Towing Point Basics

The MBK Dowel Roller kite in flight, showing the bridle lines.The Dowel Roller has a 3-leg bridle

The MBK Dowel Roller kite in flight, showing the bridle lines.The Dowel Roller has a 3-leg bridle

Ready for a few tips about adjustment of the towing point? Some might call it the tow point. This is where the flying line attaches to the kite's bridle.

All single line kites, whether shop-bought or home-made, have one or more lines, keels or a combination of these which are attached directly to the kite.

However simple or complex, there's just one point where the flying line attaches. In most cases, you can slide or otherwise adjust this point towards the nose or the tail of the kite.

A sliding knot can be used, but you might have noticed that some retail kites use a small ring or clip for the same purpose. If you're buying a kite, it might be worth giving this some attention before leaving the shop.

For the rest of this page, I just refer to 'the knot'.

This can also mean 'the ring' or 'the clip'. OK? 

On all our MBK designs, I make it clear exactly where the tow point is, so the builder has the best chance of flying success...

A small length of line is attached to the rest of the bridle with the Prusik knot. Adjusting the towing point is as simple as sliding the knot one way or the other, and then locking it. Using a fingernail helps, if the knot is a bit tight to slide in the unlocked state.

The Big MBK Book Bundle is a collection of downloads - printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for making many kites large and small.

Are you flying a Sled kite? This is just a sail with 2 spars running straight up and down, or sometimes sloped out at a slight angle. You can't adjust the towing point up or down on these. However, moving it sideways can come in handy for correcting a tendency to lean in one direction!

The triangular-shaped Delta also has a fixed tow point in most cases. The main exception is where the manufacturer has provided more than one hole near the tip of the keel. You just select the rear hole for most flying, reserving the other one(s) for windier weather.

Towing Point Q&A

What if the kite doesn't want to fly at all?

Perhaps there's simply not enough wind for flying a kite. This is likely to be the case if you can't feel the kite pulling on the line. Just wait for better conditions, and go out when there's more wind! Alternatively, you could attempt to re-live your childhood and excitedly scamper across the field, towing the kite up as you go...

Perhaps you can feel the kite pulling, and it moves left or right but just doesn't climb no matter what you do. That is the symptom of a towing point set too far back. Just shift it forward towards the nose of the kite a little, and try again. Keep adjusting by a small amount until the kite willingly climbs into the air. Learning how to fly a kite has a lot to do with understanding this adjustment.

What if the kite takes off, but then just wants to loop around and dive into the ground?

Let's assume you're not trying to fly immediately downwind of your house or some other huge obstacle! Looping is usually caused by trying to fly when the wind is too strong for the kite. The first thing to try in windy weather is to shift the towing point forward a little. This reduces the pressure on the kite and might be enough to keep it in the air.

Be aware that shifting the knot way too far forward in almost any kind of wind will make the kite unstable! Lots of quick little loops and no satisfaction.

If you have shifted the knot several times without any success, it's time to add a tail. Or, if the kite already has a tail, add some more! Keep adding tail until the kite stays in the air, or you run out of tail material. If the kite is still misbehaving, pack up and wait for a less windy day!

However, if you are having some success at this point, you might even be able to shift the knot back a fraction. This will make the kite fly even higher.

Just one more comment here. If you made it yourself, but the kite just won't fly straight despite perfect weather conditions, there is something else wrong. Try this page to find the answers.

What if the kite takes off and climbs, but then doesn't get very high?

In this case it sounds like there is enough wind, but the towing point has been left too far forward. Perhaps the last time it flew, it was adjusted for very windy weather! No problem, just shift the knot back towards the tail a bit at a time until you are happy with how the kite is flying. Make small adjustments, or you could end up with the kite not flying at all!

If shifting the knot doesn't help, then the wind is just not strong enough to carry the kite to its maximum height. The tiny amount of lift it is generating is equal to the weight of the flying line plus the weight of the kite. It's a delicate tug-of-war between the kite and the line. The weight of the line does add up, as you let more and more of it out.

Other Aspects...

Although this is something that you can't adjust in a hurry, it's worth noting in case you ever make a complete bridle from scratch. Either for a retail kite or for one of your own...

There is an ideal bridle length for any individual kite. That is, the distance from the sail to the tow point in flight.

If this distance is too short, flight can be less smooth, with the nose of the kite bobbing up and down in response to turbulence or changes in wind speed.

If this distance is too long, the kite will fly very smoothly, but will tend to gain and lose large amounts of height in response to wind speed variations. When the breeze drops, your kite will quickly start to tail-slide earthwards! Also, a kite on a long bridle will be a little harder to launch in light winds.

So, I find the happy medium for most of my kites is a length comparable to the width of the kite, or a little more. Experiment until you find what your own preference is. The original Dowel Sode had an overly long bridle but it was kind of fun to fly it like that!

I hope these tips on how to adjust the tow point prove useful for you!

The Big MBK Book Bundle will keep you busy for years I reckon - there's  plenty of tow-point-adjusting practice in there ;-)  I make an initial recommendation for any given kite but it can still be useful to experiment with tiny variations.

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Wind Speeds

Light Air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2

Gentle ...
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3

Moderate ...
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4

Fresh ...
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5

Strong ...
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7

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