THIS WAS ONE of those harnesses everyone was talking about at the Coupe Icare in September. The Neo Suspender is a 3.85kg XC harness with a high-end lux feel – think leather patches in all the right places and beautifully engineered clips and buckles, along with neatly-tucked away tree rescue kit and hook knife.
The harness carries well as you walk around take-off, though I found it really hard to get my feet into the pod after launch. I tried the medium, and at 1.80m, was right at the top end of the range, so perhaps the pod was a little tight. Hooking with the right foot first worked best.
In the air it’s a dream. Designer Eric Roussel claims the Koroyd back protection gives the harness a rally-car, bucket-seat feel, and he is dead right. The Koroyd fits snuggly against your body, from shoulder blades right down to your seat. It’d be wrong to describe it as just protection – it’s the DNA of this harness. It gives fantastic stability and feedback, and swapping back to a hammock harness after a day in the saddle with the Suspender just felt wrong!
In rough air, the harness gives a good, balanced, cushioned ride – I expected the feedback to be hard and overwhelming, but it wasn’t. Instead, it transmits more precise information in a filtered way. The geometry of the speedbar set up means there’s a little more friction than a race harness – it perhaps adds 20-30% more effort – but the pod and harness is super stable in yaw, which makes it really attractive for such a light harness. It doesn’t budge.
One of my complaints with some lighter-weight hammock harnesses is you can yawed out of position quite quickly, so your feet are suddenly pointing 45-degrees to the left of right. This might be to do with their light weight, or the fact there’s no solid seat plate to push against. Gliding at speed, the Suspender offers the ride of a much heavier, seatboarded competition harness.
Thermalling, there’s a perfect level of movement. I never once got flung off balance. The harness’s snug fit and bucket-seat style give nuanced weightshift control. I had some concern that its rigidity might become uncomfortable, but this wasn’t the case. In stronger conditions, I’d suggest loosening off the top chest strap to make the roll response more dynamic.
Take off and landing
The only real issue I had was taking off, and to a much lesser extent, landing! I needed to use a hand to wangle my way into the pod on every one of my first 20 launches. My stumpier-legged co-reviewer had the same problem. The trick seems to be to pull the bucket seat of the harness down, so when you launch it’s an easier stretch to hook a foot in, and I eventually got the hang of this.
On landing, because you’re so snugly cocooned, you need a second or so more time to get your feet out than other pod harnesses.
Another minor glitch is the lack of a pee-tube hole. There’s not as much storage capacity as some XC pods, though the top-loading nature of the back pocket (a similar design to the GenieLite) means you can really stuff loads in. The shape in the air might not be to some tastes with the skinnier pod fairing curving out again along the bottom of the harness, and the pilot’s shoulders sitting up higher than the the back pocket.
Having said that, up close on the ground, everything about this harness is just beautiful. It is a unique design, bringing the comfort of a competition harness into a sub-4kg design which offers more precision and contact than any other harness I can remember flying.
Eric Roussel told me the Suspender had been a two year project, with him personally flying over 250 hours in the final prototype to fine-tune the feel and geometry. That effort, plus the fact that all Neo products are designed and manufactured in Annecy, is reflected in the Suspender’s price tag – a polite way of saying it is not the cheapest!
To summarise, this is a highly compact-feeling harness, which gives a connected, intuitive feel in the air. The exceptional feel, ride and comfort are its strong points, and its only major niggle is the difficulty you might face initially hooking your feet into the pod after launching. And let’s be honest, it does look a bit weird too.
UPDATE, 13/7/2018: Neo have contacted us to tell us that since this review was written, they have made some modifications that have meant the pod is easier to get into, and the back pocket and cockpit are now larger.
Neo say: “The Suspender is a high-end light cross-country harness … light, stable, precise, and comfortable”
Who is it for? XC, travel
Size: XS, S, M, L
Weight: 3.85kg (M)
Rescue: one, under seat
Back protection: Koroyd
Price: circa €1,500
Hugh Miller flew the Neo for 15 hours in the UK and Italian Alps
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