I wanted to cover a topic that comes up all the time. Can, or should, you mix kiteboarding control bars? The short answer is yes. The long answer is... maybe.
The last few years, I've used a ton of different brands. Cabrinha, Slingshot, Liquid Force, North, Duotone, Naish, Airush and more. When I started at the shop, I was surprised to see the crew was always mixing control bars. More often than not, you can mix any modern 4-line kite with any 4-line bar. However, there are some things to watch out for.
Things to watch for:
- Pigtail connections
- Y or V Split
- Safety systems
Most bars are compatible, but there are some things to be aware of. Personally, there are some brands I won't mix.
The first thing to check for is the pigtail connections. Some brands will have opposite pigtails. If this is the case, just swap the pigtails and you are good to go. If for some reason, you don't have removable pigtails, you can use universal adapters.
The high Y or low V Split
Make sure you use a bar with a split designed for your kite. This is a called the Y or V split. Is it a high Y or a low Y? This will change the dynamics of your kite. Ideally, you want this to match up with how the designer intended. The Duotone Click Bar and the Liquid Force Mission Control Bar do have adjustable splits so that is a great workaround.
A smaller consideration is that some bars will have three knots on the steering lines. Others will only offer one. If your kite was designed to be flown on the center knot and you don't have that knot, you'll be missing out on some of the performance from your kite.
For example, Cabrinha, Slingshot, and Liquid Force all have three adjustments on the steering line. You can rig close to the kite for more power, use the center standard knot, or far away to take power out of the kite. If your bar only has one knot like Duotone, you'll be missing out on this benefit.
Older kitesurfing bars bars
As a rule, don't mix old bars with new kites. Designs have changed even in the past 8 years. Once you go back in time, the safety systems are not always compatible. A good example is trying to pair a Cabrinha IDS control bar from 2011 with a modern kite. The kite might fly, but you are taking a chance and compromising the quick release system.
With some older bars, you might even render the safety system useless. Beyond that, after almost a decade of use, it's good practice to have fresh lines anyway. The kite will fly better and you won't have to worry about a line breaking half a mile out.
Other dynamics can actually change how the kite feels, too. Some bars make kites slower, others might add some bar pressure. Beyond that, every bar is built a little differently.
Favorite kiteboarding brands to mix
The three brands I mix the most are Cabrinha, Slingshot and Liquid Force. These seem to work perfectly together. A good example of how dynamics change is using a Cabrinha bar on a Liquid Force kite. The Liquid Force control bar has a small gap between the line float and the bar. This helps give the bar a faster response. I've noticed that using the Cabrinha bar actually slows the kite down just a touch and adds a little welcomed bar pressure. I prefer moderate bar pressure. In 2019, I switched up to the Liquid Force Amp control bar. It has molded floats and seemed to give the NV V9 a touch more bar pressure as well.
Some kiteboarding brands will mix up their pigtails too. For example, Naish Kiteboarding and Duotone have different pigtails. You can still mix the other brands with these by swapping the pigtails or using PKS universal adapters.
Brands I don't mix
Personally, when it comes to Duotone kites, I prefer to use Duotone bars. I have no good explanation for this other than that their kites have a unique approach in design and I like the way they feel with the original bar. They were designed with a high Y split, but obviously you can use the low split on the Click Bar.
Funny note... I've used the Airush Diamond bar on some kites, and because it's a female bar, the throw was a little shorter than I am used to. On crossover kites it reduced my depower, but I did enjoy the smaller grip!