick-release has been completely redesigned, offering new and updated features. The new swivel makes untwisting the line extremely easy, and the collar is locked in channels to make the reassembly faster and easier. The ergonomic design of the collar makes it easier to grab and release, and the new locking tube is a moulded plastic part, with the safety ring doubling as a safety suicide leash as well. We designed it so that it’s easier for you to find , release and reconnect.
There has been some talk in the industry about new canopy cloth recently. What does Airush use, and what is your take on some of the alternatives on the market?
MP: Airush uses the proven performance of the Teijin T9600 from Japan. Although expensive, it has superior consistency when compared to the others we have tested. We continuously test cloth from other manufacturers, but aside from lower general performance, they tend to change consistency. These variances can sometimes only be noticed after the kite has been used for a long time. We’ve noticed that long term UV stabilization is one of the most important and difficult factors to get 100% correct in material production, so we stay with Teijin for the best balance of performance and durability.
Looking at the lithium LW as the big brother of the Lithium, there have been some significant changes to the Lithium LW, what were the main areas of improvement on the kite?
The Lithium LW did go through an overhaul this year, especially the 15m. We managed to reduce the sweep in the center section of the kite to give it a quicker, more responsive feel in turns. Doing this was challenging as we still worked within the constraints of the aggressively swept outline that gives the LW its effortless light wind relaunch capabilities.
Why does the Lithium LW have fewer struts than last year?
We experimented with many kites using less struts this year, (obvious from this year’s unveiling of our new ONE kite). Less struts equal less weight, it’s that simple. Weight is a critical factor in light wind kites. If you take the majority of 15m kites on the market, they are 4.5kg, that’s 4.5kg of weight that has to be lifted and moved around every time the kite turns or thinks about back-stalling. Back-stalling is a really difficult factor to overcome with light wind kites, especially with the amount of sweep that we have to use to give these kites the easy LW relauch. We solved this problem by saving weight, which keeps the kite flying forward; this is also important in the turning characteristics. When you reduce the weight in the wingtips the turning improves significantly, which is even more evident at lower wind speeds.
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