Pro tandem paraglider pilot Seb Ospina test-flies Neo’s new Bikini harness
The Neo Bikini is the French manufacturer’s first tandem-pilot harness and is designed to solve some of the comfort and posture problems affecting professional tandem pilots, while being as practical as possible for the job.
“Full-time tandem pros spend a great deal of time in harnesses with poor back support,” Neo explain. “Common designs position the pelvis too low, brakes and knees too high, forcing the pilot to lean forward and upward to maintain good visibility and control, stressing the pilot’s back and shoulders.” The result is that long-time tandem pilots can suffer back and shoulder pain. Neo’s designer Eric Roussel said the idea was, “to create a comfortable and appropriate tool for pros.”
I tested the Bikini commercially in Interlaken, Switzerland in July and August, flying 30-40 flights on it, in many different conditions with many different passengers. I also flew it on a couple of XC flights.
The Bikini comes in its own very fancy-looking inner bag. My first impression was of a futuristic, geometric, slick and mostly black harness that James Bond would be happy to wear on a mission. Looking closer, you find a removable side camera-pocket to keep your camera pole away from the lines during take-off but still accessible in flight, and attached to that a very handy hook-knife. You also find an emergency kit for tree landings.
Giving shape to the harness is Neo’s own Koroyd 3.0 protection. They claim this is, “probably the most efficient energy absorption technology on the market”. Something which also caught my eye was the fact that the reserve handle is black so it doesn’t really stand out. That aside, my overall initial impression was that Neo have really focused on safety with their first tandem pilot harness.
Given the dimensions of the Bikini I thought it was a bit ironic that it carried such a name, nonetheless I managed to pack it into my quick bag with all my gear without any trouble. At 2.73 kg for the SM, the Bikini has a very good weight/benefit ratio considering this harness carries many features. (There are two sizes: SM and ML.)
Once I got in the air I immediately noticed how the position is more upright compared to other tandem pilot harnesses. I felt much closer to the risers, and was able to reach the big ears without having to reach out too much. Another benefit was not having the passenger blocking the view as much as more traditional harnesses.
Despite not having a seatboard, thanks to the Koroyd 3.0 protection, it feels fairly rigid. Generally the harness felt super stable in most conditions, which for a tandem pilot means an easier ride for the passenger and perhaps less motion sickness. Regarding comfort, it took me a while to get used to the upright position, but once settled, it was okay. It felt best when using hard spreader bars, especially with the bigger passengers.
The Neo Bikini is a complete, well thought-through tandem-pilot harness with a clear focus on safety and comfort. Having such good protection without compromising too much on volume and weight is definitely a plus. The upright sitting position has advantages, however it will come down to the pilot’s individual taste – I think some will and some won’t like the sitting position. You’ll need to try it. If you do like it, then it will be ideal for the professional as well as the recreational tandem pilot.
This review was published in Cross Country Magazine issue 214 (October 2020)