Former CO Mountain Bike Racer turned Hang Glider Racer - Slide Show 1/27 Boulder REI
Mod's, if this is too off topic please feel free to delete. For me there is definately a connection between riding and gliding - read on...
Hey guys I've been lurking on here for years, but haven't posted much. Thought I would reach out to the cycling community. I had a pretty good career as a Sport then Expert XC guy in Colorado. I raced here between 2005 and 2009, my best result was a class / age group win at the Laramie Enduro in 2008. My cycling career was ended way too prematurely by over-use injuries in my knee. I've chased a solution for years, but nothing has allowed me to log the hours / miles I used to. It kills me, I miss it every day. Although, even though my rides are chill now, I never take them for granted any more.
In the meantime I've turned my competitive energy to hang gliding. Hang gliding comps are similar to road bike stage races. They are multi day XC races over hundreds of miles by climbing in thermals and gliding to cover distance. You fly wingtip in big groups called gaggles and cover break aways or stick with the group just like a cycling race. It's all about strategy.
I'm doing a slide show at the Boulder REI Friday, January 27th at 6:30pm that has tons of pics, stories, and videos from racing hang gliders the past few years. It's completely free, just show up!
Phoenix Multisport Air Force Hang Gliding Extravaganza - Boulder REI
A lot of the lessons I learned racing and training in mountain biking carry over directly to hang gliding. I talk a lot about it, things like learning the art of losing and earning each sucess. I also have some great footage of Colorado mountain flying directly over some of my favorite trails. Things like "downhilling" from the air over Copper Mountain.
I would be stoked if any of the Front Range MTBR crew wanted to come by and check it out. Boulder REI 6:30pm.
Sangre De Cristos
Sangre De Cristo Mountains - A Hang Glider's Perspective - YouTube
Speed Gliding (downhilling) Over Copper Video
Hang Glider Swooping Copper Mountain - YouTube
Free Styling in Utah
Wills Wing T2C Fun at the South Side, Point of the Mountain - YouTube
Last edited by Cloudbase; 01-27-2012 at 07:11 AM.
That's sweet Cloudbase. I'm hoping to get back to riding more consistently after being plagued by ankle problems which I recently had surgery to address. I can really relate to what you have said about missing riding the way you previously did.
Couple questions about hang gliding....when you bank over to turn as depicted in your photo, you can accidentally bank too much and loose loft, right? How do you know how far you can safely bank? How do you know when you have gone as far away from where you want to land as you can go or do you just sorta guesstimate where you hope to land?
Looks fun as hell. I'd pee myself.
Thanks guys. The slide show was a huge success. If anyone from here made it thanks so much for coming!
Good luck with the recovery 2Wheels. If you are not already, include lots of body work in your PT plan. Neuromuscular really helps me when I can afford it.
As far as your questions go, I'll try to keep it simple.
Lift always acts perpendicular to the wing, so when you are in a turn some component of that lift acts vertically to oppose weight / gravity and the other component of lift acts horizontally causing a turn. Generally this is what makes winged aircraft turn regardless if they are airplanes or hang gliders. If the vertical component of the total lift is less than the aircraft weight then you will descend, which in a hang glider isn't a big deal because you are always descending or climbing. The manuever dipicted above is called a wingover. I was using it to break away from the ultralight that was photographing me. I started it by pitch up slightly into a climb then initiating the turn, which compensated for the altitude I would loose at such a high degree of bank.
when you bank over to turn as depicted in your photo, you can accidentally bank too much and loose lift, right?
Hang Gliders are actually very stable machines and it is hard to get them into steep bank angles. If done right you could roll them 360 degrees like an airplane, but because you are hanging below the wing it would be vary hard to do. In order to do it correctly you would need to fly a fight path that always maintained positive G force on yourself and the wing. I've exceeded 150 degrees of bank in a wingover by keeping the glider in a 1G state. The same holds true for airplanes. Tex Johnson famously rolled a 707 airliner at Seafair in Seattle by keeping the airplane in a 1G state throughout the maneuver.
How do you know how far you can safely bank?
Boeing 707 roll by Test Pilot Tex Johnson - YouTube
In a hang glider you are always descending. You gain altitude by finding air that is rising faster then you are descending. A modern hang glider has glide ratios nearing 15 to 1, meaning for every foot you loose you travel forward 15. Even with a 10 to 1 glide ratio you can still travel 10,000 feet forward or roughly 2 miles for every 1000 feet of altitude lost. Knowing that when I am low to the ground, say below 3000 feet, I always keep my eye on good fields to land in. Soccer fields work great, although with some skill you can land in much smaller areas. At my last competition I glided 34 miles starting from 15,000 feet. It was so far that I couldn't even see were I landed when started the glide!
How do you know when you have gone as far away from where you want to land as you can go or do you just sorta guesstimate where you hope to land?
Here's a few more videos if anyone is interested.
Here's what a hang gliding comp is like. You aerotow up, just like water skiing in the air, then fly wingtip to wingtip along the race course. It's just like a three dimensional mountain bike race!
Santa Cruz Flats Race 2011 - YouTube
This was a big triangle XC flight I flew from the Williams Fork Range to the Eagles Nest on the Northern Gore Range. You drive by the area on the way to Steamboat. I got really low at one point and thought I would have to hike out, but Icaught a climb to 15,000 feet and got up on the Eagles Nest.
Hang Gliding Williams to the Eagles Nest - YouTube
One thing I like about mountain biking is many of the participants are into much more interesting sports then your typical basket ball, base ball, foot ball. That Engle's Nest video is spectacular especially since I used to live in Vail and hiked in The Gore Range often. However, from the aerial vantage point in the video I found it difficult to pick out land marks I recognized. Do you use GPS to track your location? I was under the impression that flying a small airplane in the mountains is one of the most challenging environments to fly in due to the funky things mountains do to air and the lack of power for small aircraft. It seems the same applies to hang gliders. Did you originally learn to hang glide in the mountains?
Looks so rad. Just watched the Eagle's Nest vid. Do you feel thermals? Can you be flying along and feel the air change?
Just got sucked into a ton of videos. Today I learned that there's a race track east of Denver, sure wish I had a worthy car.
Take the long cut, we'll get there eventually.
I've never been very interested in normal sports. I think it's probably because I sucked so bad at them! Mountain biking was always my main gig, 24 hour and endurance racing was the pinnacle of that and also why I'm so injured. I really miss it. Since not being able to ride regularly I've also developed a nasty sports car obsession, that's probably the track vids you saw Debaser. Right now I'm debating on whether to build up an old German Touring Class BMW for SCCA or get a shifter kart. I did a 14 hour kart race last fall that was almost as fun as 24 Hours of Moab. Almost... I honestly think if I could just ride consistently again, I could put this madness to rest.
I learned to fly in the mountains, first in Utah then in CO. In Colorado I know the mountains so well I mostly navigate by memory. Usually when going XC it's more of a matter of finding the lift to get where you want to go. When I'm competing in foreign places I use a GPS. I program the race course in my GPS and use that as my primary navigation. The GPS is interfaced with my instrument pod to give me winds aloft, glide ratio to the finish and waypoints along the way, ground speed, and altitudes I will arrive at waypoints. I even use my old Edge 305 as a back up GPS.
Flying small planes in the mountains can be dangerous if the conditions are not respected. It can also be done safely if the wind is calm, proper technique is used, and the weather is respected. The biggest factor is wind and mountain wave in the winter and heat and thunderstorms in the summer. The problem is that most normally aspirated small airplanes usually can't climb higher than about 12 to 14,000 feet. And even then the climb performance is poor because it's close to the service ceiling.
In a hang glider we usually seek the turbulence that most small planes are trying to avoid. By using that air to climb and avoiding the sink, the strong conditions can be safely used to your advantage. A healthy respect for weather is important. Knowledge of the Colorado weather is equally important and learning it is a life long quest for me.
You can feel thermals and they feel amazing. Just like carving a pristine piece of single track. They are intangible. You can't see them directly, you can only learn to observe the subtle clues that mark their presence. It took me years to learn how to read the air, the clouds, and signs on the ground to find thermals. Then I had to learn how to stay in them as they drift with the winds aloft. The coolest thing about flying a hang glider compared to other forms of aviation is that it is all done by feel. The way you get good at it, just as in mountain biking, is to see and feel what is right in front of you that you wouldn't have seen without looking for it. It's truly flying like a bird. It's almost like turning up your senses to what you normally would be oblivious to. And if your competition is oblivious you can use what they don't see or feel to your advantage.
It's the same thing you do on the bike, feeling different lines and trail textures communicate through the bar, seat, and suspension. Or like modifying your line by using a little tiny berm in the single track as positive camber to carry more speed through a turn. On that note, driving on the race track greatly improved my descending skills. You don't have to have a nice car to do it. Preferably manual, RWD, fresh brakes and tires, and a good instructor. Your cycling skills will improve dramatically!