When the TKB Testing Team unpacked and rigged over 32 models of kite gear one thing became clear. Despite the broad range in features and function there are a number of common design approaches that kite brands use to meet the needs of a diverse kiting population. Below is a breakdown of common design features that the brands we tested chose to integrate into their equipment.
TYPE OF SAFETY SYSTEM
Safety systems generally come in one of two flavors. Of the kites tested, 86% came with the single center-line safety depower system in which the activation of the quick release causes the kite leash to flag/depower the kite along a single center line. 14% used a double center-line safety depower system in which the QR flags the kites along the two center lines. (Single center-line safety systems are up 6% over last year)
LARGE INFLATION VALVES
Large sized inflation valves are a relatively new feature that allow for a faster and easier inflation. 78% of kites tested came with a large inflation valve and 22% of the kites came with the standard 9mm inflation valve. (Large inflation valves are up 34% over last year)
ADJUSTABLE LENGTH BAR
Control bars can either come in fixed length or adjustable lengths for a one bar fits all approach. 55% of bars tested came in fixed length while 45% featured and adjustable length option. (Adjustable length bars is down 16% from last year)
ABOVE vs BELOW-BAR TUNING
Above bar tuning puts the controls at or above rider eye level and allows riders to use the natural leverage of pulling down for adjustment. Below bar tuning ensures that the tuning controls are always within reach regardless of the bar’s length of throw. 86% of kites tested used an above bar tuning system while 14% used a below bar tuning system. (Above the bar tuning is up 3% over last year)
TUNING STRAP vs CAM CLEAT
Tuning systems come in either a simple cam cleat configuration or a strap setup with two separate controls for powering up or down. Each have their critics, (Cleats can be hard to use under tension and straps can be confusing and hard to control the amount of adjustment) but 86% of kites tested used a cleat for tuning while 14% used a strap system. (Use of cam cleats is up 14% over last year)
TYPE OF SHEETING/THROW LINE
Plastic coated sheeting/throw lines are durable and require little to no maintenance compared to Spectra/Rope sheeting/throw lines. Historically, plastic sheeting/throw lines didn’t come with an adjustable stopper, but this year 18% of the bars combined plastic sheeting/throw and a sliding stopper. 55% of the bars tested use a plastic coated sheeting/throw line and 45% use a spectra/rope sheeting/throw line. (Plastic coated sheeting/throw lines are up 11% over last year)
Bars equipped with a sliding stopper allow riders to sheet the kite in to a fixed point without having to pull against the bar pressure of the kite. Sliding stoppers also serve to limit the length of throw on longer throw bars or help keep the bar close for smaller riders with shorter reach.
PUSH AWAY QUICK RELEASE
The most common type of quick release mechanism in use today is the push away handle release. To initiate the safety system the rider grabs the below the bar quick release handle and pushes it away from his/her body. 100% of the kites tested used a push away quick release, while last year 11% of the bars tested used an alternative method such as twist to release or pull a tab to release.
QUICK RELEASE SHIELD
Many push away quick releases have a shield built into the design to protect the travel of the quick release handle from the bar. In the event of a rare tangled bar, the bar may be pushed down against the quick release and without a shield this will prevent the rider from releasing the system. 82% of push away quick releases tested came with a quick release shield and 18% did not. (Quick release shields are up 4% over last year)
CENTER LINE HAND SWIVEL
Below the bar hand swivels make it easy for riders to manually untwist center line rotations by hand. 59% of kites tested came with a below the bar hand swivel and 41% did not. (Hand swivels are up 3% over last year)
ABOVE BAR SWIVEL
Some bars use an above bar swivel to help manage twists in the center lines after rotating freestyle moves. 64% of kites tested did not use an above-bar swivel while 36% of kites integrated this option. (Above bar swivels are up 14% over last year)
LOW V vs HIGH V
At some point the two center lines that support the front of the leading edge have to split as they approach the bar. A low V is where those lines split within the rider’s reach just above the tuning mechanism and a high V is where that split occurs much closer to the kite. 77% of the kites tested have a low V and 23% of kites test have a high V.
Some bars come with line extensions which can be removed to allow you to shorten your overall line length by a couple meters. Adjusting your line lengths allows you to customize the length of your power stroke and kite response but also adds the extra bulk of connectors when the extensions are attached. 77% of the kites tested did not have line extensions and 33% of the kites did offer line extensions.
TUNABLE BAR ENDS
In the last couple years there has been a lot of innovation in tunable bar ends where the rider can make adjustments to the length of the outside lines to compensate for line stretch or different tuning preferences. Some bars have a hidden tuning option within the bar end, some have a series of knots under the floats, and others have a series of knots on the leader lines where the flying lines attach. 59% of the bars had some sort of tunable bar ends while 41% did not have these adjustment options at the bar.
Some bars integrate the floats into the bar end with a molded single piece foam that serves the function of both flotation and a softer/larger surface area to grab extra tension on an outside line. Integrated bar ends tend to be easier to wind onto the bar at the end of the day compared to loose hanging foam floats. 50% of the kites tested had some type of integrated molded float into the bar end.
ADJUSTABLE LENGTH THROW
Some bars feature an adjustable length throw in which the rider can adjust the position of the above the bar tuning so as to either shorten the throw or lengthen it significantly. (A sliding stopper typically shortens throw but doesn’t change the position of the tuning controls) Some bars are designed to allow the rider to change the positioning of the tuning controls without affecting the tuning of the kite. This may prove useful to different sized riders sharing the same bar or riders who desire extra long travel throw in the surf and shorter throw for unhooked freestyle. 41% of the bars had an adjustable length throw while 59% did not.
RETRACTABLE BAR BUNGEE
Retractable bar bungees are very convenient because they stay out of the way during riding and while winding your lines, but once you have your lines completely secured you can pull the bungees out to secure your lines for tangle free rigging next time. 64% of the bars uses some sort of retractable bar bungee and 36% did not.
OS Handles were once very common on the outside lines of most bars and allowed the rider to flag/depower the kite by first initiating the quick release and then grabbing a handle attached to a single line that would force all other lines to go slack and depower the kite. The common use of a single center-line safety depower systems seems to have made the OS handle redundant, but 14% of the bars still have some form of OS handle while 86% do not.
EDITOR’S NOTE – percentage comparisons to last year are represented as increases or decreases in percentage points over the prior year. Year to year comparisons are a rough indicator of overall feature popularity because some brands reviewed last year were not submitted this year and some new brands were submitted to this year’s test but not last years. This information is presented for entertainment purposes only.