Flexifoil have created what could possibly be the best handle so far for quad line foils. The new Flexifoil ProLink handles ship standard on the Blurr and are available seperately as well to put on your Blades / Rages / Bullets or any other brand of kite that operates on 4 line handles. Flexifoil's attention to detail on these has been superb. The idea behind the bolt through the top of the handle could possibly be an evolution of Sylenz's own "handle bullets" that he designed to suit the original Flexifoil handles, mounting a bolt / pin from the top.
Grip & Feel
The grip of the handles is very gel like, with a soft rubber that contours around your hand as more force / pressure is applied. The handles are also very grippy, so your hands are not going to slide around them. Flying a kite on the Flexifoil ProLink handles makes the kite itself feel a little smoother as the rubber is soft enough to take a little bit of the shock out as the kite is loaded up.
There is room at the back of the handle to loop your strop. Simply pull out the pin from the top creating a gap, slide your strop in and push the pin back down. When tightening the pin every few turns check that your strop is not being caught in the thread of the pin. With the attachment for the strop designed this way it eliminates knots at the back of the handles which removes the hazard of the knots jamming in your pulley on a hard redirect.
The pin inside the handle is easily inserted or removed using a flat head screwdriver and accessing it from the top of the handle. After using the handles a few times I noticed opening up the left handle the pin was noticeably looser then the handle on the right. It may be worth putting a weak grade of nut lock / lock tight on the thread before you insert it to keep it firm.
Benefits of the design
One main benefit of the way Flexifoil have designed the new ProLink handle is how the power line leaders attach. You can now easily replace your own leaders in your handles using either Flexifoil replacements or creating your own spliced leaders. This is a real positive for people such as land boarders that attach 1m leaders to their handles to avoid wearing their lines on the edge of their landboards during grabs / tricks. Something that started with Snowkiters and Kiteboarders wearing their lines on the edges of their boards. You can now create your own leader, attach it and eliminate an unnecessary set of knots. Buggiers are starting to use knotless leaders, you can now create a leader spliced at both ends, attach on end to your handle and loop the line on the other now removing all knots between your handles and the bridle of the kite. Beneficial for those doing single handed moves and finding their lines catching on the knots coming off the handle leaders.
There's a couple of loops on the back of the handle, personally when fastening a kite I tend to just loop the brakes lines around a peg in the ground. However they are there to make it easier or attach safety devices such as kite killers.
With user-servicable parts such as leader lines and the attachment of the strop this means the life of the handles is extended. The way the handles are designed also makes them far stronger then the old handles, so longer life out of them. My conclusion is that you will wear out the grips on these handles before you ever break them! Flexifoil have really put their thinking caps on with the new ProLink handles and eliminated some of the key things that have been issues with handles such as knots both on the back of the handle, and the leader lines.
Ozone have done well with these handles, yet they are another company that could have nailed it if they paid a bit more attention to detail. Right now I find the Ozone Pro handles for me to be the best tool for the job, but they are not “perfect.” Being a MK1 design of the handles, i’m hoping they revise and improve them.
The appearance of the handles from a distance looks great. Close up however you can spot a few cosmetic imperfections. Not a biggie, but it would be nice if they applied as much effort into finishing these handles off like they do their bars on their depower foils.
The strop that comes with them is the standard Ozone strop. I’ve been using them for a while, whilst you get a limited life span out of them in your pulley, they are a good length and I have never broken one to date.
Leaders (Power Line and Brake Line)
Alright, this is where they are “Pro” handles. This means they are designed to be setup with a minimum amount of adjustment at the handle end. This is to minimize knots and the potential of things catching. One thing that has driven me crazy in the past is having knots on the leader lines jam up, or catch on the lines from the other handle after looping the kite or flying single handed with a few twists in the lines. Ozone have done their best to minimize the effect of the knots at the handle end. The outcome of this however is that you now need to do your adjustment at the kite end of the lines. One you have your kite setup it’s a case of leave and forget.
Now here is my main concern. I heard from an individual that his concern was the leader lines looked like they could wear on the carbon. At first I thought it was dolly’s wash, however as it turns out it is quite a reality. A couple of people have mentioned slight wear and “squeaking” of the knot inside the handles. My handles after 15 sessions are just starting to show some signs of wear, so I have no doubt that it is possible and it is something to keep your eye on just before you start the session. They won’t wear out overnight.
This is an area that has mixed feelings. Ozone released them with the intention for you to wear gloves when using them. They also put heavy consideration in to the racing scene, where the top pilots do not fly with their fingers over the top line. Personally I don’t like that, and would rather they have the finger chafe protectors supplied with them or built into their next revision, as most freestylers fly with their fingers over the top line.
Apart from the leader line on occasion chewing your finger, the handles are damn comfortable. They are fairly hard, with the foam padding giving you just that little bit of comfort. I like my handles hard instead of coated in really soft absorbent material, as it gives me a more direct feel to the kite. Instead of it being “spongy” you can feel everything instantly.
In the buggy they feel great. The feeling back from the handles is direct and not spongy, and the different sizing options let you match them well to your kite. One area would be nice, is if they made one of the handles all black, instead of the only difference being the red and black plugs at the top of the handles. This would make grabbing the correct handle after letting go a lot easier to accomplish without having to try to spot the colour on the top of the handle. Having the brake lines come straight out the bottom is also a nice change.
My overall conclusion is that I find these to be the best tool for the job at the moment. However Ozone could have done better by including chafe protectors, ensuring the top leaders don’t wear, and general cosmetics on the finish. None of this will stop me using the handles, as this is a smaller price to pay then my handles snapping mid air above hard ground, where falling into water isn’t a luxury, and landing on hard ground is a check back to reality. Ozone have released a handle that has the potential to be perfect, it just needs a little refinement.
This review was originally posted in our Community Forum, October 2007