Monday, January 19, 2015

Line Managers: the New Way to Quickly Set Up Your Kite. True or False?

Probably most of the kiters have already seen these kind of devices, used to manage the lines.
They promise to make the boring line connection process easier and faster, but is it true?

I tested two different types of them myself and here's what I found out.

Kite Line Splitter
Looper



Even though both have the same the goal to help you set up your kitelines as fast as possible, those two systems are pretty different, as you can see from their appearance. First we will analyze both step by step as they are supposed to function, and then I will give you my impressions in the field trial.


Kite Line Splitter

This device is pretty simple and light to carry: it fits in a open-able box that can hold the four or five lines attached on your bar. I tested it for one month when I was a chief instructor at AK kiteschool in Salento this summer. The school used it to make student gear set up process faster.
Let's see how it works:


1. prepare bar and lines as usual

2. setup the lines as if you where preparing the kite to fly

3. start putting the lines in the proper order inside the splitter

4. once finished close the line splitter keeping in mind the uper side you used, not to invert the lines

5. the splitter correctly closed with the kite lines in appropriate order

6. lines have been wrapped back on the bar

5. connect the lines to the kite keeping the side-up you checked before in the upright position to prevent the line inversion
6. you can let the kite fly with the splitter closed on a back line... or just put the splitter in the poket


First Kite Line Splitter installation:
  1. Prepare bar and lines as usual;
  2. Setup the lines as if you were preparing the kite to fly;
  3. Start putting the lines in the proper order inside the splitter;
  4. Once finished, close the line keeping in mind the upper side you used, not to invert the kite lines (and this might be the tricky part if you don't pay attention). This operation is very important because otherwise you might invert the order of line connection, resulting in a reverse bar linkage;
  5. Wind back the lines on the bar.
Kite setup:
  1. Attach the lines to the kite (no need to unwind the lines first since they'are already in the proper order), paying a lot of attention on positioning the upper side of the splitter as not to invert the line order;
  2. Unwind the lines and check if there are no tangles or knots (sometimes it happened that the lines had tangles and pulling them to get them straight needed some expertise);
  3. Fly the kite.


Looper

The second line manager was kindly sent to me for a test from Ben, the manufacturer. I spent a whole morning winding and unwinding lines to find out how it performed. So let's see how it works:

1. Looper package equipped with sleeve and a kite bar

2. prepare the lines as to be connected to the kite

3. Once cleared put them in the right order on the looper

4. wind up the lines on the looper

5. use the looper's bungees to keep the bar attached to it

6. safely put everything in the sleeve

First looper installation (actually you can perform this operation just at the next kite session end, since it is exactly how it normally works):
  1. Prepare bar and lines as if you were about to connect them to the kite;
  2. Connect the lines to the Looper in the center on the special comb-shaped connector to keep them in order (this operation is pretty easy since the device has a clear 'up' indication where you're meant to make the lines pass through);
  3. Wind the lines on the Looper, paying attention to give them a slight tension in order to make the operation easier and the lines straighter;
  4. Block the Looper and the bar together using the bungees;
  5. Put the Looper-bar system in the sleeve to protect them. 
Kite setup:
  1. Unwind the lines from the Looper by just putting the bar on the ground and walking away from it while holding the device in the proper position (this results in a very quick operation, but you have to make sure the bar is blocked by some sand, or in some other way, in order not to drag it with you, since you need a little tension to unroll the lines properly: this precaution is mostly the same as you were unwinding the lines in the traditional way)
  2. Detach the lines from the Looper connector, keeping the correct order while setting them down on the ground and attach them to the kite;
  3. Fly the kite.

Pros and Cons of the different Line Managers


Line Splitter (price on the website: 19.90 € - 23.15 USD)

Pros Cons
Very small and handy
You have to choose the upper side of the splitter when hooking in the lines, but there is no particular indication. Otherwise you might connect reversed lines.
Not very intuitive for beginners.
It can be left attached to a backline, being always with the bar, no need to leave it on the beach
After connecting, unwinding the lines might sometimes result in some tangles that will require a good level of expertise, otherwise you loose the advantage of the device.
Does not add extra volume to the bar when it has to be stored or for trips
You have to store it correctly to avoid reversal of lines, causing tangles during the next session
If there is not much space on a beach, you can attach the lines and unwind the lines with the kite in the water (only for real experts - beginners might have serious problems performing this operation)  Very basic packaging and no additional accessories.



Looper (price on the website: 25.70 € - 29.90 USD)

Pros Cons
You have clear indications on how to set up lines and it's easy to avoid confusion.
Pretty useful, especially for beginners.
It is something more you have to carry with you. It increases the volume of the bar by a bit, so if you have to travel, it might occupy some precious space, especially if you have more than one bar.
Winding and unwinding the lines is a very fast operation, compared to the classical operation with the bar.
When you wind the lines, you have to firmly install the bar on the sand, because you need to have a bit of tension on the lines in order to store them in good order on the device. Same thing for unwinding the lines.
It's equipped with bungees, which it connect to the bar, keeping everything in perfect order.
You basically need the same amount of space on the beach as if you were setting up the lines in a traditional way.
Packaging is very well made and you also get a nice sleeve to put in your Looper - bar system for better storage and protection of your gear.

Conclusions.

If you don't own any of these tools, it won't prevent you from kiting, but they effectively help you with your set up process and you are in the water much faster.
The retail price is insignificant compared to the kite gear costs, so from that point of view it wouldn't be a big issue. Let's say that the slight difference of price between the two line managers makes me say you will get a much higher quality/price ratio with the Looper than with the pretty simple Kite Line Splitter: just for $6 USD of price difference you will have a more sophisticated device, including a fancy sleeve and better packaging.
Besides, I would say the Looper is more beginner-friendly.
The Kite Line Splitter, on the other hand, might be a better solution for frequent travelers (see my blogpost on how to avoid kitesurfing gear transportation fees by airlines), who need to minimize the amount of accessories they carry with them and, as I mentioned before, it can be more useful in a situation where the beach is very narrow, but only by very experienced kitesurfers.

I hope you enjoyed my experience with these kitesurf line managers, but I am very interested in your opinion, too. What do you think about them?



A review of line managers, to quickly deploy kitesurfing lines, avoiding knots and tangles
Date published: 01/20/2015
Date Update: 20/01/2015