Innovation has always been at the forefront of Ride Engine’s culture, from the early days when it launched the first hard shell harness concept to its recent launch of an entirely new spreader bar design. This year, the Ride Engine team has expanded and shaved some weight off its core product as well as introduced an entirely new harness model. We caught up with Brand Manager, Gary Siskar to discuss the highlights of Ride Engine’s 2022 collection.
That is a big lead off question and thanks for asking. We are always evolving our crew in a positive direction at Ride Engine. Our leadership at the top is second to none and they give us all the support to be innovative and creative across everything from product, team goals and how we move and play in the market. The biggest change in our organization this coming year is to be out there more traveling worldwide in order to be in touch with our consumers. Of course, we have all been limited on our ability to travel during the pandemic and we are looking forward to getting back out there to spread the Ride Engine love. We look forward to doing this with some of our dedicated team riders. With this said we have added a few amazing athletes for this next year across kitesurfing and wingsurfing disciplines. For kiting, Brandon Scheid, Ewan Jaspan, Zara Hoogenraad and Jasmine Cho are all joining the kite squad of Ride Engine chargers, rounding out the RE team to include some of the best surf, big air and hydrofoil athletes out there. We also can’t overlook the release of the Unity Direct Connection spreader bar system on our hard-shell harnesses. This has been a big highlight for us and the market.
2022 is a big year for Ride Engine with a ton of new tech, but probably the most fundamental innovation in the last year has been the Unity Direct Connect system. The Unity not only adds rigidity to the harness but redefines the user experience in a number of not so obvious ways. What are the key functional benefits of using the Unity system?
We are very proud of the introduction of the Unity Direct Connection System. The entire process of the design and engineering falls right in the ethos of Ride Engine as to supplying solutions that address weak points or archaic components to enhance the user experience and performance. We felt that the use of webbing in performance harnesses presented an opportunity for improvement and that is exactly what we did. The Unity Direct Connection System replaced the webbing that connects the spreader bar to the harness with a rigid ladder adjustment influenced by ladder straps that you would find on snowboard bindings. This eliminates 100% of the slippage and subsequent loosening that would happen with webbing, which ultimately causes the spreader to rise more and the harness to become loose. Our new system has been designed to be ambidextrous, and is truly a one time ‘set it and forget it’ adjustment, unless you are going from no wetsuit to a wetsuit or visa-versa. Another nice feature that happened out of the design, but not by design, is that you can easily change between spreader bars. For example, if you want to ride a hook one day for big air and the next day you are going in the surf, the change between a fixed hook spreader and a rope sliding spreader takes only seconds. Also, if you are a wingsurfer or windsurfer and want to toggle between kiting and a hook optimized for winging or windsurfing, again, it only takes seconds to change out. We hope everyone can try the Unity Direct Connection. It is somewhat like learning to tie your shoes another way. But, once you do, you will never go back to the old way. Think about ski boots in the early days; they were all laces and now they are all buckles and bales!
This year the flagship hard-shell Elite harness shaved some weight, but there’s also the new Lyte model harness. How do you steer riders between the Elite and Lyte models?
Weight is probably the most important barometer of sporting equipment performance and windsports is no exception with the influence of weight being arguably more important. We did a deep dive into our existing lines, analyzing our construction and material science to see where we could reduce weight across the line not just in the Elite Carbon. Through this process, we found that we could reduce the weight in our hard-shell waist harnesses by an impressive 20% and 10% in our soft shell harness. This quest for weight reduction also influenced our ground up design of the new Lyte harness. Weight without sacrificing performance was the number one driver in the process. What we came upon was a combination of materials with the use of a Curv hard-shell, non-water absorbing Cell-Lock and a thermoformed lycra laminated foam body interface that offers hard shell performance in a lightweight package. Then of course the rider can choose between the Unity Direct Connection or Unity Webbing Connection. As for how a rider should select between the Lyte and Elite harnesses, it still comes to the flex profile of the harness. The Elite Carbon is positioned as our stiffest, most supportive harness, and that’s probably true across the entire market. The Lyte is just a touch more flexible in the torsion profile but retains the vertical flex close to the Elite Carbon. We know that every rider has a different set of parameters to what they like, therefore, we feature four distinct flex profiles in our waist harnesses, along with the option of a seat harness so any rider can find their perfect match in Ride Engine’s lineup. Additionally, we have a wing surf specific harness called the Vinaka that addresses the unique needs of wingsurfing.
The Ride Engine Apoc wetsuit has undergone some significant material changes this year along with some new design elements that improve fit and function. What are the big changes for this year and what will Apoc customers find in the latest wetsuits?
It was a challenge to improve upon the past generation APOC (men’s) and Elara (women’s) wetsuits. I mention the Elara also, as we produce one level of wetsuit for women and men with the same features and benefits that are the best in class, highest performing front zip wetsuits available. We have always started with the highest-grade sustainable neoprene and manufacturing methods possible. We looked at the suits with a microscope to find and implement material and design improvements to raise this generation to a higher standard of convenience and performance. We modified the entry pattern to eliminate flushing by bringing the internal opening gusset higher and closing off the shoulder entry by a small margin. These improvements did not impact the ease of getting in or out of the suit at all, but they did eliminate flushing. In addition, we placed the zipper closure pull already on the teeth. This makes zipping the suit easier by eliminating the need to put the zip on the teeth to close the suit. Inside the suit we have changed to a new thermal liner called Thermal Lock Fleece. This lining is lighter and less water absorbing than pile liners yet provides the same retention of heat. Our new suits dry faster while reducing the overall weight of the suit when dry and wet. This year it looks like Ride Engine has focused on expanding its safety-oriented products for watersports. How do you steer kiters through the options in the impact protection line of accessories?
We believe that the watersports category of protection has been overlooked for years. These days there are more people headed into the water and participating in sports that demand protection. For some sports, protection is woven in as a necessity, such as in mountain biking, snowboarding and skiing. Yet the popularity of hydrofoiling across all disciplines from surf, kiting, wingsurfing and windsurf foiling, all have added a new dimension of risk to the rider just based on the gear. Big air kiteboarders are going higher and longer distances at faster speeds. We are finding that riders are becoming more conscious of these risks and want to mitigate the possibility of injury. Ride Engine has always had kite and wake impact protection in the line, but now we are clearly seeing the need for specialized protection for hydrofoiling, big air and even protective equipment in the surf. We introduced the Defender HF hydrofoil impact vest this past year and it was met with open arms in the market! As we get deeper into protection, we will be innovating and bringing these sport-specific designs that cover body armor to head protection. We want everyone that hits the water today to be able to get on the water tomorrow!
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