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Paramotor Harness Variations

If you're looking around for paramotor harness information, you might soon come across 2 different meanings for the word 'harness' in powered paragliding.

On one hand, just like free flight paragliding, the 'harness' is just the webbing and flexible material worn by the pilot which suspends him/her in flight.

The other use actually refers to the entire system which hangs from the canopy's lines. That is,

  • 2-stroke (usually) motor and propeller
  • protective cage over propeller
  • strong webbing and cloth harness ;-) to hold the pilot in, including a rigid seat
  • metal frame to which the harness, motor, and cage are attached
  • a spreader system to prevent uncomfortable strap pressure on the pilot when power is applied

I'll use 'harness system' to refer to the whole setup, and 'harness' for the flexible bits worn by the pilot. OK, on with the summary of paramotor harness variations!

Paramotor Harnesses With Weight Shift

Let's talk about weight shift to begin with. As you might know, some unpowered craft, like hang gliders, rely entirely on the pilot shifting weight left or right for controlling turns. Yeah ok, you have to push the bar out a little too...

Paragliders, as well as having a brake on each side, can also be turned to a limited extent by using weight shift. Some designs make more use of this than others, and whether you use it is a matter of personal preference. A skilled pilot can make good use of brake control and weight shift, in combination, to turn a paraglider efficiently in lift.

Why am I saying all this? Just to introduce the fact that powered paragliders also can make use of weight shift. For those pilots who want their machine to feel and behave more like an unpowered wing, there are paramotor harness systems that allow the pilot to turn via weight shift.

All systems weight shift to some extent, when the risers are moved independently up or down. However, some designs try to make it more effective, allowing much more than just a few centimeters movement either way. This characteristic is usually achieved by using bars that pivot up and down, attached to the paramotor frame at one end. They can be over-the-shoulder, in which case they are known as J-bars. Other pivoting bars are under-arm designs.

Paramotor Harness Hang Points

The most obvious way of classifying powered paraglider harness systems is according to hang point. Some people are more descriptive, calling it a 'hook in' point. This is where the harness system is attached to the risers and hence the flying lines of the paraglider.

A high hang point is where the risers attach to the frame or harness above the pilot's shoulder. If the risers attach to the frame directly or with a short piece of webbing, it's known as a hard hang point. Otherwise, when they are attached to the harness it's a soft hang point.

Those in the know don't see dramatic differences in which system is safer or more desirable, but here's some characteristics to consider for systems with high suspension:

  • less movement is felt by the pilot when flying through turbulence
  • ...this also applies to the motor, so the thrust line doesn't move around much
  • apparently some of most experienced instructors say that flying students find this setup a little easier to launch
  • with the right hang angle adjustment, the plane of the propeller can be made vertical which makes launching a bit easier and reduces torque effects

Some current powered paragliders which use a high hang point without weight shift are the Adventure F1 and the I-Flyer.

Those that have a weight shift version available include the Sky Cruiser and Paracruiser.

A low hang point is where the risers attach to the frame or harness below the pilot's shoulder. This is always a hard hang point, and this style also has its own characteristics which result from having the center of gravity much closer to the hang point.

  • plenty of feedback from the air is felt by the pilot - a plus for soaring, but a minus if you're just trying to get from A to B in a straight line
  • under full power, the prop cage leans forward which can bring it quite close to the brake handles - so don't let go!

Some current powered paragliders which use this system without weight shift are the Walkerjet and Bailey 4-stroke.

Two other designs which do allow significant weight shift control include the Airfer and Parajet paragliders.

A hybrid system is where the designers have tried to get the best of both worlds. During take-off and landing, the paramotor harness system acts like a high attachment point setup. However, in flight, the pilot can lean back and the hang point actually shifts downwards. The mechanical design ensures that the motor's thrust line stays nearly constant the whole time.

As of November 2007, it seems the only powered paraglider using this type of system is the Mantis. It will be interesting to see if others copy it in years to come!

So Which Paramotor Harness Is Best?

That depends... I'll quote a few things from a recognized expert in the field, Jeff Goin:

  • 'I find that most pilots stick with what they learned on and enjoy it happily thereafter'
  • 'I've now flown both types enough to know that's it's really more a case of preference'
  • 'There is precious little difference in the launching techniques or difficulty between high and low hook-ins'
  • 'New pilots do seem to learn a bit easier on high hook-ins'
  • 'You really can get used to anything'

Jeff Goin has done a lot of flying and has air time on all the basic powered paraglider configurations. High, low and hybrid hang points, with varying degrees of weight shift control. Jeff has done the paramotoring world a service by condensing his knowledge into a powered paragliding book.

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