I have been kiting with my Engine Custom Kite Harness for a few months now in a variety of conditions, and so far I have been pretty happy with it. It was an adjustment for me returning to a pure waist harness again as well as discovering the feel of a custom hard shell harness. My former harness was an Ocean Rodeo Session 2 hybrid harness. I prefer a waist harness, but can't enjoy riding very long, especially consecutive days, always fighting the harness constant migration up to a position higher than my waist. The Ocean Rodeo has leg straps which help maintain the waist position. A mediocre solution at best to control ride up. The Engine harness is the first waist harness I have found to replace my Ocean Rodeo hybrid on most days.
First impression- really warm compared to my current harness! I guess the custom fit doesn't allow much water or air gap. That could be a con in warmer climates, but has been ok for me, even on a trip to Maui. The pro to that is the skin of the neoprene really has a lot of direct contact area to grip your back. I have not tried any of the Mystic harnesses that have the Boa tightening system, so I don't know how they or any similar harness compares, but having lumbar in the lower back of a harness is a great concept. The contour matches my back really well and provides a great locked in feel. This especially helps keep the harness from twisting and reduces harness upward migration quite a bit compared to any waist harness I have ever tried. However if you do get yarded, if is noticeably more difficult to push the harness back down, at least while riding. That is understandable considering the initial fit is so great. Small price to pay I'd say.
It took 3+ months to receive the harness after initial fitting. For me it was worth it, but most people don't have my patience. If Engine could get that down to less than a month, a more reasonable wait time would help with some customers frustration.
Some other criticism I have heard from people is that the Engine harness seems amatuer or unfinished for the price, even overpriced. Also they don't want to have to do more assembly or customization before it is complete and ready to use. They want a finished product right out of the box. I can understand all that, but I don't think Engine is what you want in that case.
An Engine custom kite harness is still a relatively new innovation in the kite market and it continues to evolve. Check out the facebook page to see how the latest ones look. Each one is built by hand. I don't know how much you make per hour/ salary, but it definitely looks like a lot of work to me to build one on your own. No thanks. It's not perfect, but will continue to improve. You must embrace the fact that your harness will be one of a kind, is well thought out, well built, and was made specifically for you, but you might have to do a little more before you are stoked on it.
Post purchase customization for me was not an issue as I am a bit of a tinkerer and end up customizing and creating many belongings in my life either because what I need doesn't exist, or simply to get the ultimate ergonomics and satisfaction. Having an industrial sewing machine helps too
1) 3rd strap. Definitely get this unless you are only using a rope slider type spreader bar. Doesn't matter much for exclusive wave riding, but helps for hooked in riding.
2) Hook knife pocket: Took mine off after 1st session due to poor location. It sounded good, but for me, it is too uncomfortable to have anything between the spreader bar and my stomach (see post purchase modifications)
I didn't get any artwork on mine to keep the cost down, but some of the creations look pretty cool and definitely add to the customized effect.
Before kiting assembly:
1) Temporarily added a handlepass leash line to the back. Hopefully this is improved in the future. I still need to come up with a better way of attaching my leash so I can reach it at all times and/or be able to release the handlepass leash line. I picked up some stainless quick links to add to the loops and am in the process now of making something more permanent.
2) Added DaKine spreader bar hooks and put Dynabar spreader bar into spreader bar pocket.
Post purchase modifications:
1) Removed spreader bar pocket and resecured it all the way down on the harness belt. Came stock with it sewn in the middle, but I found it WAY more comfortable when relocated to the bottom of the belt. This may not be necessary depending on what bar you use with it.
2) Relocated hook knife pocket to slide onto webbing between spreader bar and harness.
After fine tuning my Engine, I am pretty stoked. Coleman has come up with a great product, maybe even a functional piece of art. I would recommend anyone to get an Engine unless somehow you are perfectly happy with whatever you are using.