In late December, we were hosts to ‘around the world by bike’ adventurers Olivier & Sebastian.
They had this crazy idea that they would hook up lightweight kites to their bikes, in order to pull them along flat open stretches of road.
Now trying to control a power kite, while steering a fully laden touring bike one handed, while watching out for traffic, trees and barb wire fences… does seem a little on the crazy side, but it was a challenge too good to pass up.
For the above reasons, this is not something for beginner kite flyers. Luckily Olivier & Seb had had some previous experience, and were excellent paragliders, so took to the kites easily.
The kites were super lightweight NASA-wings from NZ. Normally, my opinion on these kites is not very favorable (to say the least)… but for this purpose, where simple stability, straight forward pull and weight were critical factors – they were ideal.
We tried biking with the Ozone Access too, and it was great (and much better upwind); however it was just too heavy for touring, where every gram counts.
We setup them up at Torquay, and did some beach runs. It was easy going downwind, but hard coming back up the beach as the wind was cross-on. However they did the trick.
We also tried them a few days later on the Belmont Common, which was a good test for slightly gustier inland conditions. They still performed well, especially when on the short stretch of bitumen where there was almost no rolling resistance.
All in all, kites on bikes is actually a lot of fun. You could do it with ‘trainer kites’ and small foils too. The only problem of course is you need long stretches of open road, with no obsticles and little traffic. Word from Olivier is they did get a couple of short runs with kites on the Nullabor, but it was just too busy most of the time (just imagine a road train passing you at 110km/h).
Good on them for taking on such a massive adventure, and for doing it ‘carbon free’.
You can read Olivier’s Blog for his account, and updates on the journey.