What is a Paragliding Speed Bar & How Does it Work?

what is a paraglider speed bar

There is a lot to think about when you are just starting out paragliding. Learning what the main components of a paraglider are and what they are used for (as well as how they work) is essential. Not just for a fun experience, but more importantly; for safety.

What is a paragliding speed bar and how does it work? A paragliding speed bar is a foot control that is attached to the harness and connected, via pulleys, to the leading edge of the glider wing. It is used to increase the speed of the paraglider. The pilot simply pushes on the speed bar with his foot to change the wing angle and increase speed. 

Not all pilots decide to use a speed bar, despite the fact there are paragliders that are now designed specifically to come with a speed bar. They might not be entirely necessary for the average pilot though.

Read on to learn more about whether or not a speed bar is needed, if it really makes a difference, how it works and how to use one correctly.

How does a paraglider speed bar work?

The question on all paraglider’s lips (or at least those who haven’t used a speed bar before) is “what does the speed bar really do?”. Let’s take a closer look…

Average paragliders can glide comfortably at speeds of approximately 38 km per hour.

If the wind and thermic conditions change and your speed drops to around 20 km per hour, your glider could collapse.

With a speed bar you can comfortably and quickly increase the speed to around 56 km per hour.

This means that the pilot can increase the gliders speed by nearly 50% by simply pushing the bar with his or her foot.

That is quite impressive and can provide an immense sense of power, not to mention confidence, to paragliders who both new or inexperienced.

Are paragliding speed bars needed?

If you are new to paragliding – or already quite advanced – and see that other pilots are using speed bars while you are not, you might wonder if they are a needed?

The truth of the matter is that they aren’t.

Speed bars are more of a personal preference, and whilst they can make the gliding experience more exhilarating, they are not absolutely essential for a good day out gliding the skies.

In the past, some paragliders believed that speed bars were more of a safety mechanism that was used to save a pilot from being blown over a hill while losing altitude. Speeding up would get them ahead and out of danger’s way.

But most paragliders aren’t designed or built to glide at high speeds.

In the past, most competition paragliders were seen with speed bars while regular paragliders were not. This now seems to be changing though.

Some more modern paragliders are designed and built to perform better at higher speeds than they did in the past and as such, can handle accelerated speeds without spinning, dropping or show other violent motions.

Whilst paraglider speed bars aren’t necessary, they can add a bit of joy to your everyday paragliding adventures.

Paragliding speed bars in action

Getting a speed bar might be exciting and I am sure you are probably dying to try it out if you have not got one yet.

But how does a paraglider speed bar work? Do you need training?

While training is recommended, you don’t strictly need any to learn to use the speed bar efficiently and safely.

It might believe that you can simply push down on the speed bar and zoom off into the distance.

That is not quite how it works.

Pilots who make use of a speed bar need to take the time to learn what the speed bar does to the paraglider and how to use it effectively, and safely.

  • Do you know what happens when a pilot suddenly speeds up a glider?
  • Is this a smooth motion?
  • Are there any negative effects to expect?
  • How does this affect the paraglider and will the pilot and glider be traveling at the same speeds?
  • Is it safe to use a speed bar?

It is important to know the answers to these questions before you even consider using a speed bar.

Here is what happens when you push on the speed bar…

Angle changes

The angle of the glider will immediately change when the speed bar is pushed. It will then lean forward somewhat in front of the pilot – this is called “pitching”.

At this point, the paraglider is flying faster than the pilot, but this is only for a very short space of time (if you have done things correctly).

Soon after, the pilot will swing back below the glider and the speed of the pilot will match that of the wing.

Using a paragliding speed bar incorrectly

If you push the speed bar at the wrong moment or time, you could find that the wing remains ahead or faster than the pilot for a much longer time than was expected and it can end up greatly decreasing the height at which the paraglider is flying.

This can be quite dangerous in certain instances.

While losing altitude, the experience can be quite stressful for the pilot. The glider may experience very sudden and unsettling deflations and can also spin around and experience massive pendular swings.

Using the paragliding speed bar correctly

You can introduce speed to your gliding safely and enjoyably if you use it in a calm and measured approach.

Pushing the speed bar gently while keeping a close eye and feel on how much the glider is pitching forward is key.

Only once the pilot and glider speeds have matched and the pilot is neatly below the wing again, the speed bar can be pushed again to introduce even more speed.

Using the speed bar in this way will minimize the potential for the wing collapsing or the glider spinning and swinging in an uncontrolled way.

It is important to lay off the brakes during accelerated flight as some paragliders have a negative reaction to this.

Instead, pilots should use their body weight to direct the glider. Sudden slowing by using the brakes can cause collapse or spinning.

How to safely use a paraglider speed bar

Safe use of a paragliding speed bar requires the right mindset, a gentle approach and a responsible attitude to safety.

Pilots who simply install the speed bar and set up to put it to the test often learn the hard way.

Remember that falling into trees and plummeting to the ground are real hazards that as a paraglider, you will be faced with if you use the speed bar incorrectly.

It’s important to consider all the dangers before you use the bar at all.

Some things to remember when using a paragliding speed bar include:

  • Paragliding wpeed bars cause a decrease in angle of attack which causes deflation during accelerated flight.
  • If you are accelerating during a collapse, the wing motions can be quite unexpected and rough.
  • Speed bars should only be used when pilots are confident that they have enough height to recover, if the glider should unexpectedly suffer a serious collapse.

Tips for pilots using paragliding speed bars

Check that your harness is set up correctly before using a speed bar

Using a speed bar with an incorrectly set up harness could result in you being tipped backwards in the harness when you use the speed bar.

This is of course incorrect and indicates an incorrect set up.

The correct set up is as follows: speed line runs via the riser in a downward direction, going through a pulley beneath the harness (it should be attached to the underside of the harness). It runs through another pulley towards your feet.

Set up the speed bar ladder system for best results when using a speed bar

Many pilots have found that they get the most out of their rage of speed by adding a ladder system when using a paragliding speed bar.

Set your ladder system up so that when your legs are straight on the lowest bar, your glider can reach 50% of the speed in the speed range.

You should only need to use the second bar if you need to get up to highest possible speed.

Conclusion

What type of paraglider are you? Do you need a speed bar? Do you want one?

When it comes to paragliding, pilots have to decide what type of flight they are looking for.

Using a speed bar can be highly beneficial to a pilot who learns how to use the bar and puts in the time and effort to use it correctly.

Adrenaline junkies or those without the patients to learn how to correctly use the bar (instead just want to jam the bar down for added speed at any time) won’t get many benefits from the speed bar.

If you want to make use of a speed bar, think about investing in a paraglider that is more modern and therefore better suited (or designed to) to gliding at faster speeds.

And there you have it, the answer to; what is a paraglider speed bar. 

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