Preventative Maintenance – Your Brake Lines Over the course of your canopy’s lifetime, you’ll visit your rigger to have the entire line set replaced at least once and the control (brake) lines replaced several times. Your rigger (if asked) will also inspect the condition of the lines on your main after a cutaway and during your regularly scheduled 180-day reserve repacks. As the canopy owner, however, there are some things YOU can do to take care of your control lines between visits to your rigger. Line condition At least once between repack cycles, check your lines for broken carriers (the bundles of threads which make up the lines). As lines wear, carriers break and the lines lose strength. Check out these photos from Performance Designs which indicate how much strength is lost due to line deterioration for each of the four types of canopy line (note: Spectra is a trade name for microline):
You can also check right side versus left side trim (symmetry) on your control lines. Midway between repack cycles, un-stow your brakes, make sure the tops of your risers are exactly lined up, and then check that when there is equal tension on the lines, the cat’s eyes (the circle of line where the toggle tip is placed when you set the brakes) are even. Up near the canopy, the right and left side cascade junctions should be even. Finally, each upper steering line should be the same length as its clone on the other side of the canopy. Finally, take note of the condition of the cat’s eyes themselves for both fuzziness and size. Some line types shrink with use. If the cat’s eyes get too tight, you might find yourself with a stuck toggle after deployment.
Preventative maintenance There are a couple steps you can take to lengthen the life of your control lines. When you set the brakes after landing, take care to route the control line to the canopy up the inside of the riser and the excess line into the keeper down the outside of the riser
This routing lessens wear on the control lines caused as the slider descends, because it routes the control lines away from the outside of the slider grommets. And when it comes to slider wear on the lines, it’s worth mentioning that collapsing your slider after opening reduces wear on the lines at the slinks because it lessens the amount the slider flaps. If you have the means to stow your slider by pulling it all the way down the risers and fastening it behind your head*, you’ll reduce wear even further by eliminating slider grommet vibration against the lines for the duration of your canopy flight. Finally, no matter what you do with your slider after deployment, examine the grommets on a regular basis. Dings and nicks in the grommets cause damage to your lines. *if you have not stowed your slider before, seek coaching on the various means and methods and their associated caveats from a dropzone instructor or professional coach, and practice on hop-and-pops before taking this new practice to a sky full of other canopy pilots
Walk your control lines! What does this mean? Walking your control lines is the simple procedure of removing any twists from them. If you are in the habit of letting go of your toggles between the time you un-stow your brakes under canopy and when you set the brakes on the ground, twists will rapidly accumulate in the control lines. Even if you never let go of the toggles under canopy, and go straight from on-the-hand to stowed in the field, you will still sometimes induce a twist as you set the brakes. If you are the type who lets go of your toggles, you’ll want to walk the lines before the final pack job after every jump day. If you are the type who never lets go of your toggles, it’s still a good idea to walk the lines on a regular basis, both to remove the occasional twist and to check for wear. To walk the control lines, first un-stow the brakes. Perform a standard line walk-up from the container to the canopy to separate the riser groups as you would in preparation for packing, then put the canopy down. Now, starting at the center of the tail, move along the tail to one side until you come across all four attachment tapes for your control line cascade:
Use the fingers of one hand to keep the cascaded lines in order as you slide this hand down the cascade to the junction point. This puts any twists in the cascade that formed when you put the canopy down into the lower control line. With the cascade untwisted, press the flat side of the control line just below the cascade between the thumb and forefinger of one hand and slowly slide this grip down the control line toward the container as you support the line with your other hand.
Work any twists down toward the riser. Once you’re in reach of the riser, you can grab the toggle with your other hand and untwist some of the accumulated twists by spinning the toggle while you keep the line pressed between the fingers of your other hand. Once all of the twists are out of the line, set the brake and stow the excess. Repeat on the other side of the canopy.
Note – if you walk the control lines regularly, not only will there be fewer twists, but those you find will be easy to remove. If you rarely walk your control lines, it will take a lot of patience to thoroughly work the twists out. This is because the line will develop a memory for the twists, and you’ll have to massage the weave of the line to remove them. Ask your rigger to show you how to remove memory-set twists from your control lines. Watch a video demonstration here. Why is it important to keep twists out of the control lines? A few reasons. First of all, twisted lines are weaker! In terms of wear, twisted lines expose a rougher surface to the slider grommets and the guide ring on the risers; they also cause the carriers to load unevenly. These will both cause the lines to wear faster. Also, remember how we said you’ll still eventually accumulate twists even if you never drop your toggles? Many of us in this situation will find that one side is always more twisted than the other, which may be due to variations in how we transfer each toggle from hand to cat’s eye with our dominant hand. Twists effectively shorten your control lines. If one side is significantly twisted while the other side has no or only a few twists, you may find not only uneven wear, but that your canopy seems to have a built-in turn. Finally, twisted control lines are a recipe for tension knots. Keeping the twists out of your control lines lessens the chance that you will experience a tension knot (and the resulting mid-cycle visit to your rigger to put your rig back together after your cutaway). Further education Performance Designs “Know Your Lines!” series Part 1: Part 2: Part 3: Performance Designs user maintenance info seminar: Performance Designs user maintenance article: