What was your vision for 2020 NEO?
For the 2020 NEO development, my vision was not to change it, but enhance it. The foundations were all there; incredible handling and excellent drifting capabilities for waveriding, as well as a good performer in freeriding and foiling. I looked for inspiration in innovations that had worked in other models and saw what the outcome would be.
What was the process?
Allow me to detour slightly. When designing the 2019 Mono we managed to achieve a lower aspect ratio than in the past. Bigger MONOs have AR 4.1, smaller Monos have AR 3.7. This has worked really well delivering better drift, more engaged turning and less flutter.
With the NEO, aspect ratio isn’t something we have played with much. Most NEOs have had an aspect ratio of 4.5 and since we had so much success in revising the AR of the MONO, we decided to see what we could do with NEO so tested prototypes at AR 4.3 and AR 4.1.
There were attractive qualities in these prototypes and we were encouraged enough to try quite a few of them. In the end the 4.1 and 4.3 AR protos gained qualities we wanted but lacked in the qualities we wanted.
Not abandoning the whole concept, we tried minuet changes in aspect ratio - 4.5 to 4.4. Even with such small adjustments, we were unable to make the prototypes match up to the previous production NEO in terms of performance.
When a kite as popular as the NEO is changed, the modifications can’t be permitted if performance gains in one area cost performance loss in another area. We have to say no. Keeping every performance quality that we like is essential, so we look to improve in one or two areas without any loss at all in other areas.
In the end, we decided that the place where we knew we could get a better kite without any loss or compromise was in the area of materials and panel layout.
How did you achieve this and how does it translate into performance?
Our longstanding partnership with our cloth suppliers, Teijin, and our combined expertise, verified the implementation of our new 75 gram RipStop canopy and Trailing Edge material with the new, more subtle Trailing Edge wave pattern which is lighter, reduces flutter marks but remains as strong as the previous Dacron reinforcement.
Were the any challenges you had to overcome?
As mentioned above, we didn’t achieve our goal of improving the NEO through a change in aspect ratio. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but rather that we need more time. This is part of the design game. Sometimes you win, others you loose, but overall the 2020 NEO has improved due to the new materials.
What are the main design and performance updates for this year’s model?
The new cloth material and lower weight has enhanced the NEO’s nature and aerial performance. The new Trailing Edge wave pattern which is lighter, reduces flutter marks but remains as strong as the previous Dacron reinforcement.
In addition, the applied and newly developed 75 gram RipStop material has similar stretch and ageing characteristics to the D3 canopy material. The reason for these updates is to have a more harmonious transition between these two materials.