CONTROL BAR ANATOMY 101
YOUR PROS AND CONS GUIDE IN CHOOSING THE BEST BAR & LINES FOR YOUR KITESURFING SESSIONS!
The Newer the Better!
If you're a kiter, then you should already know down to every little detail the functions and safety of your bar & lines! TEST: Can you answer to yourself right now which line is your quick release flag line? Center left, center right or middle 5th line?
Okay, so not only do all the bells and whistles improve each year with control bars but their innovative designs are making kitesurfing much safer these days. Older used bars will usually always have their normal wear and tears such as; stretched lines, unreliable safety systems, worn pigtails, torn bar gripping and restricted or rusty moving/spinning parts. Remember, all the colored parts that you see on bar & lines are purposely colored for your safety protection and those parts should be well checked off as above satisfactory! The good news is that most control bar parts are easily accessible and can be replaced.
4 Line and 5 Line Control Bars
You’ll see more kiters using 4 line control systems but there are kiters that love using their 5 liners. Personally, I’ve always used 4 line systems as they are simply more simple. 4 line control bars can be used for just about any kite and so can 5 line bars, but the 5th line would need to first be removed.
Note: Some 5th line bars may or may not have a 100% depower flag line after removal of the 5th line.
5 line Pros
- Easier to re-launch in lighter winds.
- After activating the quick release the kite flags out on the 5th line without any pressure or pull.
- Some use the fifth line for easier self landing.
- Some kites need the 5th line to fly correctly.
5 Line Cons
- Set up takes a little longer.
- After several loops, the 5th line can get twisted around the center lines, which negatively affects safety and performance.
- If the kite inverts then the 5th line can wrap around the kite which can make relaunching quite difficult or impossible. It also can tear your kite!
4 Line Pros
- Simply simple
- 4 line control bars can be used for just about any kite.(Some simple adjustments may be required)
- Quicker and easier set up
- Easy relaunch by simply pulling on either of the outer flying lines.
- Less chance of any lines tearing your kite into total sadness.
- If you get ‘Spaghetti Lines’ you only have to miserably and embarrassingly sort out 4 lines instead of 5.
4 Line Cons
- In light winds, relaunch can be a bit trickier.
- Self landing requires a bit more skill.
Anatomy of the Control Bar
This is my personal, up to date 2019 4-line control bar. I love its innovative simplicity and safety. I especially like that the Center Line Swivel is located BELOW the bar and the Power/Depower Adjustment Cleat is ABOVE the bar. This is an awesome, simple, safe and easy to use type of control bar.
Below, I’ll be touching base on some of the differences and Pros and Cons in the anatomy of current control bars on the market. This should help you in choosing the right bar and lines of your personal preference. I’ll start at the chicken loop and work my way upward to the kite lines. So sit back, crack open a coldie and enjoy this informational ride!
1. Chicken Loop
The chicken loop you see in the photo above is the most common type used. Below are a couple brands that have revolutionized into making their own, divergent method of harnessing up and making chicken loops non existent.
All these connection choices really just come down to personal preference.
2. Chicken Stick
The Chicken Stick has a simple job, it’s designed to secure the Chicken Loop to the harness hook. Most kiters will use these during their entire session but advanced kiters who choose unhooked tricks will release it sometimes just before attempting their trick. Most Chicken Sticks are now designed to spin out of the way simply for convenience.
3. Safety Depower Flagline and Ring
Many connection rings now are made with 2 joined rings, a small and large ring. By simply connecting your safety leash to any of the rings will offer you 100% depower and that practice is most commonly used. But sometimes advanced riders, for sick trick reasons, prefer to slide the chicken loop thru the larger ring and connecting their safety leash to the smaller ring calling it the ‘Suicide Connection’ This suicide mode is not recommended because the kite will only depower the amount of throw of the mainline below the stopper piece if the bar is let go in an unhooked situation. But the suicide setup can be made to flag and 100% depower the kite IF the quick release is engaged releasing the chicken loop. Once released, the leash connection ring will slide off of the free end of the chicken loop and flag the kite.
The Safety Depower Line can either be interior or exterior. On my control bar, you cannot see the safety line because it is interior, inside of the Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) center line tubing resulting in a much simpler and cleaner control bar. The rope itself remains protected from wear and tear, sun and salt water damage.
4. Safety Quick Release
There are different types of quick releases and all of them are located in the same spot, just above the chicken loop, giving a close reach for that quick and easy release to hopefully save you from any unwanted KITEMARES!! Some releases are counter intuitive though so whenever you are trying out a new control bar, always test out your safety system before going kiting. For example, there are chicken loops that release by pushing them away, some release by pulling on them while others release when you twist the collar. And to top it off, there are even some older unrecommended systems where the chicken loops are fixed and do not release at all! 😵 Back in 2007, I broke my ankle from an old 2005 quick release system that you literally had to put a couple fingers through a loop and pull to release, long story short, that didn't work out very well to my advantage! Well...now in 2019, safety release systems have improved to a much higher level of safety!
On a brighter note, quick releases are also used simply to self land kites safely. Below are some different examples of Safety Quick.
Any of the above Quick Releases work great and again, just comes down to personal preference.
5. Center Line Swivel
Nowadays on newer models, most swivels are located below the bar, which is what I prefer. Good to keep this part clean, and free spinning. This is used to unspin your center lines when they get twisted up from tricks such as back rolls, front rolls and more advanced tricks such as kite loops and down loops. Back in the days before swivels, I used to have to pause my session, stand on the beach and spin my body in circles until all the twists became untwisted. Center Line Swivels are very convenient!
I highly recommend the below the bar swivels for easier access. Swivels above the bar, like in the photo above, are far away and difficult to reach. Especially if you have short arms and even worse if you are using a waist harness because the harness tends to get pulled up higher into the bodies torso area making the swivel even farther to reach.
6. Adjustable Bar Lengths and Different Size Bars
Many brands are now making their control bars an all in one bar for both small and larger kites. Depending on the brand, they will have their own simple way of making the adjustments on the ends of the bar bringing the outer steering lines closer together or farther away. An all in one bar is very convenient for kiters who travel or have limited space in their cars to pack several control bars, etc. Many bars though do come in different fixed lengths as well so basically, if you purchase a small kite, then a smaller size bar is more appropriate. More importantly though, a longer bar is needed for the larger kites to help turn the kites faster and more efficiently. Beware of using too long of a bar for smaller size kites as it can be dangerous in turning the kites too fast resulting in possible KITEMARES!
Here is a basic example of a large and small control bar. I personally would only use the smaller compact bar when flying 9m kites or smaller. Anything larger then I’ll use the standard bar. The length of control bars range from about 45cm up to 60cm.
7. Line Safety Floats
These are basically here for 2 reasons, to protect your hands/fingers from the flying lines and also to help float your bar if submerged in the water for various reasons. Different brands make different sizes, colors and shapes of these.
8. Center Line or (Main Line)
Keeping this part in good condition is extremely important as it takes a constant load of force from the kite. Wear and tear over time occurs so it's always good to perform maintenance inspections. Some are simply made with exposed rope and others are rope with a protective covering around it called, Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). Without the TPU, the rope goes through more wear and tear from the bar sliding up and down on it while kiting. The TPU reduces that wear and tear and gives it longer life. But, keep in mind that with the TPU, you are unable to view the condition of the rope inside. I’ve personally had the center line rope with TPU covering rip apart on me once while kiting and resulting in the kite falling out of the sky with only the outer steering lines attached crashing into the surf zone..so be careful!!
Here is a good example of wear and tear on both the main center line and the safety leash line. Always smart to replace these parts when you start to see some shredding occur. Again, these ropes undergo a powerful and constant pressure and it can potentially be very dangerous when they snap. Unsafe not only to others around you but imagine if you’re catching a big 30ft. air and in mid-air snaps on you, down comes the kiter!! 😬
9. TPU Leader Lines
Leader lines are basically there for added protection and comfort when pulling on one of the outer lines to launch or relaunch kites. Basically kite lines wrapped with thin TPU.
10. Power/Depower Adjustment Cleat Sheeting Systems
On most newer control bars you’ll find these located above the bar but there are many bars that have them located below the bar. There are many types of sheeting systems these days so I’ll break them down for ya! A common one is a simple looping rope that is either located above or below the bar. Another common type is a Buckle Pull System at above the bar only. I personally prefer my sheeting system to be above the bar as it’s easier to pull while the kite is powered up. I’ve found that trying to pull on the sheeting system when its below the bar, while the kite is powered up, is quite difficult and awkward. BUT, below the bar sheeting systems work well for kiters that have short arms making it an easier reach. If you have short arms and cannot reach your above the bar sheeting system then that’s not good and can lead to problems when attempting to depower your kite when needed. In that case, I would highly suggest a below the bar sheeting system. Some advanced riders prefer the below the bar system so they can connect their leash to it for unhooked tricks giving them a fair enough of depower if they do wipeout and the bar flies out of their hands.
Also some brands have done away with the cleat system completely and gone in their own divergent methods of powering and depowering the kite.
Below I have supplied you with some images showing the different methods.
Below are 2 of the newer approaches to depower/powering the kite.
Total Trim control with one knob
Twist the Sidewinder to add power, bump or nudge to depower. Quarter turns deliver 1cm of trim, five full rotations sheets in 21cm of direct 1:1 trim adjustment! Instantly depower your kite with a swift downstroke motion on the knob or bump for incremental depower. With only one moving part, the simple open design allows rapid flushing of debris, easy inspection of all parts and simple maintenance if required. With your trim control always within reach, trim adjustment become intuitive and can be made while riding without needing to take your focus off the water ahead.
Note: Sidewinder delivers 1:1 total trim adjustment of 21cm, or 42cm of traditional 2:1 cleated pulley line depower.
From my research and speaking with other kiters, they love these new concepts! They are clean with no dangling ropes or straps. I’ve only tried out The Winder once and admittedly, it was odd for me but I feel that if you want to teach this old dog new tricks, I’d need to use it many times to get fully comfortable with the change. I Imagine though that if I were in a situation where I need to big time depower my kite quickly then either the cleat and pully or buckled pull system would be quicker compared to having to make multiple rotations/spins on these bars.
So all these systems come down to personal preference but hopefully I’ve enlightened you with some things to think about when making your choice for depower systems.
11. Kite Lines
Kite lines, also known as flying lines, are made of very strong polyethylene and made by Spectra (USA) or Dyneema (Europe). Also on the market are the high end Q Power Pro lines that are top notch! The breaking strength of quality kite lines ranges between 661 pounds and 992 pounds.
Note: 5th line not shown in this diagram
All the lines required to fly your kite are as follows:
- 2 Front lines or center lines
- 2 Back lines, outer lines or steering lines
- Pigtails and connectors (these are the smaller connections between the lines and the kite
- 5th line (Only used with some brands)
- Bridle system (These lines stay permanently attached to the kite and some brands offer connection options in fine tuning the way the kite flies)
In order for the kite to fly properly, the 2 front and 2 back lines need to be the same length. Over time, lines can stretch, especially the front lines due to the constant pull and power of the kite. Eventually, some fine tuning line adjustments will be necessary and there are many different ways to do that.
Most lengths of kite lines are variable and usually range between 20-27m long. But some kiters prefer even shorter lines or even longer lines. It really depends on your kiting style, tricks and/or wind speeds as the length will indeed influence the performance of the kite. Generally speaking, longer lines are more beneficial in light winds because they put the kite higher in the sky and also makes the kite travel through a larger wind window creating more power. Shorter lines are more beneficial in higher winds but offer less powerful and have a smaller wind window. Below is a list of advantages of short lines, standard lines and longer line lengths.
Shorter Lines (15m-19m)
- Kite moves faster thru wind window
- Great for powered kite loops and wave riding
- More control, direct steering
- Less intense kite crashes
- Increased high end
Standard Lines (20m-24m)
- Most bars come with these length of lines making this the optimal combination of speed versus power
- Good turning speed
- Good optimal low end/high end power
- High jumps
- Great all around kitesurfing fun!
Longer Lines (25m-30m)
- Great for light winds but slower turning speed
- Extra power and low end grunt
- Ideal for racing
Brand new control bars come packaged with their standard length of lines attached to the bars and usually include 3m line extensions as an option to add to your lines. I’ve also seen certain brands package their control bar with the line extensions already attached to the standard lines. It is up to you to add or remove the extensions.
Personally, I fly with 20m lines only and quite happy with it. So take control of your control bar and be safe my friends!!