Issue 8: Buggy Newz

I’ve been reading the various kite magazines and noticing the articles on power kiting and the buggy showing up with increasing regularity. Even Popular Science has a power kite article in the February ’99 issue (More photos and stuff at their web site:

So with all this exposure I figure more and more folks will want to give it a try. And if you plan to buy a buggy or a boat or go kite surfing… How and where? Which one to buy? In this brief article I will try to give you some pointers and helpful suggestions that will serve you well as you begin.

We will deal with the buggies first. Peter Lynn buggies were the first on the commercial scene in 1991 and they are still the most popular. Lynn buggies come in 3 styles, all built from stainless steel: The Classic, the Competition, and the Folding. The Classic has a more relaxed seating position, well-suited to cruising and those pilots with a wide butt, while the Comp has the rider more upright and centered for better balance in trick riding and racing. The Folding Buggy, as one might imagine from the name, folds easily, without tools, to fit in a trunk. It is a bit heavier than the other styles, but only a bit.

Peter builds the BigFoot Buggy with extra wide low-pressure tires for soft sand use. The BigFoot is essentially a Comp with a bigger rear axle for strength and a wiiide front fork. One can just buy the upgrade parts… But it is a hassle changing things back and forth. Both the Classic and the Comp retail for less than $400 with standard plastic rims. The Folding Buggy is less than $600 and the BigFoot is priced under $900. Options like alloy rims, a heavy duty frame, extra wide wheels and tires all add to the price. How much do you want to spend?

Peter Lynn also designed 2 stainless steel buggies for Cobra Kites (suppliers of Flexifoil and SkyTiger Power Kites). The standard Cobra buggy has a drop-in seating arrangement with higher side rails, while the Sport model incorporates a built-in back rest. Both the Cobra buggies as well as all the PL buggies break down easily for transport.

Steve Kent at Kites Etc., in Southern California builds the WindChariot (a PL clone) from chrome/moly with a powder coat paint job. It is a bit heavier than the stainless PL and Cobra buggies and gives a nice solid ride. The WindChariot also includes 2-piece alloy rims instead of the familiar plastic rims.

From Europe comes a new generation of buggies, most sporting a wider rear axle and a longer wheelbase. This aids stability in a race, particularly with lighter riders, but hinders trick riding and turning ability. Some of the models include the Advance Buggy and the range of 3 Cameleon Buggies which were spotlighted in the Dec/Jan ’99 issue of Kite Passion magazine. There are many others from Europe where the buggy part of the sport is much more active.

Some do not break down so their appearance in the USA is rare. Which one is right for you? Come to a buggy event and talk to the riders and sit in a variety of models. You will notice that owners like to add seat backs and bags and foot straps. Most of that stuff can wait until you have buggied a few times and know more about what you want.

Now… On to the power kites: Too may times have I had someone ask me to sell them a buggy and a big kite so they can go fast. Sorry… that’s not how it works. Big kites work on light wind days. To go fast one needs a small kite and a big wind. When learning to buggy, start with small to medium sized kites and medium winds. Learn how to control both kite and buggy before you try to “go fast”. Smaller kites also encourage you to pay attention to technique and how to get the most out of what you’re flying. Good technique yields better speed and performance.

Move the kite around to generate more power and when you stop doing that, you slow down. Too big a kite means you have no way to slow (until you hit something or come out of the buggy). You will quickly learn how to keep both kite and buggy going, then add a larger kite for lighter winds and perhaps a smaller kite for those really windy days.

Quad-line foils are the most popular and easiest to learn and use. A good suggestion is to start with a 20-30 sq/ft model, then add a 40-60 sq/ft for those light wind days and a 10-20 sq/ft for blazing winds. Smaller sizes for pilots with a smaller body mass and the larger ones for us high-mass pilots.

Brand name quad kites include the Quadrifoil Traction foils: the Classics, the Q2000’s, the Comps and the new CompX series. SkyTigers are also very popular and come in a variety of fabric weights and sizes. Peter Lynn has developed a series of outstanding designs including the original dual-line Peels, Zip-Tip Peels, U.L. Peels, and the line of quad-line Peels, C-Quads and N-Gen high performance quads.

Other foils like the JoJo, Concept Air and Quad-Trac by Premier are finding their niche as well. More companies are bringing designs to the market all the time. Price is not the only consideration for buggy engines. Quality construction may be more expensive, but it brings years of use and value.

OK? Got the gear you need? What else is there to pay attention to? The flying lines are important. Spectra lines are the most desirable because of the low stretch, low weight and thinness. I suggest the same weight for top and bottom lines, so swapping to even wear and creep is easier, and you are less likely to be stranded if a line breaks. Some sell lighter lines for the bottom set, but the drag of thinner lines is relatively insignificant compared to line length. Remember that doubling line length quadruples drag. That includes going from 2 to 4 lines or from 50′ to 100′ line length, for example.

Matter of fact… All 3 of my main engines have the same strength lines: my big Q6 sports 300#/75′ for more movement and performance in lighter winds. My Q4 and SkyTiger Hi-30 both run 300#/60′ for those medium wind days, while my Q2 had 300#/50′ for big winds, when keeping the kite in close works best.

Now… Just get some gear and go buggy.

Photos courtesy of Sam Eaton