Model Tested: Elite Series
Originally started by California wave kiter Coleman Buckley as a made-to-order custom harness line, Ride Engine is now part of Slingshot’s parent company 7 Nation and has a full range of production harnesses for 2016. Slingshot HQ was kind enough to outfit us with their top-end Elite Series equipped with their Streamline spreader bar. Your writer must admit to some initial skepticism, first Slingshot insisted the harness needed to be fit really, really tight (an interesting challenge considering the ample waistline involved). Second, the absence of a fixed hook was mildly unnerving. Third, one side of the spreader bar is fixed to the harness, the other side is attached by simply hooking the spreader bar to a loop of PVC-enclosed rope. Surely that’s too simple to be secure? Armed with assurances that the harness would stretch out a little (and I’d be able to breath again), that I’d love the freedom of the Streamline Spreader Bar, and this PVC loop would mold to fit the bar perfectly and is completely secure, off to the beach we went.
The Elite Series is a very stiff harness and with a lot of lumbar support and a very tight fit the harness is locked firmly into the small of the back. Having the harness locked in place and the chicken loop traveling effortlessly from side to side really increases your range of motion. Especially in the turns and riding waves. With this harness set-up we immediately felt looser and better able to open up in our turns and wave rides. Personally, except for riding freestyle (obviously you can’t unhook with this set up) I can’t imagine going back to a fixed hook. Some other notes, the harness did stretch out quite a bit, to the point where we even needed to tighten up some straps. After one session I could dial in a nice tight fit and had plenty of room to breath. Also as promised, the PVC-coated hook definitely melded in to fit the spreader bar and the fit looked a little better every time I used it. The rope, a low stretch Dyneema, did stretch a little bit, but a great feature is that by adjusting a simple knot on the back of the bar you can decide how long the rope loop is and how far you want the chickenloop to be from your body. Ride Engine isn’t the first to replace fixed spreader bars with ropes; in fact, if you go back to the early pioneers of kiteboarding, ropes and shackle hooks were pretty common. But by coming out with this product line Ride Engine should be congratulated for bringing a well thought out product to the market.