At A Glance
As the original innovator of the carbon hard shell harness, Ride Engine has secured its spot in the industry as the hard shell king. The Elite is their flagship model and the most premium harness in the range and has received some exciting upgrades in its V7 / 2022 release.
What seems to be the ultimate kite industry innovation goal over the past couple of years - lighter weight, innovative materials, stronger than ever - has been wholly embraced by the team over at Ride Engine. The Elite V7 weighs in at around 25% lighter than the model before.
At first glance, it has the classic Ride Engine DNA. It offers the same features and benefits as previous versions but has been fine-tuned in a few small ways to make a lighter, better harness.
Like the very first versions of the Ride Engine Armor harness, built by founder Coleman Buckley, the shell of the harness has been ergonomically contoured to complement the shape of the human body. Unlike the original made-to-order versions, which were custom-built for each user, these production models use data collected from more than 1000 custom moulds to make a harness that should fit a large portion of the market. It's important to note that this is a unisex harness. There is not a male or female version; there is just one shape available in five sizes. So, trying before you buy is key to ensuring it suits your body type.
Their 12K Carbon Armor Shell is designed to be incredibly stiff, not offering much flex but providing support and load distribution to prevent twisting or buckling.
It incorporates a low profile design with plenty of padding to promise a comfortable ride. The inside of the harness, the part which comes into contact with the skin or wetsuit, uses Fusion Memory Foam, which is about as cushy as it gets!
If you have used harnesses from other brands, you will be familiar with the webbing straps that most harnesses use to tighten and close the harness. This webbing is what Ride Engine identified as a common failure point, prone to slipping, expanding or shrinking. So, they decided to eliminate it entirely with the new Unity Direct Connect system.
The Unity Spreader Bar, an industry-first innovation, is the biggest and most noticeable upgrade in the new Elite harness. This "set it and forget it" system uses ladder-lock straps in a hard composite material to provide the most locked-in feeling possible.
The initial setup of the harness is finicky and takes a bit of attention to detail and perhaps a session or two of fine-tuning to get that exact fit. But, once it's sorted, it's sorted... unless you loan your harness to a friend or have a particularly big Sunday roast! Thanks, mum!
Overall, we are a fan of the clean, premium design and the use of visible carbon throughout. The modern graphics on the new Ride Engine Elite V7, especially in the black version, are a stand-out on the beach! However, the new Palm pattern, which most of the new Ride Engines harnesses are available in, is even spicier. We're excited to see the vibrant addition to the typically minimalistic Ride Engine styling.
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
On The Water
This harness was tested in prime conditions in Cape Town. However, our tester made the rookie error of waiting until he got to the beach to set it up! After a few minutes of figuring out the Unity Spreader Bar system (sold separately), it was time to get it on the water! If you have not used the Unity Spreader Bar before, we recommend setting it up at home, not while you're jonesing to get on the water on a perfect, windy day!
We found the moulded frame fit to the back quite nicely and resisted the urge to slide or shift, even while sending big airs or slashing in the waves. During our sessions, the Elite maintained a stable position on the body, and the cushiony comfort from the Fusion Memory Foam was an absolute pleasure.
The only time the harness started to lose its performance on the comfort side was in heavy gusts when the rider was quite overpowered. In these conditions, a harness with a bit more flexibility would have been more comfortable than one with little to no flex. That said, different riders have different preferences, and you might find the opposite applies to you.
It seems that, across the industry, newer harnesses have become more and more fit specific and less and less universal. That's why it is critically important to try this harness - and any harness you're interested in - before you buy it. An ill-fitting harness, or one that does not suit your body shape, will only cause discomfort and shorten your sessions.
The size of the spreader bar is as important as the harness. These are purchased separately, so visit your local dealer and be sure to get measured up to find the exact fit. Luckily, the Elite V7 in a medium was the perfect fit for our tester, and kept him out on the water for hours of joy in the wind and waves.
We also tested the Ride Engine Lyte, and you can find our review on the IKSURFMAG website. The Lyte was a more minimal, stripped-back design with a little more flex and quite a bit less cushion. Our tester absolutely loved the extra cushion with the Elite, which helped connect the super-stiff carbon shell to the body in a comfortable way.
The new Ride Engine Elite V7 is a clean, mean, modern harness and another step forward in one of the industry's best hard shell harnesses! Lighter than previous models and with some exciting upgrades like the Unity Direct Connect system, we enjoyed the supportive, secure feeling of this harness.
It's a premium harness at a premium price, but if you like a stiff hard shell with soft insides and find the Elite a perfect fit, you can't find a better harness!
This review was in Issue 92 of IKSURFMAG.For more information visit Ride Engine
By Crystal VenessEditor at IKSURFMAG, Crystal Veness hails from Canada but is based in South Africa. When she isn't busy kitesurfing or reporting on the latest industry news for the mag, she is kicking back somewhere at a windy kite beach or working on creative media projects.