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 65 lbs it’s one of the larger, more powerful options for foot launching. The harness distributes the weight nicely and I’m happy to deal with the weight on the ground in order to have the power in the air.
A friend of mine recently purchased one of the lightest motors 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. And at 40lbs with a very comfortable harness it’s easy to forget your wearing it. Even at 190lbs, the Atom 80 is an option for me. Your choice of wing actually has more impact than your choice of motor.
I also understand that 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. 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 imposibilty.
The trick is you aren’t really fighting that weight the whole time. As soon as you pull the wing overhead it starts picking up some of the weight. The motor provides the power to move you forward, like a steady hand at your back. The faster you move the more the wing carries your wieght . You are 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 seem to work best for me. Bicycling is a great one. You don’t need a $500 bike to make it happen. A decent $100 bike will be enough 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. But if you want to footlaunch don’t go for wheels just 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.