What is Kite Bar Pressure?

23 05 2011

Your interface with the kite...

If you are new to kiteboarding you’ll read kite reviews talking about bar pressure as well as hearing other kiters discussing the subject. So what is bar pressure? Well you are connected to your kite through the front and rear lines. The front lines go straight to your harness via your chicken loop [black loop closest to you in image above]. The back lines are attached to your control bar and you use them to steer the kite with. Additionally the control bar sliding towards you or away from you changes the angle of attack of the kite [how much air it catches] which increases or decreases power from the kite. The design of the kite and the bar will determine how much force you feel at the bar in at a given windspeed with a kite. Some kites really pull hard on the rear lines so you have to pull back hard to keep the bar where you want it and you have to pull harder on the bar to steer the kite. Some kites are in the middle and some kites offer very light bar pressure.

Here are some examples:

  • Ocean Rodeo Rise: you’ll feel very little pressure at the bar for a given windspeed with these kites. I generally fly mine with one hand just lightly on the middle of the bar and I can steer the kite with 1 finger.
  • Naish Code: you’ll feel a ton of bar pressure compared to the OR Rise. My arms get tired after a 2hr session on one of these kites.
  • Liquid Force Havoc: this kite is between the two kites above. It pulls hard enough you get lots of feedback from the kite, but it’s not obnoxiously hard to hang onto.

OR Rise = so light you forget it's there...

What’s the best?

There is no right answer when it comes to bar pressure. Some like it hard, some like it light and some want medium pressure. If you are a weaker rider or have tendonitis issues you’re likely to want a kite with light bar pressure. When you are learning having a moderate to high amount of bar pressure can be good because it lets you know where the kite is and you won’t steer it with light accidental input to the bar. Before you buy a kite make sure you try it and understand what it feels like to fly it – keeping in mind there are many designs and they feel quite different from one another.

LF Havoc = medium bar pressure...

What do I like?

I really like light bar pressure when I kiteboard. Partially because I have chronic tennis elbow issues and partially because a light bar lets me control my kite very easily for gracefully intuitive riding. When I demo a kite the first thing I notice when I’m out on the water is how hard to I have to pull on the bar. My test is after 30-45mins of riding with a new kite am I thinking about the bar or is my attention on the board and the water? If the bar is pulling too hard my focus is on the bar and I don’t like that. If the bar pressure is light I’m flying the kite with one hand and my arm is relaxed so my brain shifts to the important part of the experience the terrain I’m riding and my board. The kite starts to fly itself and I love that feeling.

My friend is stronger and stockier than I am. He doesn’t notice or mind a kite with high bar pressure. So you really have to try a few kites to see where you fit in.

More pressure = more power?

You can have two different kites that are both equally powerful, but one has very light bar pressure and the other pulls your arms out of their sockets. Remember that the energy that moves you around the water is transfered to your body via the front lines through the chicken loop attached to your harness. The back lines are for control. So don’t assume a kite with lots of bar pressure is necessarily an extremely powerful kite compared to one with light bar pressure. The reality could be exactly the opposite.