Tuesday, October 12, 2010 11:51:33 AM America/Los_Angeles
Kites that get used are going to suffer wear and tear. But here in the repair shop we see a lot of damage that could have been avoided. So here are a few tips to keep your kite in the air and out of the kite grave yard.
When people ask us what condition their kite is in we first look at the TE (trailing edge) of the canopy. The canopy wears much quicker near the TE than near the LE (leading edge) because it can be subject to “flapping”. What is “flapping”? When a kite is left inflated on a windy beach the TE will flap like a flag. This flapping can turn crispy canopy fabric into tissue paper in a matter of days. Worn out canopy fabric will feel soft to the touch rather than crispy like a new kite. Also, the worn fabric can develop creases and lines. In the image below you'll see an example of worn canopy cloth at the TE (top) and brand new canopy cloth (bottom). The difference is obvious.
Leaving a kite inflated in the wind isn't the only thing that can cause flapping. Riding some kites fully depowered allows the TE to flap and thus results in increased wear.
UV is another enemy of all kite fabrics. Leaving your kites in the sun for extended periods of time will weaken the fabric and threads. If you're not riding your kite try to stow it in the shade.
LE and Strut Wear
The LE of a kite suffers from different kinds of wear. The seams take a lot of stress since the LE is inflated to pressure. Take a look at the seam that runs the length of the LE when inflating. Look for areas where the seam is bulging. If you see a bulge in the LE it is likely that the top stitch is broken. Have this re stitched before you have a blowout. A broken top-stitch is a sign of wear but is an easy fix if caught early.
Seams connecting the LE segments are also prone to abrasion from the ground. Self launching can wear a LE out very quickly. Letting the wind push your kite across the ground is comparable to taking a sander to your LE. Not only will this break threads on the seams, but it will wear through the Dacron fabric over time. So if you have to self launch, it is best to use the method of fastening your chicken loop to something and launching the kite yourself.
Struts generally do not take as much abuse as the rest of the kite. But once again, leaving your kite inflated on the beach can mean that the struts are repeatedly getting bent or flexed in the same spot. Over time this can create a wear spot and cause seams to give out. Storing your kite with the struts inflated will put unnecessary stress on the seams, so it is good to leave them deflated when possible.
Bladders and Valves
Delaminating valves have been a problem since the beginning of inflatable kites. The bond between the valves and bladders breaks down over time and is accelerated with heat. So don't store your kites in excessive heat. This can be anything from a rocket box in the sun to a garage in Florida. Depending on the heat a kite is subjected to, it can be years or a matter of months before you have a problem with valves coming off.
Valves can also become stretched out over time so that the plug doesn't seal well. After every session be sure to pull the plugs out of all or your valves. This will insure that the plugs are a snug fit next time you inflate your kite.
Maximizing the life of your kite is key. This is true whether you are learning to ride on older kites and want to keep them flying, or you get new kites every year and want to keep them crispy for resale. So treat your kites right and they'll keep you stoked.
In 2000 at the ripe old age of 13, Brogan was the first one of the AIRTIME crew to try kiteboarding . Though he spends most of his time collecting motorcycles, snowmobiles, and old trailers for his front yard he does still find time to get pulled around behind a kite. Best places to spot him are in front of Lyle-abama (WA) and the sandbar (OR).