Level One BadAss Standard Review

BA_Front_BJens Frank from Level One Kites looked at some of the modern trick kite videos and concluded that most of those kites don’t perform old school tricks that nicely. The design goal was to create a kite that is both slow and precise in flight and able to perform all the modern tricks and the older tricks nicely and neat.

The BadAss is based on a up-scaled version of the Level One Reloaded which was overhauled by Peter Maternus (PAW) a few years ago. I believe Peter had a big influence on designing and tuning the BadAss as well.

Specifications

Height: 1,01 m
Width: 2,35 m
Leading Edge length: 1,52 m
Weight: 300 gr

Frame

Leading Edge: Matrix 5,5 mm pultruded carbon
Lower Spreader: Matrix 6 mm pultruded carbon
Upper Spreader: Matrix 5 mm pultruded carbon
Spine: Matrix 6 mm pultruded carbon
Standoffs: 3 mm carbon rod (1 per side)
Tail Weight: 12 gr
(All rods are one piece)

BridleBA_Bridle_Towoint

Three point, non adjustable (no pigtails). All legs are connected separately to the tow point using larkshead knots for easy bridle leg replacement (see detail picture).

Leaders are pre-installed, but I would prefer them to be a bit longer.

Materials and build quality

All connectors used for the BadAss are by Level One’s own FSD brand. The leading edge connectors fit nicely and the longer tubes work very well with the completely pultruded carbon frame. The stand-offs are held in place by JACO’s at the lower spreader and sail grabbers with screws at the other end. The lower spreader is made from a single pultruded carbon rod so a clever rotating centre cross is used for easy packing. The lower spreader has a sliding vinyl end cap which fits very tight to secure it at the centre cross (see this video for reference).

The yoyo stoppers are made from rubber grommets which are held in place by tie wraps. The wingtips and tail are tensioned with cord and secured with clear vinyl end caps, typical for Level One kites. Custom plastic spacer tubes are used at the lower spreader and inner bridle positions. Haven’t seen those in any kite before. Since the bridle positions are a few cm below the connectors and cross they keep the bridle knots in place.

The BadAss sail is built like a tank. The nose is Bisonyl and the leading edges are made from shiny laminated Dacron. Very smooth and it’s looks nice but i wonder how long it will remain this way. Laminated Dacron in black and white is also used to reinforce the area’s around the nose, spine, centre cross, tail, trailing edge and stand offs. Brass sail rings are punched into the sail where the cord runs through the wingtips and tailpiece.

The sail is made from Icarex pc31 fabric except for the white centre panels (Porcher Skytex 27gr). All panels are sewn using a three step zigzag stitch. The trailing edge has a double seam. Upon close inspection i could find a few tiny sewing mistakes but nothing serious. The layout with the large black V  is a typical Level One design. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea but it certainly has a striking appearance in the sky.

There is Matrix label tag sewn in between the sail fabric and Dacron at the upper spreader rub zone. Cool. A small red Level One tag is situated at the spine near the tail and the grey BadAss logo is printed on one of the panels in the right wing. A leech line is fitted but is not tight. The fold over sleeve is made from a light black fabric sometimes used in grocery bags and has a winder pocket to store a set of lines. A orange piece of bridle line with a loop and a larks head knot is provided to bind the kite together when packed.

Flight characteristics

The first thing i noticed when i pulled the kite into the air was the rather unusual shape. The wingtips pull in a bit, especially when the sail is fully loaded in moderate wind. It gives the kite a more rounded shape in the lower part of the leading edges which reminds me of the Flexifoil Stranger in some ways. I had to get used to that. There is quite some feedback and since the leech line is loose it makes a nice buzzing sound. The combination of the deep sail and softer frame give the kite a very slow and precise feel. Nice!

Lines are straight and corners are snappy. The wingtips shutter a tiny bit after punching snappy corners but that’s seems to be part of the design. It certainly works. But the kites looses pressure very quickly when snapped into a stall or landing. I’ve had some sessions in bumpy wind which the BadAss could handle quite well.

I was very surprised when i tried to fly the kite in almost no wind conditions. The kite flies in a very low breeze and still has considerable feedback because of the rather large sail area. Very efficient indeed.

BA_FlightIn flight

Tricks

As mentioned above: the kite sail looses pressure quickly when snap stalled. Sideslides are easy to control and adjust. Tip stabs need to be done with care because the wingtips have the tendency to bounce a bit due to the 5,5 mm rods. Slow is the keyword when executing tricks. Axels can be performed flat and graceful and Cascades look and feel rhythmic and controllable. Up-The-Fountains are within reach. For Cometes, you can spank the kite around and really get aggressive with it. The slow and subtle approach is an option as well.

One of my favourite moves with this kite is the Slot-Machine. The setup requires a bit of patience in the timing but then the nose flares nice and high. The flat spin rotation is really satisfying with the BadAss. Multislots are awesome too. 540’s need quite some slack but when timed just right they can be really flat and all the way around. Also Mutex type combinations are a blast with this piece of equipment. I was struggling with Taz-Machines at first but the same timing applies here as well: wait longer for the flare to go nose high and then pop the rotation. It comes around slowly but you feel in control throughout the whole move and ready for trick combo’s.

The fade is a little steep. The kite rises quickly. Backspins and Backspin-Cascades are a blast and can be performed very flat with the proper amount of slack. You might have to step forward depending on the windspeed. Flic-Flacs are very nice without a noticable deadspot in the flare.

The transition to the Backflip from a Barrel-Roll is nice and fast. The kite locks in and lifters are possible yet recoverable. Lazy-Suzans and Multi-Lazies are very easy to perform. Cyniques are very nice and only a subtle input is needed to reverse the rotation. No worries about breaking the lower spreader what so ever.

Yoyo’s are not the kites strong point. Single pop Rollups are possible with the stock weight but since the pitch rotation is really slow the success rate varies. Lighter winds are key. Two pop Yoyo’s are there but require some finesse. In my experience it was hard to roll up straight and catch the lines on the stoppers. I was also struggling with front flip moves like the Crazy-Copter and Yofade. I’m recently doing Wapdoowap’s a lot but i couldn’t manage to execute those consistently with the BadAss.

BA_SpikeTip stab

Conclusion

The BadAss has it’s own character and style (both in looks and flight/tricks capabilities) and it has a strong presence in the sky. Old school tricks are there but it’s certainly not restricted to that. It’s hard to compare the BadAss to other kites i’ve flown recently. Very refreshing in a market that seems to copy styles a lot between kite manufacturers, following the current trends. The wind range is very impressive and the kite made me curious about the light wind version (BadAss Ultralight), which is also available from Level One. The rods are all single piece so it’s not possible to fold the kite down to a smaller size when travelling which might be a dealbreaker for some.

There are only two colour versions available for the BadAss STD (gold/green) and only one for the UL (orange) which might be a little limited. The price/quality ratio from Level One kites has always been very good and this kite is no exception. Whether you are a beginning pilot looking for an easy to fly kite with a wide wind range or an experienced fanatic looking for some variation in your kitebag: make sure to check out the BadAss!

– Carlo

 

Video’s