Some people seem to be very concerned about the physical challenges of foot launching a paramotor. It’s intimidating strapping on a 60lb backpack and being told you have run sprints with it on your back. Luckily it’s not as hard as it sounds, and you have many options with equipment to make that easier.
Let’s start with motors. I fly a Talon 190 built by Blackhawk. At just under 70lbs with fuel it’s one of the larger, more powerful options for foot launching. The harness distributes the weight nicely (just like a good hiking pack) and for me the great climb rate is worth the few extra pounds of a big motor.
A friend of mine recently purchased one of the lightest setups available, the Vitorrazi Atom 80. It’s an 80cc engine vs. the Talons 190cc but it has plenty of power to get his 165lbs airborne. At 58lbs fully fueled and a comfortable harness it’s very manageable for smaller pilots. At 190lbs, the Atom 80 is an option for me, but it will be working a lot harder to keep me up. Your choice of wing will affect your experience as much or more than your choice of motor.
Everyone has very different physical abilities and challenges. I have knee problems that make themselves known anytime I push a little too hard or the barometer changes for example. But you can get past just about any physical limitation if you want too.
This is an image of a Resurgence PPG trainee. Resurgence is an operation that travels the country making foot launch paramotor flight a reality for wounded vets. These guys have a wide range of invisible to very obvious challenges. They constantly prove that challenge does not equal impossibility. All it takes is the will to make it happen.
The trick is you aren’t really fighting that weight the whole time. As soon as you pull the wing overhead it starts taking on the strain. The motor provides the power to move you forward, like a steady hand at your back. The faster you move the more weight is carried by the wing. You’re really just keeping your feet moving to stay centered under the wing as your equipment does the work for you. It’s about finesse and technique more than strength.
Having said that, being fit will help you out, especially during kiting practice. If you’re thinking of getting into PPG this spring now is the time to start getting ready physically. You don’t need to be a power lifter, agility and endurance are more important than brute strength.
Low impact options work best for me. Biking is a great one. You don’t need an expensive road bike to make it happen. A decent $100 bike(or less at a good yard sale) will be perfect to start building leg strength and cardio. Body weight training can work great as well. Burpees, lunges, planks of all flavors. You don’t need a gym membership, just a block of time and the discipline to make it happen.
There really isn’t one muscle group more important than the rest. On the ground you need your lower body, back and abs to run and steady the motor. In the air you’ll notice the work your shoulders are doing pretty quickly. The more agile you are the easier it will be for you deal with bad inflations and turning into crosswinds on launch as well as running out a landing.
Of course wheels are an option. This takes out most of the physical requirements. And I will admit some days I would like to just lay my wing out, roll on the throttle and go. But if you want to footlaunch don’t go for wheels because you’re intimidated. All it takes is the willpower to learn. A good instructor can take that and direct it where it’s needed to achieve your goal.
Now, train hard this winter and I’ll see you in the sky.