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Course 104 - Kite Lines

Kite line comes in many different sizes, diameter, lengths, weights, and construction.   Choosing the right line for you kite is almost as important as choosing the kite itself.   If your line is too small it may break, causing you to damage or lose your kite, or causing injury to yourself or other around you, or in the worst case...both.   If you have a line that is too large, your kite may not respond correctly causing you to lose control of your kite, or your kite may not fly at all.   The construction of the line itself is also very important.   Different types of line will have different characteristics, some will stretch and stay stretched, others will stretch and rebound back to their original shape, some are slippery and will slide when twisted around themselves, some may not slide at all.   Longer lines can slow down the response of your kite, making it easier for some people to control their kites.   Longer kite lines can also increase the area of the power window for traction kites.   Shorter lines can make your respond much quicker and can get your kite out of the power faster.

The best way to know what line you need is to understand what makes each type of line different.   After understanding the characteristics of kite line, choosing the right line will be a breeze.

We will cover the basic types of line and the advantages/disadvantages of each type.   We will also explain the weights and lengths, and the effect they have on control, power, and speed of your kite.

Laser Pro Line Set Laser Pro Line
Types Of Kite Line:

There are many different types of kite line used in today's kites.   We will cover three of the most common lines in this section.   Each of these three types have their own characteristics that make them best at what they are used for.   Each type is listed below with their good points and bad points.   By using the list below, you will be able to choose a line that will work best for you.
Line Set Organizer Bag
Prism Line Set Organizer Bag

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Dacron kite line is inexpensive and the most widely used flight line for single line kites.
  • Dacron line has moderate amount of stretch and has moderate strength.
  • Dacron line can be good for someone who is first learning to fly.   Stunt kites will usually fly slower due to the heavy line and kite response will be slower due to the added stretch.
  • Line stretch in Dacron is not as critical as it is in other types of line because of the memory characteristic of Dacron.   When stretching does occur, the line will rebound back to its original length with little or no lasting effect.
  • Dacron is not very slick on the outside, doesn't need special sleeving for knots.
  • Dacron is very easy to use.
  • Dacron is heavy which can slow stunt kites down, it is not as responsive as other types of line (this can be an advantage to someone who is learning to fly but is a disadvantage for an experienced kite flyer who is seeking maximum performance and control from their kite).
  • Dacron line has mild strength and is not recommended for power kites.
  • Dacron has high amounts of stretch and will reach its breaking point sooner than other types of line, stretch can also degrade the control and performance of your kite.
  • Dacron does not have a slick coating and can bind up if it is twisted around itself many times.   Dacron is not recommended for dual or quad line stunt kites.
  • Dacron is larger in diameter than other types of line.

Spectra Blend
(usually spectra line with a polyester weave.)
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Spectra blend is stronger than Dacron.
  • Spectra blend has less stretch than Dacron and has minimal memory.
  • Spectra blend is slightly more money than Dacron but still very inexpensive.
  • Smaller in diameter than Dacron.
  • Slicker than Dacron but still does not need to be sleeved for knots.
  • Can be used on dual line stunt kites and larger single line kites.
  • >Very easy to use.
  • Larger in diameter than full spectra line.
  • Not as strong as full spectra line.>
  • Not as slippery as full spectra line.>
  • Still heavy, not recommended for light wind or indoor kites.
  • Not as responsive as full spectra line.
  • Not recommended for power kites or large stunt kites.
  • Not recommended for quad line kites.
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Very minimal stretch, very responsive.
  • Very strong line.   Can be used on all types of kites including extremely large power kites.
  • Excellent line for stunt kites of all sizes.
  • Very slippery, excellent for dual and quad line stunt kites.   Full spectra line can be twisted around itself multiple times without any loss of control.
  • Very light weight, excellent for light wind kites and indoor kites.
  • Very small in diameter, very low drag.   Spectra will give you maximum performance out of your kite.
  • Hollow core.   Line breaks can be repaired by inter-weaving the two broken sections together without having to tie knots in your line.
  • Spectra is the preferred line of choice for teams, competition fliers and recreational stunt kite fliers.
  • Very expensive line.
  • Very slippery.   Spectra will not hold knots well.   Ends should be sleeved in Dacron for strength.   Un sleeved spectra will usually break at the knot.
  • Although spectra has excellent strength, it has a very low melting point.
    If spectra line is crossed against dacron or cotton line, the spectra line will melt at the connecting point of the two different types of line and your spectra line will need to be repaired.   .25 cent cotton line can cut your 20.00 dollar spectra line.
  • Spectra line has no memory and under large amounts of stress will stretch.   Lines must be checked from time to time for stretch and re-adjusted for proper length.   Spectra line stretch usually only occurs when used on power kites or large stunt kites.

Things to be aware of with kite lines.
  • Lines can become stretched or warn over time.   Always check your lines and bridles to make sure they are in good condition.   Frayed or broken lines should be replaced immediately.
  • Knots tied in lines will weaken the lines at the point of the knot.   If you are using Spectra line, always use a Dacron sleeve to strengthen the line at the knot point and to keep the knot from sliding on the line.
  • When you fly a kite (large or small) the line used is always under extreme tension.   Kite lines under tension could become flying razor blades under extreme conditions and could slice your hands or the skin of anyone in their path.   Always be careful when flying around spectators and other kites.   Use gloves and have spectators stand behind you when you fly.
  • NEVER use fishing line or steel line to fly your kite.   Fishing line can recoil when it breaks, causing injury to yourself and others around you.   Fishing line does NOT have the same characteristics as kite line and can have extreme amounts of stretch before breaking.   NEVER use steel line or wire to fly your kite.   Steel line is sharper than standard kite line and could turn you and your kite into a giant lightning rod.   Not only are you at danger from electrical lines and lightning, but static electricity can be discharged through steel wire and can be just as dangerous.
Spool of kite line
Spools of kite line.
Sleeves and knots.

As mentioned above, knots in your kite line can reduce the strength of your line.   If you need to tie a knot in you line or re-sleeve your line, the diagram on the right will show you the proper way to do it.   The most important thing to remember when tying a knot in your line is to make sure there are no twists in the lines and that both ends of the line are perfectly parallel throughput the knot (none of the lines run over the other).

It is a good idea to check your lines for line stretch from time to time.   An easy way to do this is to stake your lines at one end with a kite stake or a long screwdriver.   Make sure both lines (or sets) are equal on the staked end, then move to the other end of your lines and firmly pull on the lines and see if they stretch to the same length.   If you find that one line is shorter than the other, you can undo the knot on the longer line, slide the sleeve up the line (if your line is sleeved) to the appropriate point equal to the shorter line and then loop and re-tie the knot and cut off the leftover line.   Remember to leave enough extra length in your loop to make up the length of line used by the knot (approximately 1/2" of length is used in the knot depending on the line thickness).

You can also put a loop in your line without using any knots at all.   This is called a knot-less loop or splice.   For information on how to do this along with a step-by-step procedure, click HERE.

Line lengths.

Putting a sleeve and knot on your line.
Sleeve & knot.
Different lengths of line will change the performance of your kite.   Longer lines generally have more stretch and drag than shorter lines.   Longer kite lines can slow down the response of your kite, making turns respond slower and take up more area to complete.   Kite speed will appear to be slower on longer lines.   This is caused by your kite traveling in a longer arc through the power window.   For example: Take a 12" string and tie it around a cork and then spin it around above your head, the cork will spin at a very fast speed.   Now take a 5 foot long string and tie it around the cork and do the same.   The cork will actually cover more distance, but will appear to be traveling at a slower speed than on the shorter string.   The arc on the longer string (where the cork is located) is greater than the arc created by the shorter sting.

Power kite fliers will usually use longer lines than stunt kite fliers.   The longer the lines are on a kite, the longer the arc is and the larger the power window is, creating more useable power for the kite (see the diagrams on the right).   Power kite fliers will usually use a line length of 75' to 150', depending on the wind conditions.   In stronger winds, shorter lines will allow you to get your kite out of the power faster and help you maintain control of a larger kite.   In mild wind, longer lines will let you keep your kite in the wind window longer, creating more power for smaller kites.   In some cases you may not need to purchase a different size kite to be able to fly, just a different length line set.

Stunt kite fliers will usually use shorter lines.   Shorter lines can improve the performance of your kite.   Turns will be quicker and take much less room to complete.   Speeds will be faster and responses to your controls will be more accurate and precise.   Line drag and line stretch will be minimal.   Stunt kite fliers will usually use line lengths of 50' to 100' in length.   If you are new to this sport, I would recommend a line set of 100' for a stunt kite and not less than 100' for a power kite, as you become more familiar with your kite you can purchase other line sets of different lengths to find the best one for your style.   If you have a line set that is damaged, you may be able to use the undamaged section of those lines to make a shorter set or lengthen an existing line set, giving you even more flexibility.

Connecting your line - Tips and Tricks.

Most pre-made line sets will have loops tied into the ends of the line.   These loops are there to give you an easy way to connect and disconnect your lines from your kite and handles.   The loops are designed to be used with a "Larks Head".
Power window with different line lengths.

Power window with different line lengths.
The diagram on the right will show you the way to use a "Larks Head" to attach your lines.

Larks Head knots are the ideal knot to use with your lines because it is very easy to use and also very easy to remove.   A simple tug on the knot and the Larks Head will loosen, allowing you to remove your lines from your kite and handles for storage.

Some people will attach a length of line to the end of their handles for adjustment purposes.   This line is normally only attached to the handles and used for the bottom lines or "brake" lines of a quad line kite.   The rope is tied off with knots in 1 1/2" to 2" increments.   By simply moving the connecting point of the brake lines up or down the knots in the attached line, you can easily adjust your brakes on your kite for the current wind conditions.   Moving the attachment point towards the handles will shorten your brake lines, giving your kite less speed.   Moving the attachment point outwards towards the kite will lengthen your brake lines giving your kite more speed.

This trick when used with the Larks Head will make adjustments to your brake lines very easy and quick.   Below is a diagram of the rope with knots at 2" inch increments.   To attach your adjustment rope to your handles, simply tie a loop into one of the ends of the rope (as shown above in the sleeve and knot section) and then attach it to your handles with its own Larks Head.   You will need to adjust your lines for the correct length after installing the adjustment rope to your handles as it will lengthen the lines it is used on.   If your lines are not equal, you may not be able to properly control your kite.   In most cases, an additional length of rope will need to be added to your top lines that is equal to the overall length of rope used on the bottom lines.   Attach your lines to the connecting point closest to the handles on both the top and bottom lines to start with, then move the bottom lines out until you reach the desired position for optimum control.

How to tie a Larks Head knot.
How to tie a Larks Head knot.
How to tie a Larks Head knot.
Larks Head Knot
Rope with knots.
Rope with knots.
Line weight.

Line weight is the amount of stress a line can handle before breaking.   Power kites will require a line weight greater than that of a stunt kite.   The larger the weight number on your line, the more pressure your line can handle before breaking.   A 200# line can handle 200 pounds of pressure per foot per line.   A quad line kite using 200# line can handle a total of 800 pounds of pressure per foot (the average male weighs only 190 pounds).   Most power kites will require line weights starting at 200# and can go up to 800#.   Stunt kites will usually use line weights of 50# to 100#.   Single line kites will usually only require line up to 50#.   Line weights are selected depending on the weight of the user, the style of the kite, and the size of the kite.   Usually, the larger the kite, the heavier the line will need to be.

Quad line power kites can have multiple line weights in a set.   Usually the brake lines (bottom lines) are not used nearly as much as the upper lines (control lines) and can be substantially less weight.   A common set for a 4 meter quad line power kite could be 400# lines on the top and 200# lines on the bottom.

All kites are made differently.   Check with the manufacturer of your kite to determine the proper line weight for your kite.   If in doubt, a line set that is too heavy is always better than a line set that is too light.   A line set that is too heavy will only slow your kite down with line drag, a line set that is too light will break.

As always, you can e-mail us here at AWindOfChange.Com and we can help you select the right line set for your kite. You can contact us by clicking here.

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