Still aiming for that elusive 60kph!
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Hi, I’m Mark and I’m addicted to kite buggying...
I live in Baldivis (bal as in pal, di as in dead and vis is vis!) about half an hour south of Perth in Western Australia – I emigrated to Oz 5 years ago from Shropshire with my wife and two daughters, the best move we ever made. I have skateboarded, surfed and body-boarded but now I am truly hooked. When not out in the buggy you will find me onhttp://www.racekites.com/ or http://www.extremekites.com.au/ where I am gum-nuts…
I started flying power kites about 5 or 6 years ago after being introduced to them by a friend back in the UK, at that time I was more interested in the land-boarding side of it – but to be honest I sucked! Just couldn’t maintain my balance on the board against the pull of the kite – I could probably get about 10-15 metres downwind, but then had to walk back!
I always looked at kite buggies with distaste, how do you transport them without major modifications to your car? They looked to me like some kind of glorified shopping trolley or golf cart! They just did not hold any appeal at all – so I sold the kites and used the board downhill.
Earlier this year I was inspired to try kiting again and after much persuasion managed to convince my wife to let me buy a 5m Ozone Flow – with the promise that I wouldn’t need anything else. I got back involved with a kite forum and the more I flew the more I thought about a set of wheels.
The site where I fly is also the home of land yachts – Lake Walyungup, is a salt lake. It is flat, pretty smooth, large, open and has excellent clean winds from any direction. It would be an excellent place to kite buggy and it is only 5 minutes from home.
The seed had been sown; I spent more and more time looking at buggies on the Internet, watching kite buggying on You Tube, reading about speeds, jumps and distances, power slides and OBE’s on the kite forum. These weren’t golf carts, they aren’t shopping trolleys – they are highly engineered and tested to their limits, they are fast, they are fun – I need a buggy!More discussions on the forums, more research on the www, more videos on You Tube. Started to contact people about second hand bugs, set myself a budget of $350 – I thought if I could get a bug for that price how could my wife say no!
After hunting around the Internet it soon became obvious that my budget was un-realistic, I could get a buggy for less than that in the UK but delivery was prohibitive. The only way to get what I needed was to buy new, and I decided on the Peter Lynn Competition XR+ –the comp seemed to tick all the requirements and would also come apart to fit in the boot of my car!
The order was place and an anxious week followed as I tracked my buggy on the couriers website as it first made it to Sydney, then started the long trip from Sydney to Perth by road. There were no updates for five days then I got the notification that it had made it across the Nullarbor and was at the depot to be collected.
Was I idle during those 5 days? Of course not – More reading and research and I discovered Popeye the Welder’s website this gave me loads of information on buggy’s, from making your own, reviews and how to buggy (this is what I wanted!). I also found PTW E-Trex GPS Holder and emailed the link to my Dad who made me one in aluminium. Now when I get my buggy I will be able to use my e-trex to track my speed and distances!
I also ordered a PL buggy bag, which is to be my Fathers Day Present!
The forecast for the weekend is looking good, with sunshine and blue skies, light winds on Saturday and light to moderate on Sunday should be OK for a first attempt. Now where are my car keys, I have got a buggy to collect…
I arrived at the depot, docket in hand, filled with anticipation that I would be collecting a large box– the bloke took the docket and wandered off into the piles of boxes saying he had seen it when it came in yesterday. After a few minutes he came back over carrying just the wheels! I explained that I thought there should be more, back he went and this time came back with a box – which was a lot smaller than I expected!
At home, unpacked it all on the floor of the lounge room, was sure there must be more and there were no instructions. E-mail to the kite shop and a phone call back to the courier soon had the instructions in hand and confirmed that this was it. It didn’t look much!
The completed bug is definitely much more than the sum of its parts, it goes together easily and looks great. The wheels all have two sets of cartridge style bearings and run as smooth as anything and keep on spinning. The headstock also has twin bearings.
The side rails are now 32mm to provide extra strength and all joints are reinforced, the down tube is adjustable for length and is fitted to the side rails with a four-bolt clamp. The seat is sturdy and features drainage holes; it can be adjusted for height by using the webbing straps and feels pretty comfy and supportive with a decent amount of padding. The true test will be when flying rather than just sat in the lounge!
The back axle is attached/removed with two bolts for transport or storage and at 40mm is thicker than on previous comp buggies, it can also be swapped for the extra wide axle for greater stability. The Comp XR+ comes with the standard size wheels, but the front fork is designed so that it can also take the midi wheel; change the front fork and you can add a set of Bigfoot’s.
The Comp XR+ comes with the new curved HD foot pegs and these are now bolted on, rather than the clips on the older models. This has eliminated a common complaint of a rattle. I was also supplied with grip tape for the pegs and will probably get some foot straps as I become more confident.
All hardware is stainless steel, including the nuts and bolts; the bearings are cartridge style, for durability and also ease of replacement. So should be able to take sand and salt in its stride. With the solid construction, quality hardware and upgrade-ability, this should be a bug that keeps on giving and provide a great ride for years to come…
First go in light and variable wind.
The buggy goes into the back of my car with the car seats down and the rear axle removed (two bolts). When I arrived at Lake Walyungup it took about 3 minutes to reassemble it. Then lifted it through the gate that only opens about 50cm (to stop motorbikes tearing up the lake) and pulled it on to the lake.
LakeWalyungup is a salt lake, part ofRockinghamLakesRegionalPark; it is made up off gypsum and limestone. Some areas are flooded and marshy at the end of winter but it is otherwise dry. The lake has large very flat areas and is used by model aircraft and land yachts, but also has some rougher rocky bits and clumps of sea-rush and a few small shrubby trees. I regularly static fly here as it has clean winds from every direction.
Positioned the buggy pointing the way I wanted to go and slightly down wind (as recommended), screwed in the ground stake-, as a standard stake doesn’t work here. Attached the kite handles to the stake, through the loop on the brake lines and walked down-wind with the lines unfurling from the rucksack (I like to para-pack). Un-furled the kite all ready to go. It didn’t look very promising as the kite sat there deflated, not proud and bobbing about!
I attached the kite rucksack to the back of the buggy as I hadn’t got my buggy bag. Then thought I would try and see if I could get the kite up and flying as there felt a bit more wind. Dropped the stake into the rucksack (will have to come up with some ingenious way of securing this to the buggy), launched the kite, which took a bit of effort and started to work it in a figure 8 through the window. The kite took a fair bit of work to keep it in the sky and pulling, it also had a tendency to start to drop anywhere near the edge of the wind window – but thinking that it was better to have my first attempt in the buggy underpowered, and having to work the kite, rather than over powered I decided to give it a go.
Approached the buggy from the down-wind side, I stepped over the down tube, all the while keeping the kite moving high in the window to prevent it luffing but with minimum power, lowered myself into the seat, feet onto the pegs and dropped the kite down into the power window and started moving…
The grin started, I turned the buggy slightly onto a beam reach to keep the line tension and started trying to manoeuvre the kite through a sine wave to maintain the power and speed. The kite was taking a lot of work to maintain any traction, was just thinking about attempting my first down wind turn when the kite folded and gently drifted to the ground. The buggy coasted to a stop and I managed to avoid running over the lines. I had gone about 50m! And was well pleased with myself.
Did a little victory dance while waiting for the wind to pick up again!
After re-launching the kite and working it around a bit I thought I would have another go and realised I had left the buggy pointing the wrong way. Got back in and started to move on the same course I was on before, but this time brought the kite up to the zenith and started my first turn, brought the kite back down into the power zone and started moving back the way I had come. The wind held true and I got a much better run, though still having to work the kite to maintain any momentum.
Up to the zenith, turn the buggy and back down – I had made another turn, but my pleasure was short lived as the wind disappeared and the kite drifted down again. Okay, low wind for my first attempt was bearable, probably even favourable but this was getting frustrating!
Out of the bug, stake out the kite and a big gust of wind sends the kite skipping across the ground. The wind had done a complete 90-degree shift, from a westerly to southerly, but now seemed to be blowing a bit more consistently. Turned the buggy, so I could go across the wind, so it was now pointing into slightly rougher ground and would mean I would be dodging the sea-rush and some rocky areas – this would test both man and machine!
Launched the kite, again! Flew it around a bit, definitely more pull and definitely coming from the south! Back in the buggy and headed off with a bit more speed and headed into the rough! The Comp xr+ is on standard wheels but handled it with ease, I managed to dodge most of the larger clumps of sea rush and it went over the loose rocky areas and the kite kept on pulling.
This was more like it, the kite was powered, the buggy was motoring, a couple of small slides and was beginning to push it a little to keep the bug on course and was absolutely loving it. Got out into a clearer area after about 300m and started planning another turn to take me back the way I had come. A down wind left hand turn and the kite started to luff – the wind had changed direction again back to a westerly! Managed to keep the kite in the air but was now facing into the wind the kite started to pull me backwards! Got the buggy turned around but there was no way I was going to be able to get back up wind!
I landed the kite and packed it away – and then the walk of shame! As I headed back to where I started. Un-packed and had a couple more shorter runs before calling it a day.
I have to say the Peter Lynn Competition XR+ is a great buggy, it has taken everything I have thrown at it, across the rough ground and through the sea-rush. I can hold the power even through the standard wheels. It is easily controlled and runs slick and smooth. The Ozone Flow is taking everything I am throwing at it including multiple crashes!
The next day, I hit such a low was hoping to go out again but didn’t get a chance! Bloody hell – I was getting withdrawal symptoms!
It’s the first day of spring and I have a day off, what should I do? Take the kite buggy out of course!
Down at lake Walyungup by 9am, the buggy is set up quickly and out onto the salt lake, the forecast for today is wind increasing ahead of showers, then storms tonight. At the moment it is sunny with the odd fluffy white cloud.
There is very little wind when I first get there, the kite will launch but takes a lot of work to stay in the air and there isn’t any pull, have a few minutes of static flying but decide to sit it out and wait for things to improve. After about half an hour the breeze starts to pick up – the forecast appears to be right!
Launch the kite again, things are looking more promising, the wind is a northerly today this sets me on a different course to my last attempt. Get the buggy rolling without to much trouble and gradually work the kite to build up some speed. The plan is to keep a short course and keep practicing those turns.
The first half an hour is pretty frustrating and I am struggling to keep the kite airborne, the wind is inconsistent and the kite keeps luffing and bow-tying. Not sure how much is down to me and how much is the wind!
Then something clicks, the wind picks up and stays constant and the kite gets into a sweet spot and just sits there and pulls, only minor adjustments are needed to keep it pulling. The speed starts to increase; now this is what I am talking about! Rather than making a turn, I keep on keeping on, steering the bug to keep it on the flat smooth part of the lake. I pick my spot ahead for a turn, bring the kite up and manage a perfect downwind turn, drop the kite, hit the sweet spot again and start powering back.
As I head back to where I started from, I start to lift the kite towards the zenith, to start to scrub some speed, in preparation for another turn. In the process manage to lose the tension on the lines – a perfect bow-tie as the kite drifts to the ground and I roll to a stop! I secure the kite and check the GPS – 24km/h.
After a quick banana break I sort the kite out and relaunch. The next half hour is pretty hit and miss, some good runs interspersed with either crashing the kite or screwing up the turns. Lots of stopping, starting, untangling the kite and relaunching.
Another break and decided to go back to basics again, focusing on shorter, slower runs and concentrating on making my turns. This time managing to nail about 75% of them. I some how manage to over-fly the zenith and end up down wind of the kite! Keep thinking about packing up and calling it a day as am starting to run out of energy, but keep pushing on thinking “one more run, then I’ll go!”
The kite then finds that sweet spot again and off I go, pushing further down the lake increasing speed and holding that power, ease off as I approach the turn, but take it faster than others and produce a slide. Forget what the kite is doing, as to busy savouring the moment and manage to overfly and the kite ends up up-wind!
Relaunch (again!) and back for another run, again get the kite in the sweet spot and head back, managed a max speed of 31.5km/h on those last two runs. This time bring the buggy to a nice gentle stop and land the kite – bloody knackered!
A couple of things today has taught me-
I need to work on my turns.
The technique for flying the kite is different in the buggy, than when static flying (probably obvious to some!).
kite buggying is awesome, great fun, exhilarating, knackering!
The next time I got out was after work, really dodgy wind it seemed to be coming from all directions then would drop to nothing! Ended up having a 1km walk of shame as I had got into the middle of the salt lake and then the wind completely disappeared!
The day after was very different, spent three quarters of an hour buggying around, with the kids trying to keep up on their bikes! Managed to go from near the car park (dodging the remote control planes and the real plane that was parked there!) onto the big open part of the lake they use for the land yachts and kept on going, made loads of turns, got some good speed for me 30km/h! and then when the kids had had enough of chasing me about managed to get nearly all the way back to my starting point! Was only thwarted by the light plane taxiing towards me so had to land the kite and pack it away ASAP!
Getting used to putting the kite through a sine wave to generate more speed and power, as well as hardening up (is that the right terminology!) by heading slightly further into the wind to get more power.
Took the bug out to the salt lakes twice on Friday and again on the Sunday morning, Friday was hopeless no wind in the morning and a bit gusty, though not strong, and variable in the afternoon, but really nailing those turns and manoeuvring between the sea rush. So wasn’t a total waste.
I am continuing to improve and gain in confidence, though the wind was all or nothing so would be cruising a long quiet happily and then the kite would suddenly loose all power and drift slowly to the ground. Would sit there for a few minutes then back came the wind and off I went again. No PB on the speed, but nailed my first power-slide! Please insert a huge grin! And got some great runs in, ended up looking like me and the buggy had been pebble dashed!
Could really do with a couple more kites so that I can cover more wind ranges, the flow is good and seems to be ok through a huge wind range, but really could do with something for the extremes, a low wind and high wind kite – but I am working on that!
After asking for some advice on the forum on how to slow down I have had the best buggy session yet, new PB of 43kms/h and fully in control. Yesterday I felt over-powered and out of control, today was awesome, the advice was invaluable.
Managed to keep pushing it but could slow down when I wanted to and as the morning progressed was going into the power slides harder and faster! I had a massive grin on my face and my jaw is aching as much as my arms and shoulders (still not tempted by a harness)!
The flow is performing brilliantly and seems to cope with a massive wind range, previously I was thinking I need a smaller kite today I’m more than impressed, just loving the whole kite buggy experience.
Had another great day on the salt lakes, was down there at 7.20am with a steady southerly blowing. This meant a long walk to the wide open area. Good a time as any to learn how to get up wind! I walked down past the narrow bit, set the kite up and started to tack across the wind making my way into the wind – amazed that it worked!
The southerly meant that I didn’t have as much width to play in, but kept practicing slowing it down, so feel much more in control than I have before. Got in some excellent runs but nowhere near my PB. Why is sliding so much fun? Tried to make an effort to turn without sliding, then thought what the hell!
Managed to do about 17kms in total, but my arms were burning today, must be as I had a big session on Friday and still haven’t fully recovered! The wind then turned to a nice easterly which gave me the excuse I needed to call it a day and was able to head back without a long walk!
I have been lucky enough to be able to get out at least once and sometimes twice a week so had another couple of hours out on the salt lake this morning, just kept going until my arms could take no more! – I am definitely going to get a harness soon! Managed to increase my top speed slightly to 43.3kms/h (previous was 43.1 – so not by much!), but a couple of times I’m sure it was faster but not according to the GPSr! Traveled 35.5km, have re-installed endomondo on my iphone so have the tracking data.
Think I have got the hang of this now and am able to control my speed and stop where I want, addicted to sliding the bug – but just want to go faster.
Another early morning start as I was down at the salt lake at 6am, as I new that was going to be best for the wind! And it was worth it, nicely powered up, probably a bit overpowered!
But I got a new PB of 50km/h (49.8 on the GPSr)!
Before anybody asks 50km/h = 31mph!
I have played around with the set up on the bug, moving the seat forward and lengthening the down tube to take some weight off the back. It did make a difference, less under-steer and some sweet slides. Loads of fun, and I definitely like flying slightly over-powered. No new PB today but did match my previous which was good as the wind was iffy and it took a fair bit of working the kite.
I had the kids come down to the Salt Lake with me on their bikes to try and shoot some video, here are the results – Not bad for an 8 and 11 year old, a bit wobbly though!
I am continuing to improve and push it harder and faster, I am also waiting for a new kite a 3m Peter Lynn Reactor, which has a higher aspect ratio that the Flow so should mean I am able to fly in higher winds and go faster. As I keep taking the flow out when really it should be left in the bag!
Another new PB, 57.7kph.
Still not quite 60kph, but getting closer. Wind was howling by the end struggling to hold onto the flow – thankfully another buggier came along, who had got a steel spike which he hammered into the ground, which meant I could pack the 5m away, then borrowed his 1.5m and was still doing 40.
Well into summer in WA, so lots of long dry sunny days and pretty consistent winds. Usually an easterly in the morning and a westerly (the Fremantle Doctor) in the afternoon which means I get to play in the best part of the lake. I have had an Ozone Access SB Harness as a Christmas present (how did my wife know?) I was also given a new helmet (which I have been using for the last 3 months) so have spent some time getting used to flying hooked in.
The harness has made a huge difference, I can still feel the pull of the kite through my body but all my arms and hands are doing is controlling the kite and not having to hold on for dear life! How easy is it to go sideways? I’m coming home from a buggy session completely covered in dust with grit in my pockets and undies (to much info?).
Work is really quiet this week so managed to get the Wednesday off so went out in the buggy, still waiting for the 3m kite to be delivered, so was using the 5m Flow.
The wind was forecast as 25kph with gusts to 40 (15-25mph), so was seriously powered up! A bit scary harnessed in – managed two firsts though, my first buggy jump – entirely unintentional and a 360 spin in the buggy then kept going! Again not fully intended, but awesome!
Spent some time after that going around the course for the land yachts, building my confidence and speed in the harness while flying over-powered! And lots of going sideways.
Did manage a new PB, so close to 60kph now!
I have been very lucky over the last 3-4 months as I have been able to get out in the buggy at least once a week and sometimes twice a week. TheSaltLakeis only 5 minutes from home and is an ideal location to fly and buggy. The Flow has taken everything I have thrown at it and is an awesome kite to start buggying with, super stable, predictable, but generates loads of power and still can pack a punch. (photo 13)
My Peter Lynn buggy is great – they get plenty of negative comments, but the 2011 comps have thicker tubes and axle and stronger construction. I find it comfortable and can fly for 3-4 hours easily, the seat is supportive and I can wedge myself nicely between the side rails. I may stick a wide axle on at some point, but as yet have had no stability issues, and if needed it will take midi wheels, and change the front forks it can take big-foots. I have recently made myself a belly-pan and mud-guard – so will see how they work out.