I was never going to be able to afford a proper race buggy so I had to look at ways of upgrading my humble Peter Lynn comp XR+ ...
standard Peter Lynn Comp XR+ My buggy now has the Peter Lynn 140cm gigastrong axle, longer and stronger side rails, a custom made back rest and 6 ply highway rated radial tyres.
beefed! Compared to one of my previous buggies of lust, the Sysmic S2 it is a very similar size (length and width) and has the same sought of footprint, but overall it is still a lot lighter in weight despite the modifications. The heaviest addition is the gigastrong axle as this is much thicker as well as longer.
gigastrong! The side frame extensions have also added some extra height to the frame allowing me to lower the standard PL seat while still having a reasonable clearance under my butt! This means I sit lower between the frames and am able to wedge myself in more.
The back rest has been through a couple of processes to get it comfortable and to provide the support I was after... Overall these modifications, along with the new tyres, have made the buggy feel much more stable. I am now able to block myself against the side rails and the overall feel of the buggy enables me to hold down more power. And rather than that power translating into sideways slippage the buggy tracks forwards better - I think this has enabled me to increase my speed and also the upwind performance. The new tyres are less likely to slide on the surface of the lake and this has also helped. With a slight shift of my weight I am still able to un-stick the rear end either to scrub speed or power slide - but it did take a bit of getting used to. I am really pleased with how the buggy is handling and the comfort side of it and I am so glad now that I didn't spend a couple of grand on something else (the mods so far have cost about $400). I'm not saying in the future I wont want to upgrade but some of the other production buggies are a lot heavier than my comp xr+.
The Peter Lynn Vapor currently at the time of writing this is most likely the best-known race kite, however when I first started flying the Vapor it was the new kid on the block. After years of flying a large variety of race kites I consistently find myself coming back to the Vapor for it’s predictability and ease of use resulting in much more confidence in flying the kite in its upper wind range. To really get to know how a race kite performs you really do need to fly it at its upper wind range as they just come alive.
Lets start with the Kite Bag, it’s simple and I love it. It looks nice, it lists the kite and size on both the front and sides which is great when sifting through a pile of them and it breathes via a mesh window on the side of the bag giving moisture collected in the sail/canopy somewhere to escape.
The graphics of the Vapor have been cemented in the minds of many race pilots throughout the world with its bold top-skin colour scheme that quite shines through and the distinctive splash of colour on the bottom white skin on most Vapors. The colours whilst highly contrasted in this edition of Orange, Blue and White also complement each other stunningly in the sky.
The shape of the canopy is rather interesting, in the air it looks like a regular race kite with a uniform shape and it continues this look somewhat when laid out on the ground. However once you flip it upside down and take another look there’s a very distinctive trailing edge to wingtip contour that actually makes the kite look much wider in the middle than what it looks like in the sky. Compared to some race kites, laid out upside down it nearly looks like it’s verging towards a mid-aspect kite. However the look of it being lower aspect completely disappears once in the air.
The Vapor also has quite a considerably open leading edge, which makes inflation and bringing the canopy up to pressure really quick. I’ve found the power delivery of the Vapor coming out of a corner is produced much quicker than some kites that take a noticeably longer distance to build their power.
The bridle on the Vapor compared to the older generation of race kites is quite minimal and nearly all the connections are bridle line spliced in to itself and looped. The result is the kite’s bridle no longer catches on itself anywhere near as much as a cheaper conventional bridle that’s just knotted and stitched. Some will argue the benefits of reduced drag, I see the reduction in bridle complications during a kite luff or mishap a bigger winner. Bridle points on the wingtips are fully reinforced and across the trailing edge the bridles start about an inch in from the trailing edge.
The rest of the build is well finished, both inside the kite and out, and includes the standard little things like dirt-outs in the wingtips etc. Like most performance kites however it's built incredibly well technically, however it's also built very lightly and leans towards performance over longevity. Less bridles, lighter bridles etc will all lead to the kite needing adjustments in the future.
Now what makes this kite so special is it’s flight characteristics, it’s power and how it delivers that power to you. The Vapor in its lower to mid wind range is an incredibly easy kite to fly, in fact I would say it’s probably the easiest low-wind race kite that I’ve flown personally. The kite is incredibly forgiving for a race kite and if you brake input isn’t 100% accurate, even if isn’t 80% accurate the kite will still fly and forgive you in low winds for those errors. So whilst you may not get the best performance out of the kite, it is s a kite someone unfamiliar with race kites can pickup and fly, as their skills progress so does the reward in performance that the kite delivers.
However typically we don’t fly race kites under-powered, and it’s in the kite’s upper wind-range that it really comes alive. The kite is incredibly stable for a race kite but that’s not to say it’s boring, infact its stability is one of the most exciting things about this kite because it gives you the confidence to push further and further in to it’s upper wind-range limits. Being slightly over-powered on a Vapor is an exhilarating pleasure, unlike flying it underpowered you can’t make large mistakes however the kite will forgive those little inadvertent mistakes you may make that with other race kites have consequences. The Vapor heavily forgives a lot of those little errors in judgement and then when you correct yourself the kite continues to deliver an amazing flight experience.
The power delivery on a Vapor in its upper wind-range is explosive, like most race kites. However the explosive power is delivered to the pilot in a controllable manner and not a result of the kite surging and moving around erratically. The kite holds incredibly well, and when those 3/4/5knot variable gusts hit you at high speeds instead of the kite bouncing around it continues to hold fairly steady and just produces more power at the handles. The result is more confidence to keep pushing harder when those little wind increases hit.
Pushing the kite to the edge of the window when sliding against it yields in a drop in power, but rarely with the right amount of brake input does the kite shoot out of the window. This gives confidence in slowing down for turns much later and closer to the mark, coming out of the turns the Vapor builds power very quickly over a significantly shorter distance than a number of other race kites I’ve flown. Overhead the kite is controllable, making upwind turns somewhat a more predictable event than kites that suffer when not moving through the window at high speeds.
Overall this is a very controllable, well rounded and predictable race kite. I’ve never felt the design of the Vapor was the most efficient, the fastest, the most cutting edge for speed or upwind ability, however I’ve always felt that the characteristics of the kite have given me the confidence to try and go faster, try and push further and try to hold on longer. This has always resulted in me flying faster on and on the edge for longer than if I was on a kite I trusted less.
The Peter Lynn Vapor was the race kite for nearly a generation of kiters, for many it will be their first and last race kite they ever fly with, for those of us who have the luxury of flying many kites it makes you appreciate just how good this kite is.
When I first started kite buggying, back in 1994, my buggy was a home-made affair - knocked together from scrap mild steel lying around the sculpture studio, with a plastic school chair perched on top serving duty as the seat! Power came from a stack of 6' Flexi stackers: they generated plenty of it, but with no lateral support I was constantly skiding off the seat and crashing the kites. I'd have to start all over again (this was in the days before traction kiting was banned at Epsom racecourse).
It was hopeless. I almost gave up. Then, my friend Adam made me a much more professional affair as a wedding present: this one was the one that sealed my fate, as it were, addicting me to kite buggying for the rest of my life. It had proper side rails meaning I could hold down much more power, and actually get somewhere without being dragged sideways out of the buggy! A good thing too because by this time I'd met Chris Sands and bought a set of four line foil plans from him: these were for Skytiger type kites and raised the bar in power considerably.
That buggy served me faithfully until one day I saw a Peter Lynn race buggy in the Covent Garden Kite Store - would you believe it, it had suspension! I had to have it, and still being impoverished having only just recently graduated, I put it on layaway and paid a little towards it each week. That was the buggy that saw me through the next ten years and which I loved to bits; but time took its toll, and a spectacular crash at Atmosphere 09 finally consigned the forks & headset to the grave. I was very upset.
What to do? The cheep and simple solution was to buy another PL headset and have done with it. There was a but though. I had made the mistake of sitting in a gorgeous stainless steel buggy parked outside the BuggyBags tent at Atmosphere 09, and I couldn't get it out of my mind.
It was the PTW Cheetah (Popeye The Welder) and it fitted like a glove - I was absolutely astonished; it made my battered old PL buggy seem like a very poor relation indeed!
When I discovered that Popeye made them to order I thought to myself "I wonder if he could make me a new set of forks to fit my PL?"
I got Popeye's email from his website, and got in touch.
Yes, of course he could do it for me; but, "wouldn't it be better to ditch the rest of the PL and build anew?" he asked.
"But I like the suspension on the back of my PL" I replied
"You could keep the PL rear axle, build new from there forwards and have suspension all round" he said.
It wasn't a hard decision.
Thankfully I had some spare cash and so a process of planning began. First of all Popeye asked me to measure the geometry of the PL buggy I'd loved so much, then measure myself, then post him my back axle - which we'd agreed would be kept. He began work on the plans, sending me regular updates on progress and suggestions for size, seating arrangements, suspension ideas, etc etc etc...
To say that progress was tantalising is to be a master in the art of understatement - I was without a buggy; I NEEDED one!
When the dimensions were agreed upon Popeye started sending me photos of the build as it progressed, each successive one whetting my appetite further.
Time ticked by until the day she was ready and I stopped everything to jump in the car to collect her.
When I arrived at Popeye's place in Lincoln I was greeted by a veritable Aladdin's Cave of Buggying Heaven: his garage containing the sweetest collection of kite buggies you're ever likely to see, each one a work of art - Popeye really, really, knows his stuff. And Good God that man can weld! The finish was superb; better than I dared to hope.
My buggy was waiting for me on his drive, wanting only for the fitting of my BuggyBags race seat. Once fitted I hopped in and a Cheshire Cat settled itself on my face: wow, she was, and I can say this without fear of contradiction (it having now been verified by everyone else who's sat in her), the most comfortable buggy I've ever been in. I was thrilled and couldn't wait to get her to the park for her first outing.
And what can I say about that first session? Well, I hit my personal best of 25 mph (for the park, which is very small) within minutes, and went on to buggy for hour after hour - I could quite happily have carried on, but the light faded ending one of the best day's buggying I've ever had. I sprang from the buggy fresh as a daisy, the normal aching limbs absence being a testament to the armchair smooth ride. In use she's a delight - I can hold down much more power than I ever could in my Peter Lynn, and she tracks straight and true the whole time, only drifting into controlled oversteer if I want her to.
After that first session I gave Popeye some feedback, feeling that the turn circle was a little larger than I was used to and after a bit of discussion about how best to fix it, came up with a design for some footpeg extensions - because I was pressed for time (well, just impatient if I'm honest) I got a quote from a local fabricator to get them made - unbelievably they wanted over £200 each for them! A quick call to Popeye & he said he'd make them for a tenth of that - they were with me three days later. So, let's add astonishing service to the list of Popeye's many merits.
I haven't yet had her on a beach, but I'm sure that when I do she'll feel rock solid as I aim for my next personal best of over 50 mph.
Throughout the build, and after collecting her, Popeye was fantastic to work with: he really does take pride in his craft - and rightly so - I doubt you'll find anything the equal of a PTW buggy anywhere else in the world; they truly are works of art. If you're thinking of spending Race Buggy money on an off the shelf buggy from ANY of the major manufacturers, my advice is, don't, get in touch with Popeye instead
By : Kieron