Sky Sport Designs “Transformer TL” SUL Review by Krijn

Last December I contacted Lam Hoac and said that I wanted to order one of his kites. The email exchange with Lam was very pleasant, he responded quickly and shared this thoughts on which model I should choose. After plumping for the Transformer TL SUL he also picked the colors, I only chose the base colour, light grey.

Lam said that I’d be wanting a Vented Light to accompany the SUL and suggested I order them together to save on international shipping costs 😉 I told him that I wanted to try the SUL first, but I’m afraid he was right .. The price including shipping was just over €400. Now that’s a lot of money for sure, but rest assured, you’re getting something special.

Construction

In many kite reviews these days you’ll find a phrase such as  “The build quality is really Benson” or “It’s a Kitehouse kite, so the quality is great”. Well, such a statement applies here also. I checked the kite thoroughly, but everything really is perfect. The “eyes” of the kite are finished with a strip of black spinnaker and sewn with a small stitch. Nowhere a bend to be seen.

There is a weight in the tail (I guess it’s 15 grams), and its held in place by a small string at the back (check picture). The leechline does not run from tip to tip, but from the inner standoffs to the tail. The leading edges are made from dacron, which is remarkable in a SUL. At the nose Lam used an ingenious trick to make a snag-free nose. Overall, the kite doesn’t feel particularly light.

 

The sleeve of the kite is just a sleeve. There is no drawstring or flap cover and the sleeve is 40 cm too long, not so useful. The turbo bridle is made from dyneema and includes keeper and leader lines, which is a nice touch.

Skyclaws
And now to something special: the Skyclaws. I saw them a while ago on the internet, and to be honest I was a bit skeptical about those ugly lookinh things. Lam convinced me to put them on my Transformer.
Effectively they’re secondary yo-yo stoppers which reduce the chance you’ll miss a wrap. Similar things have been done before. notably with Level One kites but the implementation is better here, the JTM just used a series of cable tie stoppers.
They do work cracking good, but more about that later. I’m glad that I decided to order a spare set.
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Framing

The leading edges and lower spreader’s are Skyshark 2PT. And that is rigid enough for this kite of nearly 2.20m. The spine is a Skyshark P200 !, the standoffs are 3mm. This makes for a light kite, but the P200 with the dacron at the leading edges makes it feel a little weird.

I was advised to make some Skyshark 3PT spreaders as well for use in stronger winds. I’m informed this narrows the gap to the Vented Light, such that no standard or UL is required. I’ve not had an opportunity to test this out as yet.

Flight

So, the kite does not feel like a super-ultra-light, and yet it fields in surprisingly little wind ! I don’t quite understand why 🙂 Maybe it’s the fat ass of the kite, more surface and thus perhaps more lift ?

I’ve flown the Transformer on 20m, 25m and 30m-lines. With more wind, the longest lines were the nicest, but at the bottom of the wind range, I found the shorter lines to be much more pleasant.

Straight lines are excellent, right-angled corners also, quite special for such a small kite. For the corners you have to use caution: small inputs, preferably a pull with one hand and a push with the other. For a SUL, it’s nice that you can pump the kite into the air, the Transformer does this very well: flying up quite fast and not falling in to a Backflip when you push your hand forward.

As for the windrange, some say the Transformer TL SUL isn’t a real SUL, but I diagree. A little technique is required, but this kite is a real SUL, although I must admit that there are moments I prefer my TNT Zero.

The Transformer can be flown right up to almost standard winds, so a UL is certainly unnecessary. You’d probably want to use those 3PT’s as spreaders. In more wind stronger inputs are needed for some tricks, but the kite will stay in shape. The precision improves as the wind increases.

Tricks

Time for some tricks then. Once you get used to the small inputs, but you will certainly be rewarded for your efforts. And how ! I’ll go through most of the tricks, I think that gives a good picture. I’ll start with the more simple tricks.

Old School Tricks

The TL might 360, but perhaps its just not SUL enough. Shorter lines, 10m say, would help but I’ve not yet tried that. The Fade is reasonable, but some tending is needed as the nose wobbles up and down a bit. The flic-flac is solid, a little loss of height but it returns to the fade easily with no deadspot. The axel however is not so clever, its not particularly flat and will only make the full rotation with much guidance. The 540 is a little better than the axel, but usually you seem them flatter. Perversely the slot machine can be really flat. With some practice, you can make the Transformer pop the fast or pull them slow and floaty. Multislots are beautiful. You can keep the kite very well in place, just do not give too much slack. Half axels and cascades are solid provided that you keep an reign on the slack otherwise the kite will fall out of them.

At first, the Backspins didn’t look nice, but I discovered the reason quickly: smaller inputs ! With small tugs, the Backspins are pretty flat. Bigger inputs provide some instability and the nose pops up. Backspincascades are doable, but it requires some work: you have to slow down the kite after the first rotation with the other hand, and then gently pull to rotate the other way.

Twopoint landing is very good. The Transformer gets with ease on his back and you can put it down hard on his tips. Even in little wind this is doable, especially when you take some steps back the last few meters: BAM!

Pitch Tricks

The Kombo is nice. You can enter the trick quite high, because during the Susan-rotation you can lose a lot of altitude and you can time the landing exactly. Again: do not give too much slack, because otherwise it will turn backwards in a Yoyo! The Rolling Susan is the same, but you can limit the lost of altitude. It´s nice to do three of four in a row during a horizontal flight.

If you give a lot of slack with the other hand Multilazies are easy to do, though they do not look very nice. The Transformer gets out of the Backflip pretty good. Lewis and Yoyo Multilazy aren’t much harder to do.

Jacobs Ladder is easy. Most SUL’s need some time to get on their back, but the Transformer tricks as a standard model. You can get slow and fast Jacobs Ladders out of the kite, the latter is the easiest and best: no sideways movement.

The Rolling Cascade is not so simple: the kite loses some altitude during the rotations, so it’s hard to get three in a row. For the second input of the Tazmachine you need good timing. But once you’ve found that timing, they go well. The Tazmachines remain beautiful on the spot, but they don’t float as nice as some bigger kites. If you want to do a Wapdoowap, you must act quickly: the Lazy-like input has to be exactly on time. I have done a few, but it is not really a constant trick.

The Transformer is too light for Crazy Copters and Yofades. I know more UL’s and SUL’s with this “problem”. A Cynique is a typical SUL-trick, but not for the Transformer TL SUL. You just can’t get the kite in the opposite direction: I just falle out of the Backflip.

As for the comete ? Well sorry, but I can’t do that … but, of course, in movies they look good.


Yoyo’s

Now I´m going to discuss the specialty of the Transformer TL SUL: the Yoyo ! This trick is really amazing, especially since it is a SUL. I’ve owned quite a few Yoyo-kites (Organic, Deepspace, Talon), but the Transformer does this trick easier, despite being a SUL. Even with the nose down, from a Fade, the kite rolls up easily, just give some slack and there it goes. The Transformer flies good once wrapped.

The Yoyo is so dead simple that a Multi Yoyo is not far away. After a Yoyo just get some pressure on the lines and give slack: there is your next Yoyo. Three in a row is easy to do, I didn’t dare to make more, because of the bending in the Leading Edge. The Skyclaws are doing excellent work here: I’ve never missed them! Sometimes the line is catched a little lower on the Leading Edge, but the kite will still fly easily.

Conclusion

After my first session with the Transformer TL SUL I was really a bit confused: how can such a light kite trick like this ? I immediately looked forward to the next time flying this machine. The Transformer TL SUL is a great kite, a few little flaws, but many more big plusses. Quick tricks, but controllable and it flies just as a standard kite.

And I’m afraid Lam was right: the Vented Light is on the top of my wish list right now !

“Autobots, roll out !”

-Krijn