I have always LOVED my Mamba. Larger than average with a commanding presence, solid on the lines yielding excellent precision, a surprisingly competent trickster, graceful, and definitely worthy of its “flagship” status in the Blue Moon range.
So what more could you want? Well, nothing… or so I thought.
But sometime in 2010 came whisperings and rumours of an altered and improved version. Ken had been tweaking and come up with the “Black Mamba” specification.
It was still a Mamba, but with different standoffs and a frame upgrade. Sail shape remained unchanged, even the bridle dimension were unaltered. Initial reviews indicated the newer version wasn’t necessarily any better, just different. So was it worth the change?
Ken very kindly published details of the differences between the original and “Black” version of the Mamba allowing users to upgrade if they wished. I decided to take the plunge and upgrade my standard Mamba part way to the new specs.
No major frame upgrade, the original Skysharks remain, but I made up new standoffs and modded the sail to suit, adding new inner standoff mounts while retaining the original ones. This allowed me to easily swap between the old spec standoffs and the new ones to provide true back to back comparisons.
At the same time I added Blue Moon style yo-yo stops (measurements also recommended by Ken).
I started with the original standoffs fitted and flew in 5 to 8 mph on shore winds for about 15 minutes, and was rewarded with the usual Mamba experience. Then a quick swap to the new specs and try again.
Wow!! Who would have thought such a nice kite could get any better?
Flight speed was very similar to before, it still felt very solid on the lines and tracked like it was on rails. Corners were easier to square off, and even when the wind dropped there was no tendency to oversteer as the sail pressure lessened.
Tip stabs? Fantastic! Nice and solid from high up or low down – very controllable. Just bang it into the ground and hold it on one tip as long as you like.
Fades on the original spec Mamba were okay, but never as locked in as they could have been. Now they are among the steadiest you’ll find; easy to flip into, very easy to lock against the lines and so very easy to hold for as long as you want. The nose of the kite sits a bit higher than before, and doesn’t dip until you want it to. Flic flacs are so controllable – slow, fast, rising, falling…
Flat manoeuvres (axels, slots, 540s, and so on) are just as flat as they were before. Side slides are a cinch (really upright, too!).
Roll ups require a positive hand (but they always did) but are very achievable. Wrapped flying is just as solid as unwrapped, so combos like wrap to multi slot to unwrap are nice and predictable. I didn’t fly with any added weight, so roll up speed may quicken with one or two of the standard Blue Moon brass tubes.
I’m told backspins are easier on the new spec Mamba. They might be – I could never do them on the original spec. On the newer spec, I managed some slow gentle backspins a couple of times, but I still need to work on that. (In much the same way, I used to backspin my Elixir really easily but struggle on it now. Newer kites seem to give them up a lot easier, I must be getting lazy!)
After 15 minutes of trying everything I can do and finding no faults with the kite, I swapped back to the original specs. It was still a very nice kite, but a few minutes later I went back to “Black Mamba” specs. (Or at least Charcoal Mamba until I fit Black Diamond Nitro spars).
Yes I prefer the upgrade, I am really glad I went to the trouble of upgrading. And I highly recommend the exercise to anyone who has the ability to add new standoff patches to their standard Mamba. Unlike the early reviews, I would go as far as saying the new specs make the kite better, not just different. I'll be sticking with the new setup.
Will I do a frame upgrade too? Possibly, but I don’t think this is as critical, and I’ll wait until I’ve flown a lot more before deciding on that.
Many thanks to Ken McNeill for providing the upgrade specs. As we say down here in Australia “Top bloke!”