How To Kite Buggy
After purchasing a few kites and getting bored with static flying, the majority of people look towards using kites for providing traction as a way of moving forward.
This guide will help to explain Buggying, from the basic concepts to gaining the skills required for racing.
Once again, as with our first How To Fly Guide, this guide describes activities that are potentially dangerous. If you are new to kites and traction kites in particular, we recommend that you first read the How To Fly Guide which can be found here on the racekites.com website.
You need to be relatively experienced in flying four line kites before you even think of climbing into a buggy. Using kites for traction has the ability to not only hurt you, but also those around you. Respect the power of the wind.
By using this guide, you will hopefully increase your learning curve, develop your skills and increase your enjoyment of the sport.
There is no substitute to gain experience than to actually spending time stood under a kite or sat in a buggy. If you are able to join a club or fly with other people, you will learn much faster. Alternatively, taking a few lessons will also speed your learning. If you do choose lessons, make sure that your instructor holds a suitable qualification from either the PKA or BBC.
Before you even think about getting out your kite, you need to be sure that you have selected the right location at which to fly. The more space you have available, the more fun it will be. Stay as far away from buildings, roads, trees and electrical power lines as possible. They will either create turbulence and/or eat your kite. No matter how far away that tree is, you can guarantee that your kite will land in it at some point! Getting your kite wrapped around electrical power cables is also not a good idea.
Try and choose a location which has few people. Traction kiting has the potential to be dangerous. The general public typically has no understanding of our sport. Most people will not comprehend the most fundamental point, that your kite is attached to lines. When your kite is on the ground, they will try and walk through them, over them and trip up on them every chance they get.
While flying, people will walk in front of you, they will walk under your kite and they will find it very amusing that their huge Doberman is chasing you as you buggy down the beach in fear of your life as it snaps its teeth inches from the back of your head. Avoid people at all costs.
When someone does trip over your lines, get in your way or let their dog eat your new kite, (it will happen – it’s just a matter of time), don’t get angry, shout, or threaten to beat them up. Explain the potential dangers and that they should be aware of them. This is good kite etiquette.
Buggying is most fun on long expanses of hard packed sandy beaches. It can also be done on other firm flat surfaces, such as grass or tarmac, although these will hurt more as you scrape across them at 20mph. The best place to both fly and buggy is on a large beach with onshore winds. It is definitely worth traveling to the best location possible. Take all of your equipment with you. It’s always the kite you have left at home which best suits the current wind conditions.
If you decide to travel to a beach to fly, remember to check the tides. There is nothing worse than spending two hours battling through traffic only to find that the tide is coming in and you are going to have to wait for several hours until you can fly.
Be aware of any restrictions due to bans, nature reserves etc. Whatever you do, please do not fly or buggy when you are not allowed to. It is likely that if a ban is in place, there will be local flyers who are trying to reverse it and regain access. If you decide to fly regardless you are screwing things up for everyone.
If possible, talk to other flyers using the site. Most of them will know much more about the location than you do. They will be able to point out any unseen dangers and where the best places to fly are. They will also have information about the tides and other locations in the area.
The most vital piece of equipment you can have when you decide to take up Buggying is the cheapest. This is of course insurance. There are no excuses for not having it. Many locations will not allow you to Buggy without it. Insurance can be obtained from the BBC or the PKA. If you don’t have any, stop reading this and go and get some now.
If you Buggy, you need insurance. Remember, there are NO excuses.
If you are just starting out with power kites, or are just interested in recreational flying, a basic understanding of the wind and wind speeds may be enough to get by. However, if you’re interested in Buggying then a little more knowledge is required. Wind strength changes depending on weather conditions, location, direction and time of year. An unfortunate fact of Buggying is that a single kite will not be appropriate for all conditions.
The majority of people when starting out think that bigger is better. Quite the opposite is true. I have a set of traction kites which range from 2m to 9m. The fastest I have ever been in my buggy is while using my 2m kite. The kite I use the most is probably my 4m. The 9m kite hardly gets used at all.
The size of kite you use on any particular day is determined by your weight and the wind conditions; smaller kites for windy days, larger kites for light winds on lazy summer days. When you’re learning, stick with small kites and light winds.
An important concept that will aid your learning curve is the wind window. The wind window can be imagined to be a virtual region of air space directly in front of the buggy pilot when they have their back to the wind. It extends in front of and to the sides of the flyer and its radius is given by the length of the kite lines.
The kite will develop maximum lift at the center of the wind window and minimum lift around its edges. This size of the arrow indicates the power generated by the kite in the diagram below.
If you try and take your kite outside of the wind window, either too far to the side or too far overhead, it will tend to fold and drop out of the sky.
The direction in which you can travel in a buggy is directly dependent upon wind direction. Wind direction is measured where the wind is coming from, therefore a northerly describes wind which is coming from the north blow to the south.
When in a buggy, the possible directions you can travel can be seen in the diagram below.
It’s not really that important to know the names of the directions at this point, but the directions themselves and the fact that you cannot travel directly into the wind.
There are lots of different kinds of kites available. Although you can buggy with any kite, some are more suitable than others.
Initially, you can use the kites which you already own. There is however fundamental design attributes which you should look for.
If possible try to use :
- Kites which are not designed to produce lift. Although you can easily buggy with something like a Flexifoil Blade, the lift these kites generate make out of buggy experiences (OBE) very common while you get to grips with the basics. Most of the time an OBE will hurt.
- Kites which have handles and four lines. Handles allow you to more easily control the kite. They allow fine adjustments to be applied to the kite and as such you will find kite control easier.
- Kites with medium aspect ratios. The Ozone Samurai, Flexifoil Bullet, HQ Beamer are all good traction starter kites. These kites will provide plenty of power to buggy. They will not be able to keep up with Buggiers flying high performance race kites; however that’s really not what you want to at this stage.
- Kites between 2m and 4m in area. This is only a guide, as you are already aware; the power a kite generates depends on the wind speed. With Buggying, pilot weight and surface you are Buggying on also plays a part in how fast you go. Going bigger than 4m will give a greater risk of you being overpowered and losing control. Losing control will generally hurt.
Fortunately, choosing a buggy is easier than choosing a kite. Again its easier to classify buggies into one of three sections, Beginner, Intermediate and Advance or Race. There are no real restrictions which can be placed on choosing a buggy. Most people start out with a Beginners buggy and progress into more expensive toys.
Buggies in the Beginners section will be relatively small in size, will weigh very little and will have short back axles. As such they are quite easy to maneuver however will be very twitchy and unstable at higher speeds. These buggies are good for Freestyle flyers, however not so good for high speeds and racing. These are the cheapest buggies on the market.
The Intermediate section contains buggies which are a little more “chunky” than those in the Beginners section and as such are more stable at higher speeds. They typically have a wider back axle.
Advanced or Race buggies are the ultimate. They are generally very large and very heavy. They typically have the ability to adjust the camber of the wheels and are ultra stable at high speeds. They are usually over engineered and are a very sensible purchase. The only down side to these buggies is the cost. They are the most expensive.
Buy the best one you can afford and don’t forget that you will have to transport your buggy around and store it when it’s not being used.
A helmet is an essential piece of equipment for the prospective buggier. Hopefully, as with all safety equipment, you never want to be in a position where you’ll need to use it. Unfortunately, that time will come.
The back axle hitting you in the back of the head as you flip the buggy hurts. You will flip your buggy. Wear a helmet.
The full face versions are perfect. Do not use a cycle helmet, they are not designed for Buggying, they do not protect the right places and more importantly you will look stupid.
Kite Ground Stake
A ground stake is the next thing you need to get. This is used to secure your kite while it is on the ground. This is useful while you are setting up, or just having a rest.
Your handles should have loops on the opposite side to where the brake lines are attached. Put the stake through these loops and make sure that it is secure.
When these loops are staked out, the brakes are applied to the kite. The kite will usually sit on the ground. If it flaps around or tries to take off, you will need to adjust how you are staking it out or weight the bottom of the kite (the trailing edge) with small rounded stones or sand.
Make sure you peg out the loops on the brakes.
When Buggying a harness is an essential piece of equipment, however on your initial attempts to get going a harness should not be used. Only when you have become comfortable traveling in the buggy should you use a harness.
The harness typically fits around the pilots waist, and allows a strop line which connects to the two handles to loop around a wheel. This takes the pull of the kite and allows you to buggy for hours without having tired arms.
Always try a harness on before you buy it. If possible try it under load, get the person in the shop to pull against it to simulate having a kite attached. A harness which is comfortable can be completely uncomfortable when there is a kite attached. The cheap Quadrifoil harness is known as the “ball crusher” !! You may want to think hard before you buy this one…
Harness from Dakine or Maui Magic are very good. Ideally choose a seat harness which has the wheel on the spreader bar. These are designed specifically for Buggying. The harness with the hook on the spreader is really designed for boarding and surfing.
Using a harness which has a hook abrades the strop line as you steer the kite. A strop line only breaks when under load, this usually means when you’re flying. When it breaks it will catch you unaware and 99.9% of the time this will mean the kite is ripped from your hands and will drift off down the beach in one huge tangle. Look after your strop lines and use a wheel harness. If you choose the right type now it will save you lots of broken strop lines in the future.
The most important feature when purchasing a new harness is to make sure that the straps which are used for adjusting the fit are secure under load. There’s nothing worse than the clasps coming undone and have the harness slide up under load !!
If you buggy on the beach then water proofs are highly recommended. Even though the tide is out, there is generally lots of water and wet sand around. Getting wet can be uncomfortable. Water proofs can be anything from a simple jacket to a full dry suit. Ultimately this is your choice however they come highly recommended.
Safety and Basic Rules
Safety is the most important thing to be aware of when doing any kind of traction activity. With Buggying there are several points that you need to be aware of before you get near a buggy. This list was written by Carl Abrams and as a new buggy pilot you need to know and understand each one of these points.
- Assess the wind strength before putting up a kite – it is better to put up a small kite and then a bigger one, rather than starting with a big one have being overpowered. If you do not have a small enough kite, do not fly.
- If you do not know the skills of other pilots around you, assume they do not know what there are doing – expect the unexpected!
- Stake out your kite in a safe area away from any ‘racing line’ frequented by other buggy pilots.
- Do not have out more than one kite at anytime.
- Before launching your kite, look around to see if your launch will hinder anyone else’s progress. If there are other pilots around shout ‘launch’ to show your intent to launch.
- Always wear a helmet when in a buggy.
- Ensure you have current third party insurance specific to kiting activities
- Pilots in a buggy must give way to static flyers.
- Buggies approaching each other should pass to the right of the oncoming buggy – protect your right hand side.
- When approaching a kite boarder, be aware that their kite is likely to be toward the top of the window. If there is plenty of room, pass downwind of the boarder. If you do need to pass up wind, ensure your kite is high enough to pass without hindrance.
- The up wind buggy pilot must place their kite high enough in the air to allow the down wind buggy to place their kite between the upwind kite and the ground. It is recommended to leave a large margin for error.
- When overtaking, it is the responsibility of the overtaking pilot to ensure the maneuver can be done safely. The overtaking pilot can overtake on either side but must be aware of placing his/her kite in the correct place to allow a safe pass.
- When being overtaken, the pilot being overtaken should allow sufficient room for the maneuver to take place without endangering him/herself. Do not make any quick changes of direction.
- Before making a turn, see if there are other pilots around and indicate your intent to turn by raising a hand in the air (if you feel confident enough to do so) or shouting your intent to turn.
- Give every other beach user a wide berth – particularly young children and animals. Do not assume they have seen you.
Check out the next article is this guide : Starting to Buggy
How To Kite Buggy,