R-Sky “(NSE) 15” Review by Tom Patterson

When I heard that the NSE 15 was a smaller-scale version of the NSE, I was intrigued.  I like small agile kites like the NFX Sport, so I was naturally interested in a kite that seemed to have a similar purpose.  You might say NFX is to NFE (Nirvana First Edition) as NSE 15 is to NSE (Nirvana Second Edition). Well, I just HAD to test the theory for myself and so I ordered one.  I could locate no R-Sky distributors in the US that currently sell this kite, so I went ahead and ordered directly from France.  Many report that shipping is prohibitively expensive, but don’t forget that the VAT tax is deducted from the published price (about 20% as near as I could tell) which, even considering shipping, results in a total price which could be much less than you might think.

According to the manufacturer, the NSE15 is the result of R-Sky having boiled down fifteen years of experience, requests, and reflection into this one kite.  That sounds like a tall order to fill – the Nirvana and R-Sky itself are highly thought of for their designs and kites flight characteristics. How did they do? Read on.

Build:

I had heard many negative things about R-Skys construction, so I was fully expecting to find issues with the quality of the kite.  After closely examining it, however, I can report that it is indeed very well made, although I did identify a few nits.  It has reinforcements in all the right places (around the standoffs, yoyo stoppers, spine, etc), straight well-sewn seams, a clean nose, and is made with industry standard high-quality materials.  All in all, I would put it more on par with a boutique kite (although not quite there) than a high-volume manufacturer who may skimp on cheaper and less durable components.   I expect the kite to last many years – it seems well made.

The issues that I found were finishing details, not problems with the kite per se.  The stitching is even and well done, but I found several loose threads that I needed to nip – one was about 10 inches long.  A second issue I found was with the c-clips – 2 of the 4 were very loose and had to be re-glued.  So, a few thread nips and a bit of CA and the kite was ready to fly – not a big deal, but these could easily have been caught and fixed during assembly.

Here are the details from R-Sky:

  • Size: 214cm x 86cm
  • Sail: Icarex + mylar
  • Frame: Skyshark + 5mm pultruded carbon
  • Wind range: 4 to 30 km/h  (~2.5 to 18.6 mph for those of you in the US)

The most interesting thing to me about this kite is its framing.  It’s a standard, but has framing elements of both a light and a standard (or light vent) – it initially appears to be a very odd frame setup (more on this later).   The 15 also has no ballast. The frame has an ULE of 3PT, a LLE of P400, a spine of P90 and 6mm full carbon from above the the centerT down, and 5PT LS.  So, overall the framing appears to be a UL up top and heavy standard down below – I’ve never seen a kite framed this way before.  A plus with this framing for US owners is that you can easily find these spars aside from the 6mm carbon which you are not likely to break (I hope).

The bridle is a standard 3pt with no keeper line (I’ve never seen an R-Sky kite that had them), but it doesn’t really need one. In all the time I’ve been flying the kite I have not once caught the tail on the bridle.  It is theoretically possible for it to catch, but highly unlikely. What the bridle does need, however, are leaders.  The trailing edge is well reinforced with both an extra layer of dacron as well as Icarex, but as often the lines come in contact with this area on a modern kite while tricking, I much prefer some bridle line there rather than much more abrasive flying line.

The last thing I would mention about construction concerns the bag.  In short, you really don’t get one.  It’s a half-bag, so you must break the kite down in order to (rather snugly) fit the kite inside of it.  Now, as a half-bag, I would say that it’s passable, but I think that the target buyer for this kite will want a full-length bag for it.  For now, I am storing the kite full-length in an extra bag that I had lying around. A real bag (perhaps one like the NFX ships with) would be a welcome change to the package.

Appearance:

I’ve heard this kite described anywhere from. ‘wow, I love it’ to  ‘it looks like a mankini!’.  I’ve always liked the strong clean lines of the original Nirvana, but as they say, time moves on.  Personally, I like the layout, but I do wish it came in more color options beyond the flo yellow, orange, and green. I do think that it fits in very well with look of the current NSE as well as the newer Nirvana line (NFX, NSE, NSE 15) – they all share a common sense of style which I think is not as striking as the original, but still compares very well to other kites on the market.

The kite does look great in the sky and also while performing tricks – it has a smoothness to it that would make you think it is larger than it actually is.

Flight:

Now that we have the construction details out of the way, how does the kite actually fly?  To sum it up, the kite does it all and readily – JLs, backspins, cometes, yoyos, 540s, slots, taz machines – it’s all approachable and reliable.  It’s pretty clear that this kite was designed from the ground up for balance and tricks.   Aside from a few minor issues that were solved by spending a bit more time becoming accustomed to the kite, I find it very sweet.

It has solid general flight characteristics, decent precision (nice sharp corners with no wobble), and excellent tricks (both pitch and rotational ones).  The published wind range is close enough to accurate.  You can fly it with some movement in low wind, but it’s really fun at 4 mph and up.  I’ve flown it into the mid teens and its solid there as well.   I was concerned about the higher end considering its 3pt upper LE frame and P90 spine, but even in strong gusts, the kite showed no signs of concern and remained well behaved and stable.

I must admit that it initially took me a little time to warm up to the NSE 15, although other flyers took to it right away.  For me, I found that I was over-doing the inputs with too much strength.  That combined with the added mass in the lower LEs and heavy spine of the kite was leading to some initial disappointment.  My first 20 minutes of flight were a complete turn-off.  Once I backed off a little and toned it down, however, everything just fell into place.  It’s hard to describe, but dialing into this kite took me longer than it does with others.

I think it has to do with the unique weighting of the kite – the heavy LEs and weighted spine seem to give it a momentum that a tail weight (even a BIG one) does not.  In any case, once I experimented enough to dial into a strong half-axel (the move that was giving me the most trouble), I was off the races with the kite and a BIG smile.  A key point with this kite is that you can’t always bang on it like you might it’s full sized brother because it won’t like it (and you also don’t need to).

The kite is well balanced and has a nicely-paced trick speed to it.  You can go fast or slow its up to you, very reliable either way.  The weighting on it is about perfect.  I tried adding an additional 5g of weight to the tail like I do on the NFX and it still worked great that way (super-fast yoyos), but this kite just doesn’t need it. As an overall comparison, I’d say that the kite falls between the NSE and the NFX – it is much more agile than the NSE and a bit more tamed than the NFX Sport.

But don’t take my word for it, checkout some of these videos of the kite in action:

Strengths:

Trick-wise, the kite definitely has a few strengths to mention –  namely the taz machine, comete, and yoyo.  This kite flat out Tazes more easily than any other kite that I have flown – its just that simple.  It rotates so easily and with such momentum that you can easily get smooth flat taz rotations with very little slack or forward movement.  What this also means is that, with a little bit of forward movement, you can even reliably taz in fairly high wind.  The nose pops up easily on the half axel which, again, helps with this trick.  And when I say smooth and flat, I do mean smooth and flat – they are gorgeous!  I did find that the nose-up tendency caused me to have to adjust my cascade a bit since I like to have them very sharp and angular – not a huge issue, it’s still easy to do, but worth mentioning.

I think the LE weight greatly contributes to the kites ability to taz – with just a small input you can easily generate the required momentum to complete the rotation.  There is a similar affect for the comete – even in low wind, there is plenty of rotational momentum to easily do sharp text book cometes.  The momentum tends to keep the kite rotating which makes the trick a bit smoother in my opinion.  In higher wind, all the better – the kite nearly rotates on its own and you are simply bringing the nose forward and then away again.  Again, it took a little to adjust to this technique, but once I did, I really liked the results (it looks and feels great).  When you go back to a more tail-weighted kite, you will notice the lack of this additional rotational momentum right away (and you may well miss it!).

The kite also easily pitches – all varieties of yoyo are easily done and solid – one pop, two pop, multiples, all easy.  The kite does yoyo related combo tricks like the wap do wap and yofade well – the point being that the yoyo is reliable enough to allow you to reliably maintain control and be ready for the next step.  It also flys very well when wrapped.  The yoyo stoppers on this kite appear much lower to me than on other Nirvanas which helps to catch them, but the control when wrapped is still excellent.

Finally, the last item to mention is the fun factor!  I’ve always appreciated the Nirvana (and NSE), but they are kites that I never kept for very long.  Sure, it did everything well, but I just never flew it because I have so many others that are just more fun to fly.  Well, the NSE 15 has fun factor and soul!  It is an extremely fun kite to fly and will keep you grinning and laughing out loud with the fun you can have with it.  Even better, you get all this right out of the box – no need to add weight or adjust the bridle as I’ve done with my other Nirvanas, just hook up the lines and fly.

Weaknesses:

So, what did I not like about the kite aside from the lack of a decent bag?  Well, as I mentioned before, it feels a bit different due to its atypical weighting which requires some amount of adjustment in order to completely click with the kite or at least it did for me.  It does not take a huge investment of time, but I flew it for an afternoon before I started to get those aha moments and began to fully appreciate and enjoy the kite.  It’s hard to criticize on this however, since to a large extent it is what makes this kite different and so much fun to fly.  Those flat taz machines are very addictive, and you will be doing them all over the window, I promise you.

I also had a little trouble with multi-lazys on this kite, although I’ve talked to others that do not so perhaps it’s my technique.  It does them fine (although not nearly as locked in as the NFX or other kites that I fly), but I have to think about it a little more than I would like to.

That’s about it – certainly no show-stoppers.

Conclusion:

So, there you have it!  This kite has some unique qualities that I think make it worthy of consideration.  It’s unique weighting, in particular, offers something that is worth exploring. I certainly like it.  I can’t promise that you will, but I think you will agree that R-Sky has done something a bit different here that gives the kite some unique and fun abilities.

If you are having difficulty with the Taz (or other flatspins moves for that matter),  add one to your bag in order to work on those tricks.  If you like your Nirvana but want something a bit more lively, just get one. Or, if you just want to fly a freestyle kite with no limits, then go for it.

In short, aside from the bag, I’ve got mostly positives to report on this kite – it carries on and adds its own contributions to the NIrvana legacy which is some feat after 15 years.  I have no problem recommending this kite to anyone looking for a full-on freestyle kite, its the real deal.

-Tom