My experience with the Mohawk dates back to 2006 when I bought an original Air Oeuvre Mohawk and flew it exclusively for about six months. Many people probably still remember the build and consistency issues of those early Mohawks, in addition to criticism the design received for some quirky performance aspects. In response, Air Oeuvre released the Mohawk XS (MXS), a new kite designed to retain the trick-trainer goals of the original kite whilst correcting the quirks for which the original was criticized.
Unfortunately, Air Oeuvre disappeared before many MXS’s found homes, leaving behind only some promo videos (here and here) and a spattering of positive forum posts from the few owners out there. That outcome always struck me as a shame; a solid kite design never gained the recognition it deserved – firstly because buyers of the original Mohawk were burned by the inconsistent build that seemed to plague Air Oeuvre, but also because the company disappeared and the kites simply weren’t available anymore. Happily though, Sportkitedesign has licensed the MXS design and is now building the kites from original templates. I’ve been flying one of the new MXS’s exclusively for several months now, so let’s get on with the review.
Features And Construction
The MXS sail is a 16-panel construction with a colour scheme comprising neutral white/gray/black tones with a single feature colour. Sportkitedesign now employs a unified set of build features across its designs, so all of the details found on a current Seven are also present on the MXS and vice-versa. This includes fine sewing detail, black striping to highlight each straight seams, leading edge covers, a leech line, and a tough, snag-free nose. The sail is also reinforced well with Mylar reinforcement along the spine seam and upper spread rub patch, and double Mylar in the standoff area.
Generally, framing is fairly typical for a standard kite: P200 upper and lower leading edges, 5PT spreaders, 5mm upper spreader, and 3mm standoffs; less typical is the heavier P300 spine and single standoff arrangement. The MXS also comes fitted with wrapped fiberglass rollbars, 10 grams of removable tail weight, and a simple three-point bridle with an angle-of-attack adjustment pigtail at the upper outhaul. There are a few nice touches worth noting: Black Diamond spreaders are standard now, and plastic logos are also sewn onto the tail velcro and sleeve, so there’s no more doubt about the brand of kite you’ve bought.
Assembled, the shape of the MXS is unusual; the kite has a very fat tail section which almost seems over sized compared to the relatively small sail areas extending outwards from the standoffs. The leading edges are also very straight indeed, to the extent that the wingtips are barely raised off the ground when the kite is laid belly-down. Standing the kite up, you get the impression that you’re looking at a 2.22 metre triangle with a high-cut trailing edge.
First up, the MXS is absolutely fine with flic flacs. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a dead spot in the fade to flare at all, which makes sharp, snappy flic flacs a strong point. Another of the kite’s strong points is a reliable front flip, meaning that the kite excels at flip flops (“upside down” flic flacs that alternate between a deep backflip and a front flip). I’ve found that the front flip is really useful in general flying; it means that you can throw in a flip flop or two in between Jacob’s ladder combination’s, or fly a series of alternating lewis’ (unwrap to front flip, then wrap again) from the window top to bottom.
Flying the MXS, you soon notice that there’s plenty of pitch available, though not so much that it feels like a liability. With the stock tailweight, I think that the right balance is achieved. The MXS will still flare in high winds, and the way that 540s whip around reminds me of the Deepspace. The Deepspace flavour is there in many ways, though it’s hard to provide specific examples apart from the 540. I guess it’s more a feeling of freestyle flow more than anything. The rollbars are a real boon because the kite is readily yoyo’d, and it locks into a wrap for forward flight nicely. Wrapped 540s are very reliable, along with wrapped half axels, etc.
The MXS’s backflip reminds of a stock Nirvana – it’s fairly quick to pitch back, and it will clear the lines for a lazy if you wait a moment for the kite to settle, but it’s not a locked-in deep turtle like the original Mohawk, or say, a Transfer. The backflip, combined with the shape of the kite and its trailing edge, mean that most lazy susan moves are easily accessible. Snap multilazies are very easy, but even more impressive is the success rate of inverses, and inverses with mutlilazy rotations. For example: horizontal pass, inverse multilazy, comete out, short opposite horizontal pass, inverse multilazy, comete out.
Forward pitch, well, it’s there in abundance. The MXS is just the ticket if you’re looking to learn the yofade. In light-to-medium winds, building pressure in the sail and snapping your wrists will have the kite pitching around quickly, and most often, locking into a wrapped fade position. The forward pitch also means that the setup for crazy copters is quite easy, though the spin input takes a bit more care. A relatively light pop is needed for the spin, and the MXS is most suited to a single spin ending in a nose-up position.
At a high level, one of my favourite aspects of the MXS is the “squareness” of its rotations. Given the triangular shape of the kite and it’s backflip traits, Jacob’s ladders are very clean, even, and geometrical looking. Similarly, the MXS makes it easy to keep cometes square. Fly straight up, complete a few comete iterations, and power straight down for a two-point landing or multilazy kombo. Half axels are much improved over the original Mohawk, this time around feeling more or less “normal”, and there’s also a nice and reliable wapdoowap, unlike the original Mohawk which stubbornly resisted that trick. Backspins definitely prefer an uneven fade setup to get started, and plenty of forward movement and slack is needed in anything more than light winds.
Now, no kite is without quirks and weaknesses, so what do you need to keep in mind with the MXS? Whilst there’s no dead spot in the flare to fade in a flic flac sense, there is a dead spot in the half-axel to fade from a horizontal pass. Inputs must be kept tight for the move to succeed, otherwise the kite will stall in a nose-away position and back up towards the flier. Perhaps related to this, inputs for a regular descending cascade must also be kept tight, and the kite really demands the two-pop approach for the cascade to look any good. Having said that, a nice cascade isn’t too hard, and it’s certainly miles ahead of the original Mohawk which made descending cascades pretty painful. Some smaller kites (e.g. Nirvana FX, Frenezy Evo) make the backspin cascade a giveaway, but this is not the case with the MXS. The kite is similar to a Nirvana in that it prefers a very well defined “stop” input before the pull for the counter-rotation is given. Lastly, taz machines require fairly strict timing and light inputs, and cascading tazes is not a trivial affair.
On the precision and tracking front, the MXS performs better than you might expect for a small kite. Speed control is quite good, facilitated by a trailing edge that buzzes away in even moderate winds. That’s fine by me – noise is okay so long as it’s functional, and in the case of the MXS, noise brings speed control.
Finally, wind range. Compared to many modern standard kites, the MXS needs a bit more wind to get moving, perhaps an extra two or three miles per hour. Having said that, the kite’s workable upper wind range is higher than most, so it’s as if the standard wind range has been translated upwards. Generally, the kite’s pull is lighter than most but it doesn’t suffer the original Mohawk’s problems of feeling “invisibile” (no feedback) in all but strong winds. Once 12mph and above hits, you’ll be dealing with a good amount of pull and noise. As always, I’ve put the kite through some torture tests and the frame performed admirably up to about 15mph, past which the wingtips started to shudder.
Build wise, Sportkitedesign kites are made with the greatest attention to detail that I’ve seen in any commercial kite. Detail that extends to the millimetre-spacing of stitching within seam limits, tiny single stitches used to hold down reinforcement corners that might otherwise curl up, and the evenness of stitching patterns between left and right sides of the sail. Really amazing.
Performance wise, the kite has heaps of character. Its sharp, square rotations make Jacob’s ladders and cometes great fun to fly, and there’s a great blend of freestyle fun and competition-style reliability to the tricks. There’s some Deep Space feel at times, but it’s coupled with a less manic pace and some surprisingly decent tracking and speed control.
Try one out, you might like it.
Coming soon from SKD: MX, a budget version of the MXS, and MXS Pro, an upgraded version of the MXS reviewed here.