I recently received a complete quiver of Born-Kite LongStars (3, 5, and 7m) along with their 5-line control bar. I was very excited about these as I am so very, very pleased with the performance of Born-Kite NS3s. I am principally a buggy rider residing in the mountains of Utah so all of my riding to date has been on various grass or artificial surface athletic fields.
First things first, the LSs are beautiful and well constructed. They make me think of Batman which I think makes them look really cool. The 5-line control bar is a little crude IMHO, particularly in the chicken loop and donkey stick. Born kites most definitely seem better thought out and executed than Born bars.
Flying the LS kites with the 5-line bar is sort of strange. The kites seem to require near constant nursing to maintain decent flying characteristics. The way the bar is set up you strap the chicken loop into your harness, but 50% of the load remains on the bar and thus your arms. This is because the power lines and fifth center line go around a pulley system attached to the bar and go back out again to attach to a cleat above the bar. So... when you push the bar out part way you effectively let off on the brake lines a bit and I suppose change the kites presentation angle to the wind due to a pulley system up by the kite bridles; push it out more and you further engage the fifth line and scrunch up the kites leading edge, creating an inefficient kite that dumps power. I think the LS has a nicer DP center line system than the NS3s.
Beyond the fact that this pushing and pulling of the control bar while taking load on both the harness and your arms is unique, I've got to say that this isn't unique in a good way, IMHO. With the bar pushed out a little bit (enough to loosen up the brake lines but not so much as to scrunch up the nose of the kite) the kite will push forward a bit. This is billed as a means of keeping the kite from stalling or flying backwards. What this means in practice is that you are nursing the kite at all times in order to keep the kite flying optimally. This can certainly be done, and I'm sure would get more intuitive and natural once some sort of muscle memory set in, but the nursing of the bar is distinctly different from flying the NS3s, and IMHO not in a good way. I've got some experience flying DP with Flysurfer Peak-2s but their bar action makes sense to me and doesn't require the sort of constant attention that the LSs seem to require.
At least in my hands the LS does not seem to behave well at the edges of the wind window even with my best attempts at good bar control. With a NS3 I can bring the kite to the extreme edge of the window and sort of park it, then nose it down or up to send it smoothly back in the other direction. With the LS if I keep it flying into the edge of the wind window it will stall and then fly backwards despite attempting to arrest this with finessing the bar. Even if I manage to time it right with bar control and stop the backward flying before it happens I didn't find that I could then reasonably get the kite to respond to turning requests and everything just sort of craps out and the kite goes to the ground if I wasn't very careful. Similarly, bringing the kite up to its Zenith and trying to park it pretty much results in the same behavior, but this time sending the kite vertically downward in a reverse flight. Here, I did usually find it possible to arrest the downward path with bar finessing, but again this is the constant nursing issue. More practice (and a better pilot!) would probably take care of some of this.
Finally, as a buggy engine it does seem to require using two hands on the bar pretty much at all times to coax the bar in and out while steering the kite up and down (sinng for example). Not many tries under my belt, but to date I've not been able to reasonably park an LS while rolling, something that is the hallmark of the charm of the STARS. One of the beautiful things about the STARS is their ability to "park" the kite while buggying and fly it with one hand (or no hands, just nudging the bar now and again with a finger to make micro flight corrections). This is NOT happening with the LS. Yes, I know folks that buggy with kites on handles always need to use both hands, but one of the sweet things about buggying with STARS is not having to do that.
One thing I've not had much of yet is great high wind pushing the kites upward toward their upper limits. I will say that the LSs behaved better when the wind was stronger. Of course that meant that the load on my arms was proportionally higher too....
So.... I'm not too keen on the 5-line bar. In an attempt to get good use out of the kites themselves I tried flying them using my 3-line bar set up I use for my NS3s. Doing this is quite simple as each side's bridle systems are joined with pigtails and the pulley system is part of the 5-line bar setup, so setting these up like a NS3 is as simple as with the STARS. I shot a video of me doing as close to a head-to-head comparison as I could muster, flying the 3.0m LS static on my 3-line bar back to back with my 3.2m NS3. You will see the peculiar flying characteristics I described above. Note please that these behaviors are somewhat exaggerated with the fixed bridle set up, but the kite acts this way with the 5-line set up too. I'd say the pull of these two kites was comparable, both being impressive for their size.
I'm not taking any real pleasure writing this up. I believe strongly in "keeping it real" on a forum like this so I'm doing it. Its hard for me because I have gotten to know Steffen over the past year and really like him and really admire that he started this business up from scratch. That coupled with my absolute LOVE of his NS3s. I'm sure he will continue to innovate with the LongStar concept and maybe even the fabled UltraStar. I keenly look forward to those innovations.
I'd be highly interested in hearing from any other early adopters out there that also have some flying time with the LongStars.
Edited by windstruck