Ride Engine Elite Series & Dakine C-1 Harness review

Dakine C-1 - Ride Engine Elite review Kiteworld Magazine issue 82

This test featured in Kiteworld Magazine Issue #82


In this kitesurfing harness review, we take a look at two hard shell variants, the Ride Engine Elite Series and the Dakine C-1.



The first to market with the hard shell harness concept, Ride Engine have been causing a stir in harness circles. Ride Engine founder Coleman Buckley started producing custom-made shell harnesses for riders in his garage in California. Pretty soon his super low profile harnesses could be seen wrapped around some of the best riders in the sport, all of whom sang the praises of having a firm fit harness fit perfectly to the contours of their back… not to mention the fact that Coleman was also customising the backs of their harnesses with a graphic design sheet of their choice, which was pimp.

Ride Engine Elite Bamboo review

Fast forward two years and Slingshot have taken his company into their network of brands and are helping him grown into the mainstream market. Now offering a more standardised range of sizes, there are options for shells in bamboo or carbon for the ultimate light weight design. We tested both  the sliding spreader bar and the hook.

First thing to notice is that when you get the sizing right, these harnesses are an incredibly snug fit. Extremely comfortable around the lower back and with a very supportive and cushioned fit, it’s important to get the right size, most often choosing a size smaller than you’d originally think, but then it’s an incredibly comfortable, supportive fit.

They’re also very quick and simple to put on, with a unique loop system that hooks over the catch at the end of the spreader bar. A webbing strap runs inside a plastic tube which is easily placed over the end of the harness bar lip and is tightened via just one webbing buckle. Definitely quick and easy to fasten, tightening in just seconds, this is perhaps the least reinforced fastening system we’ve seen, however this harness was initially designed for wave riders who were focused on the ultimate in comfort and body freedom. When riding waves, there weren’t as many forces going through the harness as, let’s say, when boosting and mega looping.

We were really keen to try out the rope sliding spreader bar. Having that allowance for flowing movement of your chicken-loop across your body made so much sense in our minds. First run when you actually get to use one and, whoa! It’s another world! So loose and free. Your first top turn immediately makes apparent what this harness was designed for. You quickly adapt to the feel of the harness and it becomes hard to imagine riding waves without this much freedom of movement. There’s no unhooking from the rope spreader though as you have to use attach your chicken-loop around the rope.

Having a firm shell with a soft and cushioned inside filler seems to makes really good sense and work well, particularly in riding mode with your kite pulling forward. We really can’t sing the praises enough of how good this harness feels. The fixed hook spreader bar also works well and in general the benefits of having a low profile and snug fit harness feel for freestyle, but our main points to highlight in terms of the downsides are that the design of this harness still feels like there are elements of prototype qualities in terms of finish and robust-ness. Once cinched down tight around your waist they do feel great, but the single strap and buckle is much less than you’ll find on most freestyle harnesses. Although it will take a little longer to fasten up, we’d like to see a secondary support strap built in as we don’t just use our harnesses in waves, we switch up and boost big air too, and although we didn’t have any issues, it was something that crossed our minds. Like many of you, we’re used to our harnesses lasting for several seasons.

Ride Engine Spread Bar options

Also, it’s worth nothing that although the rope offers an insanely smooth flow for your chicken-loop to slide along, the friction it causes did leave some wear on certain plastic tubed chicken-loops when we used them for a few sessions. Most of the harder compounds were unaffected, but we will probably see some developments here.

Overall, the feel and experience of these Ride Engine harnesses, particularly in waves is incredible. We can’t promise you that they’ll last you season after season at the moment, but wow, what a feeling in the waves. Second to none.

Ride Engine have also developed a wetsuit and clothing range.


Here’s the official harness product video from Ride Engine

Why Ride Engine? from Ride Engine on Vimeo.


More information at




Although taking a little longer to do up and get tight, once you’re set, the C-1 brings Dakine’s immensely robust build quality knowhow to the hard shell harness table. There aren’t as many options in the range compared to the Ride Engines, but there’s Dakine’s definite authority when it comes to build-quality. Tighten up both sides, tighten the hold down strap and then tuck away the loose straps as usually, and you’re set, feeling incredibly locked in. The heritage of Dakine is very obvious when it comes to harness build with their tried and tested Power Clip lock buckle system and thick, durable webbing hold down strap that locks everything in place very well.

Dakine C-1 Kite Harness 2016 Kiteworld Magazine

In terms of fit the C-1 is nice and snug, using Dakine’s Adaptive Fit Composite shell that moulds to the rider’s body over time. The fit is fantastic although the C-1 is more cumbersome in front of your waist with a chunkier hook than the Ride Engine, but the narrow height of the Hammerhead hook and ergonomic bar pad are finished beautifully, don’t ride up and the harness back itself is still very low profile.

Dakine also offer the option of their own sliding spreader bar, the Maniac with a hook on a webbing slider. It’s not as silky smooth and doesn’t slide as far to the sides as the Ride Engine rope, but it’s really strong, solid, and also as it uses a regular hook, allowing you to unhook. To some, having just a little more friction in the slide isn’t a bad thing, requiring a definite, sure pull from the kite to move the hook, though both harnesses require some getting used to if you’ve never used a sliding system before.


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This is the first full year that we’ve seen these low profile, hard shell harness on the main market, and, although we’ve really enjoyed them, harnesses are still very much down to personal preference and what you get used to. We saw a lot of harnesses last issue for our ProLimit design office visit and there’s a lot to be said for having a very broad harness that offers good support to a wider proportion of your back / body / sides, as harnesses have done for many years.

Having said that, and personally, we’ve definitely enjoyed both of these harnesses and it’s great to see new thinking when it comes to harness designs.

These two harnesses are also quite easy to separate. The Ride Engine is the most low-fuss harness we’ve ever used. The natural contour of the shape means that the harness actually hugs your body and won’t drop below your hips even if you don’t fasten it up. The tightening plastic loop and single webbing strap is not only simple, but very easy to get tight without having to cinch it down with several good tugs, though after a long session, it does need a little tighten. It’s really easy though, and many will really like it for that. The downsides are that we feel that, although it’s one of the best feeling harnesses we’ve ever ridden, it needs a bit more reinforcement assurances. A little more evolvement to come, but these guys have already done a lot for this part of the market.

The Dakine C-1 is a very safe bet for the all-round rider, wanting to mix up high wind riding, with freestyle and waves. It’s a bit stiffer in feel, certainly at the sides of your body and with a bit less natural curve feels a bit flatter, but is also designed to mould to your shape more and more.

Dakine Spreader Bar Options

If you’re not riding waves and spend most of your time riding a twin-tip, doing rotations, transitions, jumps or generally cruising and want maximum comfort, then we’d recommend a stable hook over anything else. These harnesses aren’t for everyone and definitely suit the most dynamic rider, but having said that, not every dynamic rider; many will still like the added support and protection from the bigger moulded harnesses. It’s also worth noting that as a beginner, if you’re spending a lot of time with your kite lifting directly overhead, or standing on the beach and walking with your kite, these harnesses are at their best in ‘riding mode’ with the kite active in front of you. A softer, more widely supportive harness is more comfortable with the kite overhead. These hard shells are definitely more performance oriented.

We’ll be riding more harnesses over the coming months, including the RRD Shift Pro and the ProLimit Wave which we’ll add to the website. The ProLimit offers a different adaptation of the idea of ‘sliding’ with the whole harness sliding around the wetsuit thanks to its slippery interior – and we need to give this a good go!


This test featured in Kiteworld Magazine Issue #82

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