A Little Something About Stunt Kites....
Whereas a typical kite uses a single line, a stunt kites uses 2 (or 4) lines with which you can steer the kite and do tricks and spins. Takes flying to a whole new level. Once you get a feel for the kite it's a lot of fun and very addictive but it can be tricky to learn. There's a video at the end that give the idea. Although it looks very difficult, stunt kites are actually easy to control but difficult to master. Pull one line and not the other and the kite turns. that's it. It's tricky because things happen fast. the amount you pull changes the turn. pull light and the kite does a gentle turn. pull hard and the kite does a spin.
The Kite Bar Idea
My kids have been trying to learn but they get frustrated after a couple nose dives. I had an idea for simple handle to use as a teaching aid. My hope is that this will help them get a feel for kite and learn to read the wind. My inspiration is a "kite bar" that is used by kite surfers. I've never kite surfed but thinking about all that's involved it seems like you would want the controls to be as simple as possible so that all your focus can be on surfing rather than the kite.
I love it, but will help my kids learn?
My thought was that my kids would use this a few times just to get started with kiting but what i didn't expect is how much fun I would have using it. I really like using this and will be using it often. it's a different kids of flying. The kite is really responsive to the bar movements. You can't really do the advanced tricks....at least i couldn't, but i could do easy snap turns, axels and side slides. I haven't been able to teach my kids yet so I can't report yet on how well it works as a teaching aid. I love flying in the fall....at least in Cleveland. Blustering fall days with their constantly changing wind patterns are a lot of fun. With trees loosing their leaves, areas where you couldn't fly before are not open to you. My kids don't really share these feelings so it may be spring before i get them out.
Making the Bar
this took about half hour and used stuff I had in the garage. All of my kites use wrist straps so this bar is made for that. if your kite has different handle or finger straps, this may not work but I think this can be easily modified for different handles.
2'-0" - 3/4" diameter dowel ( broom handle )
2'-0" pipe wrap insulation for 3/4" pipe.
Scrap 1/2" plywood
1 1/4" screws
drill / bits
Step 1: How to Build
1. Cut dowel to 2'-0" length.
2. drill pilot holes in either end of dowel. I made the mistake of putting on the pipe insulation before drilling the pilot holes. the insulation doesn't stick to the dowel so it just spun when i tried to drill it.
3. Cut out 2 1/2" diameter 1/2" thick plywood end caps. The diameter isn't really important. What matters is that the end caps are at least 1" bigger than the pipe insulation to keep the kite handles from slipping off.
BE CAREFUL WHEN DRILLING!!!!!!!!. Be patient and let the drill do the work. When I was finishing up the second circle I got impatient and pushed down on the hole cutter. the cutter caught and the drill jerked, injuring my wrist. nothing broken but my wrist will be wrapped for a while.
4. screw on end caps to either end. using the hole created by the hole saw screw the end caps to the rod with 1 1/4" screws. screw length can vary depending on what you have on hand. rule of thumb is to have at least as much bite as the thickness of what your going thru.
5. measure and cut pipe insulation to length with scissors or a utility knife.
6. wrap insulation around bar and stick together.
7. measure to the center of the rod and 8" on either side and wrap with electrical tape. You can get colored electrical tape. I would rather have used red but black is all I had.
that's it. now it's time to fly....or in my case wait 2 weeks until i had good wind conditions.
Step 2: How to Use:
My intention for this is for my kids to get a feel for the pull of a kite, how it reacts, reading the wind and flight window. With 2 lines coordination can be tricky and takes some time to learn. With kite bar the lines act as one. Any movement of the bar effects both lines together making things a little easier.
to use this handle simply slip the kite wrist straps on either end of the bar. Use the tape marks as guides so that your hands are evenly placed on either side. For me this was really only useful before launching. Once the kite was going all my attention was on the kite, not on my hands. you can fly one handed but only briefly and with the kite at altitude.
How Stunt Kites Are Controlled
Stunt kites are controlled by changing the tension on the lines. Pull on the left line and the kite turns left or counter clockwise. Pull on the right and the kite turns right or clockwise.
Steer like a bicycles.....not a car.
There is a temptation to use the kite bar like a steering wheel but this doesn't really work because it doesn't change the tension on the lines. You use the bar like a bicycle handle bar. Holding the bar a comfortable distance away from your body, pull in on one side and push out on the other keeping the center of the bar the same distance from you. pull in on the left and the kite goes left. pull in on the right and the kite goes right. pull in on both and the kite accelerates in the direction it's going.....hopefully up. until your really comfortable with the bar , don't try to do any ground maneuvers. Keep flying at altitude. You can practice ground maneuvers before doing them, by imagining the horizon as the ground.
This is a great instruction video i found that explains a kite bar much better than anything i could do. (not made by me so it can't be embedded)
Kiteman has a good kiting instructable for more information about flying 2 line kites. More than I can get into here.
The control bar seems to work best in a moderate steady wind of about 7-10 mph. I wouldn't use this in light winds or strong winds. The bar doesn't give you enough finesse for light winds. For strong winds holding the bar can quickly tire our your hands. I prefer to use the wrist straps for strong winds. Kite boarders fly in stronger winds but they use a harness connected to the bar which takes the pressure off your arms.
I was really surprised at how much fun this bar was. I'm going to be using this a lot. The bar doesn't give you the control if you want to do fancy maneuvers like axels and stalls but it's great for big sweeping curves and even tight spins.
It's impossible for me alone to get good pictures / videos of this in action. I'll add some action shots in the spring when i can get my kids to assist me.
Step 3: My Buying Tips for People Wanting to Get Into Stunt Kiting
Kiteman has a great kiting instructable for more information about flying 2 line kites. How to fly is more than I can get into here.
If your new to kiting and looking to buy a new kite here are some kite buying tips:
- Do not buy a big box store kite (Walmart, Target, etc). Those kites are garbage and will only end in frustration.
- Don't buy from ebay or amazon. Unfortunately those sites are flooded with cheap garbage. sellers have gotten really good at using all the "catch phrases" and making their stuff look good. the online photo's look great but it's junk. The good kites are there but hard to find until you know what your looking for.
- Get a beginner level kite that can take a lot of abuse, is easily repairable. Your going to be crashing a lot. Get used to it. spend the extra for higher quality. you'll be glad you did. expect to spend $50 - $100.
- Kites have wind rating. beginner level are usually rated for moderate to light winds 5-15 mph.
- Make sure the kite will work where you want to fly. I fly mostly on a beach that is fairly narrow. I can't fly a kite with a 150' lines. I have to stick to shorter line kites of 60-80 feet. If your not sure then get a short line kite. You can get shorter lines later but quality kite line is expensive ($30) so it's better to get the correct length the first time.
- make sure the kite comes complete with case, lines & wrist straps. Many of the online kites don't come with lines or straps as a way to bring the cost down so read the fine print carefully.
- Start small. the bigger the kite, the bigger the area that is catching the wind thus, the bigger the pull and the bigger the effort it takes to control. start with a smaller size kite that can be easily controlled and isn't going to tire you out.
- get a tail. Besides looking cool a tail will slow down a kites reaction time and make it easier to control especially in higher winds. Also gravity will naturally pull the tail down which points the nose of the kite up making the kite more forgiving and less likely to nose dive.
- if you find a kite that you like, do some research. google search " review". read what other people say about the kite. some beginner kites which are designed for lighter winds can have light bars which break easily when you nose dive....which you will.....a lot.
- Buy from a reputable dealer. and talk them before you buy. If they know what their doing, they should ask you about your experience level and the conditions of where you'll be flying. When you tell them what kite you want, they may steer you towards a different kite that's they feel is better for you. If the kite is more expensive that the one you were thinking of make sure they explain why it's a better kite for you. this is in no way an endorsement but I've gotten most of my kites from www.intothewind.com