Kiting as a whole has matured greatly in the past 5,6 years. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not about to break out the yacht club jackets and the monocles anytime soon, but as a whole the industry has reached a point where year to year the changes are incremental. Despite the fact that Brand X will tell you that their 2014 gear has a larger wind range, pulls harder, flies faster and gets you laid more than their 2013 gear; well let’s face it, the majority of us would not be able to tell the difference between last year’s and this year’s model.
When innovation hits a mature industry, it often strikes in the way people least expect, in a niche that is overlooked by the heavy hitters in the industry. Coleman Buckley has managed to do just that with his Engine Harnesses.
The tagline behind Engine is tongue in cheek, but at the same time oddly fitting: “We build space armor for ninjas.” The premise behind Coleman’s brainchild is simple: Custom Fit One of a Kind Harnesses. You order online, he sends you a mold kit. You bake the mold, slap the mold on your back, send it back to him and 3-4 weeks later you have a harness built just for you. Not only is the fit custom molded, but the design itself can be tailored to whatever it is you want. Follow Engine’s Instagram to see a steady stream of new and unique designs.
Space Armor indeed. Putting on an Engine harness is like sitting down in a La-Z-boy after being on a 8 hour road trip in your ricer buddy’s lowered ‘91 Integra (complete with knock off Ricaro’s). Coleman has managed to find this magical line between complete and utter comfort and being incognito.
The Engine Armor uses closed-cell memory foam as padding between the custom molded hard shell (which we’ll get into later) and your back. It’s cushy, without being obtrusive. We’ve tried out Mystic’s memory foam harness (The Majestic), and while that one was very comfortable, we were also very aware that we were wearing a harness. With the Engine Armor, the fact that we were wearing a harness just faded into the background noise.
The real magic of the harness comes from the custom molded hard shell. When a kite pulls on a typical harness it deforms, applying inward pressure on the sides of the harness. Imagine it as yanking in one direction on a rubber band. Not exactly conducive to comfort. However, the Engine Armor has that hard shell back, when the kite pulls against the harness, there is much less deformation, taking a lot of the pressure off the sides. Also because the back is custom molded, the end user doesn’t have to cinch down the front nearly as tightly.
The Engine Armor does not come with a spreader bar included, so the end user can pick which ever one they prefer. We went with the Mystic Clicker bar and were very satisfied.
Durability/Quality of work:
Often times with smaller companies, there’s definitely a worry of durability or quality of work. Let’s address the first one. Shortly after acquiring our Armor, we took off to Brazil. There we had an interesting kite-mare in the Cauipe lagoon. One that resulted in our poor writer being dragged across the bottom of the lagoon and on land by one looping kite, while being tangled up in another person’s lines. Our writer was bruised, confused and a bit shook up, however the Armor survived with some minor scratches across the hard shell and a couple of scrapes on the neoprene. Basically ended up in better shape than our writer, so we’ll call that one a win for Engine. Considering Coleman began his journey down this path because he was looking for a more durable harness, we are not surprised.
As far as quality of work goes, Coleman is a perfectionist, constantly on the lookout for ways to improve his product. When riders at Triple-S complained that exposed rivets were tearing up their hands during handle passes, Coleman found a short term solution (Loctite on the rivets) and worked on a long term solution as well (all rivets are now under the neoprene cover.) He is also constantly experimenting on himself, trying out new materials, new shapes in the demanding Santa Cruz surf.
Worth it. Totally worth it. The custom fit Armor comes in a $300 USD. While this price does not include a spreader bar and is already a couple ticks above a high-end Mystic or Ion, in our opinion this is worth it. The amount of customization, the level of comfort and the attention to detail is unmatched. The fact that we can put this harness on and forget that it’s even there makes it more than worth the price.
What we would change:
There are few things that we would change about this piece of kit. The one thing that we could think of was the lack of a handle pass loop. The harness does come with 2 rings where you can attach your own loop, but it still requires a tiny bit of hacking to get it to work. Let’s face it.. we’re lazy.
The final word:
The Engine Armor won’t help you land that Blind Judge, it won’t help you kite in lighter winds and it probably won’t get you laid any time soon. At the same time, it doesn’t promise any of those things, what it promises is unsurpassed comfort, durability and a one-of-kind piece of you attached to your waist. On those promises, it delivers.
Riders like Aaron Hadlow, Claire Lutz and James Boulding all rock an Engine Armor, and the interesting thing is none of them are being paid to do so. That should say something.