DIAL IN YOUR CONTROL BAR
By Paul Lang
Originally Published in the October 2008 Issue of The Kiteboarder Magazine
Your control bar is your connection to your kite. It’s how you control its steering and power, and it’s what transfers the power of the kite to you. Your bar is a relatively small piece of equipment, but it can ruin your session if it does not work right.
It is also often your most used piece of gear, as many riders use the same bar for multiple kites. Spend some time making sure your bar is in tip top shape and consider upgrading parts that you are not happy with. You spend hours at a time holding onto that skinny piece of carbon, so read our suggestions below to help you get your bar dialed in.
- Get a Grip:
If your bar is well used, it might be time to update the grip, especially if it is starting to peel off. You can pick up hockey grip tape at any sports supply store and use it to give your bar a brand new look and feel. Clean and dry your bar first, and then wrap the hockey tape around your bar in a spiral pattern. Use a sharp razor blade to trim excess away from the ends of the bar and chicken loop hole. If you want to be really fancy, you may be able to find different colors for the different sides of your bar.
- Lube It Up:
To help keep the parts of your bar and safety system working well, you want to keep them clean and lubed. Every few sessions, wash your bar with fresh water and let it completely dry. Spray WD-40 on every piece of metal on your bar. Take your safety system apart and spray every part with WD-40 before putting it back together. Not only will this keep everything working they way it should, but the WD-40 will also help prevent corrosion on the metal parts of your bar.
- Prevent Excess Wear
If your lines don’t have them already, make a set of spectra pigtails to attach your lines to your kite. The ends of your lines are where most wear occurs, so you can easily double the life of your lines with only a few dollars worth of spectra line.
- Change Your Chicken Loop:
Chicken loop lines wear out over time, so check yours often to see if it needs to be replaced. If you see any broken strands in the line, it’s time to change. Every brand of bar is a little different. With some bars, you may need to contact your local dealer for a replacement part, while the chicken loop on other brands can be changed with spectra line you can buy at any sailing supply store. If you see wear on your chicken loop, change it before your next session. It will be a lot less hassle than having it break on you.
- Shorten the Throw:
If you don’t have especially long arms, then you probably have to bend over at the waist when you depower your kite while riding. This causes you to have bad posture when you ride. To correct this, you can adjust your bar so that it is closer to your body. On some bars this is easy to do, while on others this is difficult to impossible. Some manufacturers sell replacement harness loops that are physically smaller than the original, while some harness loops can be trimmed to be shorter. If it is not possible to shorten your harness loop, you can simply bring the bar closer to your body with kite trim by shortening your front lines. This will bring the bar closer to your body for the same amount of power and allow you to ride without bending over.
- Add a Spinning Swivel:
Some bars come with a swivel on the front lines and some do not. Some of the ones that do come with a swivel don’t work well enough to un-spin your front lines after a move. Buy a high quality small Harken or Ronstan block with a swivel and you’ll never have to worry about unspinning your front lines again.
- Turn Your Big Bar into a Small Bar:
Most long bars can be easily cut down if you find yourself wanting a smaller one. The first step is to remove the ends, which are usually held on with a 3/16 inch rivet. Drill off the head of the rivet with a 3/16 bit and pull the ends off. Carefully measure an equal distance from the middle of the bar to each side so your chicken loop will still be in the middle. Mark and then tape all the way around the bar where you plan to make your cut. Cut the bar with a sharp hacksaw, using a miter box so your cut stays square. Squeeze some silicon into the ends of the bar to seal it and install the ends. Drill new rivet holes and install rivets. Enjoy your smaller, lighter bar.
- Shorten Some Lines:
You can shorten your lines to any length you want or repair broken lines with a sleeving kit from a kite shop (a kite shop, not a kiteboarding shop). Cut all four (or five) of your lines to the same length and follow the directions for installing the sleeve with the included tool.
- Keep it Clean:
Storing your bar covered in sand will cause more wear than actually using it. After every few sessions, wash your bar and lines with fresh water and let them completely dry. At the end of every session, wind up your lines and dunk the bar in the water to get the sand off. Pull off any bits of seaweed unless you like your car to smell like rotten lettuce.
- Tune your Lines:
Making sure your lines are tuned properly is the most important thing you can do to get the most out of your kite. Attach all four (or five) lines to a solid object like a tree or car, and pull the bar tight with your trim strap
completely powered so that all lines are the same length. Do not hook into the chicken loop when doing this. One line being off by only half an inch can cause a dramatic decrease in performance. Adjust the knots on your leader lines until all lines are even. You should check your lines at least a few times a season, especially if your kite just doesn’t feel right while flying.