Issue 20: Kitelife Reviews

First, why should I be reviewing kites? I’m no designer, nor an expert flyer. I’ve never competed in a Competition. I’ve never even been to a kite festival. Why the most flyers I’ve ever flown with at one time is six. Unless you count being with a group of Boy Scouts running every direction trying to get their kites into the air. I don’t know all the proper terms for every part of the kite, nor can I tell the difference from Icarex and Ventex. My only credit is that I love kites! I love to read about them, I love to talk about them, and most of all I love to fly them. I’m not looking for the perfect kite, cause then I won’t have an excuse to get more. I have what seems to becoming a rare disease of never having enough kites. But I know that many of you have that disease as well. So I am going to tell you what I like about kites. I plan to review ones that I have that I haven’t seen reviewed and will review all that I hope to get this year. I will give my impression of each. Your reaction may differ from mine and that is ok.

Whenever possible I will include comments gathered from other flyers. I do not work for any kite company or kite store. Hopefully you will enjoy my reviews and find them helpful in selecting your next kite. But as you read, know this is simply my opinion which may differ from yours. And the best way to understand that is quote the game show host of an old game- the Gong Show. After giving his opinion he would follow it with, “but remember, I like cold toilet seats!” Feel free to mail me at

Mini Gem

Manufacturer: Tim Benson
Length: 86″
Height: 39″
Wind Range: 6-25 mph
Cost: Approximately $250.00

WoW, what a kite! Reviewing this kite in the formal fashion would be a disgrace! Rather all I can do is share my first impression… As I eaglier put together my latest kite from a master of Kites- Tim Benson I couldn’t stop shaking. Yes, I was shaking from the wind-chill factor of -10, but there was something more! For a kite to bear Tim’s name it has to be great. Then to follow one of the all time greats as the Gemini it really had to be something. Thus, regardless of the temperature, I was going to fly this kite today! Once I was holding the lines to this beauty in the air I realized that mini is a misnomer. The kite reminded me of my college days when I first got a taste of what can come out of Great Britain. It was the 70’s and U.S. cars were big and fast meant to drive in straight lines. My roommate had a MG. It too was small in size but there was nothing mini about the way it drove. It was quick and agile and the perfect car to race around the mountains of West Virginia. The Mini Gemini is everything I enjoyed about the MG. It’s fast, responsive, loves to spin and loads of fun. Thus, I will throughout this article refer to the Mini Gemini as the m’G.

In regards to construction, all that needs to be said is it’s a Benson! Colors will be in just about every combination imaginable. I was fortunate enough to get one that matches my Gemini. Notice the picture with the two together. To get a better feel for the size difference look at the chart made by Brian Todd at Gone With The Wind: To quote Brian “This is not just a smaller version of the Gemini!” It is a new kite, and once again- There is Nothing Mini about this kite! It is 12 inches shorter in the length and 4 in height. Brian’s chart will show that the kite ranges from 85% to 94% in how the dimensions were decreased. Here’s what Steve Hall thought of his m’G. “The quality of this kite is top notch. I only have experience with my Gemini and about 1/2 hour on Dan’s Outerspace at Shoreline (about a year ago), but it is my opinion that Benson quite possibly makes the best quality kites out there.

A well designed kite made with top quality components and flawless workmanship. Very impressive. I found it to be a bit less stable in a fade than the Gem, but backspins happen just as easily. Even easier than the Gem to flic-flac. The Flip-Flops (Cascades and Fountains) were there, although I found it difficult to get the Fountains to rise consistently. It does like to Flip-Flop from the edge of the window to the center, something I thought looked very cool.”

I said before that I love a bargain. Well just being able to get a m’G is a bargain, whatever you pay for it. I would hesitate on recommending this kite for a beginner. Otherwise, the question is not should you get one, but how will you be able to get one? I have a good friend who even went to the extreme of ordering one directly from overseas. After flying it, he thinks he got a bargain! Well enough talking, I’m ready to go back out and take my m’G for a spin!!

Level Two

Manufacturer: Level One
Wingspan: 78″
Height: 34.5″
Bag Length: 59″
Wind range: 5-25mph *
Regular Price: $135.00

I love a bargain! For me, cost is that extra ingredient that when mixed with quality produces a “Favorite Kite!” Sorry but I’m not one of those guys that can afford to pay any price for quality. Level Two is a kite that excels at both. The more I’ve flown this kite the bigger my smile; both for its flying characteristics and the price I got it for. In fact I liked it so much, I ordered two more Level One kites without ever getting to try them out first. A practice that I’ve learned to employ the hard way. Now on to why I like this kite so much.

I know little about the company Level One other than it is in Germany. I understand that Avia Sport is now the US distributor. However, I could not confirm this by publishing time. As I stated above, the quality of their kites is impressive. However, there was no information about the kite or the company included with the kite. The only thing included was a frame chart showing the size and dimensions of all the rods. I wondered if this was for the buyer or if the kites were shipped here without the rods then installed at Avia Sport? The construction of this kite is excellent. The kite is made up of 16 panels of nylon and Mylar. The pattern includes three different colors of nylon with Mylar in the center and on the wing tips. This use of Mylar causes an illusion of the kite spinning within its wingtips when in a tight spin. Though I had considered my flying skills way beyond simply spinning the kite I found myself doing just that often to watch the Mylar disappear amidst the blur of spinning. There are a few unique features to the construction of the Level Two. First the kite was shipped with the wingtips already tensioned. They use a rubber grommet to keep the tension and leachline in place. This was my first kite that came this way. I was glad to not have to mess with tightening, but I know several kiters prefer to undo the wingtips after each flight. The center spine is secured the same way.

This leads me into the one complaint I have with the kite. The kite does not use a trickline. Which is fine because the only snags I had were not with the wingtips but catching on the center spine. A cover like what is used on the Utopia wingtips should eliminate this. Back to the special features of Level One kites. I now have three and all three use the same bridling system. To adjust the

bridle there is a knot system up by the upper spreader which makes adjustments a snap. After experimenting with each setting I was able to settle on the third knot which worked fine in winds from 5 – 20 mph.

The kite is framed with 2100 carbon rods.

To compensate for the lightness of the rods, a one piece lower spreader is used.

A nice center T system allows the rod to easily swivel up when disassembled.

Thus, the kite remains 59″ long when disassembled. However, the payoff is a very tight feeling kite that had little or no flex during flight even in high winds! Now to what kiting is all about-flying! I quickly fell in love with the way this kite flies. It is quick and agile throughout the wind window. Though rated down only to 5mph, I had no problem flying and tricking it in 3mph.

The light framework allows it to bounce back from hard crashes, so I won’t be afraid to put it in the hands of a beginner. The way it tricks will keep even experts enjoying it as well. This kite flies almost independent of the wind, being able to stall easily throughout the windspeed range. I found the fade to be its favorite trick, with the kite going into a fade from just about any position. I enjoyed several combinations of fade-flatspin-fade. This is a kite that will give you confidence as a flyer to try those moves that look great yet can easily lead to disaster on other kites. As I flew this kite it reminded me of one of my all time favorites, the Midi Sandpiper. (I did put the Midi together and tried them both one after another. Result: It’s close, but won’t replace the Midi). One trick is never enough, it longs to do combinations as quick as the pilot can input them. I don’t think there are any tricks beyond it’s reach-double axles, slot machines, no problem. I even was able to do the backspin with it, though not with any consistency.

Conclusion: This is a versatile kite that will always have a place in my kitebag. Even when I wear this one out, I will want another! It has a great wind range. Beginners to experts would enjoy this kite. Unless you are looking strictly for precision I would recommend this kite.