Home Technique Tuning your kite

Tuning your kite

You could have sworn that new kite you just purchased was ready to fly. If you're having a lot of 'What's wrong with this thing?' or 'Why's my kite not working?' moments, then the chances are your kite needs a little tuning.
Adjusting your set-up can drastically improve your kite's performance for both wind conditions and your skill level. Here are a few tips that just might 'boost' your next session:
    The number one 'weird flying' cause are line lengths. All it takes is a one centimetre difference and your kite's going to behave oddly. There are two line length mishaps: polar and lateral.

    A kite's lines are paired together as 'front' load lines and the 'back' steering/brake lines. Lateral line loss simply means your lines are uneven (laterally across either the front, or the back). When one line becomes longer than the other it decreases tension, causing your kite to pull towards the shorter line. While lines can stretch over time or during a crash, lateral line loss also happens when a rider has a rigging error (i.e. the left rear line is on the second knot while the right one is on the first knot).
    Front line lateral loss will leave your kite leaning towards the shorter line side. You'll notice a decrease in depower and turning. Your kite just won't seem very responsive. Rear line loss causes your kite to turn very fast towards the short line, and very slow to no turning towards the long line. Either lateral loss will critically affect your kite's precision and the ability to do what you need it to? when you want it to do it!

    Get in the habit of checking your lines for equal length after every five sessions. Connect them to one central point and lay them out together. Should you notice odd turning characteristics while riding, land immediately and check your connections for equal settings. If one line has stretched out, you'll need to replace your lines.

    This happens when there's an imbalance between your front and rear lines. It can cause over-sheeting (too much rear line tension) or lead loss (not enough rear line tension). When there's too much tension on a kite's rear lines the kite will over-sheet, causing wing-tip flare, inducing more drag than the kite's forward motion can handle. Over-sheeted kites can stall, drop or even fly backwards, raising risk levels as your kite can suddenly power up at any moment. Lead loss just means you have so much tension on your front lines that your back lines are barely working, if at all. Without rear line tension your kite loses steering and braking control. Without these, the wind will totally control what you kite does and where it goes. Very scary.
    The good news is there are several things you can do to help prevent either polar length differentiation scenario. The goal is to have your kite at maximum power only when your bar is fully pulled down to the chicken-loop. On many current model kites, you can test for proper polar length simply by flying your kite up to midnight and then pulling your bar down fully. If your wing-tips flare in and your kite stalls, you need to increase rear line length. If little to nothing happens and you find your kite hard to steer, you should likely decrease rear line length. Here's how:

    • Adjust your power system: Th is the quickest and easiest way. Shortening the front lines effectively increases rear line length at the same time. The reverse happens when you let your front lines out.
    • Alter your line lengths: This can be done by changing where your lines connect to your bar and/or kite. Most kites offer multiple attachment points either on kite pigtails, or on the leader line that connects the kite line to the bar. Adjust as needed but be wary when adding any additional knots, as accuracy can be tough.

    Did you know many pros fly their kites on the slow settings? This gives their kite more stability and allows more room for timing tricks correctly. Most kites give you multiple rear line attachment options. Connection points closer to the kite's edge increase the 'leverage' distance to your front line attachments, hence increasing the kite's steering speed. Try moving your rear line pigtails to the inside points to try smoothing things out.
    Another way to slow everything down is to use a smaller bar. The smaller lever you have, the less impact it has on the kite. Some bars offer multiple length options; try moving your leader lines to the inside (making your bar shorter). Also, experiment with connection points and bar length combinations. The small and seemingly twitchy kite might find peace in both.

    Extra long centre depower lines with a sliding stopper are now popular on today's kite. With such a large 'throw' these models offer drastic depower, especially when you let go of the bar. But, if the stopper is set to low, the extra throw does nothing for you in emergency situations. Try setting it at full arms length or more. This will give you more 'on the fly' depower.
    Lengthening your centre line will also add more instant depower. Some control systems have centre line adjustments designed in the power system. These allow you quick and easy centre line adjustments (great if you're ever sharing you control system with friends). Or you can manually swap your centre line with a longer one. If you decide to do so, increase the rear line length by the same amount to avoid polar length differentiation (see above).

    Most kites have multiple leading edge bridle attachment options. By moving your font lines 'up' the kite (closer to the centre of the leading edge), you're giving the kite more 'rocking' power (AKA tilt). With a high swing point your kite has more room to move up and down more quickly when pushing and pulling your bar, increasing how fast your kite will depower. It will also help prevent over-sheeting (see above) and help keep your kite feeling smooth in gusty conditions.
    Be careful; adjusting your front lines to a higher setting decreases drag and can sometimes decrease overall control. You'll get sports-car-like braking power and overly light handling. If you prefer easy, not so immediate depower during bar movement, then keep your front lines on a lower setting.

OUTRO - Adam Von Ins coaches for Air in South Carolina. Find him at: www.catchsomeair.us

Read issue #37 HERE

Added: 2012-09-12

Category: Technique

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