Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Power Kites - Handles or Control Bars?

So the question always seems to come up from time to time for power kites, Handles or Control Bar?

I fly both styles, fixed bridle on handles and depower on a bar. It really depends on what you are wanting to do with your riding as to which one is better. I can list a couple of pros/cons that I have experienced and hopefully it will help.

Fixed bridle kite on Handles:
This combination is usually the easiest way to control the kite, turns are much faster and more precise. Fixed bridle kites are usually smaller per wind condition and the kites can fly and deliver plenty of power in less wind. They are much more efficient in the air than depowerable kites. Fixed bridle kites on handles are usually easier to setup, launch and land. You can find tune the brake lines during flight by adjusting the position of your handles.
For buggies, this is usually the preferred method as you can rip the kite around pretty much anywhere in the wind window and still be under complete control. You can spin the kite faster without the huge swooping downstroke of power. Fixed bridle kites usually have less lift than depowerable kites so you have less chance of getting yanked up out of the buggy but still have plenty of speed and pull. This is not to say that a Fixed Bridle kite won’t lift you, any decent power kite will launch you off the ground in the right (or should we say wrong) wind conditions.

Fixed Bridle on a bar:
In this combination, kite turns can be slower and usually will make large swooping turns through the window. Launching is usually a bit harder than with handles. It is much harder to get your brake lines adjusted during flight unless your control bar has an adjustable setup on it. Usually you set your brake line tension once and then leave it. The kite usually flies slower and the feel (turning and input) is less responsive. The kite has a mushy feeling unless flown in really strong wind. It is a bit harder to keep the kite powered up in light winds. The control bar does give you a lot more freedom with a ground board or snow board in that you can rotate your upper torso easier because you can fly the kite with one hand, letting the other drop back behind you for easier upwind riding and also much easier toe-side riding. The harness can be connected to your waist / pelvic area so your center of gravity is much lower. This allows you to direct the power easier into your legs/board and pulls less on your shoulders. The bar offers better safety disconnect setups and should come with a safety kite leash. It is also easier to control your kite while you manipulate your board/harness/etc with your free hand for setup. The kite is also less twitchy and usually more forgiving during flight. Although you do lose some of the tight responsive control when putting a fixed bridled kite on a control bar, this setup is usually preferred by mountain boarders and snow boarders. This setup can also be used in the buggy as well but is not the preferred setup. The control bar is usually easier for beginners to learn on as you only have to hang on and turn right or left, you do not have to worry about brake tension or angle of attack. The kite basically flies like a two line kite with a safety leash.

Depower on Bar (handles are not recommended):
Depower gives you the most lift/hangtime over fixed bridle kites mainly because of the overall design of the wing, not because of the control bar. Depowerable kites have a very aggressive lift to drag ratio and are usually designed more for jumping than for speed. They also have larger wind ranges in which they can be flown in because of their unique ability to be depowered on the fly. They excel in gusty conditions, allowing you to adjust your power instantly when gusts or lulls come up during flight. They have the same advantages as fixed bridle on a bar but usually take more wind to fly than a fixed bridle kite of the same size. They generally are slower in turns than fixed bridle kites but can be flown quite aggressively when they are flown in their optimum wind range. Usually one depower kite will cover the same wind range as 2 or 3 fixed bridle kites. The safety release systems on depower kites are awesome. The Re-ride system developed by Ozone and now used on basically every depowerable land kite allows you to kill the kite completely while leaving the bar attached to you. This pretty much eliminates the tangled mess you use to get when activating your safety. Depower kites cost quite a bit more per kite than fixed bridle kites but they usually come complete ready to fly with matching bar setup and lines. Depower is usually the preferred kite with aggressive landboarders and snow kiting and is standard equipment on every major brand of kite surfing kites.

Basic generalizations:
Least expensive - Fixed bridle with handles
Most responsive - Fixed bridle with handles
Widest wind range - Depowerable kites with control bar
Biggest lift - Depowerable kites with control bar
Easiest to learn / fly - Fixed bridle with control bar
Most expensive - Depowerable with control bar

Each kite is designed for specific purposes. The best way to find out what kite or configuration is best for you is to talk to your local kite dealer or contact us at / We can help you choose the best kite for your application.

Hope that helps. Till next time, Happy Winds!!!