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Santa Cruz provided the cradle of the hard shell harness and Ride Engine continues to evolve and refine the concept and make a truly innovative product. The Elite Carbon has been completely revised this year, and the latest showpiece is the implementation of the Unity spreader bar, which comprises a wide belt of composite ratchet straps. They extend quite far back past your hips and clip into some relatively low profile clamp boxes, which are tucked away under neoprene. This means you can say goodbye to flappy webbing and irritating buckles.
The bar itself is a lightweight molded composite affair which can switch between kite, windsurf and sliding spreader setups with the aid of a few Torx bolts hidden behind the front pad. Two large tabs tuck the bar into the belt, and once under compression this forms a very rigid connection with virtually no vertical twist under load. Underneath it all is a chunky Velcro waist belt to hold things in place whilst you load up.
Once initially set, this Unity bar allows the user to literally fit it once and then clip in and out with two compression levers, negating the usual need for fiddling with webbing. These do the final few centimeters of compression closure and have some handy loops to aid your exit with cold hands. Twin levers also mean no discrimination between left and right-handed riders. Removing all the webbing and buckles from the equation not only shaves off some weight, but also eliminates the usual long-term wear points of a more traditional harness.
In the water, the Elite Carbon is pure luxury; for the uninitiated it’s like getting off an uncomfortable wicker chair and sliding onto a luxurious sofa. The level of compression and load distribution in the decadent memory foam molds well to the body. The neoprene has a texture on it to minimize any slippage and provides a high level or grip and comfort without a wetsuit on. The backplate is ultra-stiff 12k carbon, and a work of art in itself. It sits a little taller than some, distributing the load effectively across the base of your back.
Just when you thought harness technology couldn’t evolve much further, Ride Engine have stepped up and reset the benchmark again. It’s great to see a brand still innovating in the hard shell harness sector it created. The Unity spreader bar system is clean, functional design, and paired with that ultra-stiff and comfortable backplate arrangement makes the Elite Carbon V6 a kite harness to covet.