Ever since the Advance Lightness was first released I've been in a pod harness, so it's a refreshing change to fly in a classic upright harness. The SUCCESS 4 provides a comfortable solution for hassle-free flying that puts safety first.
The SUCCESS 4 boasts three protectors:
1. multi-chamber foam protector extends around the lower back
2. another foam protector continues up the spine to the shoulders
3. SAS-TEC side protectors protect the upper legs and pelvic area.
The side protectors are a great idea. They are compact and slimline high density foam, so add very little bulk. When you add the carbon seatplate to the picture (and the reserve under it, plus your rolled backpack behind you), you see a complete protective shell that gives you great passive safety.
The way the seat area has been designed, and the way the harness articulates as you move makes it very easy to get in and out of the harness without having to let go of brakes or grab risers. The Advance Balance-Strap-System keeps it smooth: I found that I could slide back into the seat (with a little jiggle) even from launches done with poor technique. When you use the speed system the seatplate and back support area stay in contact with your bum and back, so you don't end up with a gap in lower back area. You feel the gentle pressure from the speedbar across your lower back, a useful reminder for those who fly with the optional foot stirrup and might accidentally tramp on the speedbar without realising it - the harness will tell you!
It's clear from the clever-yet-simple design that a lot of thought has gone into the reserve container, closure and deployment system, which is very neat and tidy with magnets to help keep the reserve handle close to the harness. The reserve handle is held in place by a small neoprene pocket which faces downwards to encourage best deployment technique, outwards not upwards!
Nylon coated wires close the container, which are better than pins which can fall out (due to loose loops) or get stuck (loops too tight). There's also no 'hook and loop' fasteners, which tend to damage other materials, be hard to separate, or come accidentally undone.
The zip closure system runs both ahead and behind the reserve, providing a wide opening for the reserve to escape through when you deploy it.
Although the harness is light and compact, it is somewhat bulky when you pack it away, due to all the protection. There's no chance of squashing it down into a mountain bag, you need a normal full sized paraglider backpack. In the air, there's adequate packing space in the rear compartment (I had a large glider bag, concertina bag, and my camera bag in there). If the space is too limited you can remove the uppermost 'comfort foam'. A small zipped pocket on the left side provides storage for items you might want during flight.
It's very comfortable in the air, supporting your back with firm and even pressure. The side protectors are pulled upright by the webbing which keeps your hips contained in the seat area, preventing sliding. There is good movement on the roll axis to about 45 degrees, allowing for all the weightshift freedom you could want. It is very balanced in pitch and yaw, making flying simple by removing distracting motion.
The speedbar loop was positioned in the perfect place, I hooked it with my heel first time and could use the full range of the speedbar to get the pulleys locking. The harness remains comfortable in this position. The back profile looks streamlined and aerodynamic.
Coming in to topland I found it easy to tip into landing position, and the harness held me so well I had no reason to avoid dangling my legs down. This 'hanging comfort' is an often overlooked feature which helps you develop a good landing procedure.
There are no legstrap buckles: they are integrated into the chest-strap which has two quick-release buckles, making getting out and in fast and simple. The shoulder straps and side straps are adjustable in the air but require a strong pull to overcome the resistance, a reassuring indication that they won't slip in flight.
It's ideal as a first harness and will take you confidently to advanced XC level, where the minor gain in gliding performance might tempt you to upgrade to a racing pod. Too many pilots bypass this style of 'upright' harness too early. Don't be misled by the 'cool factor' of a pod harness. It's very cool to launch with complete control, land with ease and have your speedbar at the ready as soon as your feet leave the ground! The upright position is much safer during any turbulence as it rolls better, resists twists and allows you to get your legs down faster during surprise landing incidents.
And the safety? Well if I was falling out of the sky, this is the harness I'd choose to put between me and the earth! This is my harness of choice for mini wings, where the outstanding protection suits the style of flying (close to terrain in high winds with elevated risk of bumping into things). It would also suit acro, as it has sturdy construction, good weight-shift control and you can place a second chest-mounted reserve on the chest-strap. When I did some spirals and wingovers the harness did not alter its firm, supportive character, allowing for accurate steering inputs through the seatboard.
The SUCCESS 4 is at the top of this class of harnesses, with extremely durable construction, supreme protection and great comfort. Many design elements display evolved expertise applied in a uncompromising way to produce a harness that helps pilots by being simple to use, safe and practical, with a blend of confidence boosting stability and freedom of movement that works perfectly.
Carlo adds: "I'm very impressed by the build quality, passive safety, comfort, low weight and packing volume, practical ease of use, well thought out reserve system, attention to detail and comprehensive package of the SUCCESS 4. Although the price is high for a standard (non pod) harness, when you consider what you get for your money and that the excellent protection it offers could help prevent injury then I think the price is justified. Properly looked after, this harness could last much more than 10 years."