Hugh Miller gets his mitts on Gradient’s latest, sharpest tool in the box
Who gave all the designers a kick up the arse? Most likely it was Hannes Papesh with his EN D-slaying Mentor 2 back in 2010. The result is that things have got decidedly fruity of late in the EN C class, with some serious numbers showing up in the spec sheets that were, until recent history, the preserve of open class weapons.
Indeed many say that for 2012, EN C is the new D. And with Ondrej Dupal and the Gradient team releasing a sports-class wing with 35% less line than its predecessor the Aspen 3 (222.5 m for the size 24) and reputed razor-sharp handling, I was itching to get my hands on the new Aspen 4.
Quiet and unassuming, Ondrej started Gradient in the mid-1990s and produced a run of very competitive open class wings, culminating in a world championship win in 2001 and Europeans (2005) with Luca Donini. Since then, Gradient have been best know for their Aspen and Avax sports and performance lines.
Getting the wing out, there’s a lot of clever cell arching and bracing, marketed as the ‘DD system’, that reduces the amount of line to a mere two A-lines and two B-lines on each side.
I’d heard some say that all the bracing makes for a heavy wing, but it groundhandled in light wind just fine. It comes up nice and quickly, and feels like it wants to get you flying – you need just little stabs at about quarter brake to hold it back…
PLUS: Marcus King takes Little Cloud’s mountain wing the Kangoo for a spin and turns into James Bond, while Jim Mallinson takes a bevy of bivi harnesses to the Himalayas for two seasons. Harnesses reviewed include the Nerveures Fusion, Karpo-Fly’s Arrow X-Alps 2, Swing’s Connect Reverse and Advance’s Impress 3.